Description

Back before parents knew there was content online that was inappropriate for developing minds, I was a middle and high school kid who built computers, played video games, and made money on the side building truly awful websites for small businesses. Some of the awfulness had to do with being a child with no sense of taste. (Wife confirms this hasn’t changed in 20 years since.) Some of it had to do with the very limited software at the time, often being forced to write the HTML code in a text editor.

It being the mid-to-late 90’s, a new invention had become popular: MP3s. These amazing files allowed us to fit 100 songs on a CD instead of just 10-15. Also, Napster was a thing, so all music was free. The problem was that there was no easy way to play them anywhere but sitting at your computer. The first portable device, the Diamond Rio (32MB) was years away. Laptops were prohibitively expensive and about the size of 4 shoeboxes tied together.

So of course, that left me with only 1 option: I would need to build a desktop computer into the dashboard of my car.

I know exactly how the build went, how much it cost, how many things I broke, how many speeding tickets, and how ridiculous I sounded back then because I built a blog dedicated to my car. I also won’t ever lose it because it’s saved at Archive.org in all its glorious teenage angst.

MakD's 1988 Z24 WITH A BRAIN!!!!!!11!

Here are some excerpts, spelling errors included:

SDRAM -- $84 + $50 (Had to buy a second set when I burned out the first ones... SUK!!!)

How many of you out there have tape players in your car? How about CD players? Well, I think you should try a MP3 player… When was the last time you spent money getting an MP3? THEY ARE FREE! (Which is more than I can say for CD's!!!) ... Lets say I have only 300 songs. Lets say that I could have bought them all on CD. Then lets say that I could have found 3 songs per CD (come on, lets be realistic here). Then lets say I spent 15 dollars per CD. Just with that many songs, you would have to had paid $1500. GET REAL! LIKE I"M GOING TO PAY FOR THEM!

My Blaupunkt reciever is in the shop. Meanwhile I am driving around with the leads from the comp directly into the AMP and 2 bare wires that i twist together to turn on the AMP. and another set that turn on the Comp...

I also have a GF who is good at breaking computers. So far only one wire has caught on fire when she tried to help.

Brake Pads make this squealing noise when they are worn down. It is built into the mechanics. If your brakes are squeaking, check the pads. I had been playing my music too loudly to hear them.. I wonder how long they have been squeaking. [I discovered that the pads had worn all the way down and had gouged into the rotors so they had to be replaced too.]

10-step startup-procedure:

-- Start car. (Can’t do this second as the amp draw will brown out the computer.)

-- Turn off stereo so initial computer startup zaps and cracks don’t blow out systems.

-- Flip toggle switch on dash that starts up the computer. Wait 10 seconds.

-- Turn stereo back on.

-- Refuse to move the car for 90 seconds while the computer boots up. Doesn’t matter if I’m late, getting there in style is more important.

-- Windows startup sound has been replaced with a clip of a giant V8 turning over then catching and being gunned. Subwoofer gives confused nearby pedestrians the impression that I have a second engine operating from the trunk of my car.

-- WinAmp shortcut has been placed in the startup .ini so it loads and begins playing music randomly selected from the library.

-- Flip down the visor, revealing a miniature keyboard rubber-banded to it. The N key has been bound to “next song”, which will be randomly selected. I cannot choose what I will listen to next as the monitor is seatbelted in to the middle of the back seat and I can’t turn around to look.

-- Keep hitting “N” until I get a song I want.

-- Start driving.

I had some other memorized keystrokes that would initiate shutdown or tell WinAmp to turn off shuffle, previous song, etc.

The CD-ROM happened to fit in the hole of the removed ashtray drawer. I could not open the CD tray if the stick shift was in a forward position (1st, 3rd, or 5th gear). It was too long so I had to remove a section of ducting that sent climate controlled air into the front footwells. I then realized I could turn on the AC and the cold air would blast the motherboard. System cooling score! However, I could no longer turn on the heat to that area of the car…

I seem to have been completely unaware of “cable management”.

The hard drive had exposed circuitry on one side and since it was a spinning disk, really didn’t like when i drove over bumps. Sometimes causing a BSOD which I could only recover from if I pulled over to turn on the monitor. My fix was to hot glue it circuit-side-up onto some sheets of bubble wrap and secure it on the carpeted top of the transmission hump.

I broke a great deal of parts putting this build together. I’d work on the system without disconnecting the battery, resulting in shorts, even some minor fires. I never did figure out a way to completely remove a popping hum in the sound regardless of how much I tried to ground everything or install isolating components. The whole thing was very frustrating, very educational, and extremely satisfying whenever everything happened to be working (which was rare).

I spent about $1,000 on the computer, which is reflected in the price list. I spent about another $1,500 on the stereo and subwoofer. The car was $3,000. So maybe this is a $5.5k build? 7 years later I had a job around Boston and the car was no longer reliable enough to get me to clients. The final straw was the rear windshield randomly flying off the car on the highway and then that same trip the stock alternator died (taking all powered systems with it including fuel injectors and brakes @85mph) because I’d never thought that maybe this extra power draw would be more than it could handle. I sold the car to my brother for $1k and it lasted 12 more months before failing inspection due to horrible structural rust. Goodbye Z! We had some great times!

Comments

  • 4 months ago
  • 13 points

I'm...confused

  • 4 months ago
  • 12 points

You sound like my wife. She thinks this time of my life was pretty embarrassing...

  • 4 months ago
  • 10 points

"Getting there in style is more important" Yes..... yes it is!

  • 4 months ago
  • 8 points

I really thought I was cool in this car. It had 125 horsepower, which "made it a sports car". It could play music very loud, which meant I was awesome. It was so cool that I had to go on the internet and make a blog about my cool car. I mean, just look at those rims... like driving on 4 chessboards... wow... I didn't understand why the adult mechanics I worked with were laughing so much...

  • 4 months ago
  • 5 points

Probably my favorite build on this site. Good job stickin it to the man!

  • 4 months ago
  • 3 points

Thanks for the kind words. All my builds before and since have only made themselves unique by the various bumperstickers I would put on the case. I peaked at 16.

  • 4 months ago
  • 5 points

Very... different and confusing. Nice work regardless.

  • 4 months ago
  • 4 points

very cool but why?

  • 4 months ago
  • 4 points

Well, because music options at the time were FM, tape, or music CD. (If you look at the pictures that show the stickshift, you can see that this 1988 car had vertical slots for holding about 6 audio tapes.) We used to have to lug gigantic bibles of CD cases everywhere we went if we wanted to listen to music. It was actually pretty dangerous to drive and try to find the CD you wanted, place it in the receiver and try to start it up. There were no wheel-mounted controls. CDs got scratched/ruined all the time. Car receivers would not be able to read computer-formatted CDs for a few more years so you couldn't burn and listen to your library easily. I was sitting on thousands of songs at my desk that would never reach my car with its loud, expensive, thumping stereo unless I did something like this. I was a silly kids with more money than sense, so I did it. Hope that helps explain...

  • 4 months ago
  • 4 points

I like unique builds like these. Nice breath of fresh air. +1

  • 4 months ago
  • 4 points

Cheers. Certainly was unique. Just a few years later everyone had an iPod and this was overkill. I tried to upgrade it by adding Dragon Natural Speaking software, but it was bad at recognizing speech and would only "write a memo" when I wanted it to "Play Propellerheads". These days, you just speak to the software that comes with your car/phone/Google Home and you get what I wanted 20 years ago.

  • 4 months ago
  • 4 points

Best. 90's Mod. Ever!

  • 4 months ago
  • 4 points

so basically an expensive radio with the option to play what songs you want

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Yup, and as your library grew to fill more and more of the HUGE 8GB drive, less and less likely to get the song you really wanted to hear.

  • 4 months ago
  • 3 points

I had a feeling this crazy of a build would be a feature lol.

Congrats!

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Lol this is rad

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I mean, It's unique, I'll give it that.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Now do a recent one ;)

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

OP buys new car. Plugs 256GB USB stick loaded with songs into factory port. Done. :)

  • 4 months ago
  • 3 points

2080ti or doesn't count ;)

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Teehee ;)

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Awesome retroactive build post.

Congrats on the featured spot.

It's amazing how far tech has come. Very cool "redneckery" there shoving a PC in the dash in...1990 something?

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

This is beyond awesome! Enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

It's like a low-rent version of Ready Player One.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

OMG! Best chuckle I've had today! You're a genius, sure hope you work in R&D someplace.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I vote build of the year for this. This is awesome. I remember tearing apart the dash of my first truck and doing some questionable wiring to it as well, but never thought about adding a computer to it.

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the kind words. Before I graduated High School, I started to investigate the diagnostic port that mechanics use to read the code that turns on your "check engine" light. I was hoping I'd be able to get live data from all of the sensors and be able to graph or read them out. Would be pretty cool to see how things change in the car: low vs high octane, different oil viscosities, O2 readouts at different altitudes...

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Big Impress

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

lol. I wish I had this car! that Z24 is looking pretty nice. It had a V6 correct?

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

Yes, 2.8 liter V6. I drove around with friends in Ford Probes, 240sx, a few that put NOX in their civics, etc. A real slice of wacky FWD. I remember coming home late and being absolutely thrashed off the line by a Dodge Stratus. Then SNL came out with this: https://youtu.be/ANE8j5ay_UU?t=198 I realized maybe my car wasn't as much of a sports car as I thought...

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

lol. Nice car. My dad owned a Volkswagen Beetle from the 60's, so he knows what slow means XD.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

This is so over the top, but really awesome. You must have been one rad guy in that car!

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

epic!

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Im not gonna lie, old school looks sick af

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Very unique! I've always loved cars and computers. Seeing the two together makes me happy. RIP the Z24!

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point
  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

You're a legend

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I first thought this was a dumb post, but it piqued my interest. Now I can honestly say that you are the man for doing this. Practical, maybe not, but it got the result you wanted and you got to tinker with the tech that you knew. Awesome stuff man

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

As someone who got his start on the internet and computers from Napster, I have to admit this build brings back memories.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

That used to be my go to music player way back in the day, i have not used it in like a decade, oh the memories.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

This put a smile on my face. Very creative. Now you need to make your car play games against you!

  • 4 months ago
  • 1 point

They've come a long way.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWpuOrxIcXg

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Are you gonna build another pc into your current car? It would be pretty cool if you have a car with a screen that you could use instead of a monitor.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

I should ask Rich Rebuilds about the video-in options for a Model S or 3... https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfV0_wbjG8KJADuZT2ct4SA

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

My grandpa still updates his website by writing his code in the text editor. xD

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

i do a lot of text editer work to be honest. I think it feels more pure.

  • 4 months ago
  • 2 points

Hmmm, Interesting.

  • 3 months ago
  • 1 point

wha wha what