Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
October 12, 2003

While our 3g GT has progressed in the handling and performance areas, it has sorely lacked in one crucial (at least for us) aspect--slammin' sounds from the cabin. Granted, the 3g came with Ford's decent MACH 460 system, but ever since we had the MACH 1000 carrot dangled in front of us by Ford PR in the way of an '02 V-6 convertible, we've wanted more.

The MACH 1000 system--featuring two 10-inch subs, eight speakers, and a multitude of amplifiers--puts out some serious sound to the tune of 1,140 watts peak. Unfortunately, it will set you back nearly $1,300 and requires you to order the better option package with the MACH 460 system in the first place.

We decided that kind of cash could go a long way toward something with more power and more features. The MACH Audio systems won't play MP3-encoded CDs. And although you can option an MP3 deck (non-MACH) when ordering your Mustang, you'll be hard-pressed to find one on a dealer lot. The most unfortunate thing about the MACH Audio design is that besides directly replacing the speakers, there's little you can do to the system. The head unit is not replaceable without removing all the amplifiers with it, meaning if your Mustang has the MACH Audio system ('01-'03), you can't simply slip an in-dash MP3 or DVD player in place.

For the 3g project, we wanted to install something with the power of the MACH 1000 but with much more flexibility. We gave our friends at Crutchfield a call to see if they could help us out. Since we've used them in the past for numerous drop-in replacement systems, we weren't sure what to expect. We were surprised when they jumped at the chance to help us. The custom market is growing bigger all the time, and Crutchfield wants to get involved as well. They've worked with other companies' project cars and have even built a few of their own in which to display their custom building talents, not to mention all the shiny goodies found within the pages of their catalog.

Horse Sense: While Crutchfield has been known for many years as thedirect-replacement car-audio leader, the company's catalog and Web sitealso offer products aimed strictly at custom installations. These itemsare fully supported by the excellent Crutchfield technical staff. So, ifyou want to build a killer system with custom components, feel free tochat up one of Crutchfield's tech reps for ideas and information onspeaker load, wiring, sound waves, and so on.

We brought our 3g project to the Crutchfield offices to fit it with an audio and video system complete with MP3, DVD, and satellite-radio capabilities. The heart of the system is Alpine's latest all-in-one, in-dash AM/FM/DVD/MP3/XM satellite receiver. We'll hazard a guess that this baby has more inputs and outputs on it than the soundboard at a Metallica concert--and with the Rockford Fosgate amplifiers, the Polk MOMO speakers, and the Kicker Solobaric L7 subs, it will no doubt sound just as loud.

The installation of all these goodies fell to Crutchfield's top installer Warren Hawkins. Warren, who happens to own an '85 GT hatch, knocked our socks off with his design implementation and high-caliber work. We'll let the captions and photos do the nickel tour of the new system, but don't forget to take a look at the sidebars throughout the story and the excellent Crutchfield Web site for more information on the buildup.

This is the first of a two-part article, and we're going to begin with removal of the stock components and the instal-lation of the main speakers as well as the Alpine head unit and control module. Next month we'll wrap things up with fabrication of some of the custom system, including the sub enclosure and amp rack.

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At full retail, this delicious pile of high-end audio gear would runabout $4,000. The sound reproduction is excellent and the features andexpandability of the system allow for future upgrades and enhancements(more amps, speakers, navigation, rear-seat LCD monitors, and such).
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1. The Crutchfield Master Sheet instructions make panel and trim removala breeze. No more guessing where a hidden fastener is--just follow thedirections to remove the panel. Here the door panels have been removed(along with the MACH Audio tweeter pods) to access the 6x8-inch doorspeakers. Four screws hold the OE speaker in place.
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2. With the speaker removed, Warren runs the new Street Wires UltraCable through the door boot and to the speaker opening from theamplifier mounting area. Crutchfield offers wiring adapters for most anyspeaker application, but due to the power of the system we're building,Warren opted to bypass all factory wiring for cleaner sound and betteroutput.
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3. Warren uses birch for all his speaker enclosures and adapter/trimpieces. It is a solid, hard wood that doesn't resonate and isn't overlyexpensive. Since the Polk/MOMO 63/4-inch component driver we wanted touse isn't a direct fit for the Mustang application, Warren was able tomake these speaker adapters that allow mounting the round speaker withinthe confines of the door panel while preventing interference with thewindow mechanism.
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4. The Polk/MOMO component driver is wired to the Ultra Cable that waspre-viously installed and then mounted to the adapter. The tweeterassemblies still need to find a home. Warren's plans call for a customtweeter pod to replace the MACH Audio 3-inch driver enclosure, whilemounting the passive Polk/MOMO cross-over in the kick panel or behindthe dash.