The best custom stereos start with a blank canvas. One look at a system that's been professionally designed from the ground up will convince viewers that the factory played no role in its creation. However, because of limited funds, most of us can't replace everything at once, so we upgrade a few components at a time—an approach that can still produce a topnotch sound system. Nevertheless, when you have an opportunity to start from scratch, the results can be dramatic. And, if you do it right, it doesn't have to break the bank.
Mike Ohren from Orange Park, Florida, has been designing unique, award-winning systems for the last three decades. His creations produce concert hall sounds, capture Best Stereo trophies on a regular basis, and always add a new dimension to the interior. The 1979 El Camino featured in this article is owned by Scott Dean of Jacksonville, Florida, and already had several mods including custom candy orange paint, 22-inch rims, and a ZZ4 crate motor. However, it arrived at Mike's shop needing considerable work inside. After discussing the details with the owner, Mike gutted the interior and began taking measurements, choosing an appropriate mix of modern electronics to get the job done. Using simple cardboard templates, MDF, and fiberglass, he created new custom door panels, a unique center console that flows into the rear sub enclosure, and an amp rack behind the bucket seats. Follow along as we take you step by step through this comprehensive build process.