High-Quality Cassette Player Is Key to a Period-Correct Rad Car Restoration

I threw a new-old stock cassette player In My Land Rover and now I can't stop cranking Peter Gabriel.

Do you really take your car’s era to heart? You know, keep things period correct — make sure the vehicle feels like a time machine? Maybe not in the sense of restoring or maintaining a museum piece, but rather just embracing the era in which it was made. To me, this is one of the most fun aspects of an older car. Especially when it comes to preserving its sound system, particularly its option to play bygone forms of media.

When I picked up my Land Rover Discovery 1 back in mid-April, I was overcome with a hearty air of sentimentality for the 1990s.

The Disco’s truly a product of days past, especially when you compare it to Land Rover’s current lineup. No longer are the Discovery, Range Rover, and Defender nearly farm implements, but rather high-tech unibody marvels. By the way, I say nearly farm implements with all the affection… I love these damn trucks.

Cheap Preservation Done Right

One aspect of my Landy being a time machine back to the ’90s is its stereo system. I received it with a genuine, quality Land Rover cassette player and CD changer under the front passenger seat! When I found out that the tape-playing part of this glorious system didn’t function, I didn’t bother buying a new head unit with USB, Bluetooth, etc… I found a sick new-old-stock Blaupunkt unit that looks like it was designed around the time this SUV was new.

High-Quality Cassette Player Is Key to a Period-Correct Rad Car Restoration
Image: Peter Nelson

I picked up this little Blaupunkt C43 beauty from a seller on eBay for around $50 shipped. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t just the very reasonable price (have you seen what decent single-DINs cost these days?) that caught my eye, but also the fact that it’s Blaupunkt, and has an image of an early ’00s DTM Audi TT on the box. Phew, talk about harkening back to a glorious era. Crutchfield had good things to say about it too, so, win!

I know, I know, it’s not from the ’90s. In fact, it’s apparently from 2004. But this unit will enable me to embrace the ’90s, and I got it for an excellent price, new-in-box.

Time for Some Rad-Era Tapes!

I was so stoked on staying cassette-centric that I started accumulating a lot of them. I know, my unit has an AUX input, and can even integrate an iPod with the right attachment. But man, nostalgia for the ’90s hit me hard, so I went nuts buying a bunch of different tapes, all of which for well-under a double-sawbuck each. Some were only $3, like the new-in-plastic Belinda Carlisle tape from Amoeba in Hollywood (the new location!), whereas the deeper cuts cost me a whopping $14, like the (in my opinion) rare Miracle Mile (1989) original motion picture soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.

High-Quality Cassette Player Is Key to a Period-Correct Rad Car Restoration
Image: Peter Nelson

Speaking of Tangerine Dream, I still need to find Risky Business (1982) and Thief’s (1980) soundtracks on tape, too…

I had to pick up Peter Gabriel’s crucial best-of compilation, Shaking the Tree. This one hits me in feels a bit; I’ve got fond memories of my care-free, 90’s yuppie parents cranking Peter Gabriel while driving around the Chicago Suburbs when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Again, ’90s nostalgia vibes.

The rest of them, with the exception of the American Graffiti (1973) soundtrack, are all crucial ’80s and ’90s cassettes. I’m not the biggest fan of Stereo MC’s, but c’mon, if I’m going to roll around in a ’90s Land Rover, I’ve got to include some quintessentially ’90s British music.

As you can see I really dig soundtracks. Even the one from Grand Canyon (1991). I dig the movie and its soundtrack for being so quintessentially early ’90s Los Angeles. Even though the screenplay seems like Lawrence Kasdan and Steve Martin (I know he’s not in the writing credits, but man, it moves as if he was forced to write a serious movie) wrote it in a night post-lengthy visit to their favorite watering hole.

Installed And Sounding Great

High-Quality Cassette Player Is Key to a Period-Correct Rad Car Restoration
Image: Peter Nelson

I had a shop down the street do the install, and they did an excellent job. I didn’t have the time, and wiring of all varieties is confusing/scares me, so I figured it was worth the cost to have pros throw it in. Plus the shop was great; no BS, really friendly, reasonable prices. They had it done in less than two hours, and the sound quality turned out great.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to cruise around in my ultra-’90s truck while bumping period-correct tunes. Which is part of the reason why I was so excited to hit the road with my colleagues and visit to Radwood NorCal over the weekend — my soundtrack accompaniment on the ride up helped slather on the nostalgia.

High-Quality Cassette Player Is Key to a Period-Correct Rad Car Restoration
Image: Peter Nelson

And anyway, when I finally do get bored of cassette tapes, there’s always that AUX input I mentioned. Does anybody else out there enjoy era-accurate audio tech in their old cars, or am I crazy for not just skipping straight to a single-DIN with Spotify in it or something?

Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson

Peter Nelson has been wrenching on and playing with cars since he started driving them quickly between the cones at Chicagoland autocross events in his late teens. Nowadays, he can be found wringing out his Mazda2 at tracks all over California. His writing background includes Winding Road, Donut Media, and Autolist.com. He's also an avid cyclist and '80s/'90s action film connoisseur. Contact the author here.