2002 Mustang Custom Sound System Install
Talk about a dream assignment! When 5.0 Mustang magazine wanted a killer audio system installed in their Mustang project car back in 2002, Crutchfield's Project Car Designer Warren Hawkins was given the job. His mission? Pick the best components and put in a sound system that matched the performance and good looks of the car.
There were some ground rules, though. The system's audio performance needed to stand out, but the components had to blend in. Speakers were to be located in the factory locations, and the amps and subs needed to be as unobtrusive as possible. As you'll see, Warren came up with some very smart solutions.
The "5.0 Mustang" magazine Ford Mustang GT coupe
As a senior tech at Crutchfield, Warren knows the best equipment to use. For the receiver, his choice was the impressive Alpine IVA-D900 DVD/CD/MP3 receiver. With the capabilities to play CD (CD-R and CD-RW), MP3 and DVD discs, there's not much this head can't handle. The three sets of 4-volt preamp outputs, coupled with Alpine's Bass Engine Plus controls, provide super clean signal output and sound-shaping control for the system. The IVA-D900 sports a motorized 7" LCD monitor with an eye-popping 1.15 million pixels display for exceptional picture quality. The Alpine TUA-T020XM XM tuner was selected so the IVA-D900 can tap into the wide world of satellite radio right from the drivers seat.Warren's speakers of choice were Polk MOMO 6-3/4" components for the front and back. The MOMO components' separate tweeters and high quality external crossovers allowed Warren to mount the tweeters separately from the woofer locations low in the door panels — key to getting optimal stereo imaging and separation. The standard speaker size for Mustangs is 6"x8" — Warren's installation expertise would come into play when customizing the 6"x8" openings for the 6-3/4"component sets. The choice to power the Polks was a Rockford Fosgate Power 851X four-channel amp, cranking 110 watts RMS of solid power at a clean 0.05% THD.
In Warren's book, the sound isn't right if it doesn't have a rock-solid, tight low end. The bedrock foundation for the Mustang is provided by two 10" Kicker Solo-Baric L7 subs. The square-coned Solo-Barics push lots of air, meaning big sound. Powered by a Rockford Fosgate Power 1001bd, 1000 watts of total power gets the subs cranking big time!
The receiver fits neatly in the dash, and the polished metal switch plate adds a custom touch.
Head unit installation
To fit the Alpine into the larger stock opening, Warren used an off-the-shelf mounting kit, modified to hold a metal panel in the space above the receiver. The panel was machined and polished to match the other metal accents on the dash, then fitted with switches.
The result is a clean-looking dash installation, keeping with the spirit of the project. With the screen retracted, you'd have to look twice to notice anything out of the ordinary. When you're ready to show off, pop out the motorized 7" screen and cue up some video!
The motorized 7" screen pops up when needed, and looks terrific.
Warren built the custom sail panels to hold the Polk/MOMO tweeters. The location ensures great sound and superb looks.
Front speaker installation
Installing the 6.5" Polk MOMO components into door openings designed for 6x8" speakers required some creativity on Warren's part. The large magnets on the speakers complicated the issue. To start, Warren fabricated mounting plates for the door openings out of 1/2" birch plywood. The birch is light, strong and easy to work with, so it's an ideal material. Additionally, the mounting plate acts as a lift ring to provide clearance for the large magnet on the woofer. The plates bolt into the factory mounting holes with cutouts sized for the woofers. The crossovers for the components were tucked underneath the dash.
The mounts for the MOMO tweeters are real works of art. The Mustang's stock MACH-460 system already had tweeters in the sail panels of the door, but Warren discarded these in favor of new, hand-built enclosures. Starting with a base layer of birch, successive layers of fiberglass were built up into the proper shape, covered with black vinyl and installed in the factory location. The tweeters mount in perfectly and are at an ideal height for accurate stereo imaging. Very slick!
Rear speaker Installation
The rear deck speakers presented their own difficulties. The original 6"x8" speakers and MACH-460 amps were mounted onto a panel secured to the underside of the rear deck. Warren disconnected and discarded this original equipment. New mounting plates, constructed from 1/2" birch, were installed with the Polk MOMO components installed into the new cutouts.
The new panel and speakers fits snugly under the existing rear deck grilles. To ensure a clean look, the wood of the mounting panel was covered in black vinyl. Even a close inspection through the still-intact factory grilles doesn't reveal anything unusual. It looks stock, but sounds much better!
The twin Solo-Baric 10" subs may look cozy in their custom-built black and yellow vinyl-covered box, but they turn fierce when the Power 1001bd amp juices them up with 1000 watts.
Installing the subs
The choice of Solo-Baric L7 subwoofers for the Mustang was a smart one. The L7 subs are great performers that can pound hard and still supply deep, tight response in small enclosures — an important consideration with the limited space available in the trunk.
Warren chose a simple square shape for the sub boxes — strong and easy to build. The boxes are made from 3/4" birch sheets held together with 2-1/2" wood screws and wood glue. Boxes are usually made from MDF, but Warren found the birch to be very strong and dense, so box vibration wasn't a problem. Following Kicker's recommendations, each box is stuffed with a half pound of Polyfill.
After the boxes were covered with 1/2" of foam padding the vinyl covering was laid over the padding. The boxes really stand out in the yellow vinyl covering (from Select Products) which Warren chose to match the Mustang's exterior as closely as possible.
To contrast the yellow, Warren constructed a sleek black vinyl covered panel to hold the StreetWires distribution block between the sub boxes. It's a smooth look!
The vinyl -covered amp rack displays the Rockford Fosgate Power 851X and Power 1001bd amps behind a plexiglass panel. Four 12-volt fans keep the box ventilated.
The amp set-up is Warren's crowning touch. In keeping with the goal of a "stealthy" installation, the amps are behind the rear seats, out of sight until the seats are folded down.
The two Rockford Fosgate amps are linked together by a cosmetically matching "Power Link" and sit behind a Plexiglas panel framed by yellow and black vinyl. For a great look at night, Warren backlit the panel with 6" blue neon tubes. He sandblasted the Crutchfield logo onto the Plexiglas so it glows blue when the lights (controlled by a switch in the front) are turned on.
Since the amps are sealed into a box, proper ventilation is essential. Warren drilled ventilation holes into the back of the amp enclosure and hooked up four 12-volt fans.
The power specs are as impressive as the installation. The Power 851X pumps out 110 watts RMS to each Polk/MOMO component, while the 1001bd stokes up the Solo-Baric subs with 500 watts RMS apiece. 1440 watts of continuous power — not too shabby!
To get the best possible performance out of the Polk MOMO components, Warren did some clever tweaks. The components' crossovers have a Selectable Tweeter Output Level feature. For the front speakers, this is set to "0 dB," and in the back, to "-6 dB." Also, the "mid-range extension" switch on the front crossovers is set to "on." This allows more high frequencies to flow to the front woofers. The end result is a better imaging in the front end, since there are more high frequencies there.
If you've checked out the photos of the vehicle, you may wonder where the XM antenna is. Although XM doesn't recommend it, Warren placed it on the back deck between the speakers. No problems with reception yet!
How's it sound?
When you open the pages of many car audio magazines or go to a car show you'll see ever more exotic and outlandish systems. Warren's system reminds us that it's not necessary to go to extremes to hear extremely good sound. This 5.0 features great audio performance and fine craftsmanship in a system that doesn't go over the top, but leaves no doubt that seriously good sound is to be found within.