The classic AM-band Philco-Ford-manufactured Mustang radios produced from the mid-1960s were, for their era, state-of-the-art tuners... sporting a staggering single watt of power produced through typical '60s-variety germanium transistor circuitry.

Although deemed more than adequate from a new-car-production standpoint--keep in mind now that FM stereo AND 4-channel FM car stereo systems were still in their infancy in those days, and "AM Top-40" was the hottest thing going--FM just didn't loom all that important.

Mind you, it's not that FM wasn't available on the early ponies--but it was a rarely-purchased option, and they're rarer still today.

Of course today's FM scene is an entirely different "market." AM band is mostly for "squares," and FM is for, the "sophisticated"... er, make that the commercialized radio listener.

Retro-fitting that vintage pony car of yours with one of today's high tech, aftermarket audio systems pretty much takes care of the problem. However, if you're performing an MCA-type classic Mustang restoration, or if you're one of those authenticity-adherents who can't bear to part with that old Philco-Ford factory tuner, then Bob, "The Radio Man" Sponsel of Dallas, Texas, USA, phone 214-321-8440--has the answer to your auto-audio dilemma.

You see, The Radio Man offers a number of AM/FM/CD Mustang radio upgrades for classic 1964-'78 pony car tuners, as well as for other makes & models. What Bob Sponsel actually does is swap out all of the old AM filters, capacitors, and power resistors on the original AM circuit board, substituting them with state-of-the-art electronic "PC board" circuitry. "Basically we re-align the AM band back to factory specifications using state-of-the-art alignment equipment," says Sponsel.

So much for AM mode. Should you desire FM mode--and who doesn't--Sponsel can also install a fully integrated, FM-mode PC circuit board which delivers a much more crisp and detailed FM signal. This board is also used in offsite CD applications where the playback signal is transmitted from a specially-prepared, Panasonic remote CD player using a hand-held, infrared control module that renders your unit "CD Friendly."

Throughout all of this, the functionality of your original Philco-Ford AM radio pre-set buttons, and the On/Off/Volume control, base & treble, and tuning knob functions are retained. And once the unit is re-installed into the dash of your classic Mustang, no scrutinizer is the wiser.

Here's how it works. The first click, or turn of the left-hand knob will turn the unit "on," as signified by a green LED light. Once you've locked onto an FM station, or the FM mode, the LED will lock into an amber color. A quick click to the "off" position, followed by a second click to the "on" position will place the unit in AM mode, as signified by a red LED light.

Bob's standard package provides you with 2-speaker stereo output with 22 RMS watts per channel, a total of 44 RMS watts output; Bob also offers custom kick panels with Boss speakers installed, covered in upholstery to match your Pony's original interior. A mono system can be installed if you prefer to use only the one (upgraded) dashboard speaker. For an additional $100 Bob will install an additional circuit board for another 2-speaker out, thus totaling 4 speakers with a total of 88 RMS watts output.

If you're lucky enough to possess one of the rare AM/FM or AM 8-Track units that Ford offered in these early 'Stangs, Bob can also implement his conversion process, to both provide stereo and to greatly increase your quality of sound and output wattage.

How well do these units perform? Let's just say that you'll be more than pleasantly surprised. For all this service, Sponsel commands a fee of $395 f.o.b. Dallas, and that includes both AM/FM and "CD-Ready" cosmetic upgrades.

Your cost for the remote Panasonic CD changer is another $375. And, Sponsel warrantees his parts and services for one year! Now follow along with us as we watch The Radio Man transform this 1966 Mustang radio to modern AM/FM & CD-ready circuitry. Note that each of these small b&w photos is linked to a much larger/higher resolution copy, so you can examine it more closely; each of these higher-rez photos opens in a new, "temporary" window. Just close it to return here.

 

1966 Mustang AM Radio
"The Radio Man" Bob Sponsel tears it down & converts it to FM:

1. This 1966 Mustang AM Philco/Ford radio has seen its better days.

2. Bob Sponsel begins by first removing the old knobs and tuner wheels. Note all that crud and corrosion.

3. This procedure is followed with the removal of the 1/4-inch machine screws which retain the top half of the radio case, and off comes the case cover.

4. Next, Bob clips the ground wires to the case.

5. From there, he removes the power transistor.

6. After the removal of a couple more sheet metal screws which secure the front bezel in place, the entire radio is "blown apart" and ready for complete servicing.

7. The old AM board is separated from the pushbutton pre-set unit and discarded.

reminder: Don't forget that each of these b&w photos is hot-linked to a larger image!

8. At this juncture, the pushbutton pre-set assembly is checked for any major damage, and set aside; Bob removes the volume control and on/off switch assembly.

9. Rejuvenation begins with the cleaning of the outer case itself.

10. All old soldering connections are cleaned from inside the case in order to allow as much working room for the new PC board circuitry as possible.

11. Sponsel paints the case and related pieces a dull aluminum paint which is similar to the original factory Ford finish.

12. Here Bob separates the old tuning coil from the old circuit board.

13. The Radio Man directs his efforts to the cleaning and rejuvenation of the pre-set pushbutton assembly.

14. From there, Bob removes the lens from the chrome bezel, or faceplate, and sets it aside.

15. Then the bezel itself is cleaned with steel wool, ridding it of any corrosion, or hardened nicotine "tar." The dial pointer is also painted to restore the original orange finish. Should your bezel require re-chroming, this service can be provided at extra cost. This is the last step in the rejuvenation process; next the conversion process.

Stage 2: Tuner conversion

16. The radio dial indicator panel is drilled with a 1/8-inch hole, and an LED (Light Emitting Diode) is installed.

17. The proper holes are then punched into the Philco-Ford radio case in order to mount the new PC board circuitry.

18. Bob begins by wiring up the new PC board and installing it into the radio case.

19. Bob superglues the LED into the radio dial indicator panel.

20. Sponsel re-installs the oscillator coils onto the pre-set pushbutton unit.

21. RCA jacks are installed in rear of case for inputs from the remote CD player.

22. Connecting the coax cable from the stereo board to the antenna input jack.

23. The painstaking process of hooking up all the electrical leads takes time, but the results will more than "speak" for themselves.

24. Connecting the volume control and on/off/tone control assembly to the circuit board.

25. The pre-set pushbutton assembly is then inserted back into the radio case.

 

26. The radio dial indicator panel--complete with LED light--is re-connected to the pushbutton pre-set assembly, and "wired in."

27. Tuner assembly & faceplate are re-installed to radio case.

29. (photo 28 has been removed from the article) The speaker-balance "pot" (i.e., potentiometer) is installed.

30. More internal wiring hookups are made as your old tuner begins to look like a radio again.

31. Bob hooks up the external leads to the wire loom.

32. The revitalized tuner gets "powered up" and the radio bands are aligned.

33. At this juncture, the top of the case goes back together, secured by 5/16-inch machine screws.

34. The external speaker hookups are tested, and your radio gets a clean bill of health.

35. Both AM and FM channels are checked as well as the correct operation of the LED light. Nothing is overlooked.

above: Here's your completed unit along with Radio Man's optional offsite Panasonic CD changer. All Radio Man products are warranted against defective parts and labor for one year. Happy listening!

You can contact The Radio Man Bob Sponsel
by email at: radiomantexas@aol.com

Note: In January 2001 we received a very serious consumer complaint (actually, a formal affidavit) about Bob Spansel/"The Radio Man." Before you send your vintage radio to this company, I urge you to first contact contact the offices below to inquire about "The Radio Man's" current status regarding customer complaints:

  • Texas Attorney General's Office, POB 123548, Austin, TX 78711; (512) 463-2191
  • Dallas BBB, Ronald P. Berry, 2001 Bryan St. Ste. 3850, Dallas, TX 75201; (214) 220-2000

Curt Scott

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