We weren’t the first group to install an iPad in a car, but I will wager we were the first to do it in a 2013 Maserati Gran Turismo C. It takes a lot of guts to tear into a car this new and valuable to try something no one has done before. It also takes a lot of faith on the part of our client, a local dentist who has trusted us to customize his rides for nearly a decade.
This installation is special for another reason: this is the first documented installation using the new iPad Mini kit from Mobile Solutions. If you have read our blog, you have seen that Mobile Solutions, and it’s president Bryan Schmitt are the premier fabrication training facility in the US. We are lucky enough to host Schmitt annually to train our technicians and others from Florida’s top shops in the latest tools and techniques. Mobile Solutions designed this universal iPad Mini kit as a time saving solution for technicians to quickly and accurately integrate the iPad into a variety of applications.
The iPad Mini kit is made from several layers of CNC machined PVC with embedded magnets. The magnets are strong enough to hold the iPad at any angle, and automatically align the cover piece when it gets close to the cradle. The thick border around the iPad can be easily machined as needed for a proper fit in any application. Many technicians are used to working with ABS plastic, but PVC machines easier and will bond with a wider range of materials easier than ABS. I encourage any technicians or do-it-yourself guys to check our Mobile Solutions if you plan to install an iPad Mini.
Now on to how we integrated this kit into the new Maserati. The first step is removing the factory dash from the vehicle. Although the radio is designed to slide right out the front of the dash in seconds, removal of the LCD screen above it was not so easy. Every piece of the dash, from the wood grain, glove box, switches, even the plastic around the steering wheel, had to be removed first before the center portion containing the LCD screen could be removed. This process was nearly two hours, and as always every piece and fastener we removed was cataloged in a plastic bin so that later everything would go back in it’s place.
With the dash removed, two important questions are left: “How to secure the iPad?” and “How to integrate the audio?” We will start with integrating the audio. The factory radio in the Maserati has no display on the front, information is shown on the instrument cluster and on the LCD above it. The important controls for the radio are also available on the steering wheel. To us, that means we can relocate the radio inside the dash and run the controls from the steering wheel. There was one important feature that was not present on the wheel, the button that switches the radio from AM/FM to Sirius. To overcome that, we soldered to the circuit board inside the factory radio and created another button on the back side of the steering wheel to accomplish this.
The factory radio also has a 3.5mm auxiliary jack in the glove box. By tracing the wires to the back of the factory radio, we were able to wire our own audio cable directly into the factory radio. We also added a high powered charger with Apple’s Lightning connector to keep the battery in the iPad fully charged.
Now for fabrication. The iPad Mini kit is almost a perfect fit for this dash right away. Using our table router, the kit is shaped little by little until it slips into the factory opening easily. The edges are sanded, the dash is taped up and the gaps are filled with body filler. A little finish sanding and this piece is ready for paint. To secure the cradle to the dash, we built mounting tabs from other pieces of PVC and bonded them to the cradle. Finally the cradle was painted with House of Kolor’s Hot Rod Black and reinstalled. I wrapped up the fabrication in a paragraph because it was really that quick for us. The fabrication was only 10% of the time spent on this installation because the kit from Mobile Solutions made it that easy.