Building a car PC – Part 1 – reasons why, parts list

Building a car PC – Part 1 – reasons why, parts list

So yeah, I decided to build a computer to replace the factory deck in my 2006 Nissan Frontier NISMO crew cab. I’m doing this for several reasons, but mainly because I dig computers and still have money that hasn’t been spent on hookers and whiskey. A lot of websites and forums refer to car PCs as “carputers,” but it sounds too much like a social disease so I avoid it.

I’m sure you have questions, so I’m here to confuse you more.

Here’s what I have now.
Boring old dashboard before

And here is what I want. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
Good times dashboard after!

Why in the hell would I put in PC in my car?

Consolidation. If you’re reading this, you’re probably the kind of fruity bitch with a GPS stuck to the windshield, an XM radio receiver glued to the dash, an iPod dangling from the input jack, and a Bluetooth speaker clipped to the visor. A car PC can put all that crap in one place.

I was that guy. For navigation, I used a six year old Garmin eTrex Vista Cx handheld wedged in front of my speedometer. I had standard AM/FM radio, which is total crap. When I bought my truck I dropped $150 for an iPod integration unit that allowed me to attach my iPod to my XM satellite harness and control it through my deck. For almost the same price, I paid a pimply Best Buy douche bag “install” it for me. And I sported a Motorola H350 Bluetooth ear piece when I need to place or receive calls while I’m on the road.

My last car, a certified, pre-owned 2002 BMW 325Ci coupe, had a premium sound system but not much else. I bought a service manual off eBay and tore my center console apart to install an auxiliary jack for a generic mp3 player. That was 2005. I didn’t know I had a problem with tech consolidation back then.

Versatility. I’m not talking about dating a gymnast. The thing about a car PC is its like a regular old computer… in your car. No shit, right? But think of all the things you can do with your PC. Now, granted, you probably won’t be typing a report while doing 75mph on the interstate to Vegas, but you get my point. Everything you do on your home computer is possible with a car PC.

Some months back I looked into buying your typical mass-marketed job, but sketchy reviews on its interface and nav system halted my progress. The price, with install and backup camera, was damn near $2000 and that didn’t sit too well with me either. Additionally, in-dash media systems won’t allow you to watch movies or change GPS routes while the vehicle is in motion (without hacking the hardware – techniques generally reserved for the geekiest of car stereophiles). I gave up on commercial systems soon after.

In the last month or so I’ve been seriously researching car PCs as viable, inexpensive alternatives to suit my mobile needs. I’ve scoured the internet, researched my project, and ordered the parts. Below is the list. If you’re not certifiably retarded, a simple site or Google search will get you to the item in question.

You’re welcome.

Parts list

MCS – Innovations in Mini-ITX
Case – black box mini
PSU – M1-ATX 80W
Mobo/CPU – Intel D510MO w/ 1.66GHz Atom D510 13w TDP processor
Touch screen – 7″ Lilliput EBY701 w/ rear camera auto switching
Steering wheel interface – Joycon EX
Rear view camera – 28mm Rear View CCD with Night Vision LEDs

Newegg.com
Memory – 4GB (2 x 2GB) Crucial PC2 6400 800mHz
Hard drive – Western Digital AV-GP WD5000AVDS 500GB 32MB Cache

On hand
Wi-Fi – IntelĀ® PRO/Wireless 3945ABG PCIe Mini Card network adapter

eBay
USB hub – Iogear 5-Port High-Speed USB 2.0 Combo Hub/Card Reader
Bluetooth – micro dongle
GPS – USB SiRF III receiver
Mic – 2.5mm Funkwerk EGOMIC-EGO
Adapter – 3.5mm male to 2.5mm female
Wiring harness for Nissan premium sound system – 70-7550 Metra

Optional
Operating System – Windows (XP or 7 recommended, not Vista in any form)
Front end – Centrafuse Auto w/ N America nav

Cost

This parts list is running me about $740 (minus OS and front end, plus assorted cables and brackets I’m sure to have to buy to complete the project). As I’ve stated before, comparable brand-name video/nav units run about $1500 without installation. A fraction of this same configuration on MCS – Innovations in Mini-ITX is $820. I won’t do the math for you, but DIY is a definite money saver.

Stay tuned for assembly and installation pics!

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The author.Born in the year of the Dragon, the author grudgingly accepts the fact he has too many interests and not enough time. A cyclist as long as he can remember, an avid yet inconsistent writer since age eleven, and a U.S. Marine since age twenty-one, the author also adds peak bagging, diving, snowboarding, and computers to his list of interests. Incidentally, he is aware of his inability to make a living from any but the Corps. The author accepts this as fact and remains optimistic. Feel free to drop him a line.

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