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1999 Chevy Lumina + laptop: Quick and ugly

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  • 1999 Chevy Lumina + laptop: Quick and ugly

    Hey everyone, this is my first work log here I thought id post my quick and dirty solution making a car pc. This might be useful if you want to know how to hook up a laptop in a manner that does not require much modification to the car. It does not look pretty but the actual installation after building literally took me 15 minutes. And the entire thing can be removed in a matter of seconds. I have had this in my car for almost a year now so this is an after the fact work log. it is my second incarnation of my car pc. This summer(08) I will be working on making this into a carputer that looks more stock. So without further ado here is my work log.

    Purpose: Build a full functional car pc that is touch screen, can be easily removed/ installed, will play music, have GPS navigation, and play videos. I also do not want it to require any modification to the cars wiring, or cutting/removing dash components. The cars head unit must remain usable.

    Computer: the computer used will be a fujitsu life book B series running a 497MHz Celeron processor and 128MB Ram.

    Audio: audio will be supplied using the laptops stereo audio output jack.

    Power: Power will be supplied through a regular inverter that plugs into the cars cigarette lighter.

    Input: Input will be through the laptops touch screen

    Lan/GPS: Both provided through usb devices.

    Storage: laptop ide HD will be used for system files, 60GB usb drive to be used for audio/video files

    redesigning the computer:

    First I decided to take the computer apart and remove everything that I was not going to use which included almost all the plastic casing, the keyboard, the touchpad, the expansion card slots, and any other little things that weren’t necessary. I am sorry that I do not have a picture of the original notebook before I hacked it up but it was just a standard subcompact about 10” x 10”. When I finished removing things I basically folded the hard drive and usb ports over the motherboard and processor. Using a piece of scrap acrylic to keep anything from shorting and zip ties to hold everything together. This gave me the basics of my carputer as you can see in the picture:

    Here is a view of the other side of the components:

    Now after booting it up and being shocked/delighted that it still worked I played around with some ideas of how to hook this thing up to the monitor. I wanted an all in one unit that wasn’t much larger than the monitor and that I could mount like a regular screen to my dash. The way I ended up doing it was to get a piece of lexan, bolt a L bracket to it and tape it to the monitor using electrical tape.(I told you it wasn’t pretty.) so I had this:

    The tape on the back of the bracket is just so that it does not short circuit anything. After I had the lexan on there firmly I Attached the computer components. Basically I used a mix of zip ties and hot glue. And it came out like this :

    Add another L bracket with a wing nut and you have a dash mount that can be moved between the driver and passenger and allows the computer to be taken off without tools.

    Now as I said before this is not pretty but it is an entire self contained computer system that can be mounted like a monitor you only need a wire for power, audio out, gps, and external storage and then it’s in the car and running. To run all of those things I added a usb hub in some of the spare space on the lexan.

    And here it is running Roadrunner with a star treck skin:

    Installing the Computer

    So the computer is all set up now it’s time to stick it in the car. This is probably one of the easiest installs on this forum.
    Installing it in the car:
    Here are a few pictures of the finished install.

    As you can see It takes almost nothing to install. For the install I needed a grand total of two screws a screwdriver and some zip ties for wire management (I love zip ties if you haven’t figured it out by now ). To install it I screwed the L bracket into the dash(actually the glove box, but it doesn’t really matter where you put it.)then I put some Velcro tape on my dash under the window and on my gps and stuck it on. I keep the external hard drive inside the glove box directly behind the computer, my inverter and power cable are inside the dash under the radio(there are some holes there from where compartments used to be), and lastly the audio output wire plugs directly into my head unit. So that I can switch between CD/Radio/computer audio with the button on the head unit.

    Other thoughts.

    - I used roadrunner for a while and it worked well but I have switched to Frodoplayer because it has a much better mp3 player that uses less CPU power which is really noticeable on this older system. But either way this thing runs roadrunner or frodoplayer just fine even when I guidance is going. I also stripped down anything unnecessary from windows to get more stability from the computer.
    - If you take a laptop apart and refit it like this pay attention to cooling. It is easy to block up a fan or something when you’re trying to make it so compact. I actually have an air condition vent that can be aimed at the processor although it has shown no signs that it will overheat so far.(and I’ve had it going for 4+ hours)
    - I drilled in to the dash but I’m sure that there are plenty of ways to put this in without making holes in the dash. In which case this would not even void a warranty or permanently change the appearance of the car.
    -my external hard drive is powered through a usb power port on the inverter. My laptop only has two usb ports and the hub is unpowered. If you want to run more stuff than this you would probably need a powered hub. But most new laptops have more than two usb ports anyways.

    So that’s it, leave a comment and let me know what you think(I am aware that it does not look pretty you don’t need to tell me that ). The installs pretty simple but if anyone has any questions or wants additional pictures I’d be happy to oblige. Thanks for reading
    my worklog

  • #2
    Well, you're right about it not being pretty, but it does work, so it's way ahead of my still-incomplete project. And some parts are pretty ingenious.

    What do you use for keyboard and mouse, and do they hook into standard PS2 or USB ports?

    What was the advantage of uncasing the system, rather than just flipping the screen around and leaving it that way? Was that bottom shell all that heavy?
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at


    • #3
      I actually dont use anything for a keyboard or mouse when i take it out of the car I hook up usb ones as i need them but the whole thing runs nicely off of the touchscreen whne its in the car. I uncased it because of the weight and size mainly and because I eventually plan to do a more stock install with the same components. The size of the components on the back are a little less than half the size of the case. and it is just easier for me to have it smaller like that for mounting because i would probly have to add a little to the mounting since i cant attach a L bracket to the computers body and I was really going for as little as possible, especially since i dont think the mounting location can support to much more weight than whats on it. but flipping the screen would have probably worked well and looked a little neater.
      my worklog


      • #4
        I think the primary thing I'd change on your system would be to try mounting the angle bracket to the dash inside the glovebox, and let the glovebox door close over it. It might be a little more complex to make the bracket, but it wouldn't require a hole in the panel, and there's no danger than an unwise passenger might pop the glovebox latch and drop the system catastrophically.

        You might want to check out Ozzy71's worklog. The system mounts into a custom-made holder that bolts into the car's cubbyhole, and it uses a full-size touchscreen, too. It's attached to a hellaciously fast full-size system under the passenger seat. It's a much more complex installation, because it uses under-carpet cables, backup battery, etc. I helped with the installation, and I can vouch for its usability.

        You still win the contest for quick and easy.
        If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

        2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at