Speaker replacement in 2012 Camaro Convertible

It is generally accepted, at least by me, that the factory sound system in the Camaro is sub-par. The speakers are cheap, too small and the amp is also sub-par.

I did a lot of reading on the forums and internets to see what all people had done to come up with a plan and… well, make it a bit more ‘me’.

Subwoofer update:

I already covered the subwoofer installation in a previous article.  I’m not real happy with the Comp-D that is in there, it felt cheaper than I wanted, but sounded better than factory.  I stuck with it because I knew it would fit, as others have used it. *sigh* I have a new sub on order in hopes to remedy this issue. [comp-d 40CWD104 was like 86.2dB Sensitivity, new sub is 93dB Sensitivity with the same rated power handling]

For those at home chewing popcorn, 3dB increase = roughly 2x as powerful, however a 10dB increase “sounds” about twice as loud to the human ear. So, by getting a more efficient speaker it makes better use of the same power from the amp. In this case, I hope it should sound about 70% better.

Center Channel speaker:

The factory has a center channel that is powered by a horribly small (smaller than the rears on the convertible) 3″ shallow speaker.  This is a WIP, getting center channel sound from stereo L&R is a horribly huge debate but I will cover the installation of the actual speaker here.

I had a choice to heat up and drop the factory air duct that the center channel speaker rests upon or build up a little bit, as there is no reasonable driver (other than some tweeters) that one can fit in this space.  I don’t know what mechanisms may be below the duct and I don’t want to impede airflow, so I opted to go above.  This had another design goal as well, I needed status LEDs for some engine parts and they will fit there.

Center grill removal was uneventful, 4 retaining clips and two clips from the grill in the dash piece.

I made the adapter in two key parts (three sections), the outer trim and the inner stand-offs that raise the new driver just above the air duct and allow it to be screwed in.


The outer trim was built to allow the 4 retaining clips to be used in the factory locations and thus the factory grill could be re-used. This was covered in vinyl that matches that of the dash.


The factory grill was worked over the top of a golf ball by hand to allow a dome to facilitate the angled tweeter of the new drivers.




The factory connectors were salvaged off all of the interior speakers by cutting them free from the plastic frame and then soldering the snapped off metal tabs to wires soldered to the new drivers.  This assured the new speakers were “plug-and-play” to the factory harness.




Front door speakers:

This was uneventful. Mostly as see here in this person’s YouTube video; ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rmtj81AvKw4  ) There are several write-ups on pulling the factory speakers out. I recommend heating the top of the plastic frame with a hair dryer or low setting heat gun to loosen the glue and then pulling the top of the factory speaker off.  You then cut the supports with the dremel to produce a nice mount for your 6.5″ speaker. I did make a small notch above the door mounting tab, to allow the speaker wires to go through to the crossover.

The front tweeters involved using the dremel to clear part of the factory mounting circle within the tweeter cover to accept the new tweeter. I used rubber weather strip around and behind the tweeter to allow it to fit securely. The factory wiring harness was not used for the tweeter and the replacement tweeter was wired directly to the crossover.

The crossover was mounted with 3M trim tape on the front portion of the interior door panel.


Rear Speakers:

This, was not easy.  The factory uses 3″ speakers here within a plastic inner panel that is made to fit that speaker size.  The factory speaker sits within a stamped area of the side panel steel.  There is room here but the issue is clearance to the top, without cutting steel.  So, your option is to go out and up, within the outer plastic door panel to mount a 5.25″, use a 3″ aftermarket driver and “HOPE” that the tweeter clears the outer panel.

I did a few things with this panel that were unique, so you can expect someone to copy this and sell it shortly without giving me credit or compensation. ;o)

The most complicated aspects for my design criteria were to replicate a silver panel that looks like the front door panels and integrate a rear ABL lighting swoop that followed that curve on the top, similar to the fronts.

I got to try my hand at vacuum forming acrylic in a rather large size.  That was fun and had a few lessons along the way.

I mounted my 5.25″ drivers into the factory steel pocket by hacking a circle out with the dremel between the front panel clip areas. Then I formed an MDF adapter plate that was bolted into the bottom of the factory location for the bottom speaker screws and the tops were bolted directly into the top panel steel.  There was room there and it did not conflict with the convertible top mechanism but one should be careful to avoid it. 😉



To make a panel:

The factory panel was placed within a garbage bag to prevent contamination.  I used a deflator pump to suck the air out of the bag and then tie it off.

EDIT: I found that it is FAR easier to eliminate wrinkles here than later. :/





With that done, I made two stiff box the size of the panels. This was used to hold the plaster of paris mix that was used.


I mixed the plaster up with a drill and a jug of water in a trash can. Once you start, you don’t have much time before it sets.


Once mixed, the mixture was tossed in the box, followed quickly by the panels. I moved them in a slight circular motion to try to eliminate air bubbles under the surface and assured that the panel did not flex out of shape.


Repeated for 2nd panel.

In a few minutes, I used a chisel to tap/cut away any plaster that overlapped the back of the OEM plastic panels.



After the edges were clear, I pulled the panels out and threw away the bags.

Here is what I was left with;


Now I unscrewed the edges of the boxes, so I was left with the single backboard and the plaster.

Next, I used several coats of bondo to create a raised edge along the factory “swoop” indention as well as to fill in any surface irregularities.



This was allowed to dry and then was sanded down / shaped.

EDIT: After making my first attempt, I didn’t realize how much surface detail would be picked up. so I had to go back and re-sand the molds with spotting glaze and do a better job at sanding. I also cut back the edges of the mold and made sure the edges were all smooth.



I did not have an “oven” large enough to heat a sheet this big.  Wind did not cooperate, either. But I did the best with what I could use.

I made a vacuum forming platform by 3 layers of heavy MDF caulked together and secured by screws. The top layer has holes in the top and the bottom has an attachment to the big shop-vac hose. This was suspended on top of two saw horses. Through this, I inserted two long carriage bolts for indexing purposes to the top.


The top was made by two sheets of MDF and 8 carriage bolts with washers and wing nuts. This was used to sandwich the 24″ x 24″ acrylic between and lock it in place.

Now I had to make an oven to bring the plastic up to temperature.

I originally tried just an 800W IR space heater.  Not enough heat.


I lined the inside of my patio fire-pit with aluminum foil to reflect heat and reduce air. Still not enough heat.

I used the electric element from a smoker on the bottom and the 800W heater on the top and that worked.


Heat (even heat) is absolutely critical here.  Over heating the panel causes cracking, under heating makes it too stiff to form properly.

I then positioned the mold on the vacuum surface, heated plastic, hit the vacuum and pushed the carrier over the top.

I wound up with this:


I used the dremel to cut the basic shape out from the sheet.



EDIT: again, I found out through messing up one piece.  In sanding or cutting the acrylic, don’t over heat the edges, take your time or it will develop a lot of small edge cracks.

This is the cut form, overlaid on the OEM panel.


Fast forward, I cut openings for the new speaker grills and adjusted those to fit.  I painted the insides of the panels silver (well, medium titanium metallic)


I cut the same location from the OEM outside panel.

Then I rolled a lip around the edge of the speaker grill and used RTV to attach the grill into place.


I let this cure over night.

Now for the light pipe, I attached my LED to the light pipe, drilled two 1/16″ holes for the LED wires to come through to the back. The light pipe was glued along the “swoop” recess with clear RTV.


This was left to cure over night.

I used a caulk gun tube of GREY RTV to adhere the acrylic to the OEM panel (after washing them both down with plastic part surface prep to remove any oils.)

EDIT: I painted the inside of the acrylic panels and the adhesive discolored the metallic of the paint. So I will be painting the outside and shooting clear coat. (except for the light pipe).

I used some weights and tape along the edges to hold the two together and aligned while curing.


Once this was secure, I separated the acrylic from the light pipe just slightly and used clear silicone to run a bead.  This was smoothed off on the outside.

This was let cure over night.

Finally, power was soldered in place with standard ABL connectors and a dynaohm between the loop of the two panels.  This was extended to the normal car ABL circuit in the door panels. (located within the kick panel).


This photo is bad, the swoop goes the whole way along the panel but it did not show up. some night I will retake the photo with a better camera.




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