Another GTI, Another iPad Mini!

This was a pretty quick project inspired by the recent iPad Mini install in our 2011 MK6 GTI. A friend of the company saw the GTiPad Mini installation last week and just had to have one for himself! We're no strangers to the MK4 GTI here at 2point5, having done both a Mac Mini and an Apple TV in our own company vehicle a few years ago, but how times have changed - instead of having to piece together multiple complex components to integrate these devices into a car environment, the iPad Mini is a self-contained powerhouse, requiring only a few tricks of the trade to tie into the existing system for a "should have come from the factory" end result. photo 1

The dash trim was made from a piece of 1/4" aluminum routed, sanded and polished to perfection like we've done before, and all that was really necessary from a mounting perspective was removing a good amount of plastic from the factory radio support to allow the iPad to be mounted from behind, with the trim panel mounted from the front. Electronically, we had to add a small amplifier to run all the speakers, and we used the same trick as we did on the GTiPad Mini project to trigger the hidden home button with a Satechi Bluetooth remote. The button for activating the remote is a factory traction control switch modified with a laser-cut and engraved home button icon that illuminates just like the factory switch does.

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Of course charging is handled by connecting a modified USB charger to the Lightning port on the iPad so that it stays topped off. One thing we learned from the last project was that the ideal candidate for such a project is an iPad Mini with LTE - while tethering works great for internet connectivity, the LTE iPad models also have a dedicated GPS chip for more accurate navigation. That said, one of my favorite parts of this finished product is that the main user interface is the Drive Assist app for iPad by Eugene Shvedov. This elegant front-end gives you heads-up speed, navigation, iTunes control, compass and much more in a really attractive package.

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The car itself is certainly no slouch either! Starting life as a 20th Anniversary GTI, the owner added genuine Votex R bumpers and sideskirts, HID lights, 19" BBS 2-piece wheels, coilover suspension, a full APR stage 4 turbo setup, a sueded headliner and a lot more.

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As always, we hope you enjoy our periodic forays into the car integration world, and you can count on there always being more just around the corner!

 

GTiPad Mini Project a Success! Step 1: Making Room

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... IMG_9599

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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...

GTiPad Mini Project Begins.

We finally got a good start on an exciting new project yesterday! Now we all know an iPad Mini has been done in a car before, but never quite like this. We'll be detailing the process of fitting a 32 GB WiFi model into our 2011 GTI right here. Stay tuned for updates as the latest project from 2point5 progresses...you'll like what you see!20130831-094248.jpg

And Now For Something Completely Different...

IMG_9027 Both Randy and I have been into cars for longer than we can recall, and have been customizing them regularly for most of our adult lives. Whether it was our own cars or customers' cars, there always seemed to be a project at hand, which is what eventually led to our company being founded seven years ago. While cars will always be at the heart of what we do, it seems to me that when you've been doing something for over twenty years, it's only natural that your focus may drift into another related field where your expertise and skills can find a new outlet, if only to be introduced to new challenges or to stay sharp. It's possible that I'm only trying to make sense of my most recent obsession, but let me explain...

A few years ago, I was first introduced to the world of two-wheeled motorized vehicles through a friend who picked up a Stella, which is a reproduction of the 60s Vespas with newer components. While his bike wasn't my style, I rode it once and had to have something. I was looking for a bike that had comparable performance to his, since the point was to ride together, but it took a while to figure out exactly what I was looking for.

This was my first attempt - it's a 1983 Honda Passport C70, which is a derivative of the Honda Cub that has been around since the 60s. This particular model has electric start, a 70cc 4-stroke motor and a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox. It'll do about 55, and isn't particularly slow or fast getting there. I spent about 6 months trying to convince myself this was the bike for me, but it wasn't. I sold it pretty quickly.

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The main benefit of this first bike was that it got me involved with a group of guys in Atlanta who have a real passion and interest in the smaller displacement bikes that have been offered through the years. They all shared a common dislike for scooters, but small displacement dirtbikes, enduros, street bikes, step-throughs and most of all mopeds (yes there's a difference between a scooter and a moped) were all on the table. I never knew any of that stuff existed - my knowledge of motorcycles really being limited to the choppers and full-fairing street bikes I'd seen zipping around. Believe it or not, mopeds can be both extremely fast (relatively speaking), and really good looking.

After hanging around for a bit, the thing I appreciated most was that all the bikes these guys rode were self-built, and that there was a noticeable lack of ego and competition going on. It was just about having fun. I knew I could go out and pick up a modern bike that would be reliable, fast and great to look at, but there was something about the personality in all these guys' bikes that really got me. It reminds me of cars in a lot of ways, but these mopeds are so cheap to get into that you don't feel all that bad if something goes terribly wrong.

So here's what came next. A 1980 Puch Magnum II that was built up by a company in Michigan. It has a 2-stroke 70cc motor with a two-speed automatic gearbox, a seat that will fit two people uncomfortably, a top tank and pedals. It would do around 60 and get there pretty quickly. Certainly looks a whole lot better than the Passport above, if you ask me.

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This bike was definitely pretty fun, and I spent a lot of time riding it. Really the best thing about my Magnum was that I didn't know the first thing about how it worked. I would just get on and go, and it never broke. Excellent! The problem was that I didn't know the first thing about how it worked...I'm not the kind of person (clearly) who just gets something with a motor and leaves it as-is, and I'm really not the kind of person that has things I want built for me. It's always been a curse and a blessing. So while the Magnum is one of the most desirable mopeds, and this one was great, I sold it after about 10 months. I had to build one for myself if I was going to be riding these little things around...

Next I spent maybe 6 months building and perfecting this little guy - a 1983 Honda Camino, which has a 70cc 2-stroke motor with a CVT transmission, funny ape hanger bars, a bell on the bars, white BMX-style mags, a tiny, uncomfortable seat and pedals. I loved this thing. It was just the right amount of goofy and nimble, fast and ridiculous. The fastest I ever got it up to was 63, and it was terrifying at that speed.

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But...I wanted two things now. I wanted to solve the inherent problems I had seen with mopeds (way more on this later), and I wanted an actual motorcycle to be able to ride around with two people on comfortably. The Camino stayed around for a little while longer while I started addressing these wants, but I eventually sold it to a friend once one project (the motorcycle) was done, and the other (we're getting there) was well underway.

So, here's the motorcycle - nothing too big, just a 1976 Honda CB125 that has a 125cc 4-stroke motor with a 5-speed manual transmission. After rebuilding the motor with a friend's help and doing a lot of cosmetic stuff (tank, seat, blinkers, exhaust, etc) along with the electrical that any bike this age is going to inevitably need, it would do 80 and was pretty quick getting there (again, speaking relatively).

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No problem with this bike at all. I really, really liked it. Sure it's a bit smaller than what most people ride, and if you rode for over a couple of hours it got a little less comfortable, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do, and looked how I wanted it to look for the most part. You would think at this point I'd just call it good. Nope. I sold it and began putting way, way, way too much time, thought and effort into the bike below. Another moped. Why?

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Well, truly answering that question is going to take a lot more words and a lot more photos, so I plan on breaking this build up over a number of posts. It took me over two years to get to this point, and there were some really big technical challenges along the way, so I thought it might be worth a read. I'll be checking out the stats to see if I'm right, and there will certainly be more to come if it seems to be catching anyone's eye. Regardless, taking the time to think this thing through and execute it has definitely had the desired effect - I've learned a lot, and things always seem to trickle up from these projects into our products. It's basically our innate need to do something that hasn't been done before, and to make it as absolutely perfect as possible. We're showing no signs of stopping...