Posted by: Rob | May 13, 2008

Brand Loyalty

After I arrived home from work on Friday and got out of my truck – after listening to Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” at near full volume – I had a brief thought about the evolution of automotive factory stereo. I’m not talking about those after-market thumpers (something I’ve never been able to reconcile spending that much money on – especially where there were sofas, bedroom furniture, curtains and other useful stuff to buy) that I’m sure we’ve all heard pass our house in the middle of the night on at least one occasion, but honest-to-goodness designed to fit from the factory sound systems.

My very first car was a 1968 Chrysler Newport 2-door coupe – green. It came with the then standard AM radio and a single middle of the dash speaker. In a word – awful. But back then in the late ’70’s the broadcast radio in my area matched the radio, so no big loss. At 17 though, a guy had to have tunes. So I installed an under-dash 8-track player (yes, folks, you heard right: an 8-track player) along with a pair of dinky wedge shaped speakers that were mounted up on the rear deck in the window behind the back seat. Yep, sounded not all that great, but it was STEREO! And, at bush parties, you could open your trunk, crank it up and everyone could hear. At least, that is, until the player ate the tape.

That Chrysler had the shortest life of any vehicle I’ve owned. About 8 weeks after I got it, I wrote it off. (Don’t ask.) It was replaced with a ’76 Ford LTD. Also a 2-door coupe and a sweet shade of medium blue. Mind you, it looked like a businessman’s coupe and everyone at school thought it was my parents’ car. I transferred the 8-track and speakers from the wrecked Newport into it, added a bass booster and we were in business. I eventually changed out the 8-track in favour of a cassette player.

A couple of years later I bought my first brand new vehicle, a 1980 Chevrolet C10 pickup truck. It was a special order, was two tone metallic blue and nordic white, and had every option except for power windows and power door locks (there was misinformation floating around that these two devices had short lives when driving over the washboard gravel roads of my youth). I also declined to get the roof top cab lights, because those things are butt ugly in my opinion. The sweetest option of all (besides the sliding rear window and the A/C)? The in-dash AM/FM radio with cassette player and, get this, a factory 4 speaker set up. One on each door and one in each cab corner behind the seat. By today’s standards it was pretty poor but back then it was unique and viewed favourably.

I traded that truck in on a (slightly used) 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 – canary yellow – cowl induction – 4 speed manual. My wife was a little dubious, especially because I did this without consulting her first. But she went on to get several speeding tickets with it, so I guess she didn’t mind that much. Oh yeah, the stereo. Secondary in a car like that, but it was the same as the truck – AM/FM stereo cassette with 4 speakers – 2 in the back deck and one in each door. I think the sound was better, but I don’t honestly remember.

That sweet Camaro left us when we learned our first baby was on the way. A lot of living ensued as we had one and then two babies, moved so I could go to university, raised kids, moved to Kansas (for job), before we bought another new vehicle: a 1993 Chevrolet Astro EXT. This one came with a low-budget Mark III conversion. It was a white breadbox and the conversion was teal green. There was a green striping kit for the outside and on the inside it had quad captain’s chairs and a short bench in the back. Mini-blinds on the rear windows. And an AM/FM stereo cassette player with 4 speakers. No, factory audio had not stood still for more than a decade, it’s just this low-budget cheap ass conversion van didn’t come with a CD player. (To be fair, CD’s were a relatively new thing…at least for us.)

That would be the last new vehicle for awhile. In the meantime we moved back to Canada (for job), finished raising the kids and, as newly minted “empty-nesters” decided to treat ourselves – a 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche. This truck had pretty much every option you could think of in it, including a 6-disc CD changer with a Bose 6-speaker sound system. Sweet doesn’t begin to describe the sound experience after years of listening to lame-ass cassette players (even with a cassette adapter and a notebook computer plugged in with an extensive mp3 library).

Which brings me back to the start of this piece. I traded the 2003 in on a new 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ. This truck has pretty much all the options too, only missing a couple of the more obtuse things (like electronic swing-out steps). Oh, and the stereo? A Bose 7-speaker sound system. The seventh speaker is a sub located somewhere under the dash. This sound system was standard in the 2006 model Escalades (I wonder what they have now?), but my Avalanche only has a single CD in dash player. The 6-disc changer was sacrificed for the rear seat DVD player. But, no matter, because it has a plug-in for an mp3 player and with a 12-volt plug-in adapter for my iPod I no longer even use the CD player. And it goes loud! Not much makes the commute better than a sunny day, an open sun roof and loud tunes blasting all around.

I titled this post “Brand Loyalty” because it seems that I am somewhat loyal to the Chevrolet brand. I’m not sure why, though. I’ve always liked Chevy trucks but I’ve never been a big fan of General Motors. I’ve owned models by Chrysler, Ford, Plymouth, Mercury and yet I’ve always come back to Chevy’s. At least that “Brand Loyalty” got me $1000 off a new Chevy one time, so I guess it hasn’t all been a one way relationship.



  1. ’68 Chrysler Newport? [schwing!] Doors on those were 6′ long, weren’t they? great first car for a kid who can barely drive…

    had to snort at the 8-track… those were just a bad idea from the get go. to this day, my current primary vehicle, the pimp-gold 2000 chrysler sebring convertible, has only a cassette player. someday…

  2. I installed an under the dash 8-track player to augment the mighty AM Radio in my first car, a 1970 AMC Matador Sedan. The trunk was so big in that car we used to sneak people into the drive-in movies in there.

  3. daisyfae: 6′ long? Close. And they were heavy too. That old girl had a 383 CID and would go like the wind (or a raped ape as we said back in the day).

    I wish I’d been paying more attention the day I wrecked it. I had been driving since I was 13, so I wouldn’t say I could “barely drive”…

    Uncle Keith: AMC Matador? A boat, man, a boat. Couldn’t get a Rebel? I bet that trunk could hold a lot of beer, eh?

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