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Thread: 2003 Lexus SC430 Convertible CarPC

  1. #1
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    2003 Lexus SC430 Convertible CarPC

    While no CarPC is ever "done"...I'm finally at a point where I'm satisfied with the performance of my setup. I'm not making changes and tweaking it constantly.

    So, now that I'm at a stable place in time, it's the perfect time to "show off my project".

    As the title suggests, I drive a 2003 Lexus SC430 retractable hard-top convertible.



    Without a CarPC, it's a whole lot of fun to drive!







    But it's lacking in some technology.

    The factory stereo consists of an in-dash 6-CD changer, cassette deck (yes, you read that correctly), and AM/FM radio.

    Satellite Radio is not an option, nor is HDRadio, nor iPod or MP3 support. There's also no Bluetooth.

    However, the car does come factory standard with Navigation...with a very-nice power-retractable LCD screen.

    The CarPC Hardware
    Case - M350 mobile computer case
    Power Supply - M2-ATX
    Motherboard - Intel DG45FC
    Processor - Intel E5200 Core2Duo 2.5 GHz
    Memory - 2GB
    Hard Drive - 2.5" 120 GB HDD

    Input Devices
    Ergonomic TouchPad mousepad
    Micro Keyboard
    3dConnexion Space Navigator
    El-Cheapo gamepad (used for voice-command button)

    OS / Front End / Software
    Windows XP Professional
    Contrafuse 2.1.1331
    Joy2Key

    CarPC Peripherals
    NavTool Aux Video interface
    VaisTech SLU Aux audio input interface
    Andrea microphone
    Sirius SC-C1 Satellite Radio module
    MJS Gadgets SC-C1 interface
    Visteon HDRadio receiver
    MJS Gadgets HDRadio cable
    MJS Gadgets audio switchbox




    The navigation screen tucks away behind a wood door (the door below the climate-control module houses the factory stereo).








    Along the bottom of the Navigation screen is a set of buttons (destination, map, info, etc). There's a pair of buttons to open/close the nav door (it also closes automatically when the ignition is shut off, and remembers it's open/closed position when the ignition is turned on).

    When I looked into adding a CarPC, instead of trying to figure out how to add a screen, I decided to go with using this perfectly serviceable screen that I already have. I bought an aftermarket aux video input interface (called a NavTool) that wires directly into the factory navigation system wiring harness.

    Instead of using the crappy $.99 Radio-Shack-Special toggle switch that was included, I wired into the factory switches below the navigation screen.

    So, on MY car, when you press the "Open" button, the screen opens up and you see the navigation screen (factory system)...








    But when you press the "Open" button again...it toggles to the second video input...the CarPC.








    In keeping with trying to hide/tuck away as much of the CarPC as possible, I installed the mousepad and the tiny keyboard in the top of the center console. They're accessible when I need them (I don't use them very often) but not visible under normal conditions. I've also installed a center-off momentary/latching switch which allows me to remotely shutdown/restart the CarPC, and also to kill power to it (so it won't boot at all - i.e. valet situations).








    Down in the bottom part of the center console I've added an override switch for my power antenna (so I can raise the antenna for my CarPC's HDRadio - since the factory stereo puts the antenna down when it's set for Aux Input) and a female USB panel jack, so I can easily import mp3's, perform software updates, etc without having to dig around in the trunk.








    With all of this hidden away, the primary control of the CarPC comes from two things...a Space Navigator controller knob, and a single button that activates the Centrafuse Voice Command. I disassembled the Space Navigator down to bare-bones because I have some vertical clearance issues (when I put the transmission lever down into "2" or "1").

    The voice-command button is simply wired into one of the buttons on a $12.00 USB gamepad that I picked up. I use the Joy2Key software to convert the joystick button-press into a keyboard command (Ctrl-Alt-V)...cheap and uber-reliable system (Centrafuse launches Joy2Key during startup). The voice-command button is mounted between the factory seat-heater controls (on the right-hand side of the picture).









    The CarPC itself is mounted in the trunk. One issue with a car like this is trunk-space...there really isn't much when the top is folded down. Here's the trunk...








    Between the folded hard-top...and the spare-tire kit...there just isn't a whole lot of room back there.

    The M350 case was perfect for me...small, lots of ventilation, yet still has room for what I need. The M350 has a space in the front of the case (the front cover pops off) that has the power switch, power/HD lights, and a couple of USB connectors (for Bluetooth, WiFi, etc). I took all of that stuff out and was able to squeeze the M2-ATX power supply in there. So, the whole thing is self-contained. Makes for a very tidy package.








    As you can see, the M350 tucks away neatly on the right-hand side of the trunk, in the little cubby-hole. I cut a piece of plexiglass for it to sit on, with a couple of small brackets to keep it from sliding around too much.








    I also wired up a quick-release connector system for the power...includes the 12V constant, 12V switched, Ground, and 2 wires for the power switch (remoted up to the center console). This allows me to easily take the CarPC upstairs for and major work.








    One major challenge proved to be the Satellite Radio antenna.

    I really wanted it on the trunk-lid. I like the OEM look and I get very good reception there.








    However, because the car is a hard-top convertible, the trunk actually opens BOTH ways (not at the same time though) so routing the cable in a snag-free way was a serious challenge.

    The cable lays normally when the trunk is opened as a "trunk"...







    But when the top folds down, the trunk hinges the OTHER way...








    So, it was a trick to get the cable the right length so it doesn't bango-string in either direction...but not have too much excess cable that would get snagged in the folding-top hinge mechanism...







    I think that pretty-much covers the system. I welcome any and all questions or comments.

    -Greg
    2003 Lexus SC430 - Black with Ecru. VaisTech & NavTool with Centrafuse integrated into factory nav screen (hands-free Bluetooth, Voice Command, mp3's, videos, HD Radio, Sirius Sat. radio, DVD, Internet, & digital gauges (via OBD-II)), & LuxLink module.

  2. #2
    And then I was mod. Tidder's Avatar
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    Looks very good! Was nice to see that you went with the antenna on the trunk lid and had a bit of a challenge with your wiring. Too many projects on this site take the easy way out and have become boring.

    About your screen there, did it come factory with the secondary video input?
    Tidder

    Try RevFE
    The best resurrected frontend I've ever used, period.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tidder View Post
    About your screen there, did it come factory with the secondary video input?
    No...I bought and installed a "NavTool" video interface that gives me 2 aux video inputs. One is dedicated to a backup camera (I installed a license plate frame camera) and the other is a do-whatever-you-want-with-it input (composite).

    Likewise, the stero doesn't have an aux input. Vais Tech makes an aux input module for the car...gives me 2 dry aux inputs (I have them "Y'd together, for simplicity's sake).
    2003 Lexus SC430 - Black with Ecru. VaisTech & NavTool with Centrafuse integrated into factory nav screen (hands-free Bluetooth, Voice Command, mp3's, videos, HD Radio, Sirius Sat. radio, DVD, Internet, & digital gauges (via OBD-II)), & LuxLink module.

  4. #4
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    very nice install! in the first pic, i had to double check if you even had a carpc. and nice work with the sat. ant.

  5. #5
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    Neat install with not too much disruption. Just a question tho...sounds and looks like you are using the oem screen using a composite video connection to the computer. How's the resolution when using the car pc?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by prodigalsun View Post
    Neat install with not too much disruption. Just a question tho...sounds and looks like you are using the oem screen using a composite video connection to the computer. How's the resolution when using the car pc?
    It could be sharper but it's useable.

    I wanted to keep the factory navigation, so my options were limited. I have a scan converter that takes my DVI out and gives me a composite signal.

    For Centrfuse, it's fine. The only time I wish for the ability to run a higher resolution or just have a cleaner signal, is when I'm doing the "regular Windows" stuff. I have a shortcut on the desktop for the Windows On-Screen Magnifier...just in case.
    2003 Lexus SC430 - Black with Ecru. VaisTech & NavTool with Centrafuse integrated into factory nav screen (hands-free Bluetooth, Voice Command, mp3's, videos, HD Radio, Sirius Sat. radio, DVD, Internet, & digital gauges (via OBD-II)), & LuxLink module.

  7. #7
    Low Bitrate willmeyer's Avatar
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    Great to see it on here! I credit you with showing me how cool a Space Navigator could be when nicely integrated ;-). Car looks great too for the summer.

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