Restoration of classic cars has become a popular trend in recent years, but certain aspects of these vehicles have not been given much attention, including the outdated car phones that were popular in the past. However, a software engineer named Jeff Lau, who goes by the username UselessPickles, has successfully restored the functionality of the car phone in his 1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 using a custom Bluetooth adapter.
The car came with an optional “DiamondTel” handset and hands-free system from the factory, which was rendered inoperable after the discontinuation of analog “AMPS” cell service in the United States in 2008. After three years of work, Lau managed to restore the device’s functionality by engineering the adapter to piggyback between the stock phone transceiver and hands-free control unit located under the trunk carpet. This allowed him to tap into modern cell networks with his 1993 car phone, but Lau did not stop there.
The stock handset can now display the name of the paired device and the signal strength of the smartphone’s network when paired with a smartphone.
Moreover, the car’s hands-free microphone feeds the smartphone voice commands, such as Apple’s Siri, without the distraction of a touchscreen. This gives the car phone all the functionality of a 2023 hands-free system.
While it is unlikely that car phone restoration will become a widespread trend due to the low take rate of car phones in their day and the uniqueness of individual cars’ systems, the fact that it is possible to bring these devices back to life will hopefully inspire others to do the same.
Who knows, maybe even one of those retro Chrysler VisorPhones will ride one day again.
As Lau said in the video showcasing his restoration, “It’s not just about having the phone in the car. It’s about restoring the functionality that was lost when they shut down the networks.”