It's done!! But...since we've been mentally planing on installing an iPad Mini in our 2011 GTi since the device was first announced, we thought it best to not just post up a finished photo of the project, but instead that we should actually go through the process step by step to illustrate the amount of effort that can go into such a small piece, and also to hopefully offer some inspiration and insight to others out there planning on or executing similar projects. At 2point5, we've found that by thinking through these ideas thoroughly and by having a plan in place before beginning, the whole process goes much more smoothly, and the surprises are kept to a minimum. So without further ado, let's start making room for the iPad Mini...
After simply snapping off the factory radio trim, we can get a good look at the factory radio. The concept for this project from the beginning was to integrate the iPad Mini in such a way that it looked as much like a factory-installed piece as possible to deter from prying eyes, but also to tie into the style and design of the car's interior. It would have been much easier to make a simple panel with a hole in the middle of it to fit into the dash as has been done before, but we really wanted to take this a little further. It was very important that we retained the original control knobs, illumination and functionality - all of which will be detailed fully in later posts.
After removing the OEM radio, we see that there's a pretty substantial opening in the dash. Perfect! The idea was to sink the factory radio back further into the dash opening to make room for the iPad Mini, so we were looking good so far. This car has steering wheel controls and an MFI display in the middle of the cluster that we wanted to retain, so leaving the original equipment radio installed and functional is really the ideal way to accomplish this. The only trouble right off the bat is that the radio is wider than the dash opening, so we had to do something about that.
A few specific tools and a little while later, we had gotten a pretty good way into taking apart the factory radio to remove some bulk. It was becoming pretty clear how the radio was going to be reassembled to make it still fully functional, but less wide so that it could slide back further into the dash opening.
While we were working on slimming the radio down, we were also looking at how likely it was going to be to use the original control knobs and buttons from the OEM radio in the new trim panel for the iPad Mini. Since the radio was staying installed and intact, it was going to be necessary to be able to switch between FM, AM and Media (where the audio output for the iPad Mini was going to connect), so buttons of some sort were definitely going to be needed. Since the original buttons look so perfect in the dash, why not use them? Unfortunately, the control buttons turned out to be a bit too big to work in the new panel once we did a little measuring, but we were pleased to find that we would be good to go on the control knobs - more to come on this.
So here we are - the factory Volkswagen RCD-510 radio pared down to its essential components. The CD changer, media card reader, touchscreen, and all controls are still fully functional in this form, as are all the internal workings such as the amplifier, tuner, illumination, and data communication. Basically we just removed all the trim that made the radio too wide to fit further back into the dash and kept all the good parts! This was all done in such a way that the OEM radio can be reassembled completely back to its original form with no trouble. We put all the "extras" into a box and moved on to mounting the radio in its new location.
What would be typical in an installation such as this would be to remove any necessary parts of the structure inside the radio opening to make this all work, and that was something we really weren't looking forward to. Once you go into the actual dash sub-structure and start cutting and grinding, the material you remove can never be replaced. Since we wanted to make sure that the car could go back to its original form if needed, we looked a little deeper into the actual mounting structure for the climate controls, vents and radio. Thankfully, Volkswagen saw fit to make this portion of the vehicle removable as well (it takes a bit of disassembly to get it out), which was really great news. The radio could then be mounted to the dash sub-structure outside of the car, and could be reinstalled so that no permanent modification to the car itself was necessary. Bonus!
It's so uncommon for everything to go according to plan when trying to accomplish all the goals we were working towards with this project, but so far, so good! The factory radio was securely re-mounted in the dash opening about two inches deeper than before, the control boards for the buttons and knobs worked perfectly, as did the rest of the audio system. After two evenings of work, this was a really great point to reach. Eventually, the control boards would end up mounted to the new dash trim, but it was very satisfying to see a really solid foundation for what was planned next!
As mentioned above, the GTIPad Mini project is completely done, so look out for the next few posts in pretty quick succession. We can't wait to show you the finished product! And as always, thanks so much for checking us out...