I have a lot of projects. Too many projects. I guess it is how I keep from getting bored. What I have chosen for this Aesthetics of Design final project is actually a component of a bigger project I am working on; a 1970 Chevrolet El Camino restomod. When I acquired the vehicle the only interior parts it had were the dashboard and steering wheel. I have had to install floorboards, carpeting, seats, dashboard gauges and more. Some off the parts it still needs are a headliner, door panels and a radio. The last one is what I have chosen for this class.
There are a few mainstream solutions that I considered. I could install an OEM radio unit. It certainly would look like it belongs in the dashboard. Such a unit is hard to find, and even harder to find in working condition. Furthermore, I would be limited to the technology and sound quality of 50 years ago. Multiple options were available from the manufacturer. A bottom-of-the-line unit would get AM stations, and nicer ones would have FM or maybe even an 8-track player. If my goal with the El Camino was to do a factory original restoration this is probably the route I would go, but for this project I do not value originality as much as I value coolness and functionality.
Another option would be to install one of the widely advertised aftermarket radio units made by brands like Pioneer or Kenwood. They provide great sound quality and plenty of modern features like iPod connection, Bluetooth and hands-free calling. I would have to cut a larger hole in my dashboard, as the vehicle predates standardized dash unit sizes. Among various Chevrolet models of the same year radio dimensions would differ. A 1970 pickup radio probably wouldn’t fit in a Camaro. More importantly, I HATE the was aftermarket radios look. They look fine on their own, but shiny chromed plastic and flashing multicolor LEDs look like they belong on the Starship Enterprise, not some shitbox Honda and even less a vintage Chevy. I feel this is what ties this project to this class: I want the features of a modern unit, but with a different aesthetic.
There are actually units on the market that are made to be modern radios for vintage cars. They try to mimic what a factory unit looked like with the addition of modern features. This sounds like a perfect solution, but there are too main points keeping me from purchasing one. For one, they are expensive. For two, most reviews express that they have poor build quality and do not last. The following video was uploaded by a frustrated customer.
I will be building my own radio unit. I have research and made a plan for how I will tackle the electronics portion using an Arduino, ICs, and other widely available components. I have yet to do any assembling, building or coding for the electronics.
The radio must look like it belongs in the car. How well desired aesthetic is achieved dictates whether or I consider the project a success. I have an old radio that I will be using the housing and knobs from, but I will not be using the face. It is a 1980s aftermarket radio and has a boring, ugly face. I think that I will bend sheetmetal to construct the face. I do not think I will be able to successfully recreate era-correct “chachunka” station preset buttons. I do, however, want to shop around and get some good buttons with satisfying tactile feedback. I will be using a LCD display, which will be hard to make fit with the vintage aesthetic, but is necessary for the features I would like to have.