There has always been a feud between the automakers and the aftermarket, particularly when it comes to audio. The OEMs want the customers to buy their upgraded audio systems. Whether it is a basic CD-player upgrade or a 14-speaker, “mega-watt” system with navigation and multimedia capability, OEMs seem to think that theirs is better than everything else. The aftermarket manufacturers know better. Even the most up-to-date, well-designed factory audio system can sound better with aftermarket equipment. This is one of the driving forces behind some of the specialty upgrade systems, where an OEM pairs up with an aftermarket company to design a vehicle-specific audio package. Though these often sound good, the problem is that it takes away the personalization factor, something many car owners want. They want the car to reflect their own personality, especially Mustang owners. The Mustang has quite possibly the largest fan base of any one model, and it continues to grow daily. The one area where just about every Mustang owner can personalize their ponycar is in the audio system.
The 2005-up S197 has become iconic. A throwback to the early days of the Mustang, the S197 flew off the dealer lots in mass quantities. Now that some time has passed, the used car lots are full of cherry models ripe for plucking. One of the first upgrades should be the audio system. There are three main audio options for the S197- the basic 4-speaker base, the Shaker 500 which comes with 6 speakers (also has a hidden amplifier), and the Shaker 1000, which is a 10-speaker system with a subwoofer in the trunk. The factory subwoofer is under-powered, under-sized, and generally not very good. None of the factory head units offer enough power for the mids and highs, though they do have a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, which is nice. You can retain the stock radio and just replace the amp and speakers, or you can replace the head unit and keep everything else. We opted for total replacement in this 2005 GT with the Shaker 500, using a Pioneer in-dash DVD player with 7” screen for road trip enjoyment. The rear speakers were replaced with Kicker 6x8s, a Kicker 12” subwoofer (mounted in a Q-Logic Mustang-specific enclosure), a set of Kicker 6.5” component speakers (which we installed in a set of Q-Logic kickpanels instead of the door for better staging and imaging), and powering it all is a Kicker 700×5 amplifier. We decided to forego the door speaker replacement because the kickpanels sound so much better and don’t require running new wire through the door jambs. The results were a slamming system with all the controls you could possibly want, DVD video, and an incredible concert-like sound stage. Best of all, anybody can install this system with basic hand tools and a little bit of guidance. This is where the local shop can be very helpful. Not only can you audition the equipment you are buying, but you can also get all the install accessories and help determining what you need. When in doubt, seek the help of a professional installer.
1. The stock head unit has seen better days, after all it is 11 years old. At first glance, it may look intimidating to remove, but it is quite simple.
2. First, remove the two screws at the back of the center console lid (under the lid), then gently lift up on the long center console top. It will pop off easily, so don’t force it too hard. Once loose, the E-brake handle needs to be lifted up so you can snake the cover off.
3. The side trim covers are held in by two tight press clips. It takes a fair amount of force to get these to come off. They slide straight back, do not pull them out to the side, you will break the plastic.
4. The head unit bolts are covered by the HVAC controls panel. This panel is held in with 6 7-mm screws. Under that are the 4 7-mm screws that retain the head unit.
5. Once the HVAC panel is loose, you have to remove the plugs. The top three are first (trac control acc port, and info system button), then the bottom two, which control the HVAC. The lower buttons are tough. You may find it helpful to reach in from the side (where the side covers were) to get the plugs. Shown here is the pass-side plug, which has a cam lever that must be lifted to remove. Be patient.
6. The new Pioneer head unit requires a dash kit, which we sourced from a local shop. The dash kits have to be assembled for your model, then the tabs that are not used are cut off. This is a double-DIN head unit, so the kit mounts to the radio via 4 screws. If you are using a single-DIN radio, then you would use the supplied metal sleeve.
7. The head unit wiring for our install only required power, ground, ignition, and dimmer (which is an option to dim the lights with the headlights). We also wired up the parking brake (so the display only works when the parking brake is on) and the amplifier turn-on wire (also called the remote wire). We used crimp caps for this. A good quality crimp is just as good as a solder job, and faster too. Since we are running an outboard amp to the speakers, those wires were simply left alone.
8. We ran a set of RCA cables and the remote wire to the radio and reinstalled the 4 7-mm screws. The trim can be reinstalled, but that should be the last thing you do after testing the entire system.
9. Under the passenger side dash, there is a bundle of wires and an orange cable. To the left is a perfect spot for the power wire. We drilled the firewall and mounted a grommet (ALWAYS use a grommet where wire goes through metal!) for the 4-gauge power wire. You have to tear or cut the insulation a little.
10. The Kicker 4-gauge wire was routed under the battery box and up the side.
11. You must run a fuse at the battery for the main power wire. If you do not do this, you seriously risk losing your car to a fire. It happens more often than you think. This Kicker fuse holder fits 8- or 4-gauge. The small barrel reducer to the left allows 8-gauge to fit.
12. The other end of the fuse holder attaches to the battery terminal. Leave the terminal off the battery until the installation is complete.
13. The Q-Logic kickpanels that we used do several things. First, they equalize the pathlengths between the listeners ears and the speakers which does wonderful things to enhance the imaging and staging of the audio. This centers the audio, so no more left-side bias (where it all seems to sound like the music is coming from the left side). These are easy to install and they work in auto or manual cars (though it might get a little tight for the clutch). We used the grill mount to mark the woofer’s mounting hole and then cut it out with an air saw. A hole saw works great too, but we didn’t have one big enough.
14. We did use a hole saw for the tweeter though. The kickpanels usually come painted to match the car, but these were ordered in black by mistake (forgot the car had the tan interior!). We had to paint them ourselves. SEM makes interiors matching paint that is available at most auto paint supply stores.
15. The next step was to remove the threshold panel. These are held in by several metal clips and the edges are retained with double-sided tape. If you are careful, you can reuse the tape. Otherwise, go buy some 3M body-molding tape.
16. The driver panel has a tree lock in the back holding it in; remove and save this plug, you will need it.
17. The panel then slides out. There are two metal body clips on the upper tail.
18. The new panels do not have the upper tail molded in, so you have to cut the tail off the new panels. This is a simple task. The masking tape marks where to cut. We used a die-grinder and a cut-off wheel.
19. The remote wire and RCA cables were ziptied to a bundle of wires to keep things neat and clean. This also makes sure they don’t get snagged and caught in anything later down the road.
20. While we were at it, the wires were run down the rocker panel channel under the carpet. The power wire should be run down the opposite side of the car; if not, the RCA cables (which send the audio signal to the amp) can pick up noise from the power cable. We also ran new wires for the kickpanel speakers.
21. The kickpanels come with a couple of pieces of trim welt. This slides over the metal tab as shown. This is to eliminate any metal to plastic rattles or buzz.
22. We installed the supplied L-bracket under the dash in this location for the passenger side. To mark this spot, the bracket is placed in position on the outer side of the dash, drilled and then placed to the inner side for installation.
23. The kickpanel slides into place until it is firmly in position. It is a good idea to mount the tweeters into their holes before you install the kickpanels.
24. Then the upper mount screw was driven into place. You could use a screwdriver too, it is less risky for scratching the paint
25. The driver side upper mount is located behind the hood latch pull. You should drill this with an appropriate drill bit first. The tree lock is used to retain the back of the driver panel.
26. The passenger side panel uses a screw at the bottom as well. This point was drilled out before running the screw into the inner panel.
27. The crossover was wired up using the new wire from the amp and two short leads for the speakers. Make sure that you follow proper polarity (+ to +, – to -) for all the connections. If you get them switched, the speakers will sound flat and muffled.
28. We marked and pre-drilled the mounting holes for the woofers in the kickpanels and then mounted the speakers with a screwdriver. Using a cordless here runs the risk of slipping and poking a hole in the speaker.
29. The upper trim piece was then snapped back in place using the factory metal clips.
30. The grille was installed and the finished kickpanel looks great. The paint looks a little off in the picture, but that is just a lighting issue, they really do match quite well.
31. The rear speakers were hard to photograph. We managed to snap this shot showing the new Kicker KS680 speakers being mounted. The plastic grills pop out, and you need a right-angle driver like this Skewdriver to get to the screws. There are 4 screws per speaker. We replaced the factory wire from the underside. The plastic grilles fit nice and neat over the Kicker speakers.
32. In the trunk, the rear valance trim is retained by two tree locks (on the large outer sections and two push pins in the center. These pins pop up from the center, releasing the tabs. Don’t just pull on the panel, it will break these pins.
33. The Q-Logic enclosure mounts to the passenger side trunk, just like the Shaker 1000 sub, only bigger and better. The carpet trim was removed, the body clip (shown here, upper top of hole in carpet) installed and a small square section cut and folded under to expose the clip. This is the center mount for the enclosure.
34. The enclosure tub gets a bolt into the body clip and an additional bolt through the upper flange. This bolt mounts to the factory body clip that hangs from a metal tab, just like the Shaker 1000.
35. The lower portion of the tub mounts to the studs at the bottom of the wire channel on the trunk floor using the supplied metal brackets. The tub was pushed into the car as far as possible, then the brackets placed over the studs and screwed to the box. Then the supplied nuts were tightened on the studs. The wire loom that was moved to access the studs gets placed back on the studs.
36. Next, the subwoofer was centered in the enclosure faceplate and then predrilled for the mounting screws. Failure to do this step will greatly complicate the installation of the cover and subwoofer.
37. The CVR12” sub we used is a dual-voice coil woofer. We wired each + terminal to each other and each – terminal together, then ran a single + and – wire to the subwoofer from the enclosure. This created a 2-ohm load for the subwoofer channel of the Kicker 5-channel amp, which is about perfect for maximizing power output and reliability.
38. The faceplate mounts between the subwoofer and the enclosure itself, so that when the woofer is secured, the faceplate is secured as well. This takes a little work to get just right, but pre-drilling the holes makes it much easier. You will definitely want a helping hand for this part. The supplied grill was installed once the sub was mounted. This enclosure actually takes up less room than the factory Shaker 1000 unit, and has a bigger subwoofer too.
39. The starting point for the amplifier wiring is the ground. Electricity flows from ground to positive, so a 4-gauge power wire needs a 4-gauge ground. We cleaned off the paint from the inner wheel tub and bolted the amp ground there. Yes, scraping the paint off is necessary, don’t skip that step; a bad ground can result in lousy performance, noise, and intermittent power.
40. We made an amp rack out of some scrap wood (yes, it’s particle board, which is OK since this is not for the enclosure, which we would only build with MDF or Medium Density Fiberboard.). Any wood works for this task, just as long as it will hold up; plywood or MDF would be the preferred woods. We marked the locations for the wire bundles and drilled them out. We also laid down some black carpet we picked up from the auto parts store with some 3M Super 77 spray glue.
41. The amp rack was mounted to the driver side of the car using the upper tab and metal body clip and the same studs with an L-bracket. We ran the wires through the holes to keep it clean.
42. The wires look like a jumbled mess right now, that is why we labeled each one before we routed them through the car. Be patient in the wiring process, it only takes a second to get something backwards and create a confusing problem.
43. We used a spade terminal to keep it clean. This also helps keep little straggler wires from crossing channels, which pops fuses and burns up amps.
44. The amp rack was trimmed out with this custom-made plastic trim panel. This was made using a mold and thermoformer.
45. The trunk carpet liner was reinstalled with the edges folded under to match up to the subwoofer enclosure. You still have full access to the spare tire.
46. Up front, the head unit and kickpanels are ready to go. One note about tuning- set the radio volume to a spot about 3\4 to 7\8ths of full volume (this sets your max volume, most radios distort the signal past this point), then turn each amplifier gain setting to where the speakers distort, then back it off till they stop. Don’t crank the radio past this point and your new stereo will sound great and last a long time.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).