California's C3 Corvette Car Club

Kenwood KIV-BT900
Digital Media Receiver
1980 Corvette Installation

By Tony Griffitts

The factory radio was replaced in 1988 with a Kenwood cassette stereo, so after 22 years of service it was time to retire it and bring this 30 year old vette into the 21st century. When selecting a new radio to replace the old head unit it had to have the following options:

  • USB connector for playing mp3 music off a thumb drive.
  • iPod connection.
  • Built in bluetooth (California has a hands free driving law).
  • No CD player, CD's are old technology, you can fit an entire music collection on one thumb drive.

After searching the internet for a head unit that met my requirements I selected the Kenwood KIV-BT900 Digital Media Receiver from Crutchfield. The Kenwood KIV-BT900 Digital Media Receiver met all my requirements, plus it also has 512mb of internal memory to store images, video, and music.

Since the original gauge bezel in the vette was a little worn out I decided I would replace it when installing the new radio. I had Corvette World of Rancho Cordova, California order me a new reproduction bezel for a factory radio. When I received the radio I took the mounting sleeve to Corvette World and they custom cut the bezel for a snug fit.

1980 Corvette Center Gauge Bezel

Yellow arrows show where the six screws need to be removed from the bezel. You need to remove the center column side panels to access the two screws at the bottom corners that hold the bottom console bezel to the gauge bezel.

The first step before removing the radio was to disconnect the negative cable from the car battery.

Next was to removed the old bezel by removing the four top screws and two screws underneath that hold the bottom console bezel to the gauge bezel. It may be easier to remove the radio knobs and face plate before removing the bezel as in my case, since the back of the radio was anchored to a bracket.

Once the screws were removed I tilted the bezel forward and disconnect the wiring harness from the back of the gauges and disconnect the illumination connector.

Before removing the radio I needed to disconnect the radio wiring harness the back of the radio.

With the bezel out, I remove the gauge cluster from the bezel. Gauges were cleaned and the vents were also replaced. If you are going to do this project and it has been a long time since the gauge bezel has been removed, now is a good time to replace all the bulbs. While I was replacing the gauge bezel I also took the opportunity to replace the gauge lens and polished the warning light lenses with carnauba car wax to remove tiny scratches (made it look new)

On the new bezel I inserted the radio mounting sleeve and bent the tabs to secure it to the bezel. The gauge cluster was then transferred to the new bezel.

With the old radio and bezel out of the way I traced out the old wires and found the switched power lead from the ignition, power on constant, and ground. Your old radio wiring harness should be connected to these wires unless you have the original radio, so it should be an easy swap. If you have an original radio, you will need to tap into a constant on power source like the glove box light wire. The gray wire is from the lights dimmer switch used to control the brightness of the original radio's display, and is not used with most aftermarket radios. In my case I had a noise suppressor and a fuse box that supported the old radio, that I removed since they are not required with the new radio

If you have a power antenna you will need to connect the blue power antenna wire from the radio to the yellow wire on the vette's power antenna wiring harness. I strip about ¾ of an inch of the wire insulation, slip about 1½ inches of heat shrink tubing over the radio wire and pull it back to the connector. I then intertwine the wires to be connected and then solder them together. When the connection is cool to the touch I then slide the heat shrink tube over the connection and then use a heat gun to shrink the tube around the connection.

Once all the wires from wiring harness were soldered in place it was time to remove the glove box compartment. I used a Dremel tool to cut a hole in the left size of the box to feed the USB and iPod through

I mounted the Bluetooth microphone above the tachometer. Unscrewed the Speedometer/Tachometer lens and slipped the mic cable over the top and down to the center column.

When all the cables were in place I connected the radio wiring harness, antenna, and media cables to the radio. Connected the battery cable back up and tested the radio. Battery cable was then disconnected and the gauge bezel was then re-installed with the new radio.

Remote control was mounted on the parking brake handle. This allows you to have the radio/cell phone controls at your fingertips.

Heat Shrink

Once the wires were soldered together, heat shrink tubing was slipped down over the connection and then shrunk with a heat gun.

Bluetooth Mic

Bluetooth microphone mounted above the tachometer.

USB iPod Connections

Glove box was removed and a hole was cut in the left side for routing the USB and iPod connections.

Remote Control

Remote controller was mounted on black ABS plastic with silicon. The ABS was cut out of an ABS pipe end cap and four holes were drilled into it to allow for black cable ties to be threaded through. A grove was cut in the ABS between the holes with a dermal tool to allow the cable tie to lay flush in the grove. Two black cable ties hold the remote to the parking brake handle.

Heat Shrink

Completed installation of the Kenwood KIV-BT900 Digital Media Receiver.

The Kenwood KIV-BT900 Digital Media Receiver can be hooked up to an amplifier and a CD changer if you so desire. The Bluetooth was easy to pair with my sell phone, and the sound quality with the person on the other end of the call coming through the radio speakers is excellent. The person on the other end of the call does not even know that they are talking to me while I am in the vette. Stereo sound quality of the unit is good enough for a non-audiophile, as this is a Corvette with no mufflers, and not exactly a symphony hall. Sound quality is good enough to drown out external noise if I so desire.