My RX-7 came with the base model stereo (being a base model in all ways, this makes sense). Over the winter, I fixed some hacked up wiring to get this working again. That said, the 33-year-old dial tuner wasn’t very good at holding stations, the 5w amps were easily drowned by highway noise, and overall it was dirty and old (and missing the volume knob!). Also only one of the mechanical presets worked, and the tuning drifted pretty badly.
A forum member was parting out an ‘85 GSL-SE - the top trim level. This included the full premium stereo, which has much better (remote) amps, a digital tuner, and a 9-band graphic EQ because it’s 1985. Also a joystick-based fade/balance control, but I bypassed that (I like my coin holder and the head has face/balance control on it, too).
Coming from a parts car, it wasn’t in all that great shape, but I knew this going in to it. Not being in a rush, I figured I’d clean it up and so on before installation. It was verified as working (tape deck unknown) by the seller.
I proceeded to completely dismantle each of the three units (radio, tape deck, and EQ). After cleaning them electrically (pots, switches, etc) attention was turned to the face of the units and knobs. The switches and knobs went into the ultrasonic cleaner, which did a pretty good job.
As can be seen above, the actual faceplates (which after some fanangling can be removed fully from the units) are a shiny metal with a satin layer on top. This top layer was hazy, embedded with dirt, and peeling in spots.
Starting with the tape deck (because it’s the same as the one in-car so worst case I have a replacement) I tried a special blend of 14 herbs and spices (and some elbow grease) on the faceplates. Miraculously I was able to safety strip off the old satin finish without damaging anything else (a few spots of screen-print text were lost due to my not realizing they were screen-printed; most of the text is holes in the metal where light comes through). I then masked a bit, and sprayed a new satin clear onto it.
Below is the stack with the radio face plate as-arrived, the tape deck refinished, and the EQ stripped ready to spray.
Satisfied with this, I completed the strip and refinish process on the rest of the faceplates. This was a slow process, as I pretty much worked on it about half an hour a day, a couple days a week since it was so tedious and a low-priority project.
That said, I think the results turned out pretty well:
Yesterday I started installing the new stack in the car and swapping the amps in. I wrapped up late last night and finished re-assembling the interior after work today. It works, sounds pretty good, and looks great. Hopefully the tuning is much more stable going down the road (it’s way better in the garage, at least!).
The surround trim piece was cracked/glued when I got the car. If I find one in better shape for a good price, I’d consider replacing it now that the shiny clean radio is making it look bad. They’re uncommon and expensive, though.