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Chrysler's first tape decks (1980-81)

by Jeremy Schrag

During the late seventies, it became increasingly obvious to Chrysler that the 8-Track was on its way out, while the once-quite-expensive Philips Compact Cassette was now becoming an affordable option for automotive entertainment. Sound quality was getting better all the time, and the complex mechanisms needed to play cassettes were coming down in price.

Chrysler had tried to bring the cassette to market using an expensive add-on module before, but for the 1980 cars, they made a concerted effort for an integrated unit.

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Today's unit is the result of Chrysler's efforts. Available for two years only and found in the likes of the New Yorker, LeBaron, and Cordoba, this was one of several audio options above the basic "tuner only" stereo. Other options included an AM/FM/CB unit, the 8-Track unit I've already profiled on this site, and the elusive "search-tune" all electronic radio. In 1981, this deck would be rendered obsolete by Chrysler's first Quartz Lock deck with auto-reverse and electronic tuning. This model is auto-stop only, as was common in the early eighties to cut costs.


This is the top of the deck. While this unit does share some surface features in common with the 8-Track model we've already seen, much of the insides are different. That said, illumination bulbs are still very easy to change.

The red arrow points to a snap that holds the faceplate illumination bulb and bracket in. To change the bulb, pop the snap out with a small screwdriver and gently ease the plate up and out of the unit. You may need to free some slack in the orange wire that runs down the side of the unit to do this... I'll show you that wire momentarily.

The label is no longer attached to the unit, but I did find it hiding in the dashboard of the donor car and have scanned it for your perusal. At this time, I am unsure of the manufacturer of the unit, as supplier code 7902 is unknown to me.

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This is the bottom of the unit, which serves as the tray to which the cassette mechanism and circuitry is mounted. There is only one screw present... it's important, but we will be addressing that later.

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The rear panel. We have two screws holding the top cover on, two screws holding the bottom cover on, one screw on each side for the side panels, and one screw next to the big ground bolt holding the internal amplifier heatsinks to the case.

Here's a better look at the wiring harness. Being a pre-1984 Chrysler harness, there are no black and gray connectors on this one. Instead, there are separate connectors for illumination, power, and the speakers. A common ground approach is used on the six pin speaker connector, thus making it necessary to completely re-wire the speakers on your 1980 New Yorker (or Cordoba, etc) should you wish to install a newer deck.

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The right side of the unit has a couple items to note. First, there's another illumination bulb hatch and snap pointed out in red. Second, the blue arrow indicates the trim potentiometer for the antenna.

Now, if you have one of these and you have no AM reception problems, leave that trim pot alone. If you do need to adjust it, here's how: first, tune in a weak AM station near the top of the dial. Now, adjust the trim pot until you have the best reception possible. That should do it for good reception across the whole band.

Of the screws seen here, there are two holding the side panel to the face, and two holding the cassette tray to the side.

The left side view shows you that orange illumination wire I spoke of earlier. Inspect it carefully for any fraying or exposed wire. Because of the way this wire is run outside the housing like this, it is very easy to damage it just by removing or installing the deck.

Once again, there are four screws: two for the face, two for the cassette tray.

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Before we get into the deck, here's a look at the illumination bulbs with their plates removed. The one on top is a type 1815 and handles illumination for the face only, while the one on the side is a #74 type used only to light up the "stereo" indicator during FM operation.

Next, we'll remove the faceplate. After pulling off the volume, tuner, balance, AM/FM, and rewind/fast forward/eject buttons and knobs, the faceplate is merely clipped on to the unit using six plastic tabs.

There are several items of note, here, which will all come into play later in the article. Green arrows indicate the two clips that hold the volume and tone control pots to the face. These need to be released to get the upper circuit board out.

Red indicates the black button mounted to the end of the Dolby button switch. This needs to be removed to get the cassette mechanism and tray out. Remember how it goes on, as it is possible to put it back on incorrectly, rendering the switch inoperative.

Finally, blue indicates the Dolby indicator lamp, the only LED (light emitting diode) found in the unit. It is mounted to a small circuit board that is held in by a piece of foam. Beware - this foam will be completely rotted by now and will require replacement if you decide to take this deck apart any further than this. Household weatherstripping foam should suffice as a replacement.

Now, we'll get into the deck itself. Remove all six screws holding on the bottom cover and cassette tray. You will need a 1/4" socket or nut driver for this. Most other screws are Phillips #1 or #2.

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The cassette section is joined to the rest of the deck via this red arrowed connector. It is friction fit, and will pull right off. Note the orientation of this connector by keeping track of the wire colors - it is possible to reconnect it backwards.

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Accessing the cassette transport for belt replacement isn't terribly easy on this unit, but not too hard either. First, the upper circuit board must be detached.

Remove the four red arrowed screws, noting that two of these (the silver one and the insulated one) must go back exactly where they came out. Next, heat up your soldering iron and de-solder the yellow arrowed bolt. Remove the bolt... I used a small pair of pliers, but a 1/8" nut driver should do the trick as well. Finally, de-solder both of the red wires near the motor (blue arrow). Make sure you note the locations of both wires - reversing them would be bad.

Here, I've de-soldered the cassette head wires as well to allow for a shot of both circuit boards and the mechanism. You do not have to de-solder the tape head wires to replace the cassette belt, but it does make it a little easier. If you do it, make sure you again note the locations of each wire.

You will also see a small toggle switch arrowed in red. This is the switch that turns the mechanism on when a tape is inserted. It fits between a leaf spring and a tab on the cassette mechanism... make sure these are lined up when you put things back together.

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It's time to remove the cassette mechanism. Take out all three indicated screws.

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With the mechanism out, we can finally see the belt, but cannot replace it just yet. Remove the three indicated screws, and then carefully move the plate with its attached gears around until it lifts up and off.

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Now, the belt will come out. Though mine looks ok, it is hard, stretched, and deformed in places. It needs to be replaced. Measurements indicate that a proper replacement would be 0.039" thick with an internal circumference of about 7.5."

If you're looking to restore one of these to full working order after thirty years, you will likely need to do some more involved work to the two main circuit boards. Prepare for a fight, because from here on out things will get rather hard.

This is a view of the deck without the cassette tray installed. Note the location of this white plastic insulator before you remove it for any repairs to the circuit board beneath.

Really, there are two ways to gain access to the parts sandwiched between the two circuit boards: you can either remove the lower or upper circuit board. I'm going to show you how to get the upper one out, as it is slightly easier to do.

First, disconnect the white connector indicated by the red arrow. This will free up some valuable slack in those wires.

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After removing the top cover and cardboard insulator, this is the view. Is your soldering iron good and hot? If so, de-solder everything indicated by an arrow.

Red indicates the tabs holding the board to the side and back panels. Yellow indicates a twist tab on the face that must be de-soldered and released to get the board out. Purple indicates several solder joints that attach the tuner mechanism to the board.

Orange points at a critical solder joint that serves several functions: first, it holds in part of the volume/tone potentiometer assembly. Second, it holds in a wire to a transformer on the side panel. Third, and most importantly, there is a lead from a resistor soldered in here. The other side of that resistor is soldered to the side panel. If you do not de-solder this and free up that resistor, any movement of that side panel will break the resistor lead; requiring you to solder in a jumper wire.

But wait, there's more. See the teal arrow down in the bottom right corner? That's the tab for the antenna jack. De-solder that, too.

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Now, remove all screws on the back and side panels. Set the back panel aside somewhere. Note the transformer and resistor on the left. Again, be careful with that resistor.

Red arrows indicate two wires that need to be de-soldered to allow you to flip the upper board away from the lower board. Removing the white wire to the antenna trim pot is advised because this will allow you to completely detach that side panel and set it aside. You will not be able to do the same with the opposing side panel because of that transformer attached to it.

The black wire is a co-axial cable that joins the top and bottom boards together. It must be de-soldered and removed on one end to get the upper board out. Make sure you note where it solders back in.

One this is done, pop the upper board off any of your previously de-soldered tabs that will keep it from sliding backwards. Then, from the front of the unit, push on the volume knob shaft as you release the clips on either side. Gently work the upper circuit board away from the face until the volume potentiometer shaft clears the face.

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Now, you should be able to access the parts on both circuit boards. As these are thirty year old plus parts, you will likely need to replace all electrolytic capacitors. Make sure you clean every one of those potentiometer housings seen in the middle, as well. You won't be able to access those again when you put the unit back together, so it's not a bad thing to go overboard in cleaning them while you have a chance.

This concludes my look at one of the more irritating Chrysler decks to service that I can remember. I hope you are able to re-assemble it from here. In my opinion, this deck is simply not worth the effort to restore. The cassette transport is primitive, the electronics are some of the least friendly to work on that I have ever seen, and there really are much better Mopar cassette decks out there to spend time on. My personal favorite remains the Ultimate Sound unit with the five band equalizer. Though it too is very involved to work on, it will reward you afterward with fantastic sound quality, electronic tuning, and a defeatable clock. This one? Not so much.

General Chrysler-related radio and stereo articles at Allpar:
CD and DVD systems (stereos have a three-letter code on the face plate)
Tape and tape/CD systems
From here to Infinity
CD changers
Classic systems (before tape decks)

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