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2002 Mazda Miata CarPC

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  • 2002 Mazda Miata CarPC

    So I've been working on my Miata Car PC project for a couple of years on and off and thought I should post some details for others to see.

    I started, as is often the way (), with a small idea for a small project that grew to become a full CarPC replacing my factory double-din radio. This in turn required an amplifier and speakers (installation and components are shown in this thread, on

    Because the Miata has very limited space, I started with a factory double-DIN radio from eBay. After removing the guts, I began searching for a single board computer (SBC) to fit in the chassis. The Wafer LX-800 from iei is a nice small (3"x5") fanless SBC with all the required peripherals.

    For a display, I bought a CarTFT CTF700-SH transreflective LCD, which I promptly dismantled. The display contains a screen, touch panel, and three circuit boards (LCD controller, touchscreen controller, backlight inverter) that all had to be mounted in the factory chassis.

    Power supply is the trusty M2-ATX, which was just too big to fit into the factory radio chassis along with the SBC, hard drive, and LCD monitor boards. I found a nice fitting enclosure for it at my local electronics store.

    The LCD bezel is a BYBYTE Double DIN LCD Frame 701 which is then covered with a Miata Metra dash kit trim ring.

    My original plan when I purchased the SBC was to run it as a display-less music player controlled from buttons on the factory radio. However, once I decided to go for the full CarPC, I set it up on the bench with Windows XP (nLited) and RoadRunner. I found the 500MHz P3 class CPU to be rather lacking in performance, taking several seconds to load each new screen.

    After some searching (mostly on, I found someone (Enitalp) had started writing a Road Runner clone in C++ from the ground up (EniCar - search this forum for EniCar for more details). This was distributed with the MC2.0 skin and the whole thing is really fast on my wimpy SBC.

    I contacted Enitalp to get a copy of the source code, and for the past year have been working on fixes and new features, primarily aimed at getting the DFX 2.0 skin to work (which is partially working as can be seen in the pics).

    GPS is handled using Garmin Mobile PC, which I (mostly) prefer to iGuidance. I've got this integrated into EniCar, and put together a simple OSK, since Mobile PC doesn't have one (and who at Garmin thought *that* was a good idea?). Embedding Mobile PC into the front end still has its quirks (the Road Runner folks have had some issues too), but it's mostly working now.

    The system has WiFi also, so I can sync my media from my home network when parked in the garage.

    Lastly, I found some neat right angle USB connectors which were helpful due to the small depth available in the Miata dash.

    First, having a convertible, I had got the transreflective screen to try to help viewing in direct sunlight. Whilst not bad, I need to try to jack up the brightness a bit because in sunlight with sunglasses on, it's unreadable. (Without sunglasses, it's only barely readable.)

    I was also worried about possible noise pickup from the car in the PC's analogue output. Outputs are not bad, and all that needs doing is some power supply clean up work to remove the low-level hard drive seek noise that can be heard in the audio. However, top down and music on loud means you can't hear the noise anyway.

    Other than that, I LOVE it! Only trouble is trying to figure out what to listen to out of the 14,000 tracks I now have at my disposal (and that prompted me to add a random play feature in EniCar).

    Things To Do
    If I listed everything here, I'd never be done. But here's a few things I have planned.
    1. Modify M2-ATX firmware to change delays so the PC has time to sync with my media library automatically on shutdown. (I already have the assembly source that matches the M2-ATX PIC code, and can successfully build and program the PIC.)
    2. Mount LCD infrared sensor on bezel so I can use the LCD remote to adjust brightness.
    3. Add bluetooth for hands free phone (probably with BlueSoleil).
    4. Loads more work on EniCar front end.
    5. Add MusicIP mixer support for generating smart playlists, using server and HTTP interface.
    Chassis 1:

    Chassis 2:

    Chassis 3:

    Chassis 4:

    M2-ATX Enclosure:

    First power from car battery:


  • #2
    I started work today on my CarpcManager software. This is a small app that runs in the background and handles some of the background PC management tasks (just two at present).
    • Convert suspend power management event into a shutdown event (described in this thread).
    • Monitor GPS location and power state and initiate WiFi media sync when engine switched off at home. Probably using xxcopy to actually do the synchronization.
    The other idea I have is to make xxcopy log the new files (it has a command line switch to do this) into a .M3U file so I'll automatically get a playlist with all the new files.


    • #3
      i like how you integrate everything in one box/case. looks very oem-like install.


      • #4
        Hi mpr90 - I'm re-doing my Miata install. I had put the pc in the trunk originally and in some hot weather, the the CPU just crapped out.

        Your install looks really clean. I think I'm going to try the double din install like yours. HOw's it holding up? Have you had any issues related to heat or vibration?
        2001 Miata, Base with convenience package.
        AppRadio2, Samsung Galaxy 3 with ARLiberator & CarHome App front end. :)


        • #5
          Hi seangh,

          Thanks for the compliments! I've had no reliability trouble yet with my install, but the weather has only just started heating up. I'm seeing the CPU temperature get up to about 75C, and have not vibration issues (but I did use a laptop 2.5" hard drive, which is more resilient).

          Best of luck!


          • #6
            Great install. The LCD looks stock and I admire the way you built the PC into the stock headunit enclosure, similar to mine.

            What's the latest on your project?
            2007 Camry Altise In-dash Car PC


            • #7
              This is how a carpc should be done!(imho) you rank close to turbocad in clean install for me! did you use the stock amp/amp placment? or did you mount it inthe trunk?

              2001 Kia Optima, V6 4matic fully loaded SE W00t! soon to have a Car pc.


              • #8
                What's the latest on your project?
                There have been a few more things taken care of since my first post.
                1. I have started building a custom PCB to allow the M2-ATX PIC processor to be replaced with an alternate (similar) part that has a serial port. This board will also have an RS-232 level translator. I'll then modify the firmware to allow bi-directional communication withe the CarPC so that I can control the shutdown programmatically. The idea here is that when I come home, the PC can stay on longer to complete a Wi-Fi media sync with my home server.
                2. I have mounted the LCD's infrared sensor behind the hole in the LCD bezel so that the remote control now functions properly.
                3. Added Music IP mixer functionality to the front end software to allow creating matched playlists on the fly.

                But, mostly, I've just been driving and enjoying the music

                did you use the stock amp/amp placement? or did you mount it in the trunk?
                The amp is mounted in the trunk on a custom amp bracket. There's not much space in this car for stuff
                Have a look at my thread on for details and pictures.



                • #9
                  Last week, I added an external USB digital to analogue converter (DAC) to be used to audio line out instead of the low quality one included on the SBC's motherboard. That one was poorly isolated from the computer's digital power supplies, and so tones/noise could easily be heard from things like hard drive seeks, VGA screen changes, etc.

                  I found a good little kit online (Bantam DAC) which I built up myself. I have to say that for a few hours investment and a small sum ($41 from Glass Jar Audio), the difference is truly fantastic. This DAC has linear power supplies to regulate the +5V USB and provide a low noise analogue supply. Recommended purchase for any Car PC-ers.



                  • #10
                    How's that screen working for you? I have a 2003 miata that I'm thinking of doing a PC in but very worried about the screen with the top down (which is 99% of the time).

                    My current piece of crap deck is a valor and over the years it has dropped in brightness below usable levels.


                    • #11
                      How's that screen working for you?
                      The screen works fairly well. I've nothing to compare against (i.e. never had anything else in the car), but in general, it is easy to see. The only time I have trouble is when it is in direct sunlight and I have (polarized) sunglasses on. For that, I usually have to create a bit of shade with my arm.

                      In sunlight, but without sunglasses, it's just about viewable. On a sunny day, top down, but not direct sunlight, it's fine. If I remember, I'll try to take some photos of it in the sun.

                      It was feindishly expensive, though, but I think it was the only option at the time for viewing in direct sun.


                      • #12
                        Eh crap, I was afraid you were going to say that. That's about how mine is. In direct sunlight I have to shield it with my arm and that is the part I hate. I think the way I drive to work I have direct sunlight all the way each way... I swear


                        • #13
                          Here are a couple of screen shots of the display with the top down on a sunny day. It's not quite as bad as I made out, probably the two worst things are 1. I'm wearing polarized sunglasses, and 2. I'm off axis in the driver's seat. I took the photos closer to the centerline of the car than my head position whilst driving.

                          First pic, sunny day, top down, not in direct sunlight:

                          Second pic, sunny day, top down, direct sunlight:

                          Hope that helps.


                          • #14

                            I just finished a similar install in my European MX-5 99-00.

                            Did you put a fan in your setup, because my CarPC did hang 2 or 3 times on an extended drive to the German MX-5 meet last weekend - I suppose due to the heat.

                            Thanks, Greets


                            • #15
                              Thanks MPR90. That is definitely better then my current screen and certainly readable in the direct sunlight in that pic. Thanks!

                              Miata25, unfortunately you will have to provide a lot more detail about your setup before I could comment on your need for a fan.

                              What are you running for a processor, where is it, what kind of heat sync, etc. I would at the very least run something like cpucool to monitor your temps long enough to identify if that is why it is locking or if you have a different hardware/software issue.