How To Retrofit an Newer Radio Into Your Imperial 

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Question from Chad (1970):

I am looking at installing an aftermarket radio in my Imperial. The original does not work great and I would like to add CD capability to my car. I plan on leaving the original in the dash and mounting the new one under the dash hidden and use a remote for it so that it could be concealed more. I have obtained all of the necessary connectors for the wiring so that I don't have to hack away at the original wiring harness and can plug the original radio in at any time in the future. I understand with the AM/FM Imperial radios there is a three prong connector going out to the splitter under dash. What wires are what? The power wire and antenna wire should not be difficult but I am unsure about the speaker wires. Is it difficult to adapt a modern radio into an Imperial? I do understand that the sound output will be lower due to the original speakers being 8 ohm units while the newer radios work best with 4 ohm speakers. Does anyone have any advice?


From Allan:

Most of the newer radios use a system that needs to have both leads from each speaker to be hooked to the radio with no ground anywhere in the speaker line. If my memory serves me right, the original radios had one lead to the speaker and the other side was hooked to ground. You would have to run new wires to the speakers to the new radio and if you wanted to hook up the original radio in the future you could ground one lead from each at the radio and then hook up one lead of each to the radio.

From Steve:

I think you are going to need to rewire to get any decent modern radio to work correctly. Most new radio's require a separate + and - run to each speaker. The '73 Imperial has a positive to each speaker and then a common ground for all. Wiring this way into a new amp will unfortunately let all the smoke out of the amp.

While on the subject of speakers you would probably be well served to go ahead and replace them. After all these years the paper material decomposes from sun and heat and all the other stuff they are subjected to. You may well find that your existing radio will sound quite nice just by replacing the speakers.

Question from Demetrios (1972):

I installed a generic, after-market radio in my '72 and experiencing some problems.

It works on AM, but when switched to FM I can't get any signal. There's a slight buzzing from the speakers, but nothing more.

I've checked most of the after market radio installation supplies makers, and nobody makes an installation kit to facilitate the installation of a new stereo. Does anyone have any experience replacing this kind of radio with an after market system?

Also, when examining the radio I noticed some kind of pigtail hanging from the back of the radio. It appears to have maybe six or eight conductors. Any idea what this is for?


From Carmine:

Have you checked into the antenna? Sometimes the strong AM stations will come in even without an antenna. Are you in Phoenix?

If you have an actual radio problem, finding a replacement isn't that hard at one of the Phoenix u-pull-it yards. I'm going this weekend at some point. (It was a fairly common CC design)

The pigtail connector is to allow the use of the factory cassette player/recorder. Don't remove the jumper from the end of this connection or the radio won't work at all.

Whatever you do, please don't butcher-up the dash! You can mount a simple two-knob without destroying anything, Auto-Zone sells ($79.00) a decent AM/FM/CASS unit that I have in my Duster. It's about the least-ugly modern radio you'll find.

From Elijah:

First, try jiggling the AM/FM slider switch. If that doesn't work . . .

> Also, when examining the radio I noticed some kind of pigtail hanging from the back of the radio. It appears to have >maybe six or eight conductors.  Any idea what this is for?

This cable is the connector that would attach to the optional cassette player/recorder, if your car was so equipped (it was a pretty rare option). There SHOULD be a black plug/terminator plugged in to the end of this cable. If not, then that's why your FM won't work. Let me know (privately) if you need it, 'cause I think I have an extra one tucked away somewhere.

> Does anyone have any experience replacing this kind of radio with an after market system?

Yes, and it's actually pretty easy. A "generic" installation kit should provide the parts you'll need. With a little creativity, it can be done. However, I recently replaced my aftermarket stereo with an original factory AM/FM 8 track, and I have to say that I actually like it MUCH better. But then again, I'm not an audiophile, but more of a nostalgia-phile.

From Dale:

The pig tail you refer to on the 72 radio could be the connection used for the optional cassette player. This optional piece of Chrysler sound equipment was discussed a couple of weeks ago. The cassette player would have mounted on the floor of the car just under the dash board. The player requires an am/fm radio with the pig tail. It could be that you have the up graded radio necessary to install the cassette option - or something is just disconnected.

If you are getting sound on the AM setting I would bet there is nothing disconnected.

I know from prior experience that finding after market radios and dash plates to mount them is a challenge

From Peter:

The pigtail hanging from the back of your radio is the connection point for the optional tunnel-mounted cassette recorder/player. This was available across the 71 line of C-bodies as well as the Imperial.

From Arran:

I have two suggestions. The first would be to squirt some rubbing alcohol into the band-switch and slide it back and forth several times. It is quite likely that the switch has been sitting in the AM position for so long that it has built up a nice layer of dirt and oxidation on the FM contacts. The second would be to check the cable between the antenna and the back of the to see if it is connected or broken. If it isn't one of those problems it has a circuitry problem which means either repairing the unit or replacing it with one that works.

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