CCCA magazine turns back dial on radio evolution
Radio was a popular technology of the 1920s. As homes sprouted outside antennae and radio units were sold like hotcakes, it was just a matter of time before radios became a big part of the automotive world.
In The Skyline for Fall 2018, Ken Bechtle, editor, and Harvey Geiger, writer and senior contributing editor, teamed to bring members of the Metro Region of the Classic Car Club of America, Inc., key insights into that development.
Said Geiger: “William Lear and Elmer Wavering developed the car radio in 1929 and presented the idea to Paul Galvin, owner of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. The radio was named ‘Motorola,’ a hybrid word combining motor and radio.” Cost for the option was $110, uninstalled. The idea hit the aftermarket in 1930. “An installed radio could add as much as 20% to the cost of a car.” As a result,sales were minimal. Another factor was the great Stock Market Crash on Wall Street. Suddenly, many folks had a lot less extra cash for car radios.
Geiger noted that the early aftermarket units “were installed in the trunk or under the seat with controls clamped to the steering column.” Since interference and road noise were competing factors, a set of headphones with a plug-in jack on the dashboard were essentials.
The first person “on the block” to get a gadget is often admired and envied. But as production and demand even out, costs diminish.By 1933, a Ford could be ordered with a factory-installed unit for a reasonable $55. However, that was still a substantive cost.
What about the Galvin company?It was renamed and become Motorola in 1947, said the article.
To cap off the story, club member Paul Ianuario was depicted inside his 1929 Packard Model 645 Custom Deluxe Eight convertible, with a body design by Dietrich, “which is universally believed to be the first automobile to have a radio installed in it at the time of its being manufactured,” said Geiger.
Clearly, owning an old car is great, and it is fun, but knowing more about its features, options and place in history adds extra dimension to ownership.
The editorial office of the Metro Region, CCCA, can be reached at The Skyline, c/o Advanced Printing, 116 South Ave, Garwood, N.J., 07027.