And Now, a Moment of Silence for the Cassette Player

"Please insert Side B."

This past week marked the quiet passing of an automotive icon, one that has brought joy and entertainment to millions. (No, not Bob Lutz’s toupee.) Say goodbye to the cassette player, new car shoppers of 2011.

Now with in-dash CD changer!

With the end of production of the dough-eyed, decade-old, perenniallysavaged, trophy-wife-special “they still build that thing?” Lexus SC430, the cassette player dies a quiet death—long after consumers realized that 1.) no other manufacturer sold a car with a cassette player, and 2.) they built the SC430 until 2010, a car that entered its existence sometime between the deorbiting of the space station Mir and me discovering Alice in Chains in middle school. For Toyota, the cassette player was first an option on the 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel. Today, the last car available with one was a $68,000 Lexus. My high school English teacher would have taught us that this is known as a “metaphor.”

Just when I was getting sick of The Bee Gees!

Put away your Go-Gos Vacation “cassingle!” Throw out your trusty iPod adapter! Those looking to cheaply adapt their auxiliary audio sources will have to splurge on one of those fancy-pants FM transmitters and deal with the static.* And those who reminisce about the days of winding magnetic tape, switching to Side B, or prying out melted cassettes in the hot sun with a butter knife will simply have to settle for a mid-90s GM product with a grey-buttoned AC Delco Theftlock head.
The cassette player joins 8-track players, CB radios, trunk-mounted CD changers, vinyl roofs, opera windows, carburetors, wood trim, wire wheels, curb feelers, tail fins, window louvers, bias-ply tires, factory tape stripes, Mercury, slotted mags, leaded gasoline, the Autronic Eye, Hurst shifters, cab-over pickup trucks, hood ornaments capable of skewering pedestrians, NASCAR driver Dick Trickle, and the entire 1973 Oldsmobile lineup as the automotive industry continues its relentless march towards progress.
In addition, the cassette player is survived by satellite radio, Pandora Internet streaming, USB outlets, Ford’s SYNC, the MP3 adapter, and the CD player…for now. It will be missed by—well, me, anyway, and the last owners of the 1996 Chevy Lumina that once comprised my youth, with its shitty aftermarket cassette deck that took our equally shitty dealer a week to install, only to crap out on my parents’ love of Communist-era Chinese folk songs during road trips to the St. Louis Science Center. Please send flowers.
Barry Manilow: a fate worse than death.

For Car Cassette Decks, Play Time Is Over—New York Times
Image sources: [Flickr (1, 2), Roadtransport.comThe Ancient Continent]
*Alternatively, if anyone in the Hooniverse Commentariat can recommend a good FM transmitter to replace my horrendous Griffin iTrip, I’m all ears. Homie gotta get his podcast on, son.

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  1. Alff Avatar

    If this headline were applied to my car it would read, "And Now, a Decade of Silence from the Cassette Player."

  2. mzs Avatar

    Late last year I drove a new Mazda5. The salesman told me that you could still get a cassette player, that they could even order one for me and put it under the radio and it would be covered by Mazda factory warranty. Then someone on here told me you can still even get a minidisc player. I kow they just redesigned the 5, must maybe the center stack is still the same?

  3. Brett MacPherson Avatar
    Brett MacPherson

    I was in a Toyota dealership in the fall and saw an Avalon with a cassette deck in it, I figured it'd have been one of the last. Good old ToMoCo…

    1. Brett MacPherson Avatar
      Brett MacPherson

      I'd also like to mention that my 01 Cavalier has a cassette dack AND CD Player, but the CD player hasn't worked in 6 years. So whats in the console? MJ's Thriller and Rush's 2112 on trusty old cassette, thank you very much.

  4. buzzboy7 Avatar

    I wish I had a cassette player, screw this stupid FM transmitter.
    Then again, our 17 year old Toyota doesn't even have one. Hooray for the stripper option.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      Yeah, I'm glad my F150 has a cassette player so I can hook up my iPhone with a $12 tape adapter instead of more expensive options.

  5. SSurfer321 Avatar

    @ BZR: Does your current head unit have AUX out on the back? If so there are adapters to hard wire an MP3 jack into it. Otherwise I would recommend replacing the head unit with a new one. I'm sure you can find a mediocre head unit with MP3 jack for $100 or less.

    1. dead_elvis Avatar

      wouldn't that work better with an aux IN? for decent head units. I picked up a JVC tuner/single CD player that has both USB & stereo mini inputs on the face – using the USB port lets me control my iPod from the head unit, no fumbling with the iPod while driving. I think I paid $129, shipped.

      1. ZomBee Racer Avatar

        "wouldn't that work better with an aux IN? "
        Last time I tried that it was REALLY loud.

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      <img src="; width="380">
      The $100-120 range Kenwood KDC-MP345U is fairly good (I mean, for the price…I'd at least say a bit better than "mediocre" would imply). It handles USB thumb drives nicely, and also has Kenwood's semi-decent iPod control s/w. Dumping the Town Cow's inop OEM radio/cassette deck for one increased my driving satisfaction greatly.

      1. chrystlubitshi Avatar

        kenwood has "never disappointed" me (i have owned two… (both top of the line cd players in the late 90s and early 2000s respectively) that worked awesome… but had to have warranty-covered repairs… had to go to a specific shop and pay them up front (both times)… was sent a check that was worth more than the value of a replacement stereo each time… the second time, i got the working head unit back.. still cashed the check… they have a ' plus ( ) ' in my books (except for reliability)) at the moment
        cheap… clean RCA & digital outs… good enough.

    3. Black Steelies Avatar

      I've seriously considered doing this to the Regal but I also want to put as little work/cash into it as possible, hopefully replacing it this spring. Oh the car runs like a champ but with a broken radio and two broken doors I just don't want to deal with it anymore.

      1. jjd241 Avatar

        Best Buy usually has free installation on decks over $100

    4. Manic_King Avatar

      Or if old head unit still works and has rear aux-in (or wired FM transm.) one could just buy bluetooth hands-free kit which also has its own aux-in for wired audio but more importantly has A2DP streaming capability so you can stream music from your phone or from internet trough phone, if data plan allows it.
      I have one, Nokia CK300 and I'm very happy with it, I can control music player on my phone trough buttons on BT kit's mini controller and it's invisible to thieves. Also helps when you have non DIN size factory stereo. And hands-free phone calls are better.

  6. chrystlubitshi Avatar

    the second pic in the post reminds me of something that i will always miss on the aftermarket cassette decks of my teen years… either "AUTO METAL" ( \m/ ) or a "METAL" button…. an awesome feature when listening to pantera/other serious metal bands of the 80s and 90s.

    1. discontinuuity Avatar

      You know that refers to the type of magnetic coating, right?

      1. chrystlubitshi Avatar


      1. chrystlubitshi Avatar


        1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

          Too much metal for one hand!

          1. bzr Avatar

            \mmmm/ Too much metal for ONE PERSON.

    2. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Oh….. It only took me another cup of coffee to see the devil's horns. At first I was thinking why the m was in the cleavage. Was metal motor boating?

  7. Maymar Avatar

    I was just watching the How I Met Your Mother episode 'Arrivederci Fiero,' so seeing this headline gave the pang of disappointment that we will never again have to worry about our "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" cassingle getting jammed. Then I realized my fiancee's got a CD (Luke Doucet's Steel City Trawlers) jammed in her player, so at least we've got that reprieve for a few years yet.

  8. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Both my Volvos continue to rock bitchin' cassette decks, since New Hampshire roads aren't really conducive to CD playing and I'm cheap. The 240's Panasonic (aftermarket, came with the car) even has a line-in jack, while the 740's Pioneer – I installed it in a few spare minutes between fixing the hood latch and changing a turn-signal bulb – relies on a cassette adapter. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's early CD players without a cassette player above or below them – they skip, and there's no way to play anything else without an FM transmitter, which are almost universally junk, unless you're willing to alter the car.

  9. P161911 Avatar

    Back when I had my 1996 Z-28 it lacked a cassette player, CD only. I had a rather long commute and would listen to books on tape. The tapes were cheaper off ebay than the CDs. I used a walkman type cassette player with an FM modulator. It worked…barely.

  10. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    2 weeks ago we were driving along when my wife asked "What's that?"
    "That" was an actual broken cassette case, with it's ribbons of tape blowing all over the road. I was stunned, and realized I had not seen that in the wild for many years. Possibly the last of it's kind.
    Poor cassettes.

    1. coupeZ600 Avatar

      A long time ago we had a Truck that used to just eat cassettes, I mean it was so voracious you never put your own tape in it, only one that one of the other Drivers had left in the cab. So one day I'm noodling across the Rez, bumpin' the (mechanical) governor trying to maintain a blistering 56mph across the endless NE AZ wastes and the deck eats a tape that was pretty crappy anyway. After furiously hitting the eject button until it came out I just winged it out the open window. I knew even then that littering was bad, but I was truly in the middle of Nowhere and it seemed to go on forever. The case spooled out it's contents as it went by the side of the Truck and when it got to the end of the tape, it just whipped and dove and fluttered in all the weird wind vortexes going by the Truck/Trailer… It looked like some sort of crazed hummingbird. It was still attached to the deck by the eaten portion of tape, and so after a few miles I extracted that part and looped it around my finger and held my arm out the window, and this allowed the case to get all the way behind the Trailer into the really crazy air.
      I must have flown that little kite for thirty-forty miles before one side of the case broke and let the little wheel loose and off it went.

  11. CJinSD Avatar

    Does Hurst Shifters know they're dead? They still have a website and product line.

    1. bzr Avatar

      Maybe, but sadly I think we're past the days of Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.
      <img src="; width="500">

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Ditto with slotted mags.
      <img src="; width="380">

      1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

        Oh no you don't. I have plans for a set of those and I'd better be able to get them when the time comes.

      2. Boner McPeniston Avatar
        Boner McPeniston

        I want these for my 5-Series.

  12. CptSevere Avatar

    Even though I still have a box of them somewhere, I'll never shed a tear over the demise of the cassette deck. I don't know how many times I've had a tape eaten, or start dragging, or just sound like hell because of a dirty head (remember the head cleaners with that white tape stuff?). They were always a pain.

  13. topdeadcentre Avatar

    Farew-ll to t-e car cassette playurr rr rrrr rrrr wub wub wub fshhhhhhhhhhh.
    I miss the carefree days of my youth, but I don't miss the sound dropouts, or the hiss and the crackling sound of tapes unwinding inside the player…

  14. Beater_DeLuxe Avatar

    My current daily driver 96 Eldorado ETC has the tape deck in the dash and a trunk mounted 12 disc stacker. Come to think of it, that bit of '90s tech must be getting pretty rare as well. Every other cassette equipped car I've owned got switched over to CD fairly quickly, my barebones Eclipse CD/MP3 has served me well and it's on it's fourth installation. Switching the head unit on the Caddy is far more trouble than it's worth and I like the wood trim on the factory unit. I ended up seeking out a cassette aux adapter (not as easy or cheap as it used to be) because my Belkin iphone FM transmitter cradle interfered with the shifter. Sound quality-wise it's a night and day difference. No static, no horrible interference when I lose 3G reception, just a bit of tape hiss… plus it takes me back to the days when I was too broke to put a CD player in my Volvo so I rigged up my discman in a similar fashion, except now I have more than 2 speakers and it doesn't skip with every bump in the road!

  15. ptschett Avatar

    My T-bird liked to eat tapes. Not often, but just enough to keep a guy wary of it. It also played them just slightly fast, which drove my sister nuts since she has perfect pitch and could tell the notes were off.
    I kept the factory head unit though; I never liked the idea of bringing CDs in the car, so I went straight from studiously crafting mix tapes, to being lazy and letting the iPod's random function take care of it. (The iPod also destroyed my habit of listening all the way through an album, since the sequential nature of the tape was the only thing keeping my caffeine- and ADD-addled mind from bouncing around to just the songs I liked.)

  16. west_coaster Avatar

    I'm old enough to remember when people on the "cutting edge" put cassette decks in their cars, while Luddites still played 8-tracks.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      For awhile, I had in my '78 Audi Fox *both* a Blaupunkt AM/FM/8-track in the center stack *and* a Clarion auto-reverse underdash cassette unit installed on the driver's side, both driving through a Muntz 40w amp/equalizer, via a Radio Shack audio switch. It was a nightmare to wire up, but it worked great.
      I still have an AM/FM/cassette in my truck, with a Sony Car Discman in the center console (with all the wiring running under the sill plates), using the Sony cassette adapter, hidden in the ashtray below the radio. When I want to listen to the CD, I just pop open the center console and pop in a CD, close the CD player lid (it's powered), open the ashtray, and grab the cassette adapter and pop it in the radio.

      1. west_coaster Avatar

        Then you probably remember the cassette adaptors that you inserted into the 8-track slot.
        Once in place, there was a horizontal tray that you laid the cassette into.The drive motor for the 8-track ran the cogs of the cassette player, and the heads were connected. Quite a little piece of engineering, but I'm guessing they didn't always work flawlessly since you were asking a lot from the whole contraption.
        I"ve actually seen them on eBay in the past few years.

  17. dwegmull Avatar

    Just last week my girlfriend wanted to listen to book "on tape" that were on CD. That's when we both realized her factory radio has a tape deck, no CD… For some reason she didn't like my idea of trying the CD anyway, using a hammer…
    So, if anyone located near the SF bay area wants it, I have a genuine Toyota head unit available. Come to think of it, I don't know if the tape deck works.

  18. RichardKopf Avatar

    I am happy to report that the cassette and CD both still work well in my `96 LHS. Having typed that, the car is probably now on fire outside.

  19. ChuckyShamrok Avatar

    My Dakota has a Tape deck in it. No idea if it works. I have the FM transmitter for my iPod jammed in it for better reception. I'd like to replace my stereo, but with the Infinity sound system that came in the truck stock, its a pain in the ass to swap out components. Stupid 2 ohm system with built in Amp.

  20. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    I recently re-installed the factory tape deck in my '02 Civic. I put a CD player in it years ago, but that's become every bit as obsolete to me as the cassette player…I hate carrying CDs in my car. Plus it had no aux jack and didn't even play MP3s. Now I can at least connect my iPhone to the stereo with an old tape adapter and it didn't cost me a dime.
    That said, I've had too many cars with factory or cheapo aftermarket cassette decks. I won't miss that wonderfully little piece of technology.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      That's a 1U head unit with a coin/junk drawer underneath it, right? My boyfriend's '02 LX has a tape deck and a CD player, and I have a theory about the DX/some LX models having had only 'half' of his head unit.

  21. PrawoJazdy Avatar

    I sell Buick's. When I point to the AUX input on the LuCerne, old people look puzzled. Then I tell them they can buy a Sony Walkman and plug it in to play a cassette through the stereo and they ask "Who is Tony Walkmen?" and I just give up and point out the blinker a hundred more times.

  22. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    Wait! You mean my Muntz 4-track is obsolete??
    /folds walker, hurls it into street, limps back into house, slams screen door/