The Volvo Deluxe


The Volvo Deluxe

This project brings so many of my interests together – creative repurposing, mid-century modern design, vintage car audio, electronics, woodworking, and metalworking.

The features of the Volvo Deluxe ShifTone Radio:

  • Volvo SR-2120 AM/FM radio from a boneyard 240
  • Volvo EQ-101 Graphic Equalizer from a 740
  • Modified Volvo 240 switches
  • Diode and relay switching matrix “brain board”
  • Keyed power switch
  • AC powered
  • Line-in via 1/8″ stereo jack
  • Bluetooth audio input
  • Dual 6.5″ 4-way speakers
  • Mid-Century Modern custom case
  • Tapered legs
  • Deluxe badge from a 40’s Ford
  • Bright orange face plate



The Volvo Deluxe back with powered antenna

And on the back:

  • Powered “stealth” antenna
  • Polished steel plate
  • Panel-mounted fuse
  • Master AC switch
  • Audio line-in jack
  • Vintage pegboard – this stuff is seriously thick!



Initial sketch


It all starts with a sketch. I’ve been working re-learning the drawing skills that I had when I was 12. Kids, don’t let fascination with shiny boxes keep you from playing with pen and paper!



Illustrator mock-up

With the parts in hand, I did a series of mock-ups in Illustrator to try out proportions and sizes. The final case used much thicker plywood.




Out to the shop for some tricky angle cuts. I’ve made a few sleds to try and get the cuts as precise as possible on the table saw.



The carcass

The carcass or case came together with just a bit of a struggle – the corner joints need to be as precise as possible to avoid a gap.



First mock-up

The first mock-up with all the parts in place looked great. The face plate is made from sheet steel. The big silver contraption at the opposite end of the work table is my Craigslist-find metal brake/shear. It weighs a couple hundred pounds or so and was a giant pain to move and position on the work table. I had to buy an engine hoist just to move it around. But, it sure is handy to trim and fold metal with precision.



It’s alive!

To switch between the radio, line-in and Bluetooth audio, I came up with an interesting system. It is a matrix of diodes that operate latching relays. The switches themselves were liberated from boneyard Volvo 240s. I modified them to be momentary and ground down colored plastic to create the red, green and blue lenses.



The final brain-board – diode switching matrix with latching 4PDT relays

I’ve only been able to find one source of 12 volt 4PDT latching relays – a guy on Ebay from England who sells vintage electronic parts. Who knows what they were originally intended for. I just keep buying them and hope that the well doesn’t run dry. These give the matrix a “memory” – it remembers the last selected input when the power is switched off. Version 1.0 of the matrix was “stateless” when powered up – essentially defaulting to no input.



Testing in place

The Volvo radios of this era were made in Japan and some have a line-in “bus” similar to the Clarion radios without the front/back power switching business. I’d love to know who the manufacturer was – National (Panasonic)? If you know, please contact me!



Making it all work!

Normally the 8-pin DIN connector has a plug with jumpers that route the audio out back into the radio for output to the speakers. An EQ and/or amp can plug in and modify the signal then route it back to the radio. Or another signal can be sent back to the radio such as the iPod line-in or the Bluetooth receiver signal.




The Bluetooth audio receiver board I’m using in the Volvo Deluxe is different from the one I used in the Test Mule (BT-1A Bluetooth Receiver Module from Parts Express). It’s the same as this one - Bluetooth Audio Receiver Board v2.1+EDR 12 VDC though I got mine from eBay. It is nice that it is 12-volt as opposed to 5-volt, but the range seems smaller, and my older iMac has trouble connecting to it. All of the iPhones I have tested work great with this receiver.



Painting the face plate

Making the nice square cuts in the steel is quite a challenge – mostly I sneak up on the final dimensions with a file. I’d love to have some punches to make it easy!

I debated whether to go with red, which felt more “Eames-ish” or the orange which is a bit more unusual. I also thought about a black wrinkle finish, but, I’m a sucker for orange.



Final finish applied

I was hoping for a blonde Heywood-Wakefield finish. I’ll have to experiment with getting that look, but the simple “natural” stain worked. Note the 4-way Dual 6.5″ speakers. The legs and mounts came from Lowe’s.



Almost done!

I’m really happy with the way this project came together. It sounds great and the look is “spot-on”. The radio and switches should be familiar to any Volvo pilot and the key switch is a nice touch. There is a buzzer hooked up for the “start” position.



A close-up of the finished project

The “Deluxe” badge is a swapmeet find from a 40’s Ford. It’s not so blurry in person!



Is it Deluxe? Very Deluxe!

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