Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Clenet Gets New Sound...

About two weeks ago, Mario and I retrieved the Clenet from the local Ford service center where we had the radiator replaced. The repair was lengthy as a new custom radiator had to be created and the car sat motionless in their service facility. The day after we picked up the car, Mario and I jumped in and took it out for a test drive and a much needed wash! My oh my those mechanics know how to leave oily handprints all over it.

While driving around the area, we both noticed that one of us would turn the radio on, but then turn it off after a few minutes. The reason being that the originally installed Pioneer stereo just doesn't sound that great! We both agreed that the car needs some new sound! Together, we inspected the installation of the radio and felt a new unit shouldn't be too difficult to replace as it's a standard universal size. The radio is located in a recess that is covered in black leatherette and surrounded by the immaculate burl-wood fascia.

Mario began to pull the radio knobs from their stems while I opened the cowl cover that is under the hood. While dinking around in the cowl area, I am again impressed with the neat, orderly and clean work that went into building this car. All of the wiring is loomed and neatly banded from the fuse panel to all of the accessories, dash lights, gauges and miscellaneous components. Then...I hear Mario exclaim "oh no" from inside the car. I ask what's wrong and he immediately replies, "well, nothing is actually wrong, but we will have a major job ahead of us." I asked him to further explain.

When Mario removed the faceplate from the stereo, he discovered that the dashboard backing is one very thick piece of steel plating and the radio "cut out" is actually 3 holes. 2 small circles for the volume and tuning stems and a center opening for the cassette/tuner display. We both know that nobody manufactures the old-style stereo units anymore! We continued to remove the old unit, which came out of the car through the cowl and not from under the dash. We both knew what was ahead of us...the job just got bigger.

We had already purchased a new Sony single-CD player with an MP3 port and other various accessory ports and agreed that we would make it work. The four original speakers are in very good shape and will remain for now.

The reality set in that we'd have to cut the dash backing plate in order to install the new radio and we both knew a hand held hacksaw wasn't going to do it!

Just as a surgeon would prepare for his work, Mario and I prepared the Clenet for the face lift! We masked off the dash and the leather covered tray lip. All of the wiring behind the dash was carefully held back with ties and tape. We both sat in the car going over the plan to ensure the burl-wood dashboard fascia wouldn't receive a single blemish. Mario set up the reciprocating saw with a fresh metal blade, put his goggles on and went right to work. I didn't want to watch, but had to keep my eyes on the blade from behind the dash.

The sound of metal being cut from the Clenet while in Ken's driveway brought many of the neighbors over to see what he was doing with that saw. Mario and I continued to slowly and methodically cut into the dash to ensure precise, level cuts while Ken "entertained" the small crowd. They set up lawn chairs, a blanket and ordered in dinner while we were working.

Dinner arrived and a few bottles of red were opened just in time for us to take a break from the sawing. Several test-fittings and a few more passes with the saw gave us an appropriate opening for our new stereo. In tandem, Mario and I fitted the new unit in place and secured it with the original rear bracket. Mario then spliced the speaker wiring, ground and various switched and constant power supplies. We found matching nylon straps and rebound the wiring to original Clenet standards, keeping it neat and orderly. Mario slid a CD into the unit and we enjoyed some new sound while enjoying dinner just as the sun was setting in the western sky.

The radio-ectomy turned into another evening party out front of Ken's house where we listened to music, enjoyed a few more glasses of red and stayed up much too late!

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