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: