Recently I was invited to a Renault driving day, the first thing I did when I got into the car was not to fasten my seat belt but to sync my I phone to the I link communications system, then I could make and receive telephone calls via the hands-free, but most importantly I could listen to my own collection of songs from the 80s and 90s wirelessly through the cars Audio system rather than being subjected to the crap they play on the radio these days (I know I never thought I would say that either)
There was a time when I couldn’t move a car from the workshop to the forecourt without tuning the Cracklemaster (if it had one fitted) to Radio 1 and turning up the full volume for my journey of about 50 feet, just to give you a few examples of how much I liked music, when I started school I was pretty dense and my Mother used to say to me that she wished I could learn my “Times Tables” as quickly as I could pick up the lyrics from the new chart releases. My Dad used to shout up to me when I was playing music in my bedroom” Turn that screaming racket down”. The first car I bought was a Ford Anglia 105 E, it cost £75, the radio cassette I fitted to it cost twice as much as the car, and I have been known to buy the magazine “Smash Hits” but not in the last 4 decades.
One of the garages I dealt with was owned by a guy who was a Member of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Movement, amongst other things their religion forbid them to listen to TV, Radio, or recorded music, and the owner of the garage was such a devout member he used to snap the aerials off his cars so that he couldn’t accidentally get into a car that had the radio wired to the ignition and had been left on when he started a car.
I used to think this was rather an extreme precaution but my love for music diminished rapidly when every new record that was released seemed to be ruined by the constant interruptions of some tone-deaf Rapper. I briefly considered joining the Plymouth Brethren myself, however, just in time I discovered that the Brethren also took a dim view of premarital bonking so I kicked that idea into touch. I have joked in the past that many driveby shootings of Rap Stars in America remain unsolved, and I believe it’s because the Police are too busy trying to establish a motive for rival gang members, when what they should be looking for is a Music Lover with a Mac 10.
Today when you sell a new car, its either ordered from the factory and delivered to your door, or if there’s one already made and in the country, it’s held at a central compound, and can be pillaged by some halfwit sales administrator who doesn’t know how to play the game and hasn’t got the foresight to order their own cars with hard to retrofit options, that are cheap enough to throw in the deal if the customer is too tight to pay for them, so these days they just pinch your stock instead (hmm I’m still a little bitter about this innovation), but it hasn’t always been that way.
In the old Days (Yawn) everybody’s stock was delivered to the dealership and it was up to you where you stored it if you wanted to swap it for another car, or let a dealer (who you trusted) have it and owe you a favour. When you sold a car that wasn’t in your compound or pipeline allocation, you had to print off a list of available cars, then set about the long and arduous task of ringing the dealer to see if you can agree on a swap with one of your physical cars.
Once the deal was agreed it was then a matter of jumping in your car putting the trade plates on and driving to the other garage to complete the swap, this meant you could be in the car for hours and in those days cars weren’t fitted with radios as standard, some didn’t even have heated rear windows or cigarette lighters.
There was no just sliding a radio into a Din E standardised slot in the dashboard, to make things even harder you usually had to remove the bottom half of the dash, drill holes and saw an oblong slot in it using a template supplied with the fitting kit, then there was the matter of fitting the aerial, this meant drilling a hole in the roof, front or back wing, then the inner wing to pass the lead through, then feeding the lead all the way underneath the carpet and bringing it out behind the dashboard within reach of the radio.
To do the job properly you had to touch up the paint around the edge of the hole, but the aerial had to make contact with the bare metal underneath the wing to create the necessary earth and get the best signal, this meant that any cars that had a radio fitted also usually needed a new wing fitted about 12 months later when it had gone rusty. The good thing was it wasn’t as easy to steal your car radio; the bad thing was it was very costly and would sometimes take a days labour to fit a radio
In the late 70s and 80’s I used to do all our Dealer Transfers and this was when, I alone invented connectivity for cars. I have never received any reward or recognition from the car manufactures but it was my idea, as I said earlier I couldn’t go anywhere without music so I set about making my own music system that could be transferred from one car to another in a matter of seconds.
I started off by cutting 2 holes in my briefcase and fitting 2 door speakers in it (had to be stereo) inside I fastened in a fitting kit and a Philips Radio Cassette, this was later replaced with the all-singing all-dancing new Sharp RG6550E Synthesiser, with ANSS Auto Noise Suppression System, I will explain later why this was an important feature. I made several power leads, 1 had a cigarette lighter plug for if the car was a GL or upward, another had Lucar piggyback connectors so I could lever the clock out of the dash and fasten it to the power feeds, if all else failed I had the slightly more dangerous crocodile clips which I would just clip in the fuse box till the radio switched on.
Most of my journeys I would just listen to my pre recorded cassettes, but God forbid I had to do a Dealer Transfer on a Tuesday when the new Pop Chart Top Twenty came out with all the new entries, then I had to put slightly more effort in, and get the radio working, for this I had a retractable aerial mounted on a U shape bracket that I had made which I would slide over the window and then wind the window up to secure the aerial in place.
On the days when the new chart was released, I had to plan my trip so that I would get to the dealer at least an hour before the Chart rundown, and take an 8mm and 10mm spanner, ANSS hadn’t been invented and cars in those days weren’t fitted with suppressors so I would have to take my own and fit one to the coil which if it wasn’t suppressed would make a very annoying Tick, Tick, Tick noise through the radio speakers, and one to the Alternator which would otherwise cause a high pitched whining noise that would increase and get louder with the speed of the car.
I call the Motor Trades new recruits fit to burn these days but I am sad to admit that sometimes it would take me longer to get the radio working than it would have taken me to drive back to the garage, yesterday my mate was kind enough to give me a lift, his radio was on when I got in his car, I turned it off and said “I’m not listening to that shit, I would rather walk”
I know you will be thinking “You Ungrateful Bastard but it only serves to demonstrate how times change! I have now become my Dad.