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Retro fit radio
Just popping in
2/1 9:01:32
From Denver, Colorado
Posts: 9
Does anyone know of someone or company that can retro fit the control knobs on the radio face plate 34-36 and connect them to a new am/fm radio?

Posted on: 2/8 9:24:23
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Re: Retro fit radio
Home away from home
2008/9/29 7:39
From Cordova, TN
Posts: 1160
Here's one for a 48 to 50, maybe more to come.

Posted on: 2/17 13:19:53
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Re: Retro fit radio
Forum Ambassador
2007/4/20 17:54
From Fresno CA
Posts: 15770
I am not sure I would hold my breath for something working off the control head only. I believe the person who did the radio in the video may be a poster here and if he sees your post may have lots of insight. If not, I will offer

Because the control head on pre 41 radios connects via mechanical cables to work the on/off volume control and tuning capacitor in the power box and the modern radio on a board kits such as that Aurora used in the video still relies on some of the original radio controls and signals for its command and station select needs, I have not heard of any retro fit that can just use the head alone without having a control box from which to take the needed signals to feed to the modern boards.

I would think it certainly possible to have the mechanical controls work the shafts of a complete modern radio as far as on/off and volume but it would probably take some serious engineering to get the old head knob turn ratio to turn the modern tuning control exactly correct so the radio dial indicator in the head unit would align with the frequencies as shown on the dial in the modern radio. It could probably be done with a custom gear train such as used to match speedos to different transmissions. Just have not heard of anyone trying to do it.

One other issue is if it is a deluxe head, some of those with push buttons in the head unit most often controlled an electric motor in the power unit to turn the tuning capacitor to a specific spot when one of the buttons was pushed. On other models the buttons did control separate oscillators but still those modified the base tuning circuit electrically just as turning the knob or motor would mechanically. Believe the screws inside the knobs on the 22-23 series radio in the video used to set the stations move a tuning oscillator operated by the button which modifies the tuning capacitor. On later radios a cam is moved and setting the cam to a specific angle moves the tuner to a controlled spot to select a station. In either case the tuning signal is still used for changing stations in the board kits.

No idea if the buttons could be made to directly work a kit unit without having some kind of tuning signal. 55-6 radios did use electrically connected tabs which slid across a support under the buttons and was positioned at a particular station. When a button was pushed its tab supplied an electrical signal to the tuning mechanism which stopped when the position of the tab was sensed. If the modern radio could support direct input from the buttons similar to that operation then head buttons alone maybe could be made to work the circuitry. I would think there would need to be some serious shielding and some kind of interface to the push buttons and wiring so electrical noise in the rest of the car could not get fed back to the radio. Also, old mechanical switches frequently "bounce" when making a connection. The period of instability before a solid on or off connection is finally obtained from the button is insignificant on old circuitry but could cause damage to solid state components.

All in all, I would be surprised if there would be enough demand for anyone to spend time and money developing an interface to a radio that would work with just the heads. If you do not have buttons to contend with then it should be simple enough to make adapters for the shafts to be turned with the heads mechanical cable operation only -- provided you can find a gear kit to get the tuning ratios in the range of being correct.

For a modern radio, have you considered something like a Secret Audio setup. It would need a 12v inverter to power it off a 6v car but with one of those the original head would be a dummy for looks only or, if you have the entire original radio, that setup could be kept intact. The electronics for the Secret Audio could be hidden and radio operated by their remote control or you could mount their small head somewhere. The head could be in the glovebox or made to fold up and hide under the dash.

Posted on: 2/17 13:58:09
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Re: Retro fit radio
Home away from home
2008/10/28 6:22
From Simi Valley, CA
Posts: 668
Look at Aurora Design. I put one of these in the wife's '55 Caribbean. See my post of switching the car from positive to negative ground.

You will need to get 12 volts in the car. I would look at leaving the car as 6 VDC and by adding another 6 volts.

We also had their blue tooth module incorporated into the radio. Great reception and sound on the AM/FM side. With the blue tooth you can pair it to a smart phone and have music on a memory stick. Shop around. I spent $750, but I located another place where a friend had his done for $600.

Keep us posted.

Posted on: 2/18 0:05:11
Blog on Our 901 'Big Sister'
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Re: Retro fit radio
Forum Ambassador
2007/4/20 17:54
From Fresno CA
Posts: 15770
The Aurora kit would probably be a good choice if the entire radio is present but to only use the head unit by itself to control it I do not think would work. Downside to any of the Aurora kits is the radio is frequently modified so it will never work as a stand alone original again. That could be a turn off to the next buyer who values authenticity.

For the most part all the head units consist of is a shaft on the end of mechanical flex cables and electrically on some, a switch or two. There is the lamp for dial illumination and on those for deluxe units there may be pushbuttons to control the tuning motor in the power box. Aside from the flex shaft, the tuning side also has a worm or gear train to rotate the frequency dial. Getting the number of turns it takes to move the Packard frequency dial to a particular station that would match the number of turns it would take to operate a modern stand alone radio so it would be tuning in the same station would be the part which would take some thinking. In round numbers if the Packard took 6 turns of the knob to go end to end on the dial and the modern radio took 5 or 7 there would need to be some sort of gearing change in the mechanical flex cable before it reached the modern radio.

Here is what a typical mid 30s non deluxe type control head looks like internally.

Attach file:

jpg  head.jpg (333.95 KB)
209_5e4c089052fc1.jpg 1146X1318 px

Posted on: 2/18 7:53:55
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Re: Retro fit radio
Home away from home
2008/4/11 10:01
From Heilbronn Germany
Posts: 801
I had the wonderbar (wunderbar?) radio in my 53 clipper converted to the Aurora unit by south texas antique radio.
Website of S TX Antique radio
My car is 12v negative ground, and I have AM/FM and Bluetooth streaming from a cell phone, and an audio jack in the side of the radio.
All the controls from the original radio work with the Aurora unit. Volume, tone, tune, seek. Adjusting the fader/balance is kind of tricky, but can be done. I think the conversion was around 650$ a few years ago.
Radio sounds and looks good, but was not really cheap. I would do it again.

Posted on: 2/19 6:38:17
1953 Clipper Delux Club Sedan, 1969 912, 1990 Miata, 2009 Ford S-Max.
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Re: Retro fit radio
2006/4/17 11:22
From North Aurora, IL
Posts: 9231
On this subject, I found a guy near me (within 10 miles) that does the Aurora FMR 2.7 conversion. The base price is $400. A bit more to make wonderbar work, and a bit more if I want bluetooth. But still much cheaper that getting repaired and working on 12v. Since I have the optional rear fader switch, that will be wired in as well. The FMR 2.7 version has a mode where it will simulate the tube warm up, so no one will be the wiser. If the car was still 6v and/or the radio worked, then maybe I would a different route, and I just don't have the bandwidth to try to patch something together like I was originally thinking. More than likely it going to radio guy this weekend.

Posted on: 2/25 6:20:11

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Re: Retro fit radio
Home away from home
2008/3/31 14:39
From Portland Oregon
Posts: 874
Here is someone that we've used for conversions. He is very good.

Gary Tayman

He is in Florida and have been happy with the conversions he has done. He can also do bluetooth,HD,USB and other additions to the standard conversion.

Posted on: 2/26 8:22:31
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