The basic AM radio was the first car infotainment device, giving drivers entertainment and important news alerts. At Delphi's new Silicon Valley lab, the auto parts supplier displays 80 years' worth of car radio development.
1938 Oldsmobile Six Touring Sedan
The Touring Sedan was the largest of the Oldsmobile Six models, with plenty of room for the family and luggage. Its "Six" moniker comes from its six-cylinder engine, which produced 95 horsepower.
Along with a heater and window defroster, the Oldsmobile was one of the first cars to be offered with a radio.
Public radio broadcasts of news, sports, and entertainment began in the 1920s, but the first car radios did not appear until the '30s. This early example, built for Oldsmobile, has a main case, packed with tubes, and a separate speaker. Of course, early radio was strictly AM and mono.
Chevy's 3000 Series pickup trucks could be had with load ratings from a half to a full ton, and six-cylinder engines ranging from 3.5 to 4.3 liters. And these work vehicles could also be equipped with a radio.
The hardtop Coupe de Ville lacks B-pillars, giving it an open-air feeling in the cabin. Under the hood sits a 5.4-liter V-8 using overhead valves, a GM engine innovation. Being a Cadillac, it got the latest technology, including power windows and, of course, a radio.
Like the Chevy truck radio, the SST has a boxy design, with a single speaker sitting below the controls and tubes packaged inside. Befitting the Cadillac's upscale interior, this radio features chrome dials and bezel.
The Oldsmobile 88 is legendary for its styling, and the 1958 model is a prime example. This Super 88 Coupe featured a 6.1-liter V-8 producing 300 horsepower. As a unique feature, the 88 was offered with a removable radio.
The radio for the Oldsmobile 88 is called Trans-Portable because it could be removed from the dashboard and used as a portable. The development of transistors allowed a smaller unit size, which in turn made it easier to carry around than the older tube radios.
The Riviera entered production as a new model in 1963, and heralded a new era in automotive design. Buick offered it with a 6.6-liter V-8, good for 340 horsepower. By this time, radios came as standard equipment in cars.
Moving up a few decades, into the age of the crossover, Chevy has the new Traverse. Unlike the previous models shown here, the Traverse uses front-wheel-drive architecture. Although only displacing 3.6 liters, its V-6 produces 288 horsepower, a testament to engine innovation. The Traverse also comes among recent innovations in connected cars.
The new Connected Radio developed by Delphi for GM includes a color touch screen and MyLink, letting it connect to smartphones. It integrates apps such as Pandora, letting drivers listen to customized radio stations delivered over a digital data stream.
Rear-seat entertainment is not a new concept. Delphi's new Silicon Valley lab includes this rare example of a rear-seat television, implemented in the 1960s. Whether due to cost or poor reception, this technology didn't catch on.