2002 Mustang Custom Sound System Install

Talk about a dream assignment! When 5.0 Mustang magazine wanted a killer audio system installed in their 2002 Mustang project car, Crutchfield's Project Car Designer Warren Hawkins was given the job. His mission? Pick the best components and put in a sound system that will match the performance and good looks of the car.

Comin' at ya! 5.0 Mustang magazine's 2001 Ford Mustang GT Coupe

There was one important ground rule though. The system's audio performance should stand out, but the components must blend in. Speakers were to be located in the factory locations, and the amps and subs needed to be as unobtrusive as possible (until he wants to show them off!)

The gear
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 Alpine IVA-D900 fits neatly in the dash. Note the polished metal switch plate installed above the receiver.

Head unit installation
To fit the Alpine into the stock radio's larger 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 your choice of video entertainment!

Over one million pixels on the IVA-D900's 7" screen guarantee a super-sharp picture!

Since the existing MACH-460 sound system was scrapped for the installation, Warren didn't have to be concerned with connecting the IVA-D900 into the Ford amplifiers. Power and ground connections were made behind the dash, as well as preamp-level hookups to the amps and the XM tuner connections.

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 box 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. Although boxes are usually made from MDF, 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.

Amplifier install
The amp installation 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. It looks great both day and night!

When the sun goes down, StreetGlow 6" neon tubes kick-in to provide cool-blue backlighting. The Crutchfield logo in the middle was sandblasted into the plexiglass.

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 for the amps 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. 1,440 watts of continuous power — not too shabby!
Making the connections with the right kind of cable is key to getting max performance out of the system. Warren started at the battery with 1/0 gauge StreetWires PowerStream wire. 1/0 gauge is thick cable, but the heavier the cable, the better the power flow. Protection is provided by a 200 amp fuse in the engine compartment. The 1/0 cable runs to the distribution block located between the sub boxes and splits off into two 4 gauge PowerStream cables routed to each amp, with a third cable providing power to the head, XM tuner, fans and lighting. 60 amp AGU fuses provide protection in the distribution block. To ensure steady power flow, a one-farad capacitor is installed out of sight behind the amps. StreetWires Zero Noise 6 patch cables run from the Alpine head to the amps, and UltraCable speaker wire is used to connect the component speaker sets and sub boxes.

Crossover settings for the system were made at the amps. The subs are crossed over at 100 Hz low pass, and the component sets are dialed in at 100 Hz high pass. As Warren says: "It sounds smooth that way."

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?
The system's sound is as precise as the fit of the installation. The Alpine's Digital Time Correction circuits, in conjunction with the placement of the tweeters in the Polk MOMO components, gives an accurate stereo image in the front seats, with a nice high sound stage that puts the sound of vocals and instruments right in front of the listening position. The Solo-Barics cover the low end with solid authority; the crossover settings provide a smooth transition into the midrange. The overall sound is clean, precise and polished.

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. Keep your eyes open for his super-smooth looking Mustang in future issues of 5.0 Mustang and keep an eye open online at 50mustangandsuperfords.com.
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