Category Archives: 7. Miscellany

Restoring a Vintage Stereo Console

Restoring a vintage stereo console is a project I’ve wanted to work on for a very long time.  I know, these things are dinosaurs from an era long gone, but I have always had a certain affinity for them.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago I found this piece of furniture and decided it would make a great candidate for restoration – ahem – upgrade…

Some History

Back in the 60’s a console was one of the nicer options to bring hi-fi sound home.  “Separate” components would make the scene a few years later, but this was the way to go in those early days of stereo sound.  This console consists of two stereo speakers on either side.  The center has a lift-up lid that when opened, displayed the magic:

On the left is an automatic record player with a selector for different speeds and on the right, a tuner/amplifier.  Oh and don’t forget a compartment to store records.

This is the audio only version of the console genre:  there were also larger consoles that would not only have the above components but would also house a television.  The TV would be in the center and usually had sliding doors to hide the screen.  My aunt had a Magnavox console with the television set in the center and it was awesome!

The Project

This particular console is a “Silvertone” made for Sears from sometime in the mid to late 60’s.  As expected for a piece of furniture of this era, it is very, very heavy.

I plugged the power cord in the outlet and sure enough, the receiver’s lights came on.  Unfortunately nothing but static and hissing came from the speakers.  I switched the record player on and as expected nothing happened.  I wasn’t expecting much, after all don’t forget this is almost 50-year-old components.

Today, I decided to open the console and disassemble the components.  From the back, this is what the console looks like…

And as expected, there are three separate compartments.  To the extreme left and extreme right you can see the back covers for the speaker enclosures.  In the center, the cover for the amp, tuner and turntable mechanism.

This stuff is ancient!  I found brittle connectors and cables as well.  Also, to the right of the power supply/amplifier I found two shriveled up belts (possibly from the turntable mechanism).

And next, this is what I found in the speaker compartments.  As it turned out, the big woofer is a paper cone affair with a very small magnet and a horn tweeter at the very top.  You can see that in the second photo below.  This must have been state-of-the art when this console was sold but by today’s standards this is not so great (more about this later).

Taking it Apart

Since none of these bits work and the cost to repair would likely be high, the sensible thing to do is to gut the console.  My plan is to replace the old components with a modern integrated amplifier with bluetooth and upgraded speakers.  This way, I can stream music from my iPhone or iPad and in the future I can get a modern turntable for playing my old vinyl collection.

Taking the components apart took patience.  I started by removing the power supply/amplifier by disconnecting wires from the tuner.  There were several that had to be cut but eventually the unit came out.

Next, the record player.  This is what it looked like from below:

It took some doing, but eventually I figured out to remove the safety pin from one stud (above right) – then the whole thing just rotated up.  The record player’s mount consisted of three springs and foam, which by the way had almost completely deteriorated to dust.

The last piece of hardware to go was the tuner.  This took patience but eventually it came out.  At the end of the day, the piece of furniture is now empty!  There is quite a bit of room left to design a new top to house new components.

The top picture is looking at the console from above.  Once I figure out my new components, this will be cut where needed and a new top made to fit.  The last two pictures show what the lower cavity looks like.  You might notice the holes on the “floor” – those were there to help vent the old components.

Finally, the speakers.  This part was very dusty and smelled bad.  The sound baffling insulation was covered in 50 years’ worth of dust.  Once I had that nasty stuff out, I started by removing the paper cone woofer, shown below…

Once the woofer came out, I found this:

LOL!  A center mounted mid-range driver!  At the very top, this is what the horn tweeter looked like:

Eventually, the horn tweeter came out and I was left with only the dark gray mounting plate attached to the inside of the console.  Screws held the mounting plate in place along with the dowels that you can see above.  You can also see the mesh on the other side of the port in the picture above.  That mesh was covered in dust too.

What Next?

Well, this is where the fun begins!

At first, I thought I could re-purpose my vintage NAD 1700 pre-amp by mounting it vertically inside the console after making a new top.  But, the pre-amp is way too wide and has no bluetooth built in.

After several Google searches I have found a few alternatives.  They are all more modern integrated amplifiers with a very small footprint.  I’ve found some with old-fashioned tubes (which would look cool as heck) and the others made from solid state components.  The majority of these modern integrated amps do have bluetooth and some even have a built in DAC and digital input from a computer.  Very nice options indeed.

I’m also researching the speakers.  I’ve found a couple of “kits” I can adapt to fit inside the speaker compartments, which are large enough for a nice option.  Then again, I also have a pair of very nice PSB bookshelf speakers.  However they will need a small subwoofer and real estate is tight.

So, stay tuned.  I’ll have more articles as the project takes shape!  And if you have any suggestions please let me know.  This will be a fun project!

And while on the subject of music…  May the road go on forever for the Midnight Rider…  RIP Greg Allman…  Ramble on…

2017 Chevrolet Equinox

Taken at the dealer’s parking lot after a test drive

Well here it is:  my wife’s new 2017 Chevrolet Equinox.  In the last post, I wrote about the extensive hail damage on our Chevy HHR and how the insurance company totaled it out.  We went shopping and after many queries on Google, found exactly what we wanted.

We found a small town dealership that treated us very friendly and we got a great deal.  Thank you Clinkscales Chevrolet and Teresa and Edwin for a great experience!  Much appreciated.

Our 2017 Chevrolet Equinox is a LT model, with a number of amenities that were just not offered in the HHR.  Power comes from a direct injected Ecotec 2.4l engine.  It is powerful enough and provides nice fuel economy.  The interior is nicely appointed with comfortable power assisted cloth seats, tinted windows, power lift gate, etc.  The color is “Velvet Blue” and has a certain purple tint to it under certain light.  Finally, the ride is much improved over the HHR.  The HHR had a nose-heavy feel to it; the Equinox is more balanced.  It is much more quiet too!

So far I’m very pleased.  Looking forward to a road trip for a more detailed review…  Stay tuned!

Hailstorm Aftermath


Last week, parts of the Upstate of South Carolina experienced a very severe storm with golf ball sized hail.  No, this is not an April Fool’s day story; on the contrary.  Because of the weather event, my wife’s 2008 Chevrolet Heritage High Roof (HHR) endured a great deal of hail damage, resulting in it being totaled.

Both of us had become attached to the utilitarian HHR not for its luxurious appointments but because it was a very versatile little vehicle.  I hauled lumber in it several times, took several long trips in it, and our two Corgis fit very comfortably with the back seat folded down.  The HHR got decent mileage and overall was very economical.  Perhaps the only shortcoming on the HHR is that it is nose heavy and thus the front suspension components take a lot of wear.  On the other hand, this HHR shares the same 2.4L Ecotec with bowtie6.

The storm hit late in the afternoon, around the time to leave from work.  Fortunately I was working late that night, and a good friend of mine called and warned me about the bad weather.  Since I didn’t want to have RedRock damaged, I took refuge in the underground parking lot at a mall across the street from my office.  Suffice to say, I was not the only one!

However, the HHR did not fare as well.  At the time of the storm, the HHR was in the parking lot at my wife’s workplace.  She took the picture shown here from the side door of her office.  It is a very helpless feeling when hail of this size falls knowing all too well the amount of damage being done.

The next day, my wife called our insurance carrier.  The rep was very nice and said they had received many calls reporting this sort of damage.  During that call, the rep gave my wife an appointment to have the HHR inspected.

As we talked about this with my wife later that night, I did a few Google searches trying to figure out the current value of our 2008 Chevy HHR.  It was then when I realized the HHR might be totaled.  Like I mentioned above, our HHR was not a luxury cruiser, however mechanically it was in perfect shape with something like 83,000 miles on the odometer.

After a lengthy 40 minute inspection, the adjuster gave us the bad news:  it would take almost $5,000 to repair the hail dings.  He said this is a very time-consuming process and the amount of time to repair damage was too large.  For example, the hood took several direct hits…

And these are only the larger ones.  There were multiple smaller dings that did not show up very well in these pictures.  What about the roof?  Well, these pictures show what happened there…

The insurance company gave us two settlement options:

  1. Accept the lesser amount of money, keep the car and have it repaired.  The problem with this option was the title would be re-issued as “salvage” and the HHR would need a road-worthiness inspection.
  2. Accept a larger amount of money and have it towed away.

The first offer didn’t thrill me.  That road-worthiness inspection has “hassle” written all over it and the salvage title means resale value would be non-existent.  So, we accepted the second offer which incidentally was very fair.  We had entertained the idea of trading the HHR and we were semi-looking but not very serious as of yet.  I suppose this means we will be getting a new car sooner than later (stay tuned, I’ll have an update on our next car!).

Sadly though, the rollback truck showed up yesterday and took the HHR away…

So long, HHR!

Shooting Clay Pigeons

This past Saturday, I got together with some good friends and spent a few hours shooting clay pigeons.  We had a nice collection of shotguns:  from vintage models to state-of-the-art; from 20ga to 12ga.

I took two vintage shotguns that have been in my family for a very long time.  My grandfather’s 16 gauge double-barrel and my Dad’s 12 gauge pump.  About 35 years ago (damn that’s a long time) I took it upon myself to dismantle the stock and fore-end and sand it down.  At the time, I had a distant relative that owned a wood-shop, and he showed me what to do.  Three and a half decades later, the gun still looks great.

Today’s featured image was taken by a drone.  My friend Doc has an awesome drone:  the drone has its own remote control unit including a mount for an iPhone, self compensates, is GPS aware, the works.  As the drone flies, video is transmitted and one can see images real-time on the iPhone.  Very impressive stuff.  Oh and if you look close enough, that is me next to the open door on the red Chevy pickup.

I have great respect for our 2nd Amendment and this past Saturday I was reminded yet again of how precious this right really is…

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

 

Jim’s Garage Rock Crawler

LS3 powered Rock Crawler

This past Thursday, I went to lunch with my friend Jeff to a local deli and on the way out, saw this Jim’s Garage rock crawler in the parking lot.  This is not something you see every day, so inquisitive minds wanted to “know”.  We walked over and found two gents discussing how they were going to unload the rock crawler and move it from one trailer to another.

After a few questions, we were able to ascertain the builder of the rock crawler was from somewhere in North Carolina while the owner of the vehicle was from somewhere in Alabama; I suppose they picked Greenville SC as a place to meet.  I asked if it would be alright for me to take a few pictures of the rig and they were kind enough to agree, so I started clicking away…

Not your typical Jeep!

This is not exactly my cup of tea, but I appreciate serious craftsmanship when I see it.  This rock crawler is something else!  The builder said he put the entire frame together himself.  The center console and dash is all aluminum and I asked him if he had also worked on that.  He said that came from another fellow that made it special.  This is what the dash looks like:

Check out the “hold on for dear life” t-bar

The rock crawler was pretty much complete, however it was not wired up nor painted.  The engine was not running as it had yet to be wired, plumbed, etc.  As you can tell, there is no instrumentation either.  I asked a few more questions about the powertrain.  This is where it got really interesting.  Lurking under all the sheet-metal and that awesome tube frame is a very low mileage LS3 from a C5 Camaro.  I asked about the throttle and the owner said is is a “fly by wire” unit.  I did notice none of the pedals were installed, however the owner said he had the correct electronic throttle pedal for it.  Wiring came from MAST and that included the ECU too.  The owner said the entire kit came tuned to match the hot cam in the engine.

Somewhere in there is an LS3

The rear suspension and axle are something else in order to stand up to abuse and the power of the LS3.  Unfortunately, I don’t have more info about all the components.  The two gents were really busy and I did not want to push my luck asking more than I should.  Here is that awesome rear axle and suspension.

Seriously beefed up axle

Somebody really did their homework on this machine.  The suspension is over the top, but anything else would be “uncivilized”.  As you look at each picture individually, notice the builder cut no corners:  the welds are impeccable and notice the generous use of grade-8 hardware.  Those end links are amazing.  Nothing is left to chance here – a truly purpose built machine.

The fuel cell sits behind the seats and the floor above the rear axle is a very nicely made piece of cut sheet steel.  Very nice work indeed, with the builder’s name part of the pattern.  Matter of fact, I had no clue who the builder was until I went through the pictures and saw this detail!

Builder’s name… Spot on!

In closing, the owner told us he plans to take the entire rock crawler completely apart and ship the frame off to have it powder coated.  Then, the body panels will be wrapped in vinyl and then the fun part starts.  Assembling, wiring and getting this thing ready for prime-time will be one hell of fun job!

I can only imagine the large sum of resources invested in this rock crawler.  Having built and worked on many cars myself, I know this kind of stuff takes commitment and deep pockets.  However, when this thing fires up in anger and starts attacking off-road venues, man!  What an awesome ride that will be!

And finally, right before I left I told the owner his rock crawler reminded me of a similar vehicle used in the film The Man From U.N.C.L.E..  He told me he had never seen the picture but he was going to try to check it out.

Well, interesting thing YouTube.  Here is that final chase scene from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – make sure you watch the part where the off-road vehicle skims the surface of the water (starts at around 2:35)…  Wonder if the Jim’s Garage rock crawler could do this?  Hehehe…  :mrgreen: