Replacing The Junker

Some of you may remember the first car that I owned: a 1994 Plymouth Acclaim. The behemoth handled like a Plymouth van (which handles like a boat) and guzzled gas like it was a Slurpee. The only thing good about that car was that it got me around and it had a pretty awesome custom sound system in it.

This past summer, with my co-op job bringing in some serious cash, I decided to buy a ‘new’ car: a 2006 Ford Focus ZX5 SES, to be more specific. My stipulations when picking a new car was that it had to be a manual transmission, sporty looking, fun to drive, a good track record for repairs, and relatively easy on gas; the Focus met all of those, and came at a great price as well.

With me being the audiophile that I am, my first thought was that I would be replacing the sound system pretty soon. When the car salesman heard this, he thought I was nuts. He kept on going on about how the sound system was “pretty darn good for a stock system”. I’m tempted to take my car back now for him to see. I lasted maybe two weeks before the sound system was ripped from my old car and put into the new car, with a few improvements along the way.

The gear going into the car

Here’s a quick rundown of the sound gear that got put into the car:

  • 1 800W Sony 2-channel amplifier (for back speakers)
  • 1 1300W Sony Class D amplifier (for subwoofer)
  • 1 Farad capacitor (helps battery deliver current quickly)
  • JVC single-DIN head unit w/ iPod cable
  • 2 Alpine Type-S 6″x9″ speakers (for custom privacy screen)
  • 4 Soundstream 5.25″ speakers (door replacements, not pictured)
  • 2 4ga-8ga distribution blocks (distributes power lines)
  • 4ga Power line from battery to distribution blocks
  • 8ga power line from distribution blocks to amplifiers

The first thing to do was to rip out the stock head unit and replace it with my custom one. This was probably the easiest part of the job, as it involved only a bit of soldering, and the entire front panel popped right out. The DIN converter plate has a nice little storage pocket underneath for the iPod hookup.

The next step was to run a power line from the battery to the trunk to power the amplifiers, as well as the remote and audio lines from the head unit to the trunk. I decided to run them on separate sides of the car this time: power on the left, data on the right. I also opted for a higher-gauge cable: 4ga (1/4″ thick) instead of my old 8ga (1/8″ thick). 4ga wire should be able to take a couple thousand watts without much trouble. I took pictures of the carpeting ripped up, but unfortunately they did not turn out well.

Now the door speakers needed to be replaced. There were two tricky things about this. First, the door panels needed to be removed (picture on left). Secondly, the stock speakers were 5″x7″ speakers, and the hole would not support the 5.25″ speakers I wanted in there. The solution was to build custom mounting brackets to support the speakers in the hole. All I had to do was trace the old speakers and drill a few holes. Problem solved!

Now for the part I think I’m most proud of: the subwoofer cabinet. My old cabinet was a ported box that takes up at least a third of a trunk. Don’t get me wrong: it sounds amazing. My main goal however was to have a functional trunk when I was done with my custom build, and my old cabinet simply did not accomplish this. Time to build a new one. Inspired by the Focus SVT model which comes with it’s own subwoofer, I built mine into the opposite side of the car trunk, and designed it to be as small as possible while still being around the ideal volume for my subwoofer (about 0.95 cubic feet). The end result, after carpeted and equipped with the sub, amplifier, distribution blocks, and capacitor, is something I’m very proud of. Had you seen it prior to it being carpeted, most people would have thought it was professionally built.

I’m glad to say that this is now fully installed and sounding beautifully. I got a great deal on that 1300W amplifier, and it really packs a punch; seriously, if you don’t believe me, ask Tyler S for those of you that know him (he can attest to how his hair started vibrating at about 3/5ths volume). More importantly, however, is that it sounds clean, clear, and balanced, and it most certainly does.

I have also done some other work on my car, but unfortunately I do not have photos of it…yet! So, you will have to stay tuned for part 2, when I will have photos of the custom-built privacy screen (that part in hatchbacks that covers the trunk space), the custom shift and e-brake boots (I pulled out the sewing machine for them!), and the custom lighting mods, which look amazing. If you don’t believe me, below are a few teaser shots of my trunk with the subwoofer cabinet installed and the trunk lighting on. Talk to you all later!

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