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  • My E46 Project

    Okay so about a week ago I started my carPC project on my BMW.

    First off, the car: It's a 2003 325I (E46) with sports package, premium package, cold weather package, and xenon. I absolutely love it.

    The stereo, on the other hand, I hate. I get the impression that it's just sooo close to being really, really good, but just not quite there. Some CDs just sound amazing in there, but most seem really flat. But I can deal with that later. What I wanted to deal with immediately is the elimination of the piles and piles of CDs EVERYWHERE in my poor car. Every time I make a turn it's like a tornado in a record store. So I want a hard drive based entertainment/navigation center put in my car. Hence the project.

    I've built about 40 computers over the last five years. All for free. All for friends and family. All AMD. It's kind of a zen thing for me. The best one is the one that I'm on now. It's an Athlon XP 1700+ that's 850mhz overclocked on air. The gfx card is a Radeon 9500 pro that I've got overclocked to a 9700 pro by drilling and tapping an OEM Athlon XP HSF and screwing it on. Looks pretty cool in there (complete acrylic case). This, of course, will be my first attempt at putting a computer in a car.

    Okay enough of that crap, on to the project. Because I had some vacation time, I decided that I should start at the front of the car where the most disassembly/assembly and fabrication would be necessary and work my way back. The plan for now is to keep the factory sound system and route the computer into it as an auxiliary device. My first purchase was an OEM auxiliary input adapter that I got from Bavarian Autosport. I've heard a lot of talk about a "Blitzsafe" adapter or something like that and I couldn't tell you whether it's that or not. It's just a wire with a headphone jack on one end and a small wiring harness for the HU on the other end. Pretty simple.

    Next step was the LCD. Picked up a Lilliput 7" touchscreen right here off of this site. Boy is that thing amazing for its size! Also picked up a Panasonic slot loading slimline combo drive and a USB caddy for it that I plan on mounting in the glove compartment, but haven't gotten to that yet. As for the screen, I would need a way to mount it in the dash. Because I'm keeping the HU in there, the only place I could think of putting the LCD is underneath the climate controls in place of the oddments compartment and ashtray. I've done a little composites work in college (read: "VERY little"), so the plan is to make a bezel for the LCD out of carbon fiber. Naked carbon if it looks good in the car, or I could paint it matte black if it doesn't look right.

    Well so far this carbon bezel is all I've accomplished on the project because the whole process takes so damned long. (I'm happy to say it's curing right now and should be cut and ready to mount by tomorrow night, but we'll get to that later.) I wanted it to fit right in the opening left by the console I removed, so I used the console as a form. Onto it I laid a sheet of heated acrylic, which formed to it quite nicely. Traced the outline, cut, filed, and I had a pretty good representation of the center console's contour. This would form the base of my carbon mold. Now to this piece I will have to mount a 7" LCD screen AND the controls for the seat heaters and DSC. And I will have to do it without it looking stupid. So I had to make sure there were perfectly flat areas on the mold that are LCD and heater control box sized. So I measured them up and cut pieces of aluminum sheet out that were the same size. I affixed these to the acrylic with bondo and formed some nice contours between the flat surfaces and the curved acrylic with even more bondo. Then grinded it and sanded it all down smooth. Well not perfectly smooth, but it would only be touching the back side of the part, so who cares (after a couple of test layups, I found that the back side always looked better than the side against the mold, so against all convention I laid my part up with the good side away from the mold... I dunno, seems to work for some reason). Waxed it, applied some PVA, and laid up three layers of carbon.

    Oh yeah, I should mention at this point that I bought my carbon and epoxy from US Composites . Anyone looking for glass or carbon or resin should check these guys out. According to the story, the carbon I used is the same stuff that Audi and Porsche use in their interiors. So that's good.

    Anyway, after the part cured, I popped it off and cut it out and it came out near perfect. But I didn't like the fiber orientation. It was just barely off. So I laid up another layer (it could use a little more stiffness anyway) and it's curing right now. I'll update this once it's all done and installed. I've attached lots of pictures of the whole process if you're interested.

    So next I've got a few other things to figure out like how the hell to plug everything in. Here's where I can still use quite a bit of help. I've attached an image with my plans for wiring, but I'm still not very confident. My main concern is how I'm going to get power to the combo drive in the glovebox and the USB hub I'm putting behind the center armrest. I believe these both require regulated 5V power, which is what the computer's PSU is putting out. So can I just run power and ground cables from a molex off of the PSU to the front of the car and use it to power the drive? And to do this, because the USB caddy uses an AC adapter for power, will I have to cut the AC adapter cord and splice onto those wires? Or is there just a better way?

    Anyway, here are all of the pictures:
    Attached Files
    This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

  • #2
    Looking good so far.

    Just one question, what is that white sheet that you used in the first and second picture?
    Installed
    Asus A7N8X-VM - AMD Mobile Athlon 2400
    512 Ram - 60GB HD - Opus 150w
    Lilliput 7" - Rikaline 6010
    [00000000000001100010-] 98% Completed

    Check Out My Install!!!

    Comment


    • #3
      Oh that's acrylic. I used it for the mold because it's formable, easy to cut, and most importantly, because I have a friend who works at a skylight munufacturer and can get me an infinite amount for free. Just bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for about six minutes and you can form it however you want.
      This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks, I think I might be able to use it on my project as well. Do you think I would be able to make a cylindrical shape about 13" in diameter with that? I make a subwoofer box with fiberglass and its really bumpy and I don't want do alot of sanding and use a lot of bondo.
        Installed
        Asus A7N8X-VM - AMD Mobile Athlon 2400
        512 Ram - 60GB HD - Opus 150w
        Lilliput 7" - Rikaline 6010
        [00000000000001100010-] 98% Completed

        Check Out My Install!!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by GeddyT
          I believe these both require regulated 5V power, which is what the computer's PSU is putting out. So can I just run power and ground cables from a molex off of the PSU to the front of the car and use it to power the drive? And to do this, because the USB caddy uses an AC adapter for power, will I have to cut the AC adapter cord and splice onto those wires? Or is there just a better way?
          As long as the A/C adapter states that it outputs 5v DC then you should be good. However make sure obviously that you get the polarity right so use a volt meter. if the A/C adapter outputs anything other than 5v DC use a volt meter on the internal power connector to see if its the same voltage or 5v, if 5v check which cable is pos and neg, then attach directly to that.

          Personally I'm not sure if I will run power from the opus to my dvd drive or just get a dc12v-to-dc5v adapter and wire it directly to a switched car power source. I guess it depends on how much load I put on the opus.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Quattro-A4
            Thanks, I think I might be able to use it on my project as well. Do you think I would be able to make a cylindrical shape about 13" in diameter with that? I make a subwoofer box with fiberglass and its really bumpy and I don't want do alot of sanding and use a lot of bondo.
            I suppose you could use acrylic to make a cylinder to lay up glass on, but it would be very difficult. The plastic gets soft and formable, but probably not that formable. And to get it perfectly round, you would need something else that's the correct size and roundness to wrap it around anyway, so you might as well just use that as the mold instead.

            I would look for a 13" tube that's already made. Maybe heavy cardboard for shipping rolls of things or maybe there's some kind of PVC drainage pipe or something that's that size. Just buy a couple feet of it, cut it to size, lube it up, and layup on that. That's what I would do.
            This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

            Comment


            • #7
              Sorry, there was a typo in my orignal post. I have already made the subwoofer box, I was thinking of covering it with acrylic so I don't have to sand it too much.
              Installed
              Asus A7N8X-VM - AMD Mobile Athlon 2400
              512 Ram - 60GB HD - Opus 150w
              Lilliput 7" - Rikaline 6010
              [00000000000001100010-] 98% Completed

              Check Out My Install!!!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Quattro-A4
                Sorry, there was a typo in my orignal post. I have already made the subwoofer box, I was thinking of covering it with acrylic so I don't have to sand it too much.
                I would think it wouldn't help much because it'll just take on the form of whatever you drape it on. What about carpeting?

                Got a little bit more work done today. My new bezel finished curing and I cut it out and put it in the car for a fit test. Then I frustrated the hell out of myself trying to cut a hole in it to mount the seat heater and DSC contol box. It came out alright, I guess, but I'll probably use some vinyl tape to trim it up and make it look perfect.
                What happens when you get lazy and don't take proper precautions when working with epoxy and fibers? A nice rash covering both arms. I knew better, too...
                Attached Files
                This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GeddyT
                  What happens when you get lazy and don't take proper precautions when working with epoxy and fibers? A nice rash covering both arms. I knew better, too...
                  Ouch, I know how you feel man. I was wearing shorts when working on my sub enclosure, but I wasn't too bad.

                  Nice job on fitting the buttons, Its begining to look really good.
                  Installed
                  Asus A7N8X-VM - AMD Mobile Athlon 2400
                  512 Ram - 60GB HD - Opus 150w
                  Lilliput 7" - Rikaline 6010
                  [00000000000001100010-] 98% Completed

                  Check Out My Install!!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Damn you! Now I can't decide wether to take your route and put the screen where you have it or to remove the existing HU and mount it there.

                    Decisions decisions decisions
                    BMW 325i -01

                    Computer hardware:
                    VIA Epia MII 10000 Nehemiah 256MB/160GB
                    Casetronic Travla C158
                    Gain 7" TS
                    USB GPS
                    Opus DC-DC 150W

                    Software: Frodoplayer and Mapmonkey

                    Sound system: Front kit: DLS UP6, Rear: DLS 425 Powered by DLS RA40

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      can you use acrylic as a mold for a fiberglass screen mount? can it be shaped onto carpet and then easily removed after it cools down?
                      Carputer Progress:
                      [!!'-------] 25%
                      have to fabricate screen mount

                      have to start over, lilliput died, 1st laptop broke, have to sell the 2nd one. damn

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        very cool i drive 03 325i myself and was wondering what other options did you consider for screen mounting.


                        i wanted a place to hide away the screen to prevent people from breaking in the car. But motorized + LCD + touchscreen + vga = not found.


                        anyways good luck, post pics when you done! the guys on e46fanatics.com would love to hear from you

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by mushupork5
                          can you use acrylic as a mold for a fiberglass screen mount? can it be shaped onto carpet and then easily removed after it cools down?
                          Yeah you can use acrylic or just about anything as a mold for fiberglass. Just remember that unlike polyethelene or nylon, if you don't use plenty of mold release, you'll never get acryllic OFF of your fiberglass. As for molding heated acrylic to carpet, I'm not sure. If you heat the acrylic just right it gets soft and formable without coming apart and sticking to everything. You can touch it with your fingers and push an indentation with it and none will stick to your finger. I bet if the carpet wasn't super shag and if it was scotchgarded or something you could probably get away with it. But the acrylic would harden really rough from the carpet. You could always just lay some foil or something over the carpet. I found that heated acrylic peeled right off of foil once it cooled.
                          This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by tdevil
                            very cool i drive 03 325i myself and was wondering what other options did you consider for screen mounting.


                            i wanted a place to hide away the screen to prevent people from breaking in the car. But motorized + LCD + touchscreen + vga = not found.


                            anyways good luck, post pics when you done! the guys on e46fanatics.com would love to hear from you
                            Yeah I'm definitely planning on stopping by e46fanatics when I'm all done. I'm already blogging my progress on three boards, so I'm cutting it off at that until it's all done.

                            Thanks for the compliments, guys. I'll keep posting pics. My vacation is ending tomorrow and I'll be back at work for a few days, but I'll keep at it.

                            Oh yeah, for anyone considering mounting the screen where I am, there is one consideration. With a 7" screen, the only place where there is room for the seat heater screen, due to the depth of its casing, is below the LCD. This puts it in the most narrow place on the panel. Because of this, it's not a bolt-on operation and will actually require "modification" of the car. There are soft tabs coming off of the inside of the tunnel that the panel rests on. These tabs inclde the two holes under the wood shifter cover into which the panel is screwed down. They will have to be cut down to bare minimum (in other words, I'm HOPING I can even keep those screw holes to make buttoning everything down easier, but not sure yet). Also, on the heater control box itself, the tabs at the back that the mounting screws go through will have to be removed and the control box will have to be mounted to the new panel in another fashion. Now all of these "modifications" are hidden under stuff and easily remedied if you were to go back to stock equipment later, but just putting that warning out there that you would have to cut into your car to make it work this way. I'm also contemplating just removing the casing from the heater controls altogether just to see if that makes it any smaller, but we'll see about that.

                            Alright, catch you all later.
                            This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Okay, didn't get much done tonight as I decided to get a life and go hit the bars instead. But I did find time to cut out the hole for the LCD. Broke down and bought a diamond cutting wheel for my Dremel. This thing is frickin' awesome! Cuts through four layers of carbon like buttah.

                              The hole came out pretty straight and perfectly sized. Can't be completely perfect with only hand tools, but I was really pleased with it. I was worried I might have to fake a straight edge by using vinyl tape or something, but it came out well enough to where I think I can just leave it be with the LCD behind it.

                              I'll save mounting the LCD for another day, but snapped a picture with it just set behind there to get an idea of what it will look like.
                              Attached Files
                              This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, Man, 'cause you’re living in F*bleep* City!

                              Comment

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