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2001 Ford Escort ZX2 - First Install

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  • 2001 Ford Escort ZX2 - First Install

    Entry 1
    Thursday, 8 May 2008

    I've been lurking around the boards for months, planning my carpc project. I recently decided to keep my little ZX2 for the rest of my school career, which is looking to be around 7 years. Can't beat 30 mpg on a budget!

    My up to date materials spreadsheet is at

    Currently the materials I've purchased are:

    X ZX2 Stereo plate SCOSCHE FD136010B $48
    X HD Radio Tuner HDZ300 $35
    HD interface cable $25
    4 Channel Amp Alpine MRP-F250 $130
    X Power Supply DSATX $160
    X Processor Core 2 Duo E4500 $109
    X Motherboard Foxconn LGA 775 Intel 945GC $60
    X Case APEX DM-387 $60
    X Monitor Lilliput 629GL-70NP $299
    X DVD Drive Panasonic Slot Load CW-8124 DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo Drive 24x24x24 - USED $20

    Total $946

    I've already installed the HD-Radio add-on to make sure it works - it sounds fantastic!

    I've ordered the touch-screen from the mp3car store - it will arrive in about a week. When it does, I'll modify the after market stereo panel shown below to fit the 7" touchscreen. I plan on moving the climate controls down below to an unused cubby hole at the bottom of the console.

    I've also started modifying the case I've purchased (pic below). I've drilled out the rivets and it came apart really nicely. Now I need to cut it to fit my foxconn motherboard (about 12"x12"x4") and I can rivet it back together.

    I will post more pictures when I have a chance. This Saturday I'll work on the case and placing it. I might have to take out the passenger seat to get a good mount for it.

    monkey stole my pen

    My Worklog

  • #2
    Entry 2

    Entry 2
    Sunday, 18 May 2008

    The past two Saturdays I've worked on cutting my case to about 10x12. I used a jigsaw with special blades to cut down the case. That was a chore - I went through three of them the first Saturday (8 days ago). It's uglier than I was hoping for, but I'm going to get some paint when I'm finally done and get it looking nice again. It's been... years since I was in Junior High metal shop class. Yesterday I got the sharp edges turned up and a plate cut for the new face however I wasn't able to find the riveter! Next Saturday I'll be able to finish up the case and put the computer in it.

    Today I've thrown together the computer as much as I'm able to put an nLite'd XP on it and play around with front ends to find the one that I like. I really really like the look of Centrafuse, however I don't like the $250 price tag. I also have RR that I'll try out. Honestly, I would prefer to play around with Linux because a Beryl-supported front end would blow all the other front ends out of the water, in my opinion, but just like most things Linux, development is slow. Maybe when everything is put together.

    I was able to get my hands on 2 E6850 processors for just $96 each (price mistake at Dell's website), which was actually CHEAPER than the $100 I paid for my E4500. The difference would probably be minimal if ANYTHING for my uses of it, and the E4500 does have a few degrees C on the E6850 in terms of max operating temperature, but I have a hard time not wanting MORE POWER!!! I might do a side by side comparison to see if one is better than the other in terms of loading windows and whatnot.

    I put the computer together running on AC to make sure everything works and installs before I switch to DC power. I have a battery and I wonder if I can have the battery hooked up to a trickle charger while I am running the DSATX DC power supply off it. I will search around.

    I would prefer to have the OS on a SSD, but I cannot find one that is fast enough and cheap enough yet so I'm experimenting on an old 10Gb PATA HDD for the OS and a 60Gb USB drive for media. If these work well in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter here in UTAH (two extremes) then I will invest in a decent SSD for the OS and a huge fat mother of a HDD for media. I think 750Gb would be OK for all my movies and music

    Well, installing windows right now and hope to play around with the setup during the week before I finish the case and put it in. I hope the processor heatsink/fan isn't too high for my case, otherwise I'll have to buy a low profile heatsink/fan.

    monkey stole my pen

    My Worklog


    • #3
      Entry 3

      Also posted on my blog with pictures. I'll probably put the pictures on this post after a little while.

      Edit: Updated with pictures.


      Since spring of this year I've been involved in a project of installing a computer into my 2001 Ford ZX2. I've already purchased most of the components since June or July, but I've been so busy with school that I haven't really done much with it. Well, I am pleased to announce I have started installing.

      The plan was to get a computer that could fit under the passenger seat. That was a problem; any computer case that would fit the dimensions (4" tall, ~12x12") was really expensive. I finally decided to buy one that was no taller than 4" and I could cut down the other dimensions to fit. I haven't really worked with metal since taking metal shop in junior high - so, the end result didn't really look very pretty. Meh, it's going under the seat so it's not terribly important, but I will probably paint it up when I'm finally done.

      The components I put into the case are as follows:

      * Core 2 Duo E4500 (only 65W and can get as hot as ~73C, perfect for the summer)
      * Foxconn LGA 775 Intel 945GC Motherboard (Very small, and Foxconn's have a good rep for quick posting.
      * 2x512MB Ram I had from when I upgraded my home PC
      * Some old 10GB HDD I got from a friend's dad for free. For OS install.
      * Some old 802.11g low profile wifi card I had from a couple years ago.

      I do plan on buying a low-profile sound card (pci-e) for better sound because the onboard sound will only let me do either 4 channels plus an input, or 4 channels and subwoofers. I need the input for my HDZ300 (HD Radio), so I'm keeping my eyes out for a decent sound card that is cheap. What I've seen so far that will work are around $80, which I can't really spend at this point.

      To power this thing I picked up DSATX (220W) from I still need to hook it up to the proper jumpers on the motherboard, but it seems to work like a charm. The reason I can't use a regular AC power supply is because my car battery is DC power. In fact, an AC power supply simply converts AC (alternating current - think of a sine wave) to DC current (direct or constant current). The reason I still need a power supply to go from DC (what my car battery provides) to DC (what my computer needs) is that the power the car provides is too dirty for my computer. The voltage from my car battery ranges from 11V (when the battery is low) to 14V (when the car is running) and the computer needs a clean 12V (it can take +/- but its threshold is alot narrower than 11V-14V). In addition to that, some devices need 5V as well (a typical 3.5" HDD needs 12V AND 5V whereas a 2.5" HDD can usually run with just 5V - that's why you can run a 2.5" USB HDD from just the USB port when 3.5" USB hard drives need power from the wall). This little power supply I bought seems to fit all my needs for this sort of application. Expensive little bugger though.

      After throwing the computer together, I ran into a little hiccup. I needed to mount the LCD touchscreen (the main interface to the computer - can't really use a mouse and keyboard whilst driving...) but I was having a hard time figuring out where to mount it and have it look "factory" --- or at least "good enough". A lot of guys on forums fabricate entire replacement bezels for the screens to place in their consoles. I don't have time to learn how to fabricate so I'll have to figure out another way. So, this little obstacle in addition to taking classes all summer put my project on hold yet again. During this time I did pick up a 500W (peak of course) 4 channel amplifier to replace the stock stereo amplifier. I will get from 40-60W RMS per channel.

      2 weeks ago I pulled my project out and decided to sacrifice a Saturday and just install it and worry about the screen later. I didn't want to try installing it in the snow either. So, November 29 I started the install.

      Pulling out the seats was much easier than I expected. Each seat has just 4 bolts that I loosened quickly. The removed seats provided Julie with a comfortable seat while I worked on the car! In fact, we brought out a propane heater and with the stereo playing Christmas music her body and soul were warmed.After pulling the seats out, I pulled out the center console. It was all surprisingly easy. All these months I had been procrastinating installing the computer because I thought all this would be really difficult. Not so!

      I needed power from the battery to the amp under the driver's seat and then to the computer under the passenger seat. Last year, when I was going to install my subwoofers I ran a power cable from the batter to the back trunk. Only after doing all that work did I realize I needed a new stereo (that provided RCA out) to get a good signal to the subwoofer amplifier. But, at least that part was done. That cable was running along the door opening of the driver's side, so I pulled that down under where the driver's seat will be, and cut the cable to install a splitter. I then ran 8Ga wire under the carpet over to the passenger seat. I also split the REM (ACC) line in a similar manner.

      Since I planned on putting the amplifier under the driver's seat, I ran two RCA cables from the passenger side to the driver's side. These will transmit the signal from the computer sound card to the 4 channel amp. Since each channel is discrete, I will have 4.1 (or 5.1) sound in my car!

      My ZX2 came with the Premium Sound package, giving me a cd changer and an amplfier under the driver's seat. In this I was VERY lucky. Most cars have the amplifier behind the radio controls. The wires that run from the amplifier (radio) to the speakers end there. But in my case, the amp was already under the driver's seat so all I needed to do was splice into the wire harness instead of running 8 wires from behind the dash to under the driver's seat. Finding which wire went to which speaker posed a little bit of a problem. We had a stereo providing us with some delightful Christmas music. This stereo was the kind with detachable speakers, so there are speaker wires (powered) running from the stereo to each speaker. In the car, finding which wire ran to which speaker was as easy as pushing the (outside) stereo wire up against the (car) speaker wire and listening for which speaker was playing. After that I hooked up the amplifier completely, power, ground, REM, RCAx2, and speaker wires, and mounted it to the chassis.

      Installing the amp took a looong time. But when it was finally installed I tested it with my Zune and it worked beautifully. It is going to sound great.

      After the amplifier was all done, I started prepping the passenger side for the computer. I ran a vga cable (for the touchscreen), a USB plug (for the USB hub for GPS, Bluetooth, OBEDII, etc), RCA cables (for the HD radio), and a small wire for 5V (for the USB hub) up to the console. I think I covered all my bases. With the passenger side prepped for the computer, I tackled the problem if powering the monitor. It came with a cigarette lighter adapter for 12V power, so I decided to make my life easier and just use that. I spliced into the existing cigarette lighter wires and hooked them up to the adapter for the LCD screen. To do this, I just drilled a little hole in the tip of the LCD adapter, plugged a wire in (12V) screwed it back together. I then attached another wire (GND) to the ground terminal of the adapter. I only had green wire so I couldn't really color code it. I found out the next Saturday when I tested it that I made a lot of mistakes. In troubleshooing I blew the cig fuse about 3 times, along with the adapter fuse. But I think all the kinks are worked out...

      The last thing we did was throw together the case. This was an intense undertaking --- I just want to forget it now actually. The problem was that there was no really good place in the case to mount the HDD. Eventually we just cut up some of the scraps left from the case and fashioned a HDD mount that was suspended above the motherboard. It's pretty solid, and took us about 2 hours :S.

      We left around 1AM, totally exhausted. Julie was such a sweatheart, just patiently helping me out. She's really patient with me, especially when I get into a frenzy trying to finish a project.


      The following Saturday I spent a few hours putting the computer together under the passenger seat, troubleshooting problems with the cigarette lighter adapter, and getting the subwoofers ready to be installed as well.

      Tomorrow I'm going to hopefully get it up and running and also install Vista (nLited) on the computer. Vista has some really cool power management options that I'm going to take advantage of. I'll also get the subs installed if I can.
      monkey stole my pen

      My Worklog


      • #4
        Cant wait to see pictures of the install. Ive always been fond of the ZX2 and ZX3 (own a ZX3). If I didnt have a large family I would have most likely stuck a PC in there.
        Nirwana Project, the Android/Win 7 hybrid system!

        1X Ainol Novo Flame Tab
        4X MK808b
        3x Perixx Touchpads
        3x 7 inch Screens
        1X 7 inch motorized Screen
        1x Win 7 PC


        • #5
          Originally posted by HiJackZX1 View Post
          Cant wait to see pictures of the install. Ive always been fond of the ZX2 and ZX3 (own a ZX3). If I didnt have a large family I would have most likely stuck a PC in there.
          I've updated with a few pertinent photos. The last week I've gotten around to finally get it running. It's not finished, but it is finally usable! I'll post in a day or so when I have a few minutes.
          monkey stole my pen

          My Worklog


          • #6
            Woot! Go viks!




            • #7
              Carputer Update

              Also posted on my blog:

              A lot has happened since I last posted about my carputer so Iíll try to be complete and short.

              After installing the computer underneath the passenger seat, I didnít do much with it. I had the mindset that everything would have to be complete before I could start using my carputer but I soon realized thatís not necessarily true.

              While I was in this carputer limbo, I did cut down my subwoofer box and attach the amp to the back of it and install it in my trunk.

              I did such a crummy job of cutting the box down that they didnít sound that great (they werenít sealed). Eventually I got around to getting some silicone based sealer and sealed it right up. It sounds great now, although the amp and subs are from my high school days and even then werenít great.

              About a month ago I had the realization that I could temporarily mount my screen and get things running despite it not being completely put together.

              I have windows 7 running Centrafuse. I just hooked up my Visteon HD radio using Mitchís cable and Iíve added a USB GPS module. After hours and hours and hours of troubleshooting annoying little bugs it all seems to work pretty well! For some reason it takes forever to come back from hibernation, so I just have it shut down each time the DSATX sends a kill signal. I plan on using the brainstem on the DSATX to keep the 5V hot so that I can just send my computer into standby. I use it at least once a day so thereís no danger of killing the battery. Here are a few pics of how itís set up under the seat:

              Since these pictures have been taken Iíve grinded the case a bit to make it smoother, repainted it, replaced the 3.5Ē PATA HDD with a 2.5Ē SATA HDD (much faster) and got a better WiFi card installed. I also upgraded the RAM to 2GB.

              Since then I also installed a security system I bought off for about $50. Even if most of the security is in the window stickers and the blinking light I feel better knowing that if in the middle of the night someone wanted to take a peek inside, I would know.
              monkey stole my pen

              My Worklog