For a lot of car enthusiasts, the way the stereo head unit looks is almost as important as the way it sounds. Especially with cars ranging from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, a too-new looking stereo can really jar, with ill-fitting nasty plastics and over-done flashy lighting standing out from the dashboard design. And if you keep the vintage stereo, you can only really listen to radio, cassettes, or try to fiddle with a bluetooth adapter cassette that keeps getting spat out. CD head units don't even offer that option.
Earlier on, some audio manufacturers have come up with more basic-looking products that better suit the restrained dash of a car from the ‘80s or ‘90s, but which still include better features than vintage stereos. An example was the Kienzle MCR-1016, which was available with Bluetooth connectivity but which also resembled a factory BMW stereo more than a completely new one from the 2000s. Sadly, availability for that unit hasn’t been great, and when Kienzle updated the product’s design, enthusiasts have swarmed to find NOS examples of the 1016/1016BT. Used prices have gone up accordingly.
Porsche Classic has also recognized the need for better-fitting radios for older cars, and it offers a head unit with touch screen navigation in classic single DIN size. The price is rather strong at about 1,200 Euros, though.
Currently, VDO makes a rather understated, commercial use radio that’s also available badged as Continental. The product line has ties to earlier Kienzle products, and they have a similar basic appeal as the 1016. It’s also not uncommon to fit a cheap marine radio instead on a modern classic car.
But classic autoradio enthusiasm has always been about Blaupunkts, hasn’t it? Enthusiasts pay more and more for overhauled or good condition head units from the ‘80s, sometimes retrrofitted with AUX connectivity. The manufacturer is in on this, and this summer Blaupunkt has brought back the 1986-introduced SQR 46 Bremen line, now upgraded to modern comforts like DAB.
The refreshed Bremen now comes with a trick cassette door which houses USB/SD/SDHC connectivity behind it instead of a cassette mechanism, so the faceplate has remained similar to the mid-‘80s original. Complete with a Bluetooth module, it’s basically a fully modern stereo that fits an '80s-'90s BMW, Mercedes, Porsche or Saab seamlessly. But the combination of period-correct looks and modern convenience doesn’t come cheap: Blaupunkt takes pre-orders at 449 Euros, or around $500. It’s still far cheaper than the Porsche Classic headunit, but pricey nonetheless.