Thursday, November 5, 2009

Big Blue gets a soundtrack!

The third and last thing on my list "to do list" before our Oregon trip was to get the stereo in and working in Big Blue. (the other two items on the list were filling the holes and re-covering the passenger seat.)

I had pulled the radio out of Big Blue earlier this year. I destroyed it getting it out, but in doing so, learned a little about how they go in. Shortly after getting Blue, I went and bought a new radio with an iPod hookup and MP3/CD player and a set of speakers. All I had to do was pull out the bad speakers, replace the bad door panels with nice new birch wood, and install everything. And that was the hold up.

I must say that I have been working on the wood for the doors much too long. I have made 4 panels now, each a little better than the previous. Not having door panels meant not having a place to put speakers. And that meant no stereo. To give you an idea of how long I have been at it, I bought the new sounds system at Circuit City. Remember them?

So, on the Thursday night before exiting to Oregon for vacation, I worked away the evening trying not to wake up the neighbors. That was hard since:

1. I still needed to cut one door panel for the passenger side
2. I needed to cut the holes for the speakers out of the door panels
3. I needed to grind down the hole in the dash for the radio.

That third item was hard to do quietly. It seems that the cut in the dash for the radio on a VW bus is slightly smaller than standard modern radios. I didn't have far to grind, and basically cut all four sides a little bit. I used a grinder and the cut discs on a Dremel. It went smoothly enough, but I'm certain our neighbors weren't happy.

Anyway, I cut the panel rough enough to work and it all came together pretty well. I still have to recut the driver's side it get it perfect. And pull off the passenger side to sand the corners and then stain both of them. But the radio went in very nice and secure. Radio in! I ran the cable that connects to the iPod off the back to inside the glovebox. Works well, except I later found out the cable plays the iPod but doesn't charge it.

After testing the radio and getting a local station, EP and I did a little dancing in the driveway. And it didn't take long for Big Blue's booming system was bumping an 18-minute version of Shakedown Street from Road Trips Vol. 2, No. 4.

It's good to have a soundtrack.



Nice work, that seriously looks awesome!

Big Blue's Driver

Thanks! As I said, I went through a few templates to get as close as I am.

I am trying to conceive some sort of way to cover the speakers with something that looks more "wood-ish". I thought about some sort of circle of thatch or something. Not sure how to cover it, have it not vibrate, still hear the music, and not knock it off while getting in and out...


Tweed fabric would be cool. It works beautifully on classic amps and would look perfect next to a light stained birch panel.

Big Blue's Driver

Anonymous - That's actually a great idea! Fits with the era, has a uniqueness. I like it!

I think I'll try it...


Most excellent! I'll look forward to seeing the photos one day as I continue to live vicariously through your bus experience.

(formerly anonymous tweed)


So on the power wiring, did connecting both the power wires make the radio power up? Nice install. Looks like a good fit. -Blake

Big Blue's Driver

Blake - exactly. Turns out that the fuse I was trying to connect to was the one that was live all the time anyway, so both wires went to the live fuse. The only issue with that is I need to remember to turn the radio off when I get out of the bus...

The install went pretty easy. I did clip a little bit of the edge of the dash with the grinder a few times. Not happy about it but it is minor.

{edited: fuse, not fuzz}

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