A Car Story

Today is a good time for a car story to take our minds off the other story.

This story relates to a recent post called An Update for an Old Car, in which I detailed upgrading the out-of-date factory-installed CD-playing (but no Bluetooth-playing) stereo in my ’02 Nissan Frontier with a newer system.

Well, I just attempted the reverse.

I reinstalled the very out-of-date AM/FM radio, forget stereo that came with my 1976 Trans-Am when it was new back in the fall of 1975. I had it on a shelf in a closet for the past ten years. I got it back from a guy I sent it to for restoration.

Meanwhile, I listened to the aftermarket stereo with a tape deck I had installed in the car back in the ’90s when tape decks were still the duck’s guts. Also installed back then were a set of then duck’s guts speakers, two in the dash and two in the back, twice the speakerage in my car’s original configuration.

And thence the rub.

I did all the groundwork to get the old/not-original and now very out-of-date stereo tape deck out of the TransAm. I first had to remove the center console to get to the underside of the dash. This was followed by some torturous maneuvering under the dash to get at the brackets and wires that hold and plug the works in situ.

In the process, I discovered that the stereo shop that installed the deck back in the ’90s had mauled my car’s wiring like a Rottweiler tearing up a dog toy. Bad enough that they cut so much. Worse was that these professionals didn’t even use proper connectors. Wires were twisted together and then taped.

Yes, I paid them to do this.

And now I paid the price. I built a new harness to replace the mauled and gone one—a custom rig to connect the TransAm’s original AM/FM to the 12V power source and then the wires running to the speakers.

At which point, I encountered the next problem.

It had not occurred to me before I started the work that the original 1976 radio and ’90s-era speakers weren’t compatible. Not the wiring and not the power.

Four speakers vs. the original two and the originals not designed to broadcast the palsied signals emitted by a 1976 GM radio, which isn’t much different than a 1966 radio. As The Six Million Dollar Man might have put it: “We don’t have the technology.”

Or the speakers.

The TransAm’s original GM speakers were thrown in the trash circa 1994—probably too long ago to have any hope of finding them in the dumpsters today. Or anywhere else. Because who in his right mind, back in the ’90s, would have saved a set of shitty GM speakers from the ’70s?

I wish I had, though, because now, if I want to listen to the monotones of the mid-’70s, I will have to scrounge a set of original GM speakers from the ’70s. I expect this will be a snipe hunt of epic duration and frustration.

This brings up a thing I have since learned and practice religiously: Never throw away anything original to your classic car. Because a day will come when you will desperately wish you had it back.

Someone else, unknown to me but close to me in a way, is going to learn this lesson, too.

My friend Tim who is a professional mechanic, gave me something the other day. It was something one of his customers asked him to throw away.

It was the original Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor and cast-iron Pontiac intake manifold from a 1979 Trans-Am. A 400, 4-speed Trans-Am, last of the line, and very rare.

I now have on my workbench a complete, intact, numbers-matching “W72” code four-barrel and matching intake; the poor Trans-Am now has an aftermarket intake and a generic Holley carburetor.

Someday, the owner of that poor Trans-Am (or perhaps its next owner) is going to pine for the “correct” intake and carb that’s no longer on the car. He may post ads in Hemmings; may scour the field at Carlisle. He will likely have as much luck finding his car’s intake and carb as I am going to have finding my car’s long-gone speakers.


So, what did I do?

For now, I reinstalled the ’90s era stereo tape deck. It’s not original, obviously, but it still works and having the tape deck is kind of cool.



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