Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brute Electronics

I may or may not have blogged about my AEV Brute before:

It's basically a 2006 Jeep Rubicon with a stretched frame and custom bodywork from AEV to make it a pickup truck. It's also got some other goodies like a 5.7L Hemi, 4.5" long arm lift kit, 37" tires, winches on both ends, etc.

I recently spent some time updating the electronics in it, though. First up was a new stereo headunit from JVC very similar to this one. All I wanted was something that had a built in HD FM tuner and front panel USB port that would operate my iPhone, and this one has it. We added a rear AUX input, too (you'll see why later). The real beauty of this headunit, I think, is that you have the choice of iPod control with the unit or you can leave the control on the iPod/iPhone itself. I prefer the iPhone interface, so I use that. The dash speakers were upgraded and I had a custom rear speakerbox built by the fine folks at Beechwood Metalworks:

That's the AEV logo in the speaker grills. Awesome work. The amps are buried inside the cabinet.

Next up I needed to add my HAM radio. The model I chose is the Yaesu FTM-350R. It has built in APRS functionality with the optional GPS unit, and it's a dual transceiver with crossband repeat functionality. All that adds up to allowing me to relay my mountain biking position from a small handheld through the more powerful mobile unit in my truck. In real time. I mounted the display, speaker, and GPS in the roof of the Brute:

I used a RAM bar mount and arm to mount directly to the top of the rollbar. Then I just used zip ties to mount the Yaesu external speaker to the rollbar. Finally, I put the GPS module in the alpine window for a great view of the sky. The main unit of the radio was mounted right on top of the speakerbox:

The microphone can just lay over the center console and I can use it perfectly. The wiring for the unit runs through a grommet in the top of the speakerbox. I haven't done it yet, but eventually I plan to wire the unit so that it turns on and off with the ignition switch unless I override it with a relay and switch I'll put in.

The antenna is mounted somewhat temporarily, currently. I just put it on a piece of aluminum and c-clamped it to the bed.

The final piece of this was to add mounts for my GPS and iPhone. I simply bolted RAM ball mounts into the tray on top of the dash. Then I used RAM arms and the Garmin 376C mount to put the GPS and iPhone on the dash:

Note the radar detector above the mirror. That's a Valentine 1, IMHO the best radar detector on the market. It's hard wired in to switched power. I used the visor mount turned around backwards and slid under the plastic trim that's above the windshield. To do that I had to take the curved piece off the plastic part that slides onto the V1. I then pulled the trim piece out some to get it in there, and reassembled. Then I used a small piece of sticky velcro to space it out to level it and help keep it from vibrating around.

Anyone who has tried to put a V1 in a Jeep knows that the suction cup mounts don't work well because the windshield is so vertical. It sits at the wrong angle. And the visor mount is fine except, well, you can't use the visor any more. There are mounts that hang from the rear view mirror that work fine, but they block your view significantly in a fairly important spot. This spot doesn't block anything (other than annoying sunlight that can penetrate over the mirror and isn't blockable by the visors, and that's a good thing!).

Here's a final shot that shows the XM puck that the Garmin uses. It's magnetic and stuck to the windshield frame. It's wire is perfectly sized to just push into the gap between the hinge and the windshield frame, which wraps around the corner and just goes into the door jam through the weatherstripping. It goes right into the dash and under the defrost venting over to the middle where it plugs into the GPS:

I'm really loving this setup. The speaker is right near my head, but nowhere I can hit it. That's good, since I can leave the volume low to monitor things while still having the radio on. The controls are very easy to reach and highly visible right above the visor. Yes, it's a lot of visible electronics for theives, but the Jeep is equipped with a full alarm system with power door locks and hard doors and hard top.

Also note that the XM radio on the GPS is piped into the stereo via that rear panel auxiliary input we put on the stereo. The beauty of the Garmin 376C with XM is that it gets realtime weather radar information via XM radio and overlays that on the GPS map. It also puts the turn-by-turn navigation information on top of the XM radio, so if you're using navigation and listening to XM you can't miss any of your directions.

It's possible that I could have used a serial output on my Garmin GPS to the input of the Yaesu HAM radio instead of installing the optional GPS unit. That solution would have taken more hours of work than it was worth given the relatively low cost of the Yaesu add-on. I also consider it a good redundancy to have two GPSs in a vehicle like this. The Yaesu doesn't do navigation, really, but it does show direction, speed, and position, and could be very handy if the Garmin fails. The iPhone has GPS, too, but I really don't feel great relying on that. It's another good backup, though.


wc7hp said...

"It's possible that I could have used a serial output on my Garmin GPS to the input of the Yaesu HAM radio instead of installing the optional GPS unit. That solution would have taken more hours of work than it was worth given the relatively low cost of the Yaesu add-on."

I understand your solution and agree that it was a good approach. Nevertheless, I rather wish you had gone through the effort to use the Garmin output as input to FTM-350R...I'm looking at the Yaesu to mount in steel roof Ford Explorer and would like to something like MaxRad VHF/GPS antenna combo for best signals. This would require third-party GPS module between FTM-350R and antenna. I haven't found good documentation on FGPS-2 yet so I'm not sure what is needed in alternate unit.

William said...

Your brute is amazing - any chance you can show a few more pictures?

Donnie Barnes said...

wc7hp: I'm not sure why you want to do that antenna. The GPS reception on the Yaesu unit is pretty outstanding. There was a time when high quality GPS antennas were required when under canopy and such, but it's just not necessary with more modern receivers now. IMHO.

William said...

THanks for the pics! I'm in the midst of trying to put one together and all these pictures help. Very cool! will.