McFly's Car-PC on Opel/Vauxhall Astra G/Mk4
Project state up to date (19 feb. 2009):
http://www.postimage.org/gxXbNRS.jpg http://www.postimage.org/aV1KdOh0.jpg http://www.postimage.org/gxRY1D9.jpg
A few pics of the car behind the project, Opel Astra 1.7DTI, 100HP:
http://www.postimage.org/Pq3kuV0.jpg http://www.postimage.org/gx1PnU4A.jpg http://www.postimage.org/Pq3m4GJ.jpg
Now on to the story...
Back when I was only dreaming of heaving a car, and had a lousy P1 computer, I had thoughts of combining the two. And I was having ridiculous ideas as to buy an older, b/w screen laptop and mount it, opened, on the dashboard of a Calibra (my dream car :) ). I was looking at pictures of the Calibra dash and daydreaming about the installation of the laptop.
After many years, I finally had the opportunity to actually build my car-pc. On an Astra G (MK4) though, not a Calibra but this isn't that important. in the meantime, technology has evolved so that nowadays anyone can afford to buy a car-pc. I, on the other hand, had some principles: to build it with my own hands, and the less bling it has, the better. It should look like the car rolled out of the factory the way it is. Well, I made some compromises here-and-there, I spent a bit more than I wanted and it definitely could have turned out more professional looking. Anyways, I feel that my project deserves to be shared so here it is: all the work on my car-pc, starting last year's december until today.
Let me start from the beginning...
I gathered the following:
- desktop P4 1.7GHz, 256 Mb RAM, 40 Gb HDD laying useless at home
- LCD 8” touchscreen 800x600 with VGA input off ebay
Studying how others did, I choose to use the glove compartment to house the PC.
Initially I wanted to mount all the components on a shelf which divides the glove compartment in two, the space wasn't enough. So in the end I mounted the mainboard on the ceiling and the ATX power source along with the HDD, on the floor of the glove compartment.
The graphics card, ATI 9250 128 Mb:
As I left the system running to test stability, I noticed a temperature change around the glovebox to the point I started to sweat. I opened the glovebox door and it was steaming hot inside. It turned out the temperature in idle raised up to 70°C. At that point I decided to cut a hole on the side of the glovebox and install a 12cm cooler. This solved the overheating problem, keeping a normal temperature inside.
The time to mount the system into the car has come. My choice for power source was a bad one, but at that time, the only one: the 12-220V inverter. As an alternative there was the M2-ATX but given its price and shipping to my country, I went for the invertor.
Instead of buying an invertor, I made it out of an UPS hooked to the battery of the car instead of its built-in battery. I had difficulty starting the PC with the UPS, it only started for about 1 second and then cut the power. However, using the UPS's own battery, a 7Ah one, it worked flawlessly. This was eventually solved by parallelly connecting a large capacitor (few millifarads) with the car battery.
Once the power source sorted out, I was free to proceed with the installation. The Astra's central console has two DIN slots, unfortunately far from each-other. From top-down, it starts with the vents, head-unit, heater controls and the second DIN, with a shelf mounted inside. I decided to use the space of the upper DIN and the vents for the LCD. So I moved the head-unit to the lower DIN slot, and the shelf to the upper one. Then I used a steel clamp to mount the LCD to the shelf in the upper DIN.
The monitor cables ran behind the central console, into the glovebox. I mounted the UPS underneath the glovebox, with wires :embarassed:. I ran a cable from the battery to the UPS, underneath the windscreen wipers, through the air recirculator's housing (I wasn't able to find a free hole through the firewall) which is located between the glovebox and the firewall.
I connected the audio output from the soundcard to the head-unit's (a magnificent stock Delco CDR-500 CD-player) handsfree input. Unfortunately I wasn't satisfied with the mono and midrange-emphasized sound. I then turned to an FM transmitter, the sound was better but the PC caused interferences in the FM reception.
The old set-up in action:
Component temperatures with -6°C outside temperature:
Unfortunately, as the HDD was mounted to the glovebox's floor using sticky rubber pads, it had a short life. Some (or most) of Romanian B-roads are poorly maintained and after only a few hundred km-s the HDD died.