If you have a classic musclecar without an audio system, you probably have those three holes that you just can’t seem to cut out. You’ve looked for a radio for your car, and now that nearly every stereo is on a DIN chassis, requiring a seven-inch by two-inch rectangular hole to be cut, it leaves few options for classic car owners. Sure, you can mount them under the dash, in the glovebox, or even in a hidden compartment, but that doesn’t do much for the blank stare you get from the factory radio opening.
If you’re like us, cutting out the sheetmetal and trim panel on a Tri-Five Chevy just to make room for a modern stereo isn’t really an option because it just seems wrong. Where does one go to find a replacement radio, and are we stuck with factory AM radios that won’t allow us to enjoy our MP3s and digital soundtrack? Custom Autosound says welcome to the slidebar radio for 1955-’56, and 1957 Chevrolet.
More than just a modern stereo to fit into the confines of the factory radio openings, the new 1955-56 Chevy Tri-Five slidebar radio (PN CAM-VECH56-SBR) gives off the appearance of a restored AM radio. However, the slidebar feature is a lever that drops down a false front to display the digital readout of a full-function AM/FM stereo. And if you’re looking for a way to get your personal stash of music to play on the slidebar radio, you’re in luck.
Custom Autosound Slidebar Radio
- AM-FM tuner with 25 pre-sets (15 FM/10 AM)
- 300 watts peak
- 7 LCD color choices
- Bluetooth option available (PN: Blukit)
- iPod doc and control
- USB port for flash drive MP3/WMA playback
- Direct CD1 control
- Bass/mid/treble tone control
- Loudness compensation
- Front/rear fader, left/right balance
- Digital clock
- Two channel RCA auxiliary input for satellite, etc.
- Four channel RCA pre-outs
- Subwoofer line out w/level and x-over adjustments
- Power antenna lead
The radio itself includes more options than you can imagine, keeping up with modern trends in automotive audio. The digital display can be customized to seven different colors, and is dimmable to keep the brightness in check.
An internal amplifier will provide 300 watts peak power, but for audiophiles who want to customize their sounds even further, the four RCA low-level pre-outs allow connection to amplifiers, and the subwoofer line out allows the addition of some serious thunder, with level and crossover adjustability added in.
The tuning on the radio is all electronic, meaning no more tuning the dial to remove static from AM radio stations. The faux front on the face of the radio will let those who peer in through the window assume that you’ve gone back to AM and will have no clue about the features and options behind it.
Comparing the slidebar radio to a factory AM radio, the design is so close you won’t be able to tell which is which, until you slide the bar over. The five buttons below the dial won’t move the orange needle, but they will allow for pre-set tuning to 15 FM stations and 10 AM stations.
Simple Installation, Available Accessories
If you like the idea of adding Bluetooth to your audio experience, an available kit (PN Blukit) is available, and a two-channel RCA input is available for satellite or remote connectivity to other audio inputs. There’s even a clock added to the slidebar radio, as well as separate bass, mid, and treble controls to fine tune your audio experience.
The slidebar radio installs just like any other radio, with the exception that it mounts from the back side, unlike many DIN chassis radios that mount from the front. Attention to detail was instilled in the design team to mimic the factory look, right down to the controls.
A choice of smooth or knurled knobs are available, and even the markings for the two dial-knobs are just like the original. The wiring is all marked, and can be connected prior to plugging into the radio. For this 1956 Bel Air build, a brand new wiring harness, new dash trim pieces, and a lot of chrome was part of the plan.
Although it might seem that many radios from this generation are all alike, the spacing and location of the two knobs are specific to the 1955-56 Chevy. The 1957 Chevy does have its own slidebar radio, with a look more reminiscent of the 1957’s factory radio, however, they cannot be interchanged.
A few wires were connected to the new wiring harness, including memory power (to retain clock and preset stations), accessory power, ground, and a lead for the power antenna/amplifier connections. A plug for the back of the radio has all speaker wires marked and can be connected directly to the speakers as marked. To add an amplifier or two, RCA cables can be purchased from Custom Autosound or just about any local audio shop or auto parts store.
It could be said that the SlideBar radio has been in development ever since the company started in 1977. -Ryan McDonald, Custom Autosound
“We’ve had the slidebar radio since 2014 and with the success of the first models the Tri-Five folks were asking ‘what about us?’ So we went to work, got the design done with some upgrades, and released it in August 2015,” he said.
There’s a lot of technology, as well as form and function, behind the slidebar radio. Custom Autosound has taken what they’ve learned over the past few decades and applies it to its new releases. “It could be said that the SlideBar radio has been in development ever since the company started in 1977,” McDonald said. He also tells, “We are working on expanding it into more and more applications.”
We haven’t decided on which speakers, and/or amplifiers will be added to the car, until the rest of the interior is installed and speaker placement can be figured out that decision is still up in the air. A power antenna will be added, it will lower upon shut down and disappear beneath the fender panel.
The highlight of this radio is clearly the ability to connect to a personal music stash. These days many people are listening to their own arsenal of songs and the slidebar meets today’s demands for audio expectations. McDonald feels they’ve covered most of the bases, but if something new comes up to share digital media, you can be sure they’ll be right on top of it.
To find out more about the slidebar radio applications, be sure to check out the Custom Autosound website, where you can also find standard replacement-type radios and sound accessories to complement your listening experience.