How To: Build an iPod Dock in your Cupholder
The R53 MINI did a lot of things very well, however music connectivity was not one of them. Solutions like the Dension ICE:Link and later the DICE or OEM iPod adapter filled this void, but were aesthetically disappointing. This led me to try and build an iPod integration that was both functional and had a pleasing OEM look to it. In May of 2004 I came up with The R53 iPod dock.
You will need the following parts to build the dock using these instructions:
1) Your favorite iPod control device (ICE:Link, DICE, OEM adapter)
2) An iPod dock that you don't need, or an iPod dock adapter
3) A sheet of 2.0mm thick ABS Plastic - (Plastruct) - Available at most hobby shops
4) A plastic bonding agent - (Plastruct Bondene) - Available at most hobby shops
5) A variety of cutting and sanding tools
6) A zip-tie
7) Fast drying ABS epoxy
The first thing that you will need to do is fashion the dock itself. Remove the cupholder trim from the car. Looking at the bottom of the trim piece, there will be about six tabs on the inner ring of each side of the piece. They are meant to hold the rubber grips for the cupholder. You will need to remove these tabs from one side of the trim piece. The easiest way to do this is by simply cutting them off with an X-acto knife. Then just sand them down to get rid of any rough edges. You will also need to cut the rubber grip piece in half so that it only works on the side that you will not be utilizing for the iPod dock.
Next, you will need to cut a circular piece of ABS to fit the spot that was left behind by cutting out the rubber grip. This will be the support for the dock. It should fit pretty snugly between the cupholder trim and the cupholder.
If you are using an iPod dock, as I did, you will need to disassemble the dock using a spudger. It is tedious work and I would recommend using one of the iPod dock adapters instead. Just find the one that fits your iPod at the online Apple Store.
Using an x-acto knife (or the cutting tool of your choice) cut a hole in your ABS circle that is slightly smaller than the recessed area of your iPod dock adapter. Using the plastruct bondene, bond the dock adapter to the ABS circle following the directions on the bottle. I recommend using a small c-clamp or similar tool to keep the two pieces together while you are working on them.
Using your favorite sanding tools (you can pick up a set of small files at home depot), sand down the lip on the ABS circle to the same size as the recessed area of the dock adapter. This process will take quite a while, so be patient. Once you are happy with the blending of the two pieces give it a once over with some fine grip sandpaper to get out any imperfections and scuff it up for some primer.
Now is a good time to prime and paint the top of the dock. You will not need to paint the bottom since it will be hidden from view. Make sure to let the paint dry completely before moving on.
In the next step, you will attach the electronics to the dock. Your iPod control device should have come with a dock cable. There is most likely a set of tabs on the side which lock the dock cable into the iPod. Since this will impair the function of the dock, they need to be disabled. Fortunately, you can do this with a small zip-tie. Wrap the zip-tie around the dock cable, squeezing the two tabs together.
Next, test the fitting of the dock cable through your newly fashioned dock. If it does not make a connection, you will need to file down some of the plastic on the top of the dock cable. This is just a trial and error process to find the right amount of plastic to remove.
Once you are happy with the connection, you will need to attach the dock cable to the dock. Sand down and clean both pieces to promote adhesion. This is where the fast-drying ABS epoxy comes in. You can try attaching the dock cable to the dock using the plastruct bondene, but you will still need to toughen it up with the epoxy. Be generous when attaching the two pieces, because a strong bond is needed here.
Once the epoxy has dried and you are happy with everything, it is time to fit the dock to the cup holder.
If you have not already installed the iPod adapter, ChiliCooperMark has a good write-up here.
The main difference between the standard install and this one is the placement of the dock. You will need to run the cable from the dock connector to the iPod adapter.
Start by drilling a hole in the back side (closest to shifter) of the inside of the cup holder that is big enough to pass the dock connector wire thru. It needs to be on the shifter side of the cup holder in order to facilitate the wiring path.
The best thing to do is run the wiring under the carpeting. The extra padding will help avoid pinching the cable. Run the cable from the opening in the shift well under the carpet to the hole in the carpet noted in the photo above. You may need to use a wire coat hanger to lift the carpet enough to get the wire thru.
Once the wire is thru, hook everything up and test it out before putting the dash back together. Troubleshoot any problems that you have, put everything back together and enjoy your new iPod dock.
Feel free to PM me, or post any questions that you may have in this thread.