Push-Button AM Radios in the Car

Pushbutton AM radio in the dash

Don’t look now, Baby Boomers, this one slipped away while you weren’t looking!

The AM push-button radio, the same we used to yank out of our dashboards and throw away when we replaced it with a shiny new AM/FM/8-track player, is extinct.

Now I haven’t confirmed this, but every new car I’ve seen, even the most basic economy models, have AM/FM electronic radios or better in them. But when we were kids, and even adults just a few years ago, the push-button AM radio was what you got when you bought a new car.

The push buttons were ingenious. When I was a kid, I wondered how on earth my dad’s favorite stations would come up when he hit the buttons. I thought it was amazing that Plymouth (dad always bought Plymouths) knew ahead of time where KMOX was on the dial!

Eventually, I learned that you programmed the buttons yourself. Perhaps “programmed” isn’t the best term to use, because it very low-tech. You manually found your station, pulled the button you wanted to find it with out with a mighty yank, then push it all the way back in.

As a teenager, it was great fun to get in a friend’s car and switch his WLS or WOAI buttons to, say, the local gospel station.

Every Boomer probably threw away at least a dozen of these venerable, solid-as-a-rock receivers of static-plagued AM. Perhaps we should have stashed them away instead. No doubt vintage radios have value to collectors, as well as to people looking for authentic stuff for restorations.

I have a sweet car stereo system now. It has a subwoofer, numerous tweeters, mid-ranges, etc., and a multimedia in-dash unit that lets me load mp3’s onto a flash drive and play them. But sometimes, I tune in a scratchy AM station just to remember what it used to sound like driving down the road.

One thought on “Push-Button AM Radios in the Car”

  1. What about the cars with the leather couches in both the front and back so that all riders could enter either the driver side or passenger side and just slide over? Lol… I was watching an original Hawaii Five O on CBSonline and I was astonished when the passenger got in on the driver side, but I forgot you could just slide right over.

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