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AE Radio Repaired after 16 Years. BODYSONIC LIVES!

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  • AE Radio Repaired after 16 Years. BODYSONIC LIVES!

    I've owned my '84 Anniversary Edition for a long time... I purchased it in July of 1995, about a month after I got my driver's license at age 17. I still have this car and owning it has had a major impact on my life and career- but that is the subject for another post...


    For this post I'd like to focus on the radio in my car. When I got the Z, the audio system was completely stock. One of the reasons I purchased this car was for the Bodysonic Amplifier feature. I thought it was one of the things that truly made this car unique and special. Even more so than the digital dash, the Bodysonic Amp really symbolized “1980's excess” which is what this car is all about! Bodysonic may seem pretty goofy by now, but I love it because gives this car a ton of character. Also it actually does work; feeling the bass kick your back really does add to the listening experience in a novel, nostalgic sort of way.


    Somewhere in early or mid 1996 (!), a tape got stuck in the down position of the factory deck. Being a dumb 17 year old, I pulled the tape out with a screw driver or something; that probably made things worse. There were no online repair resources available at the time; Not knowing anything about how car stereos worked, I had to rely on a local stereo shop for help. I asked if they would be able to repair the factory radio. They didn't want to even attempt it; they encouraged me to buy an aftermarket radio (of course); the quality and features would be superior and it would probably cost me much less than the repair (maybe..). Their installer was familiar with the Anniversary Z and assured me that he would be able to get the aftermarket radio to work with the Bodysonic seats, but the steering wheel audio controls would no longer work. Reluctantly I settled on a Denon DCR-420 head unit w/ tape deck and external 10-disc Magazine CD changer to be mounted behind the passenger seat. All of the stock speakers would be retained. It was a decent setup at the time; I was upset about replacing the factory radio, but having the new CD changer actually was awesome. Of course I wouldn't even learn about MP3's until a year later...



    Aftermarket Denon Deck



    Old 10 disc mounted behind the passenger seat!



    It took the shop about 2 days to install the new radio. What the shop didn't explain to me in advance was that they would have to bypass the OEM Bodysonic controls in order to get the radio to work with the seat speakers. I wasn't exactly sure how they wired everything, nor was it clear as to why they had to configure the system this way in order to make it function at all. I was too naive to ask. A new toggle switch was mounted on the aftermarket radio mounting bracket, adjacent to the radio. This switch would turn the Bodysonic speakers on or off, and the intensity was relative to the radio volume. This worked well enough, but you really had to crank the radio in order to really feel anything. Still, overall I was happy with the system; I still loved my Z...



    Here you can see how the aftermarket wires were spliced into the harness for the passenger seat bodysonic controls. The rear speaker amp was removed, but is shown here sitting in the original position. The module under the seat is for the factory alarm. There is an extra blue harness for the power seat that is not used on Anniversary models.


    The shop returned my factory radio, and rear speaker amp in a box... I put it on the shelf in my parent's basement; where it sat for the next 16 years or so...


    A few years ago, I started to get an itch to return the audio system back to stock. Back in 1996 the factory radio simply looked “old and dated” but now it started to look “cool and retro” to my eye. As you know, the trend with modern cars is to replace buttons and knobs with LCD panels (see Cadillac CUE, MyFord Touch, and Infiniti InTouch are just a few examples). In contrast, I love how the factory Z31 radio has huge buttons and knobs, deliberately labeled, with a quirky , not-quite-double DIN layout. The tiny backlit green LCD screen was cutting edge for 1984. The only thing that is missing was a graphic equalizer; which we all know was not adopted on the Z31 until 1985.


    Likewise, I really wanted to get the Bodysonic seats working as designed from the factory, including the OEM control switches. Again, this is one of the features that really makes this car and unique and special (not to mention adds significantly to the value of a clean AE). I also wanted to restore the function of the factory steering wheel audio controls.


    As it turns out, getting the factory radio and tape deck repaired was easier said than done. I first contacted Wild Bill a few years ago; he didn't want to do the job stating that repair parts for the radio were no longer available. I tried contacting Clarion directly via my contacts at Nissan, but ran into dead ends. I then contacted someone I met via ebay who had restored AE radios in the past. I sent my radio to him, and after 3 months of waiting and diagnostics he explained that many of the capacitors were leaking, and as a result, many of the circuit boards would need to be either repaired or replaced. He wasn't sure if he could do the job properly and quoted me a very large, non-refundable sum just to get started. It was too much of a gamble- I figured I would be better off trying to source a used AE radio in better condition than my own; but who knows how long that would take, and at what cost!?!


    I thought for sure that I was out of luck... It was that at that point that I started searching around this board and was lucky enough to find contact information for board member Greg84ae. I found this thread (http://z31performance.com/showthread...g84ae-good-guy) where he had restored an AE radio for Z Karma. I emailed Greg my phone number and he called me back within an hour or so. We spoke about the radio a bit and we agreed that I would have the other repair guy ship my radio directly to him and he would take a look. Not sure how many of you guys have had a chance to interact with Greg, but let me tell you a few things about him based on my getting to know him over the past few months


    [list type=decimal][*]He is extremely knowledgeable about Z31's in general.[*]He has a professional electronics background and is without question a subject matter expert when it comes to electronics repair.[*]He one of the most dedicated Z31 enthusiasts I have ever met in my 20+ years of being a Z-car fan. Greg has worked tirelessly to advance our hobby, not only through radio repair, but through extensive research about the history of our cars and development of other products that raise the standards of our restorations.Greg takes pride in the work he does and stands behind it.He's an all around good dude.[/list type=decimal]

    After perhaps a week or two Greg was able to diagnose the problems with my AE radio and restore it back to working condition. Not only did he fix the tape mechanism, but he also upgraded several internal components to improve reliability and made adjustments to enhance sound quality. Throughout the process he maintained excellent communication, even calling me on a weekend to play the tape deck for me over the phone the first time he got it working! After completing the repairs, he bench tested the unit to verify his work and help insure long term reliability. Greg also performed a cosmetic freshening of the unit; replacing the original button labels with new, exact reproductions that look awesome. The radio was returned to me in record time and included a limited warranty for the repairs.

    Keep in mind that we're talking about a 30 year old tape deck. You can find shops who work on old radios from the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's, but frankly speaking, finding someone with the expertise and willingness to work on something from the 80's is almost impossible these days. The initial quality of these units was very poor; I'm told there was a high rate of warranty claims; probably most went bad after 5 or 6 years; forget about 30! It really is remarkable to find someone who can perform this repair, and with such high quality. As far as costs go, let me just say that Greg's pricing was very reasonable, especially when compared to the earliest quote that I had received. Included with the repair was an itemized receipt and a bag with the old circuit board that Greg replaced, about 30 bad capacitors, and a post-it note with the original button labels. Awesome service and attention to detail. It is rare that you find anyone who takes so much pride in their work. Of course Greg doesn't make a living doing this stuff; it seems to be more of a labor of love for him. So beyond getting my old radio fixed, I'm very grateful having made a new friend to share this hobby with. I want to thank Greg for helping me out. I really appreciate it! Beyond AE Radio repair, Greg has a lot of other good stuff in the works for Z31 guys; definitely keep an eye out for some of his other projects. You will be very impressed to say the least.

    (to be continued..)

  • #2
    Now it was time to finally (after 16 years!) re-install the factory radio. I was lucky to have help from my pals Calen and Kevin. Both are also pretty serious car guys, and there is no way I could have done this without them. Calen is in the process of buying a Z31 (that maybe he will post about when it arrives...), and Kevin has a sweet S2k, but we won't hold that against him. We started at 11AM on Saturday and finished up around midnight. It took so long because A) we had to remove a lot of the wiring added to get my aftermarket radio to work with the CD changer and Bodysonic seats and B) the factory wiring harness had to be completely re-soldered. We were lucky that the installer decided to leave the factory plug; but it was hanging by a single wire. It took about 3 hours to solder the harness back to stock configuration and finish everything off with heat shrink wrap. Also both seats had to be removed so we could re-install the factory rear speaker amplifier under the passenger seat and remove wires that had been spliced into the bodysonic amp under the driver's seat. The only other complication was physically pushing the HVAC/factory radio cluster back into place; there really isn't much room behind the radio for the harness, so you have to make sure everything is routed perfectly in order to make it all fit. Overall it was time consuming, but fun project.


    Here is the factory radio harness, restored to original condition.




    Of course the final remaining challenge is that after all of this, I didn't have any audio cassettes! Remember, the goal here was to get everything back to original condition. I don't daily drive my car, so originality was more of a priority than anything else. I enjoy this car for what it is, and I don't try to make it something it isn't. I admire folks who upgrade their cars, but that just isn't my goal for this particular car. After doing some research I purchased a box of Maxell XLII high bias tapes from Amazon ($40 for 10!), and scored a Luxman K-111 tape deck in unused, in-the-box condition on Craigslist for $30! I copied a bunch of my favorite CD's on to audio cassette... Believe it or not, the factory deck with these tapes actually sounds pretty damn good! Not quite CD quality, but it isn't as far off as you might think. Actually I think the deck sounds better than the aftermarket radio and CD changer did (note: all of my speakers are stock). There is something about the balance of the factory deck with the factory speakers that just works really well.. or at least better than expected. And as luck would have it, after all of this time, my Bodysonic speakers still work great! The first thing I listened to was BSSM by RHCP; one of my all time favorite albums. Flea's killer bass makes for some kickass Bodysonic testing material. I'm so happy to again have an AE that works as intended.




    Here are some pics from the installation:


    This is the Bodysonic Amp mounted under the driver's seat.



    Bodysonic speakers mounted in the bottom cushion. I'm lucky that they still work after all these years





    what a mess! That thick blue cable was for the aftermarket CD changer. You can also see two of the bulbs that illuminate the radio faceplate on the right hand side. These plug-in to the faceplate above and below the antenna height adjustment switch. There is another bulb on the left side of the faceplate; it is out, so I need to find a replacement...hopefully Radio Shack or Autozone has them. The bulb looks green, but actually it is a clear bulb with a green "cap"



    Driver's Seat and Passenger Seats removed. That cable running down from the center console was added to get the aftermarket radio to work with the bodysonic seats. It has since been removed!




    Rear speaker amp has been re-installed under the passenger seat. Plastic cover protects the factory alarm module from spills. The blue cable is not used on Anniversary editions; it provides power to the seat. There was no room to package for the power seat mechanism and the bodysonic speakers on AE cars, but the same harness was retained (Thanks Greg for figuring this one out!)


    Out with the old aftermarket radio. Here you can see the toggle switch that was installed to turn the bodysonic speakers on/off with the aftermarket radio.



    Kevin & Calen pushed the factory radio and HVAC cluster back in to place. Getting the routing of the wiring harness correct was critical in order to get everything to fit properly. It helped to have a few sets of hands to do this. It took a few tries.


    FINALLY back to stock
    ! Of course after we did this we realized that we didn't plug in the clock, so we had to pull it apart again...




    I was so tired by the time we finished, all I have is this crappy cell phone pic of the finished product. Nice and stock!

    Comment


    • #3
      Stock rocks! Nice work, nice write-up... it is especially gratifying when you see people saying nice things about other members here. So much of the crap from "anonymity" is pure lack of manners... most of it would not happen if we always spoke to each other in person. Thank you for elevating this space! Would love to see more pics of the ride, too...
      '86 NA - original owner (1986-93) and final owner (2005-present)

      My build thread: http://z31performance.com/showthread...-Got-mine-back

      Comment


      • #4
        God that is freakin cool.

        1985 Nissan 300ZX 2+2- My first Z, back in the family
        1987 Nissan 300ZX Turbo RIP 4/87 - 4/28/2011
        Under Construction: 1986 Nissan 300ZX NA2T Slicktop
        Originally posted by Tempestas
        Well, one of the t-tops wasn't latched real well... God only knows where that t-top flew off to at 150+ mph. Didn't scratch the car or anything, just a boom and it was gone. I sure as hell didn't stop to see where it went. I didn't see any stories on the news... so that's a plus.

        Comment


        • #5
          I wonder if it's possible to get the bodysonic pads and install them in a different seat and configure a custom controller to be used with any aftermarket deck.
          is it just using a cross-over to take the low freq vibes and pass them through the seat pads?

          Comment


          • #6
            Excellent write up.

            Do you still have a way to contact Wild Bill? He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth (internet anyway).



            1988 300ZX Turbo, Shiro Special #760
            1988 300ZX Turbo Automatic (wife's car)
            1991 Hard-body 2WD

            http://zccw.org/zccw/?page_id=1215

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks... I believe that as these cars age, we're going to have to rely even more so on the community to keep them going... and in my experience, Z people are good people... I've met some of my best friends through this hobby; the cars are only half the story. Anyway, I was happy to share this experience and I'll try to post some more pics of my car soon.

              wbnethery3;326574 wrote: Stock rocks! Nice work, nice write-up... it is especially gratifying when you see people saying nice things about other members here. So much of the crap from "anonymity" is pure lack of manners... most of it would not happen if we always spoke to each other in person. Thank you for elevating this space! Would love to see more pics of the ride, too...

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm no expert, but I'm sure it is possible. Remember that you have to have some way of controlling the seats individually and adjusting the bodysonic volume independently from the radio volume.

                Careless;326598 wrote: I wonder if it's possible to get the bodysonic pads and install them in a different seat and configure a custom controller to be used with any aftermarket deck.
                is it just using a cross-over to take the low freq vibes and pass them through the seat pads?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks, no- we only traded e-mails, and it was probably a year or two ago. I got his address from his website, which I think may be down... I hope he is OK; I know he has done a lot of great work; repairing dash power supplies, dash clusters, and radios... I was glad that he was honest with me about not wanting to work on my AE deck; I'd rather that then have someone start a project and then get in over their head.

                  reddzx;326601 wrote: Excellent write up.

                  Do you still have a way to contact Wild Bill? He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth (internet anyway).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Ethan84ae;326615 wrote: I'm no expert, but I'm sure it is possible. Remember that you have to have some way of controlling the seats individually and adjusting the bodysonic volume independently from the radio volume.
                    That would not be hard at all. Either by using the original bodysonic control box or just making my own (which I am completely capable of doing, given my basement full of enough electronic wizardy to perhaps even make my own bodysonic system from scratch. lol).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Great posting... but it makes me want to try to restore the OEM sound system with Zoey. You're bang-on about the awesome retro look of the radio. Fifteen years ago it looked dated but now it look cool as hell.
                      Zoey - 1987 Z31T GLL - HKS EVC / CM SS 3" turbo-back / Stance GR+
                      Black Betty - 2014 Audi C7 S6 APR1

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Do it and sell it as a kit to other members!

                        Careless;326619 wrote: That would not be hard at all. Either by using the original bodysonic control box or just making my own (which I am completely capable of doing, given my basement full of enough electronic wizardy to perhaps even make my own bodysonic system from scratch. lol).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          As you said in your original post above, the OEM Z31 radios were a piece of crap. Mine went out in 1991 at 6 years old, had it repaired, when out again in 1995 (tape got stuck in it), had it repaired again, and finally went out in 1999. I decided to get an aftermarket radio but still have the old broken one.
                          Restore it, Don't crush it. They don't make em like this anymore.

                          Scott
                          85 Turbo, original owner, restored
                          93 NA Babied


                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Most of my Z31 cars had non working OEM or aftermarket radio's. The Shiro I have now has a GL unit with everything working and the 88 NA I'm fixing up to sell has a complete working deluxe unit including the steering wheel controls.



                            1988 300ZX Turbo, Shiro Special #760
                            1988 300ZX Turbo Automatic (wife's car)
                            1991 Hard-body 2WD

                            http://zccw.org/zccw/?page_id=1215

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Ethan84ae;326632 wrote: Do it and sell it as a kit to other members!
                              do you know how many watts/ohms the bodysonic units are?

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