March 16, 1996. That's the day I had my first ear-to-ear grin. That was the day I hit my first on-ramp during my test drive of a 1993 Dodge Stealth R/T. Six hours later, I'd turned over my next five years of income and drove it home and it was MY 1993 Dodge Stealth R/T. My quest for a new car had finally ended. And I didn't even buy a new car. Oh well. But, I must say, that grin I had on Day One has yet to fade!
From day one I knew I wanted to build a stereo system for whatever car I bought. And now that I had a car that was WORTH putting a nice stereo in, I went about building the plans for it.
I had my eye on some equipment and used that in the design process. Between March 16 and May 23, when the installation began, I spent many hours crawling around inside my car with paper, pencil, measuring tape, cardboard, utility knife, and lots of ideas.
Since I knew the equipment I was going to be using, I built actual-size cardboard mockups of each piece so I'd have them to work with for spacing. There's not a lot of space in the Stealth (twin to the Mitsubishi 3000GT) to work with so I had to be creative. Pieces were placed and moved quite a bit. The CD changer was attempted-to-be-designed in about 5 places before landing in it's final resting place, and that almost didn't happen once installation was finally underway (see that page for the whole story).
I ultimately ended up with the entire design on paper before starting the contruction process. I had every detail planned, including a full size mockup of the sub box built with cardboard. What's really cool. I actually ended up with pretty much what I had designed!
So when I delivered the car to Radio Shack, I.... "Whoa! Whoa! WHOA!! Hang on... Radio Shack?!?!" Oh. Yup. Radio Shack is where I took the car for the installation. That's where I bought all the equipment. "WHAT?!?!?" Yep. Not 2 miles from my house in New Hamoshire was what was probably the biggest (and best) Radio Shack in the world. They had Rockford, Eclipse, Clarion, Pioneer/Premier, Kenwood, Blaupunkt, Hi-Fonics, Oz, and more! Home audio right up to Harmon Kardon. And more floor space than ANY other shop I've ever been in. Not to mention enough installation space to house at least about 6 vehicles. The secret? It's an Associate Store, Bruce Milo (owner) basically operates his own store under the Radio Shack name. Sure "they've got answers" but they've got a whole lot more, too.
Anyway... I had been talking with the installers there about various things and they had a real good idea what I wanted when I delivered the car. I also had it arranged such that I was able to work out and help out whenever I wanted. That was awesome becuase I very much wanted to be a part of the installation. That way I'd get things just the way I wanted, I'd know the system and installation, and I'd feel like it was mine! Plus I could get lots of pictures of the process. I knew I wanted to compete with it so I wanted lots of pictures. Not to mention I wanted to learn LOTS more about serious car audio installations.
The initial installation time was 16 days. I finally drove the car out of the bay, and straight to my first show clear over in Rochester NY (7 hours away) on June 9, 1996. I was so pumped! It was awesome. I had my new awesome car and a new awesome stereo.
The man-hours that went into it at that time are probably about 250 of theirs and about 75 of mine. There were 3 guys working on it throughout the process. Each had their own knack, one was good at building boxes, he did that and the original door pods. Another did a lot of the wiring, the sound deadening and finish work. Another did the amps. All did all sorts of various things. I helped in any way possible, contributing to pretty much every piece in some way. But all in all, it was mine because it was completely designed by me and came out almost prefectly to spec (awesome job guys!).
So what's in it? A LOT LOT LOT has changed since May of 1996. It has been upgraded, changed, added to, etc, etc, etc... Actually, not a lot of the original installation remains. I figure I've probably put upwards of 700 hours into it since then, rebuilding things, changing things, trying new things, adding things, etc... But that's what makes car audio a hobby! I say if you ever get to the point of being finished, then it's not a hobby. A hobby always has something else to do. The pictures and stories which follow describe the process and how it came to its current state. All pictures are of it as it is now, sitting in my garage (unless I've changed something and haven't got pictures up yet). Updates will be noted. And the last page covers what my ideas for the future are...
Pictured here is the system diagram I designed and use for competitions. It's a system which uses Eclipse source units and processing power and Rockford Fosgate amps and speakers. The 530 head unit and 2140 processor controller are mounted in the factory head unit location. The 2000 processor is mounted into the back of the front passenger seat. These and the 530 changer are connected with Glass Fiber Optic cables. Three amps, the 500, 250, and 40, reside hidden behind the rear seats, which is where the changer also lives. The fourth amp, the 2600, is way down under/behind the center console, literally between the driver's and passenger's toes. There's a capacitor on each the 500 and 250 amps There's speakers everywhere. Lights everywhere (I love lights). And I still have space for traveling (i.e., trunk space) and the spare is still in there.
So sit back and enjoy the process which has taken three years to get where it is today. And to think that it's not finished yet... ;-)