Aftermarket Stereo Upgrade For a 1963 Chevy Impala

How To Install Autosound Stereo in a 1963 Chevy Impala

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography By the Author

The old car experience is often an exercise in nostalgia, causing memories to flood in and take us back to a simpler time. Our subject is a mostly original 1963 Chevy Impala SS. Sometimes, it’s a visual trigger, while many times it’s a particular sound that takes us back. Music certainly creates those nostalgic moments, but one of the most sinful acts in the old car world is hacking out a car’s dash to install a modern head unit for a stereo system. Sure, there are tasteful ways to give your car high-tech audio, and there are even ways to hide it altogether, but in our case, we wanted something that looked close to the original and provided an update in technology.

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02 Interior of a 1963 Impala convertible featuring an original Delco AM radio
Our starting point is a well-seasoned 1963 Impala convertible. The interior is mostly original, including the old Delco AM radio that hasn’t worked in years.

Read More: How to Install a Drum to Disc Brake Conversion on a 1963 Impala

The car is mechanically sound and has an aged paint job with a little bit of character. Inside, it is mostly stock, including the original Delco AM radio and under dash speaker, a combination that hasn’t worked in many years. There are options to send the original radio off to be rebuilt or updated, but we wanted a simple bolt-in solution that would completely upgrade the listening experience.

03 Upgraded bolt in radio from Custom Autosound replacing the original Delco radio in a 1963 Impala
If you’re going for originality, these Delco radios can be rebuilt to stock configuration or updated, but a much more practical solution is replacing the original unit with an upgraded bolt-in radio from Custom Autosound.

Read More: Deuce Coupe With Vintage Vibes

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How to Install a Car Stereo

Custom Autosound manufactures replacement radios for hundreds of applications, with an intense focus on direct bolt-in units that increase the capability and sound quality of your audio system. We went with the CAM-IMP-63-64-740 unit, which is the highest-powered bolt-in unit that fits in the original 1963 (or 1964) Impala dash. The 740 unit offers modern conveniences like Bluetooth connection, USB connection, and a microphone for hands-free phone calls. It also features a simple wiring system that only requires three wiring connections. We spent the better part of the afternoon installing the new 740-series radio and a Custom Autosound 2020 dual speaker.

04 Original radio support bracket under the dash of a vintage 1963 Impala
We start the project under the dash, where we loosen the original radio support bracket. While we were underneath, we scoped out the wiring and determined which wires could stay in the car or be removed with the radio.

Read More: Timeless 1955 Ford Fairlane Victoria

Simple hand tools and a few hours of work are all that’s needed to bring those nostalgic songs to life. Look at the process of installing the new Custom Autosound radio and speaker in this classic Impala and use the tips and tricks when it comes time to upgrade your car’s audio system. MR

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05 Original volume and tuning knobs of the Delco radio being replaced with new ones from Custom Autosound
The original volume and tuning knobs are removed by pulling them off the D-shaped shafts. The Custom Autosound radio comes with new knobs.
06 Chrome bezels behind the radio knobs in a 1963 Impala
Behind the knobs are chrome bezels that are removed to reveal thin nuts that hold the front of the radio to the dash.
07 Removing the original radio from the 1963 Impala dash
When the nuts are removed, the radio is pushed toward the front of the car far enough to clear the volume and tuning shafts. Then, it can drop below the dash to remove the wires.
08 Glove box door and cardboard box being removed to access the original speaker
Next, we removed the glove box door and cardboard box to access the original speaker. This is a good time to tidy any under dash wiring in preparation for the new components.
09 Original speaker located between the glovebox and the dash in a 1963 Impala
The original speaker rides between the glovebox and the dash. The original speakers often deteriorate over time and produce poor audio quality, even in perfect working order.
10 Removal of the original speaker wiring and mounting bracket from a 1963 Impala
The speaker, associated wiring, and mounting bracket are removed as one unit and discarded.
11 Side by side comparison of the old Delco radio and the new Custom Autosound 740 unit
Now it’s time to evaluate our new components and prepare them for installation. Check out this side-by-side comparison between the old Delco radio versus the new Custom Autosound 740 unit.
12 Custom Autosound radio with a simple wiring system featuring an iPod connection a radio antenna and a USB port
The Custom Autosound radio (PN CAM-IMP-63-64-740) features a simple wiring system. Built-in connections include an iPod connection, a radio antenna, and a USB port. Auxiliary ports are available for additional accessories.
13 Direct bolt in speakers from Custom Autosound offering improved sound quality
Custom Autosound offers many direct bolt-in speakers, including this dual speaker setup (PN 2020). For many 1960s cars, the entire audio system relies on one speaker, so this is a huge improvement in sound quality.
14 2020 dual speaker from Custom Autosound featuring two 100 watt speakers
The 2020 dual speaker features two 100-watt speakers, which come out of the box with the wiring already connected. The mounting bracket allows fitment in many 1960s vehicles.
15 Installation of the new speaker in the original location in a 1963 Impala
The new speaker goes into the original location and the low-profile design prevents interference with the glovebox.
16 Connection of the speaker bracket to the underside of the cowl and dash using original hardware
We used the original hardware to connect the speaker bracket to the underside of the cowl and dash.
17 Speaker wiring marked on the radio harness and speaker wires
Speaker wiring is straightforward and marked on the radio harness as well as the speaker wires. Custom Autosound pre-installed bullet connectors to make easy work of the connections.
18 Radio wiring harness from Custom Autosound requiring minimal wiring work
The radio wiring harness features an easy plug-in and requires minimal wiring work. You’ll need to make three wiring terminations and connections: constant 12V, switched 12V, and ground.
19 Connections at the fuse block being verified with a voltmeter
The yellow wire in the radio harness requires constant 12V power, while the red wire goes to a switched 12V source. Using a voltmeter, we verify the connections at the fuse block.
20 Bench testing of the Custom Autosound radio unit before installation
Custom Autosound suggests “bench testing” the radio unit before installing it. We ran wires from the designated posts on the fuse block and temporarily connected them to the unit. It worked, so we can proceed.
21 Perfect fit of the 740 series radio in the original position in a 1963 Impala
The 740 series radio fits perfectly in the original position. We test-fit it and then installed the retaining nuts on the front side to keep it in place.
22 Support strap from Custom Autosound attached to the rear of the radio unit
Custom Autosound provides a support strap that attaches to the rear of the unit. We bent it to fit the car and attached it to the bottom of the dash, using an existing hole.
23 Ignition switch being turned on to test the wiring
Up top, it’s time to turn on the ignition switch and ensure that our wiring is correct.
24 Installation of new volume and tuning knobs on the Custom Autosound radio
The final and easiest step is installing the new volume and tuning knobs. The radio shafts feature slots for positive engagement and the chrome knobs provide a vintage look.
25 Reassembly of the glovebox and routing of the radio s USB wire
We reassembled the glovebox and routed the radio’s USB wire through an existing hole. Even though the radio features Bluetooth technology to connect to your phone, you can load a USB drive with songs as an alternative method.
26 Custom Autosound 740 radio connected to a phone featuring Bluetooth technology and a microphone for hands free calls
The Custom Autosound 740 radio easily connects to our phone and even features a microphone for hands-free calls. The antenna allows for local radio tuning and we can easily toggle between AM, FM, and MP3.

Source
Custom Autosound
(800) 888-8637
customautosoundmfg.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Aftermarket Stereo Upgrade For a 1963 Chevy Impala.

mr april 2024

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