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Thread: My E46 Project

  1. #1
    Newbie GeddyT's Avatar
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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 Images Attached Images      
    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. #2
    I see dead kittens Quattro's Avatar
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    Looking good so far.

    Just one question, what is that white sheet that you used in the first and second picture?
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  3. #3
    Newbie GeddyT's Avatar
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    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!

  4. #4
    I see dead kittens Quattro's Avatar
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    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!!!

  5. #5
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    Quote 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.

  6. #6
    Newbie GeddyT's Avatar
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    Quote 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!

  7. #7
    I see dead kittens Quattro's Avatar
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    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!!!

  8. #8
    Newbie GeddyT's Avatar
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    Quote 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...
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    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!

  9. #9
    I see dead kittens Quattro's Avatar
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    Quote 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!!!

  10. #10
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    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

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