MacMini Connectors and Glove Box Mod

From March 14, 2005. Sorry about the delay in posting, folks. I got slashdotted and my entire site went down Saturday night through Sunday morning. We’ve just now gotten access back to the post entry page, so I figured I’d go into a little detail about why the MacMini is in the glovebox (because that wasn’t the original plan) and how I got it in there.

I’m not sure why it seems like such an appealing idea to me, but I have always wanted the dash in my car to have just two a/v devices in it: No radio, no dancing equalizer lights - just a simple interface consisting of a touchscreen and a slot to load CDs and DVDs into. I had a setup like this in my last car (a 1992 16vGTi), minus the touchscreen and really liked how clean it made the dash area look. In that vehicle, I had a Sony head unit buried in the dash that was controlled by the Sony joystick wired remote (for those of you that remember that Sony concept), and a Sony TV tuner that did graphics generation for CD track time, radio station display, and any other pertinent information that the head unit would normally display.

Because of this want, originally I planned to have a slot exactly like the one on the front of the MacMini right above the screen in my dash panel, but then the car fought back. The MacMini is, as you all know, 6.5 inches square by 2″ tall. This is slightly smaller than the average in-dash DIN-sized head unit, so I thought my plan would be no problem. However, when you plug all the connectors into the back of the computer, you add roughly an inch and a half to its depth.

In my case, for the computer to fit in the available subdash area, it would also have to be located behind and slightly above the monitor to give access to the CD/DVD slot while still retaining the original A/C control location. If I had the Climatronic climate controls in my particular vehicle, I could’ve simply relocated them, as they are fully electrical, with the A/C flaps and temperature control being operated by servos. However, my car has cable-operated controls, which really never work quite as nicely when you relocate them and extend the cables (I did this in a 1998 Civic Coupe showcar some time ago, and it worked okay, but the temperature slider was a little stiffer than normal when it was all done). The point of all this is that, when taking into account the connectors and thickness of the screen in this particular install, the computer went from being 6.5 inches deep to 10.25 inches deep. My climate control ductwork (which contains mechanical flaps to control airflow) is about 7.5 inches back from the face of the dash opening. So, short of rebuilding either the complete dash or the entire ductwork system in this car, the MacMini was going to have to live somewhere else…

I explored locating the MacMini in the headliner (not enough depth) and in the left side of the underdash area (where your left knee is when sitting in the car) and neither where really viable options, so to the glovebox I went.

I still wanted the MacMini to look as if it was a factory-installed option, however, so simply mounting the computer in the glovebox itself or in the glovebox door wasn’t really what I wanted to do, since that’s not the way that I felt Volkswagen would do it. Instead, I chose to modify the internal storage dividers in the glovebox to make an actual compartment that would house the Mac. I started by building a three-sided housing for the MacMini using 1/8″ abs sheet, Cyanoacrylate adhesive and two-part epoxy. This is basically a cradle (left, right and bottom) that the computer fit into snugly. I then used an air-powered pencil die grinder and a right angle grinder to cut out the portion of the original glovebox needed to accomodate this cradle. After that was accomplished, I attached the cradle to the original glovebox again using Cyanoacrylate adhesive and two-part epoxy designed for adhering SMC plastics together to make the parts into one complete unit. I finished the process by using black suede flocking (the fuzzy stuff that is inside the glovebox and armrest of my car) to coat the abs plastic cradle for a matching finish with the original glovebox interior.

The only issue I ran into with wiring the MacMini itself after the glovebox was modified was the length of the DVI to VGA adapter when a VGA monitor cable is plugged into it. Like mentioned above, this connector ends up being ridiculously long when it is all assembled. So, I purchased the Apple DVI to VGA adapter that has an actual cable between the two connectors (Apple part no. M8754G/A) to accomplish the goal of making the depth of this connection shorter. I then removed the plastic housing on the adapter’s computer side (the DVI side) and heat-shrinked it, ending up with a connector that is about 3/4″ in depth versus 1.5″, as it originally was.

The full complement of connections was then routed through the subdash of the car, wire-tied along factory harness runs and plugged into the computer. The MacMini itself slides into the housing from the front to allow access to the back of the computer if service requiring removal of the computer is ever necessary. Check out the pictures below for some detail on this portion of the install and check back for more tech updates this week.

1 6 5 4 3 2