As you read this, the June 2014 issue of Hemmings Motor News has just hit the newsstand, and in it is a story about acquiring vintage 8-track tapes for display or to actually use in your classic car. We thought we'd also offer here a few ideas regarding aftermarket 8-track players.]
For many vintage vehicles owners, the cost of adding a factory 8-track tape player has become prohibitive in recent years due to their rarity and collectability. There is a lower-cost solution, however.
After decades of restoring cars to factory stock, the recent “Day Two” trend has made it desirable (or at least more socially acceptable) to add era-correct aftermarket accessories. That opens up a whole new affordable world of possibilities regarding 8-track tape decks. Aftermarket examples from the 1960s to the 1980s are still plentiful in online auctions and in classifieds and still turn up at swap meets for about $25 and up depending upon condition. By comparison, factory 8-tracks usually draw hundreds of dollars and ultra-rare and NOS ones even more.
Before you take the plunge, however, ask and answer a few questions. Do you want an under-dash unit, or an in-dash one with a radio that actually replaces the factory radio? Do you want the under-dash one to be just a tape player or do I want it to also include a radio? FM radio was gaining popularity in the 1960s and early 1970s and some units included it because most cars had only an AM radio. In this instance, adding the tape player brings a double benefit.
If you’re planning on actually wiring up the unit and playing tapes on it, though some used ones can be complete and in great condition, try first to find an NOS one in the original box. Having never been installed, it will look new and the chances of cosmetic, electrical or mechanical damage will be minimal. Just as important, it should come with all the wiring, mounting brackets and installation hardware and instructions. The initial cost will be higher than a good used unit, but the benefits will outweigh the initial cash outlay in most cases.
If you are planning to use the unit regularly, and will be seeking out your favorite artists’ 8-track cartridges, be aware that early on, there were 4-track tape players produced (for 4-track cartridges) and they won’t work properly with 8-tracks unless they were hybrid – 4/8 or “12-track” – models that were capable of playing both types.
Also, in the 1970s Quadraphonic
cartridges and players came on the scene that played 4 channels simultaneously instead of two like 8-tracks. They too, are not compatible with 8-tracks and have become collectible, since they were rare by comparison. Quadraphonic players and tapes are more expensive to purchase today and the breadth of available titles and artists is much less than typical 8-tracks.
If your intent is to mount the 8-track unit in your car for display purposes only and you’ll simply slip your favorite tape in it at events for show not sound, then all that matters is that the unit’s appearance is fresh and the proper mounting brackets are included in your purchase. Aside from cosmetic considerations, an NOS unit is unnecessary because you don’t need wiring or instructions.
Another option is to use an under-dash 8-track player as a period-correct decoy to hide other accessories. Because it’s simply a sizeable box mounted under the dash within reach and view of the driver and it has an era-correct face-plate, it’s a near perfect arrangement to conceal a modern stereo or gauges while retaining a Day Two appearance. It also offers an alternative to hiding the stereo in the glove box or console.
When purchasing an 8-track deck for this purpose, make sure that unit is sized properly to fit whatever you plan to put in it and that its faceplate can be removed in one piece to expose the entire inner area of the case. Later 8-tracks became more integrated in design and they may not have an easily removable front.
Remove the faceplate then the player’s operating mechanism. Modify the back of the faceplate and/or the case to make the faceplate easily move or be removable – add clips, Velcro or hinges etc. – and install your modern stereo equipment or instruments.
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