Weird, Wild Stuff: The Automotive Cassette Recorder

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I went to Cape Cod with my family this past weekend and as is my custom, I ended up taking pictures of half the cars I saw. One of the more rare vehicles I found was this BMW Bavaria, but even more rare was the accessory inside.

The Bavaria was the USA version of the BMW New Six sedans. In today’s alphabet soup of alphanumeric car names, it’s funny to think that BMW importer Max Hoffman thought Americans wouldn’t buy cars with letters and numbers as model names. In the rest of the world, the sedan was called 2500 or 2800, but here, it was “Bavaria.”

The Bavaria was BMW’s first shot at Mercedes-Benz’s successful W-114 chassis mid-size sedans. It was the predecessor to the BMW 5 Series, and as such, was aimed squarely at management types who liked their driving to be fun and weren’t interested in either Buicks or German cars that tried to be Buicks.

The car I found languishing on the Cape wasn’t it great shape, which is about average for a Bavaria these days. But what was interesting about it was the aftermarket cassette player.


First off, a cassette player in any car between 1971 and 1977 was fairly rare. 8-tracks were still enjoying their peak of popularity around the time this Bavaria was purchased.

But what makes this cassette player particularly rare is that it not only plays cassettes, but records on them, as well, as evidenced by the big, red RECORD button, and the dynamic microphone beside the console.

The record function was what made cassettes such an improvement over 8-track players, but it wasn’t something that you typically found in cars. In cars like the Lotus Esprit, the Lamborghini Urraco, the Countach prototype in this Philips ad, and the Jensen Interceptor — you might find a cassette recorder like the Philips RN 712, but it was truly an accessory left to the upper recaches of the market.

vintage8tracks_03_2500-700x969I can’t determine the brand of the one in this Bavaria, but it’s similar to this one offered in this¬†JC Penney (formerly “Penneys”) ad, circa 1970. At the time, even a department store brand cassette recorder with a microphone cost almost $120, a king’s ransom when Nixon was president.


Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at