In-car 4-track and 45 RPM record changer

Say what you will about ARC's in-car 45-record changer and 84-track player, they certainly epitomize some handsome industrial design. Also, my mom had this haircut in her wedding photos!

ARC Electronics Inc


  1. I got my first 8-track player in the mid ’70s. I wired it in to my 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 and stuck a pair of indoor stereo speakers on the rear deck. You could do that back then without burning up any electronics. Automobile wiring was all quite user friendly.

    The sound was really quite good considering the timeframe… though the tapes themselves left a lot to be desired. You had to learn how to spin them back up into their cases if the player began eating them.As for the 45 rpm record player? I don’t see anyway that would have worked except to scratch the little vinyl disks all to hell, lol.

  2. In general I consider myself wise to advertising gimmicks, but somehow I am still susceptible to vintage advertising. Makes me wanna find the stuff on ebay. 

  3. 45 RPM changer mechanisms were pretty well established in jukeboxes, so the record player isn’t as radical as it might seem.  And yeah, records had a short life with several ounces of stylus pressure instead of several grams.

  4. A good friend in HS had a Coupe de Ville with a velvet back seat that sat 4 across and a spring-mounded STOCK 45 player. You could stand up in the sunroof from the back seats, or the front. Thing was a whale.

  5. Actually, that tape deck PREDATES 8-tracks.  It was a 4-track cartridge like used at radio stations until recently.  What the ad DIDN’T say was that there was almost NO music available over-the-counter in that format at the time.  Maybe they had a philosophy of “build it and they will come”—4-track tapes WERE available later, but quickly supplanted by Lear’s 8-tracks.  I did fix a few players that played both.

    In the 1950s, “Voice of Music” had a car changer that played 12-inch LPs.  It was a monster, but it worked better than you might think.

      1. My congratulations; you have just re-ignited the analog-vs-digital-sound debate. Let the ensuing 253 flaming posts commence!

  6. There was a lot of DIY back then as it was fairly easy to get electronic components from Radio Shack (now they don’t carry much of anything). Like DIYers of today, projects were driven by necessity, often poushing the boundaries and suggesting products to manufacturers.

    Before Walkmans, my pals and I took car cassette players, added a bank of C-cells and headphones so we could ski with tunes. Some manufacturers then actually made the same thing and then Sony came out with the Walkman which was much smaller and less likely to crack a rib if you fell on it.

    1. Yeah I still remember my dad and Sandy Lockett (famous Austin music man) converting two cheap Radio Shack speakers into car speakers for Dad’s 1968 Chevrolet station wagon. They pulled off the frames, stuck them in Tupperware containers, stuffed foam around, wired them up on 15 foot cables, and built two portable speakers that we arranged throughout the car. That plus our jury-rigged sleeping area in the back made for one excellent cross-country trip from Austin to LA to Seattle and back.

  7. Cheap folks just had a passeger hold a portable record player in their lap whilst whizzing down the roadway. As for 4-tracks, yeah, they started off as ad carts on radio. But then came this brilliant used-car salesman, Madman Muntz. “I MUST BE CRAZY! SELLING CARS SO CHEAP!” with his Napoleon logo. Muntz packaged a player as the MUNTZ STEREO-PACK and the rest is history.

    1. Many people do not know this part of history: that the four track in-car stereo launched a personal fair-use music-copying mini industry.

      In the mid to late sixties, there were a number of shops in dreary little strip malls that in addition to selling black lights, black light posters, and lava lamps, also had blank Muntz Stereo-Paks for sale and a row of turntable->4-track recorders for rent.

      You could bring your LPs in, and for about a buck each, could record them onto a 4-track cartridge for inclusion in your in-car “entertainment” system (at the time, the street price for a brand new stereo LP was $2.99–about $17.50 in 2009 dollars). To round out your in-car “entertainment” system these joints also carried popular Zig-Zag products in both white and wheat straw.

      I wonder, does Zig-Zag still exist, and if so, does it still offer its products in the wheat straw medium?

      1. Nothing has changed. $18 is about what you’ll pay for a CD in a ‘full-price’ store like FYE. DVD prices match ’80s VHS prices, adjusted. FWIW, Blu-Ray comes in well below LaserDisc, even before inflation!

        And people complain about the prices of music on iTunes.

        Lobster: $700 in today’s money will get me a very nice car audio system. When it comes to the hardware, things have gotten a lot cheaper or much better for the same “true cost”.

        1. “DVD prices match ’80s VHS prices, adjusted.”

          What? That statement is just wrong, unless we experienced a bad spell of deflation over the last 25 years that I missed.

          Until “Top Gun,” VHS tapes of movies were made for the rental market and cost like 50 bucks. Top Gun was considered an amazing bargain because you could buy it for just 20 bucks, but it was several years before pricing for sell-through became the standard.

          Nowadays you can frequently get new releases on DVD for less than 15 bucks at places like Best Buy or Target, and catalog titles of major Hollywood movies that are a few years old for less than 10 or even as cheap as 5 bucks.

  8. Back in the late sixties when I was a wee lad, my dad came up with the solution to music on the road. He purchased a Terado inverter with deluxe reed frequency control to provide 110VAC 60 Hz for our Sony reel-to-reel tape deck and a small solid-state amplifier. We placed these in the back of our 1967 Plymouth wagon, and had fine tunes wherever we went. I remember changing the tape while cruising down some forlorn highway deep in Mexico.

  9. I’m just imagining my mom and dad in our old 70’s Chrysler Town & Country…

    “Watch out for the pothole! Watch the train tracks! You’re gonna scratch the records!”

  10. Our present day entertainment technology, that seems so familiar and new, will look vintage and quaint to another generation soon enough.   I suspect the invasiveness, radioactivity, and harmful side-effects of current medical technology will be viewed like what we now consider quackery.

  11. I cannot resist to plug here The Believer magazine. This is a very fine literature, music and visual arts magazine, with top caliber writers and contributors. They publish a music focused issue every year and their 2011 issue had the feature “The fickle needle of fate” about car dashboard record player systems. Take a look!

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