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First year for FM radio in any car??


Shaffer
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Does anyone know the first year that FM radio was offered in a car? My grandfather has a 1965 Lincoln Continental with the optional FM radio. I did not even notice it was FM, until I looked in the sales brochure for the car and seen it was a option. Then I looked to see if his car had the option and it does have. I did not know that FM was offered that far back, but I guess it is true. Was 1965 the first year for FM radio, or earlier. I am guessing 64 or 65 is about the first years. Also- what was the first year for FM in a Buick? Perhaps that is the same year that Cadillac, Lincoln or Imperial offered it. Thanks.

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Thanks for the replies. I guess since the 64 Chevrolets had them as a option, that all GM cars had it as a option in 1964. I did not realize that FM went that far back. That is very interesting. I guess it is a rare option on most 60s cars.

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It was offered in all full size 1963 Ford and GM passenger cars. I had always thought Thunderbirds and Cadillacs had it before then but the Standard Catalog of American cars says 1963 for both. 1964 is first mention for AM-FM in Chryslers and Imperials, with fullsize Dodges and Plymouths getting it in 1965.

For Lincolns, however, there was apparently an "FM tuner attachment" available as early as 1959.

One of the Starfires has it, and a buddy has a 64 GP and a 66 Bonneville Brougham that have factory installed AM-FM radios with reverb and power antenna.

The Toronado came with an AM-FM stereo radio (first year for integrated unit I think, earlier GM ones had a separately controlled multiplexing adapter for stereo), long gone when I bought the car in 1986.

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  • 9 years later...
I believe that Buick first offered FM in 1963.

I saw a 63 Corvette go off the block on Mecum with an original Factory AM-FM option, although I don't think FM was even used until the late sixties as I don't believe stereo was available yet so there was no real advantage to FM and not much going on there?

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I know Chrysler had AM-FM in '64, but it could have been in '63 also as that seems to be the first year for a combination-band radio. The Chrysler New Yorker Salon model had AM-FM as standard equipment. FM had distance issues, especially back then when the main FM stations were in larger cities. Much of the format was "easy listening", which made it ideal for luxury automobiles of that time. "Multiplex" FM came before "Stereo" FM. Personally, I like the sound of the multiplex systems better than later "stereo". Before "multiplex", there was "mono with rear speaker reverberation" . . . for that "concert hall sound decay" factor. In the owner's manual kit for our '66 Chrysler, it had a separate pamphlet on the benefits and weaknesses of FM radio reception compared to the AM reception we are all familiar with.

Prior to the '63 units, it's possible that some factory units existed in certain vehicles. Very possibly very low volume situations, I suspect. Guess we'll need to peruse the sales brochures for these things?

FM band broadcast radio was around in the later 1950s, but was not very prevalent except in home units. For the best reception, an outside antenna OR a signal splitter attached to the existing outside broadcast television antenna (which used FM for the audio). Obviously, there were some automotive "adapter" units along with "antenna boosters" . . . all of which were probably available via J.C.Whitney.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)
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By way of background, FM broadcasting was invented in the 1930's by Major Armstrong. The first FM stations went on the air in large cities on the eve of World War II. FM home sets were offered for sale about the same time. FM was promoted as "staticless radio". It had the disadvantage of not covering as much distance as AM.

Unfortunately for FM broadcasters, television was emerging at the same time as FM. FM got lost in the shuffle. Most of the early FM stations went dark in the fifties. Those that survived had sister AM's and simulcasted their programming with the AM.

FM stereo was came out about 1960. It was expected to revitalize the FM band, but failed to do so.

GM offered its first FM car radios in 1963. Cadillac first offered FM Stereo radios in 1966. In the late sixties, some FM stations began to have moderate success with progressive rock and jazz which did not fit in well with the heavily formatted AM business.

In the early seventies, FM broadcasters lobbied the FCC to require all radios to receive both bands. This effort did not succeed. As an alternative, the FCC ruled that AM and FM stations could no longer simulcast their programming.

As a result, FM's in the seventies originated their own programming and became successful. By the late eighties, AM was in free fall. AM stereo was introduced to fight this, but did not catch on.

In the nineties, AM radio was salvaged by Rush Limbaugh, of all people. National talk radio took over most of the AM band, saving it from certain oblivion.

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In 1994, I bought a '65 Cadillac, which had a factory AM/FM radio. I later bought the same year's Wonderbar radio at a swap meet and was mildly disappointed to find that it didn't have FM. The shop manual indicated that one couldn't get both FM and signal-seeking in the same unit. I never did get around to installing the Wonderbar in the Caddy because my favourite radio stations were (and are) on the FM dial.

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Thanks for the comments, 5219.

I recall that most of the "popular" radio was on AM in the "Elvis" era and forward. FM evolved from being typically easy listening music (with greater frequency response than AM could ever hope to deliver) into the more "underground rock" formats of the later 1960s. In later years, the amount of simulcast time for AM and FM sister stations was very limited by the FCC, which further motivated FM to find it's own "home" listener demographic. When the typical FM metro station started using 100,000 watts of broadcast power, that seemed to become "the standard" and also increased the FM broadcast range.

When AM-Stereo was introduced in the middle 1980s, there were two broadcast formats. One which was horizontally polarized and one that was vertically polarized, which related to the type of receiving antenna for the best reception. Many vehicles had transitioned into vertical 31" stainless steel whip antennas by that time, moving from the pervious horizontal "wire" antennas in windshields. Now, many vehicles have the main antenna as part of the electric heater in the rear window. Buick also had a "diversity antenna" setup where there was BOTH an antenna in the front windshield and the main antenna in the rear window, but that only lasted a few model years. Just as many GM Delco radios had labels on them "Windshield Antenna" in the earlier 1970s, as if their tuners were tweaked for the antennas in windshields rather than for external vertical whip antennas.

The AM-Stereo Delco radio I listened to in a new IROC-Z Camaro made "dull" AM sound almost as good as FM Stereo! I was impressed. But after about 2 model years and the lack of a standardized broadcast signal polarization "standard", AM-Stereo for GM was gone. I don't recall Ford or Chrysler following the AM-Stereo "lead" that GM was trying.

The observation about Delco radios being either AM-FM or AM-Wonderbar is accurate. One or the other, but not both . . . back then. Considering that GM-Delco built similar search tuners for Chrysler back then, how GM did things determined what other manufacturers (who used GM-Delco for their radio vendor) offered. BUT . . . consider too that Chrysler and others obviously had different tuner or amp specs than what GM used in their own vehicles, from the way the radios sounded in non-GM vehicles (usually better, by my own observation with Chrysler units, even AM . . . might have been speaker issues, too).

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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The first FM car radio was developed by Blaupunkt in Germany in 1952. At that time European cars usually had radios installed by the dealer, so almost any 1952 European car could have had FM (although it would have been very expensive for most of them).

I don't know about any other makes, but Porsche did offer the Blaupunkt FM radio as a "factory accessory" (option) in 1956. It cost $156.50.

post-30638-143139071633_thumb.jpg

Edited by Dave@Moon
added phrase "factory accessory" (see edit history)
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  • 1 year later...

I know, but I did not see a definitive answer for FM stereo. It was mentioned that it was offered in the 1966 Cadillac and Toronado, but the thread was focused on FM, not FM stereo, so I just wanted to know if anyone offered the stereo version prior to 1966.

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As a long time Corvair owner with lots of info on that car, I know that 1965 was the first year that FM was an option on that GM car. My sister worked at Delco in Kokomo and she got me a "surplus" Chrysler radio sometime in late 1964. I packaged it with a converter so it could be used in the house. When I purchased a new 1967 Pontiac Tempest safari wagon, it was ordered without a radio and I used the Chrysler radio in the Pontiac.

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Stereo radios from that era were "stereo multiplex." Stereo actually came from a separate unit that was under the dash. A little red light on that unit would tell you if the broadcast you were listening to was coming through in stereo.

Here's a link to an eBay auction that shows the two units.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1967-Buick-Wildcat-LeSabre-Electra-AM-FM-Stereo-Radio-Serviced-Plays-Good-/221237425865?pt=Vintage_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item3382c736c9&vxp=mtr

I don't know when the first integrated units were available.

Ed

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