Car PC: Part 2 – Fabrication
Following on from Part 1, this section is going to detail what I did regarding the most important thing in the project: the screen.
The screen is the one thing that you and everyone else who uses the PC looks at all the time so it needs to be visible – but at the same not distracting to the driver. It also needs to be accessible so the PC can be operated via the touch panel and ideally needs to fit in with the rest of the interior (I prefer things that look OEM and subtle).
What I decided to do was fabricate a mount for the screen into the centre console in place of the existing headunit. Rather than butcher the original console, I picked up another from a car of the same model as my own which was being broken for spare parts.
That done, I took the screen apart, separating the case from the actual panel and electronics inside, and provisionally secured the casing to the console using small blocks of MDF and screws:
With the main construct in place, it was time to start playing with the fibreglass.
Fibreglass kits consisting of sheets of dry glass fibre, resin and catalyst are readily available at most DIY stores and it is commonly used in automotive applications for repairing/modifying bodywork. The fibreglass was applied in two stages: Firstly, a flexible sheet of dry glass fibre was placed over the area(s) which needed moulding to the console. The desired effect was that the fibreglass would form a solid framework to build on:
To mould the fibreglass to the required shape, the resin, mixed with a small amount of catalyst “hardener” was brushed into the sheet. This was all soaked in and the shape began to emerge:
It was important to remember not to cover the rear of the original screen casing so that the screen could actually be refitted!
A word of warning: The resin and hardener have a VERY strong chemical smell which lingers even when they are drying and this is something that really needs to be done outdoors or you will actually pass out from the fumes…
Filling and Sanding
After leaving the fibreglassed console to dry overnight, I was greeted with a rock solid finish which as you can see from the above picture is quite rough looking. To smooth things out, I used a product called Isopon P38. This is an easy sanding filler, commonly used in car body repairs – which again, comes in two parts – the putty and a hardener. This was spread liberally over pretty much the entire surface of the console which had been fibreglassed in order to fill the cracks and dips where the material had set.
At this point, the finish was irrelevant as when dry, the entire console was sanded down to give a smooth surface. Starting with coarse sandpaper and working through the different grades right down to ultra fine wet and dry paper, the whole thing was sanded blending the filler and fibreglass into the original console plastic. In my case, after the initial sanding, I wasn’t 100% happy with the finish and applied a bit more filler to certain areas of the console and re-sanded them.
Another word of warning: As with the fibreglass, the filler/hardener does have a strong chemical smell and when sanding, produces A LOT of extremely fine dust particles. Again, best done outside.
The Finished Article
The only thing remaining at this point for me, was to spray the console black again and fit the screen back into it’s casing. I used some standard grey primer on a couple of coats, followed by a few coats of black interspersed with some more wet and dry sanding to give a smooth a finish as possible.
It was then simply a case of popping the gear stick gaiter and screen and associated electronics back in:
The end result is a customised, one-off centre console which is designed perfectly for that screen. I think it looks OEM and sits quite well in the dash. It’s also easily accessible – being right in front of the gear stick.
Coming soon, Part 3: where I will talk about software this time….as always leave comments and stay tuned!