Radio Installation Frustration

Radio Installation Frustration

A Radio History Lesson

Most early Mustangs came with an AM radio, if they came with one at all.  Virtually identical to the radios installed in ’64 Falcons, 1964.5 and 1965 Mustangs usually came with radios made by Bendix or Motorola.  Philco, a brand purchased by Ford in the early 1960’s, also supplied radios for early Mustangs.  According to what I’ve read, Philco radios are much more commonly found in later 1965 production.  1966 cars used Philco AM radios almost exclusively, but relied on Bendix for the rare AM/FM unit.

The subtle differences between the 1964 1/2, 1965, and 1966 radios are all cosmetic; the radio opening didn’t change, so any early Mustang radio will fit in the dash.  The only differences between a 1964 Falcon radio and a 1965 Mustang radio are the knobs (Mustangs used chrome knobs) and the CONELRAD markings, which do not appear on Mustang radios.

I have no less than three radios which will fit in the dash of my Mustang.  Two of them are in excellent cosmetic condition.  The Philco set that came out of the car originally is in the worst shape, having been exposed to 35 years of moisture from a leaking windshield gasket.  The chrome faceplate is heavily pitted, some of the internals are pretty rusty, and the plastic tuning knob shaft is cracked.  But it plays just fine!

A quick search through eBay will turn up countless cheap radios for an early Mustang.  For $40 I picked up a beautiful working Motorola unit from a 1965 Mustang.  That seemed like a slam dunk given the $100 I’d need to spend refurbishing my existing unit.  Not long after I’d bought the eBay radio, I was also gifted a working Bendix unit out of an early Falcon, which would also work just fine.

A Small Surprise

Externally the Bendix and Motorola radios are very similar.  Both use a small chrome bezel which attaches to the front case to hold the dial glass.  Both share the same exterior dimensions.  Philco radios, however, have a one-piece front bezel, which also serves as the main support for the internals.  The problem with the Philco design is that it’s hard to re-chrome, and it doesn’t seem to age well.  Take a look at eBay and see — the Philco face plates are usually pitted.

As it turns out, there is one major difference that matters.  Philco radios are an inch shallower than the others.  I didn’t think that mattered until I tried to install the Motorola radio using the rear support for my radio.  There’s no way to make it fit.  So either I need to find a longer support bracket or re-use my original radio.  Neither one gets me very excited.  Any ideas?