Weird Automotive Gadgets: When Cars had Record Players

Sometimes scenery just isn’t enough to stave off boredom when driving. Automakers have long sought to relieve the monotony of long trips by including devices that play music. The first of such accessories were humongous vacuum tube radios in the 1930s. They were expensive and none-too-reliable. The first FM receivers came along in the 1950s. These greatly expanded the average motorist’s options for entertainment, but, like all radios, they had one weakness: they were useless in areas where there were no local radio stations. I discovered that in the late 80s while driving across the Midwest. What Kansans have against music, I’ll never understand. RELATED: 10 Muscle Car Features that Need to Come Back Chrysler made a valiant effort to solve this problem in 1956, when it introduced the ultimate solution: in-car record players. The devices mounted directly above the transmission hump and were wired into the vehicle radio. With a mere flip of a switch, the driver could enjoy the sounds of his favorite tunes, even while cruising through the middle of nowhere.

Weird Automotive Gadgets: When Cars had Record Players

I know what you’re thinking: LP albums are prone to scratching. Ah, but the inventors of this marvelous device were aware of this fact. To overcome it, Chrysler made the needle arms extra heavy, to prevent them from bouncing around every time the car hit a bump. Plus, the records used in the player had extra deep grooves, making for a deep, steady sound as the miles rolled by. RELATED: 12 Amazing .gifs from the Automotive World But, as fate would have it, the in-car record player barely lasted a year before Chrysler pulled it. The critical flaw in the design was the need for those specially made LPs. Not only were they expensive, they were only available for artists under contract with Columbia Studios. High cost plus limited selection is a lethal combination when trying to market a new product, and consumers just didn’t see the advantages of holding onto the steering wheel with one hand while flipping wax disks over with the other. So recorded music died an untimely death in 1957, until it was resurrected in 1968 by a cutting-edge product called the eight-track tape player. The rest, as they say, is history. Photo Credit: Dark Roasted Blend, Retro Sound USA

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