Interesting project. I was a Techman in the early '70's, and did a Ford-funded ME206 lab project on use of waste exhaust heat at startup to more rapidly warm up the engine coolant, reducing cold-run time and making passengers comfortable earlier. The work you're doing is far more advanced and extensive than the sort we did; ours took place over a single semester.
The LCD instrument panel sounds really interesting. Imagine if there were an "industry standard" setting on every rental car; you climb in your new rental car and click on the "industry standard" setting, and you get an instrument panel you know well, so there's no period of adapting to where the instruments are. Too bad they can't do that so we can find the rental car's light switch at night.
Have you compared your work to the "glass panels" used in contemporary aircraft? There are systems available for both commercial aircraft and homebuilts, and some of them might be good resources for pieces of your system. Sport Aviation magazine and Kitplanes magazine ads would have plenty of information for you. Your work might have applications that crossover to the aviation field, too.
The new netbooks might provide low-cost resources, too. For instance, I'm putting an 8.9-inch monitor in my car, with a relatively fast Atom 1.6 processor and all the goodies, and it can be done for only $500 including the computer with LCD panel, and an added touchscreen; I'm using the EeePC 901, but larger-screen units are available, and the gap between standard laptops and netbooks keeps shrinking. I'd say that trend makes your project look very reasonable.
Do you plan to keep some standard "steam" gauges as backup, like they do in aircraft? I guess loss of the instrument panel wouldn't be as potentially catastrophic in cars; but in aircraft, you can't pull over to the side of the sky if your nav system goes out.
Please keep the information flowing -- you're doing fascinating stuff. It'll be fun to read your posts and get a glimpse of the future.
And it's good to see Tech in the forefront. Go Huskies!