Joined: June 15, 2005
Location: NE Illinois
|Posted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:52 am Post subject: My Suitcase Stereo Build.. Pics inside
|Okay- so here is what I've done. I went ahead and followed some other peoples ideas and created my own secret stereo system in an old suitcase. The main reason I did this is because I like the idea of having a stereo that sounds good and also I can move it from one classic car to another without having incredibly expensive radio equipment in multiple cars. Mind you--there is really no way to fully assemble one of these systems the same as anyone else, and I did have some help with the install via my brother. The thing is, i've never done anything with a car stereo other than feed CD's into it and turn it on in my car. This was my first time every assembling/wiring a stereo. Mainly, my brother helped with tuning the amp after it was all hooked up as I had no real clue how to do that. So, here's a semi-detailed description of what I used and how I went about it.
This case is old-no details of who made it or anything, but it's of typical wood/leather manufacture from the 50's and 60's. This is probably the best type of material to construct a suitcase stereo from in my opinion. The sides of the case are pretty thick plywood, and the outer parts is only about 3/16" or so. If you are really concerned with appearance, you may want to find one that is in better shape than mind, but the hardware on mine is in actually very good shape to include the locking twin hasps and hinges.
First off,I also did some asking around as to what type of components to use. This is all in the hands of the individual, but after again, asking my brother--I decided to use Alpine components and match them all together for ease of function. I spent way too long and way too much $$$ at Best Buy and bought an Alpine Digital iDA-X303 Head Unit which can use any USB media device and is IPOD Read, plays Windows Media off of a harddrive/thumbdrive/flashdrive, is Satellite Radio capable and can even have a Bluetooth hooked up to it. Granted, in the suitcase form, i'll never use that part of it. The only thing it doesn't have is a CD slot--oh well. I also bought an Alpine MRP-F300 4 Channel Amp rated at 200amps. Lastly, I bought Alpines SPS-600 6-1/2" 2-Way speakers. Altogether, these parts alone were about $530.00 and the suitcase was $12.
I then purchased 2 small pieces of 3/4" MDF board and made the inner box for the suitcase. I basically measured the inside dimensions of the box and went from there. Mind you, this a trial and error portion of this as dependent on what you are installing and how you are going to mount it will vary your way of building the box. (Note-this did not all take shape in one afternoon.. ) I know that many of the guys who've built these have not used head units in their installs but rather just use the IPOD/MP3 players wired right into the AMP.. Well, that's all good but I wanted the ability to play straight from the radio when desired and also control the sounds of the tunes with the headunit.
So, as I said, i made the box enclosure from 3/4" MDF, but for the mounting surface of the head unit and speakers, I used 1/2" for a slightly lower profile to allow for the speakers and head unit to fit just below the rear surface of the suitcase. Box measures approximately 16x18" and is approximately 6" deep. (I made the lower portion of the box a little too tall and the top would not close the way I liked). So, after the box was designed, I used some regular silicone caulk and sealed the inside of the box. Then, I arranged the components so as to create the best fit and function of the case.
I then cut the holes in the front of the case for the speakers and the head unit with my little Dremel tool with a 'roto-zip' type of attachment. This workd great but when cutting the holes in the MDF, I went through the bits really quickly. They just got too hot. Also of note, all the MDF was cut with a handsaw-no power tools there.
So, after cutting the holes in the suitcase, I got really panicky about the appearance of the hole cutouts. So, I got some thin brass pipe, split it and then flattened it. Through heating, and bending and tweaking, I made bezels for all the holes. Are the perfect, no--not at all. But, the heat caused a bit of an antiquing finish to the brass so it looks kinda neat and finishes off the cutouts. Also, on the inside, I re-dressed the surfaces with some black canvas that I had in the garage. I used some adhesive and secured it and also some 1/4" staples on the inside of the suitcase. Then, I made a flap that actually covers up the speakers while the case is closed.
detail of the brass..
Okay, so that's basic assembly. Now onto the wiring. I decided to use 10ga wire knowing that I wasn't going to be running any major power throught this unit. So, I cut about 12" of black and red wire to length, then ran a loom keeper around the length of it. I then installed some Gold plated banana plugs from Radio shack on the end, and got a power plug from Radio Shack. I took the two female portions of the plug off and installed them in the lower rear seat kick panels of my bug-out of view. Then, I used more 10ga wire with a 30amp fuse in the car to finish up that end of things.
Back at the box, I ran the wires through the side port that I cut out and into the box. I then ran the wires straight to the amp, then had more 10ga leads coming from there and going to a small terminal strip. From there, I have the battery, ground, and ignition wires from the headunit wired in again with a 10amp fuse inline to the headunit. From the headunit, I have a RCA cable from the 'front' outputs and connected to the 'front L/R' input for the AMP. On the business end of the AMP, I used MonsterCable for the speakers. You'll see in the pictures that I have a lot of wires tied together which did not get used. Those are the speaker wires for inputs for the amp, and the same ones are tied up on the back of the headunit. These were unnecessary with the use of the RCA cable. And so, basically that is it. Note also, the cut out in the bottom of the box was made merely for clearance of the rear of the headunit. I could not get the head to sit down fully with the wires hooked to the back without this relief cout out. Also, as far as venting is concerned, the hole where the cables exit the suitcase is ample and allows for plenty of venting for the speakers when the bass is turned up a little bit. My brother said that without any additional speakers and no sub, the amp is really not doing any work--so, there is plenty of room for upgrade with this design.
My brother and I hooked this up to my car and tested it in my garage. I didn't actually secure the top cover until we had the AMP in tune and adjusted so I don't blow up my speakers.
Ultimately, let me tell you--I'm VERY happy with the sounds and design here. It's much better than a boombox, and granted--it cost nearly $700 to build, but it works awesome. I can hook my ITouch up to it and run Pandora or just have my tunes play from the ITouch. Also, I hooked up my portable harddrive to it, and it began it's 'Banking' process and collected all the songs and played it as well--pretty cool. The one thing I noted is that while the radio was operating, the car was off, and once battery voltage got below 11.50volts, the system started acting strangely. As soon as I started the car and voltage went over the 11.5 mark, it was perfect again.
Also, there are different ways of hooking up the speakers. I just chose to use the front speaker outs/ins but the rears could have been used the same way.
So, in a rather large nutshell, that's it. I will be adding an antenna to it, or running an extension from Ruby's antenna that I can hook up to it, and also will be shortening the cables coming out the side and just having this extension for when the unit is outside of the car.
Here are all the pictures below showing the work that went into this.. Enjoy!
NOTE: When picking out a case, make sure that it can handle the weight of what you are assembling, and also ensure that all the parts of the case, I.E. the handle, are safe. The leather handle on mine was very dry and was identified before I dropped it. I have to replace it..
'62 VW Bug Sedan (Ruby Red)
Resto pics> http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v697/hemifalcon/Bug%20resto/?start=all&paginator=top