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Freewheeling: Audio

March 24, 2011 Freewheeling 5 Comments

Greg earns his (our?) living as an electrical engineer, and it’s paying off on his hobby as well.

It’s a good thing he knows what he’s doing, because the van needed a lot of upgrades in this department. He designed several improvements and then went to work making them happen. At this point, he pretty much has the cockpit of the van finished according to plan. Of course, there will be more to do when he gets the “living quarters” installed. The captains chairs and couch have been ordered and should arrive within the week!

The first order of business was to upgrade the radio.

The van came with a primitive radio; the factory model left a lot to be desired. Literally — my 1996 Cabrio has a stereo more advanced than this… For the kinds of adventures we are about to embark on, upgrades were needed. While I felt it was perhaps an early project and expense, the new system is definitely impressive. Greg had ample opportunity to test everything out on his inaugural road trip this week: he drove the van to Long Beach so the fiberglass workshop can begin the structural roof changes. Exciting!

The new model he chose is a Sony multimedia receiver with lots of bells and whistles including Bluetooth integration with his phone (through the car speakers) and several USB auxiliary inputs to integrate with satellite radio and other devices. Once the new device arrived, he began work removing the old model and installing the new one. This was pretty straightforward, all things considered. It wasn’t his first time replacing a radio, so he knew what to expect.

Then came the custom work. He wired in an external antenna and behind-the-dash power for a phone mount. This will allow for mostly-eye-and-hands-free tinkering with the phone while driving: navigation, Pandora/podcasts through the stereo, phone calls. There are additional benefits to this as well — the mount will charge the device while in use (a must-have for use with the HTC EVO) and the external antenna puts the signal outside the car, providing easier access to cell sites, less phone radiation inside the car, and less battery drain.

There were no speakers in the doors in the van; the only speakers were in the dash. We’re talking about a 19.5′ vehicle with ONE set of speakers. Therefore, Greg installed new speakers in the doors. Of course, he did the requisite soundproofing first.

He then used a hole saw to cut the space for the speakers and got to work fashioning his own mounts using 3/4″ oak. He got the first one done and went to install it, only to find that the new speakers were too deep for the door panel because of the window… so he had to double-up on the oak mounts. They look very professional!

Beginning with the end in mind, he has also run the speaker wire to the back of the van where there will be additional speakers once the living quarters are installed.

You may also be interested in:

Freewheeling: Exterior Aesthetics
Freewheeling: Under the Hood
Freewheeling: Sound Effects
Freewheeling: The Adventure Begins


Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. […] the electrical work that went with the audio system upgrades, Greg pulled out the big guns to fix the heating systems in the van. Cold weather camping, here we […]

  2. Kirsten says:

    I guess next time we’re taking your van to RAGBRAI? I can hardly wait for the interior body surfing! :)

  3. Mark says:

    Hi, I am in the process of a 2006 sprinter build in Vancouver BC and would love to read more on your propane heater mod to make it more safe for indoor use, looks like you are gutting a MR.heater buddy, thanks, Mark.

    • Molly says:

      Hi Mark,
      Sorry for the delayed reply on this. When I first started thinking about heat for the van, I was going to use the Mr Heater buddy (I did gut one to build a home brew rig). I kept thinking about it, and started to worry a bit more about the emissions and having an open flame in the cabin. So I opted to use the Camco Olympian Wave 3 heater:
      It costs a bit more, but uses a catalytic combustion process (so no open flame). This has kept the van pretty warm even down to single digit temps. The only downside of this is it tends to be a moist heat. So it doesn’t dry out your wet cloths very well after a day of skiing.

      The Espar airtronic diesel heaters are an option too. But they are quite expensive. Others on the sprinter forum have used the Espar engine heater that is built into the sprinter to run a hydronic heating rig. This requires tapping into your cooling system and doing a lot of work. I might experiment with this at some time, but for now I’m happy enough with the Camco heater.

      Hope this helps… //Greg

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