Installing a Stereo in your Z


Q: Is it tough to install a different stereo in my Z?

A: Well, installing a good stereo can be a Z is a VERY difficult thing to do. Unfortunately, you cannot put larger speakers in the rear panels than the original 5 1/4's (without cutting metal...eeek). Since these speakers don't face the driver/passenger, you won't get any high end response (just some mid-range and bass tones). So, in essence, you are limited by the SPEAKERS and not the radio. You can put in any stereo you like...expensive or cheap, you won't notice too much difference using the factory speakers. Actual installation of the head unit in early Z's can be tough to get very secure. There is a plenty large opening but you'll need to be imaginative if you wan't a tight, theft RESISTANT installation. Another daunting problem is the HUGE opening in the dash that is left when the factory unit is removed. At least on the 81, the original unit placed the radio and tape player side by side. A mounting plate is available thru Motorsport Auto in Orange Calif.

Q: What kind of speakers do people use in the rear ?

A: What I did on mine was to fabricate some brackets that bolt to the rear shock towers and hold either a pair of radio shack Minimus 7s (yeach!) or a pair of the Bose non-amplified speakers. The same ones as the amplified ones for Walkmen but without the amp. Very good sound and very well placed acoustically.

Q: I have an early Z; where is a good place to mount my speakers ?

A: Two ideas for speaker placements... Config.#1: I had a pair of Pioneer TS-X6 (?) enclosed, surface mount speakers that contained a 5.25" woofer and 1.25" tweeter. I found that when turned over they could be mounted upside down ON the inside of the tailgate! I routed the cable up the B-piller, through the headliner and into the gate itself. Minor problem: they were heavy and made opening the gate a bit more difficult. Sounded decent and when I turned the speaker grills over, they didn't appear upside down. Rather amusing installation...

Config.#2: On my '76, (don't know if this would work on the '77-8 because of the higher back deck surface), I built a custom enclosure out of particle board, plywood and insulation materials. If anyone has a Crutchfield catalog, you'll see that there's a custom cabinet for Camaro's and Firebirds based on my design back in '77.

The box was bolted to the floor (through the carpet) and housed a (state of the art for the time) Jensen separates system (6x9 woofers, 5.25" mids and tweeters) all running through a primitive crossover module. The deck I was running (also Pioneer) was one of the first electronic tuners (digital read and all that) but was of low power variety (like 5 watts), which really didn't matter because I was more interested in the low level RCA outputs that ran to an Alphasonik 75 watt RMS amplifier. Output from the amp (all of it) ran to the cabinet assembly under the rear carpet. Sounded much better than the upside down config, above. Major annoyance: the box ate up cargo space! AND, (excuse my language) it made it an absolute bitch to get at the spare tire and jumper cables!! Luckily, I really only had to get at it once.

Which leads to my final point: Buy the BEST equipment that YOUR BUDGET can handle because you get what you pay for. The thing to remember in that adage is never buy the more expensive component if you can't HEAR the difference. Don't buy the three-thousand dollar amp if the Radio Shack special sounds just as good !

Q: Any suggestions for speaker mounting in a late model ZX ?

A: Something that works well is to remove the "pockets" where the seats would be on the 2+2 and mount 6x9s there. The fit is nice but you tend to loose high-end with the upward facing speakers. Since the speakers are still pretty close behind the seats, driver and navagator will forever fight over the balance control. My next iteration would be to put 6x9's with good bass response there via a crossover, and a set of sattelite speakers on or about the shock towers (not little 'super tweeters' but something with a good mid-range). Building a box in the rear is probably best sound-wise, but i refuse to give up the tool space.

If you're not into metal cutting, you could put 6 1/2"'s back there. Plenty of depth and an easier install. Even better, put the speaker behind the body panel so the original grilles can go back on.

Q:: How about mounting speakers on the little flaps behind the seats ?

A: I've gave up on the rear panel placement and decided to use the storage bin in the back. (240Z) I took the bin doors off and cut out a piece of plywood with similar dimensions to these doors. I then cut out a hole for the speakers (Yamaha 6x9 coaxials) and installed them there. I also added a thin lid that went across to protect the speakers. The lid must be up to listen but if I'm ever in a questionable neighborhood, I put the lid down. The carpet covers the lid. Pretty well hidden.

The sound is OK but since the speakers are behind you, I'm not quite satisfied. I'm planning to replace the 6x9 speakers with a separate bass and midrange speakers. (lots of space in those bins) Since bass is non-directional, it shouldn`t matter much in the placement. I'll put a descent pair of 4 or 5 inch speakers on the doors to get the mids and highs. I also want to get a pair of tweeters to place at the top of the b-pillars.

ALSO, although alarms and "Clubs" are a good idea, I prefer to include the stealth method of protection. If you have a pull out stereo, (pulling it out really doesn't help much since they break in to check under the seat; just ask any GTI owner) pick up an old radio at a thrift store and place it in the tin box where the pull-out stereo use to be. Just be careful that the depth of the junk stereo won't damage the pins in the box. Never advertise what you got! Use old speaker covers at the doors if possible.

Q: Has anyone installed Bazookas in their Z ? How do they sound ?

A: Basically, the Bazzokas are big tubes designed to make deep, pounding bass notes come from your back seat. Unfortunately, they rely on being able to push large quantities of air to make those notes. The Zs cabin is just not that big. They will probably be able to make some deep notes and give you some thumps with the windows open. But for the cost (tubes, crossover, separate amp, lots of space), you're better off getting some 5" or 6" coax speakers and getting a tight bass response.

Besides, you don't want to drowned out the sound of that sweet-six taching up to 7 grand now do you...?

Marshall Happ adds:
I have a 1982 280zx with 2 SAS 6.5" Bazooka tubes. One is the master with the amp, crossover, etc built in, and the other, a slave. I have found that the bazookas work very well--even better with the windows closed. I have them placed at the very back of the hatch, facing each other (spaced with a tennis ball between the two.) In addition, I have a different piece of carpeting for my hatch that I made bigger to wrap up and over the tubes. This, in conjunction with the largish metal area just below the hatch window makes the speakers virtually impossible to detect.

I have 2 replacement speakers mounted in the factory holes and have noted that the treble is greatly reduced by this placement. Although I haven't yet tried it, it seems to me that a pair of surface-mount tweeters would work very nicely at about ear level on the vertical beams just behing the doors--between the door window and the small, triangular window, that is.