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Hagerty Employee

Say watt? 10 famous retro car audio partnerships

The car business is no stranger to partnerships, but few joint ventures have the marketing potential of a famous audio manufacturer and an established automotive company. Did you know such associations dated back to the 1980s?

While not every partnership on this list may be music to your ears, that's not the point: Let's consider 10 of the most famous retro auto-audio partnerships.


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Two things made decent auto stereos possible: air conditioning and soundproofing. Prior to that, no matter how great your system was, because of wind and road noise you couldn't hear much at any speed above 50 mph. And anyone over 40 remembers ripping out whatever system was in the car and replacing it with a Blaupunkt or Nakamichi stereo and larger aftermarket speakers, something that isn't possible anymore because of the way that today's stock stereo systems are integrated with the GPS and so on. Anybody else remember when Cadillac offered the option of an AM/FM/CB radio? Or when Blaupunkt radios were AM/FM/SW (shortwave, which was popular in Europe at the time)? Or the fun of tuning in stations a thousand miles away on your AM radio late at night? 

New Driver

The B&W stereo in my new Volvo sounds great.

Intermediate Driver

Jaguar bounced all over the place for systems. The early 90's they used Alpine, but I've seen B&O in the 2010 XJ, and I think they used others too.  Boston Accoustics in my 2005 Chrysler 300C Heritage. A friend has a 2005 Nissan Sentra with a factory Rockford Fosgate system.  Seems like Bose has had the longest lasting relationship with GM than any other.

Pit Crew

I had a Bose system in a '95 Maxima that I thought sounded very good for a stock unit.

Definitely better than the Beats system in my 2013 Charger and the Sony system in my wife's 2018 Flex.


I had McIntosh in my 2006 Ford GT....

New Driver

you forgot the one that started it all in the 1970's. The Alpine  audio and the Lamborghini Contach. Every teenager had that poster on there wall in the 1970's, I know I did.


I am old enough to recall people who had record players in their Chryslers which obviously was a recipe for scratched records.
So it seemed like a huge advance when we put 8-track tape decks under the dash. 

We learned that stuffing a book of matches in the 8-track aperture helped to keep it running. And it would invariably click to change tracks right in the middle of your favorite song. You other older drivers will remember every road trip, seeing yards of unwound tape on the side of the road.

Pit Crew

No highs, no lows, it must be bose...


How could you miss Blaupunkt? Born yesterday? May B this co is out of service?  Beemer, Mercedes, Porsche and non-German co's used this equp in hi end cars.  Mine hada mic plug & I could hail those outside the car ona speaker I ran a fancy horn thru (as well). AM, FM, SW too. Just no 'aux' like 8 track or cassette/CD. I must B gettin old (@ 69 y/o) to think they should have been included...

Will go back and READ, not skim the article. Thnx for the write up

8^ )

Pit Crew

OK, Like i asked early on "What Happened to Blaupunkt? or did you all miss my comment before writing this stuff. After working at Bosch in Broadview ,Il. for over 33 years and closing down the original US headquarters on Long Island when it moved to Broadview in the mid-'70s, I seen it all. The radio repair/rebuild depatment was there,I had an AM/FM Blaupunkt & 8 track player in my '72 Grand Prix and my son got their AM/FM with the very first reversible cassette track players in his 1984 Buick Shylark and my boss,who came to the US in the late '60s had worked in Blaupunkt repair radios out of their headquarters in NYC back then.They were way ahead of the game selling their tape decks for GM car radios in the '80s and '90s plus their radios to Ford after that. Yes, they were big in all Euro made cars and I'll never forget the first time I jumped into the late '70s Bosch Automotive service van,I was always in the Bosch automotive OE and aftermarket service group, and found this huge stalk sticking out from the floor that controlled all the radio operations. Yes, the site I worked at did all the repair, rebuilding,proto type installations and custom work, like in the Vector if anyone remembers that car, back then and my '91 Cadillac STS with its Bose radio was the biggest disappointment for a car radio I ever had and my coisin confirmed that to me with the one he had in his GMC and many Corvette owners,from that era, will sing you the same song,too. The Japs brought an end to Blaupunkt and I miss their German quality,today.
Community Manager

Not born yesterday, but I have yet to find proof that Blaupunkt ever tuned a stereo/speakers to the cabin of those vehicles the way Bose did with GM, JBL with Ford, etc.  You can't just slam in a stereo and make it on this list. 

Pit Crew

Never did nor would I ever want that in my car(s).Had Bose in 2 Cadillacs and both sucked and died way too soon and too costly to fix.Sound is a personal thing that people like tuned to their own ear.Good luck with Bose IF you like them.I don't nor never will. Sorry, but I have told this to Bose people face to face.Good luck and keep smilin'.

And then there's one of the best names most have never heard of-Fugitsu Ten, who made the AM/FM/CD decks in Lexus and some top end Toyota cars. They also got into the US retail market as the Eclipse brand. Awesome sound and build quality, but too expensive for most and only sold through fairly exclusive dealers. They set up a great US HQ in California, but didn't let them run anything. US engineers had to call Japan to get permission to take a poop.  

Pit Crew

In the late 80's the Ford / JBL Premium Sound system was cutting edge technology - it was a fully digital cassette deck with a toggle switch for volume control, the power switch had a thin red horizontal stripe , and tuning was controlled by V-shaped rocker switches with diagonal grooves. This was known as the EPC, and other models had their own designations, like ESR. Sound was generated by a pair of pre-amp IC's and an external amplifier good for 20 watts per channel, and every unit had a pair of auxiliary inputs on the back so the factory could add an external CD player.  In order for the head unit to play a CD it needed to receive a pulsed 5 volt signal from the CD player known as the DAD status, which I assume is an acronym for Digital Audio Device. Cars not equipped with an external CD player had to have a "continuity plug" inserted into the back. The cassette deck was electronically controlled by motors - there were no spring loaded mechanisms that would eject a cassette tape. Every function was controlled by a 40 DIP (dual in-line pin) microprocessor supplied by Motorola. Main power of the EPC was supplied by the battery, whereas previous models, like the ESR were powered through the ignition switch. There were 5 printed circuit boards, plus two in the head unit, and two in the tape deck. This radio was common in Lincolns, and available in selected Ford vehicles like the Taurus and Thunderbird. I can remember riding in our neighbors brand new MN-12 Thunderbird SC and feeling like my ears were blown out by the level of volume from the stereo. This radio lasted for only 3 years, and was replaced by a newer model in which all of the buttons looked alike and felt the same, but internally had much fewer printed circuit boards and simplified electronic circuits with fewer components because of the rapid advancement of technology in the late 80's. Over time, every single one of these head units failed to produce sound from the speakers - the problem was not the external amplifier, but something inside of the head unit. There were two businesses that repaired radios for Ford Dealers - one was Auto Radio Specialists in a funky, small, brown building in the little Italy section of downtown San Diego, and they had a small room on either the second or third floor with 4 workbenches. The manual for the radio is a 3 inch thick binder. Sometime in the late 90's or early 2000's the radio repair business was consolidated to one location in Kansas. I have several of those EPC radios, and I'd like to repair one to use in my 1989 Ford Taurus, and I'm planning on joining the Puget Sound Antique Radio Association in the near future.


Have you never heard of Philco which was owned by Ford?

New Driver

I purchased a 1985 Corvette that I had special ordered and waited 3 1/2 months for.  It ordered the then new Delco/Bose sound system for $895.  It was fantastic for the era.  Shortly after taking delivery, Bose sent me a order form for their own “Bose Optimized” cassettes.  They were like mix tapes of certain genres of music.  Top 40, adult contemporary, classical, etc.  I ordered a few and boy were they fantastic paired with the head unit.  They were great at full volume, fantastic with the targa top removed.  I remember that system being worth every dollar of that $895 option price.  Now I own a 1995 Camaro Z28 with the Delco/Bose Gold system.  This has a single disc CD with five speaker/amplifier units.  It’s sound quality is pretty good, not fantastic.  And having has one of the door & rear cargo area units out, they are like little “sound factories”, a speaker, an enclosure, an amplifier all in one.  I’m sure now, 25 years later I could install an aftermarket system with Bluetooth, back up camera, navigation, state of the art speakers and multiple amplifiers that would shame that factory installed Delco/Bose Gold system.


I remember when anything but an AM radio was all that was available from the factory for most cars.  When Lear came out with the 4-track tape decks, it was hot stuff.  By the time I got one, the the 8-track had hit the market.  I put one under the dash of my '65 Doge with two 6" X 4" speakers hidden on each side.  No boxes, just speakers.  But it was still better then the AM radio and I could actually choose the music!  But getting to the song you wanted took time.  When I got my '73 Trans Am with an AM/FM stereo, I added a factory 8-track and upgraded the rear speakers, this time enclosing them under the package tray with insulated boxes.  Talking about the high-end sound options that came withing a decade or two reminds me how times and quality we will accept now have changed. 


What about Alpine and Lamborghini.