After posting Radio install Part 2, I realized I forgot to include pictures showing the installation of the back-strap; the piece of metal that runs from the back of the radio to the dash and adds additional support for the unit. Those of you following along in real time might want to check out the updated post; the pictures are at the end.
After spending some time sitting in the bus learning what this radio can do function-wise, I realized two things: Radios are somewhat boring without speakers and the way I installed the ignition-on wire to continuous power always keeps the radio’s time/date display on, even when the unit is turned off. To solve the latter issue, install a switch between the fuse and radio. This will allow the radio to function when the bus is not running (without keeping the key in the battery-on position) and also let you turn it off when not needed. I might do this later but for now I will pull the 15 amp fuse for that wire when the bus is parked. A solution for the former issue was pretty clear – install some speakers! But before I could do that, I took the opportunity to make an upgrade.
The first step when installing speakers is figuring out where they should go. In previous buses I always stuck them in the doors, mostly because the door panels already had holes cut in them for this purpose. Moby came with nearly perfect door panels and my spare set is also in great shape and my basic approach to these old cars is to keep them as original as possible and limit any alterations. Consequently, while I have no problems using existing modifications, I did not want to cut the good door panels. That left a few options: I could use the speaker holes someone cut in Moby’s cockpit ceiling panel; use free standing, enclosed box speakers; buy door panels with holes already cut; or put them in the front kick panels. The first option did not seem ideal because the speaker locations would be right above the driver and passenger seats, not great for sound quality. I researched the second option but did not find enclosed speakers with which I was happy or a way to satisfactorily secure them when driving. I also kept a lookout for used door panels but the ones I found with speaker holes were not in great shape. That left the front kick panels. At some point, a PO removed the vinyl covers and painted them an odd light-brown, grey-tinged color which reduced my reluctance to cutting holes in them. I began to ponder refurbishing them before mounting the speakers but after looking at them closely found that, after more than 40 years, these pressed cardboard panels had become very stiff and warped. I was also a little unsure of their structural integrity, ability to hold speakers, and my capacity in making them look like new.
In researching the success others had with kick panel speaker installations, I found a yet another option, new ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) front kick panels. Quite a few people used them in their projects (with or without speakers) and were very happy with the results. These panels appealed to me because, while I could probably also find new door panels, I liked the originals already in use and felt it redundant to replace them. However, I disliked the painted kick panels and figured new ones not only would look better but, because of ABS’s resistance to warping and its increased strength, would also support speakers more effectively. Some people on various forums and threads complained about the plastic appearance and textured surface of ABS not matching the allure of originals but I figured that could be remedied by covering them with vinyl, such as found on the archetypes. These kits are made (along with a slew of other panels) by a positively reviewed company, Werksberg Products, and ship with two kick panels, four black sheet metal screws, and a small extra piece of ABS for testing glues, paints, cleaners, etc…
In the end, I decided to improve Moby’s interior not just with new curtains but kick panels too (this becomes a little more important in the grand scheme of things as I intend to do some more interior restoration work later this winter). While these ABS panels are sold by quite a few VW parts vendors, I ordered mine straight from source and was quite happy with them when they arrived. One discovery I made upon opening the box was that the textured surface is found only on one side, leaving the opposite side smooth. If you plan on covering them with vinyl or other material, you may want to inquire if Werksberg could cut the panels so the smooth side faces the cockpit (reverse of how they are cut now); it will save you some minor sanding work down the road.
The first half of this project is outlined below and focuses on getting the panels ready for the speakers and vinyl covering. For speakers installed in this spot, 6 1/2 inches seems to be about the maximum size with a mounting depth no more than 2 or 2 1/2 inches. After looking at various manufacturers and models of speakers, I ended up with a pair of 6 1/2-inch diameter speakers with 2-inch mounting depth. Overall this was a pretty quick and uncomplicated process easily finished in a day or maybe a quiet afternoon; especially after you read this and know what the heck you are doing. I recommend double checking every measurement and the fit of the speakers as you progress through each step but then again, I can be a little bit OCD about such things. I will cover the rest of the work in part 4 of this series.