DIY Overhead console

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Cape Town
    Thanked: 31

    Default DIY Overhead console

    Hi guys, bit of a long read, but I'm proud of the outcome and there's a lot to say about the journey.

    I recently bought an RTS DV-2135s Mobile Radio, primarily due to it's size and cost. Since I drive an Isuzu KB5 though, saying that mounting options are limited is being extremely optimistic

    Initially I thought I could mount it in the ash tray cavity, but that was just a smidgen too small. On some of the YouTube channels I watch, I noticed some people have overhead consoles in their vehicles, so I did some research. Unfortunately, once again because I
    drive an Isuzu, my options were limited and I could only find Australian ones that appealed to me. Due to this, I started doing research on building one myself.

    I drew a lot of inspiration from this particular brand, and although I didn't set out to outright copy it (I started out trying to blend in other features I saw in other makes), as the pictures will show, the final product did end up with a strong resemblance to it. This mostly came down to limitations of the vehicle in terms of the concept of an overhead console. The rest of this post should clarify this.

    Unfortunately I didn't quite take photos at ALL the steps along the way, but you should be able to fill the existing gaps in most cases. I must also apologise for the quality of some of the photos. I'm not really a photographer, and when it looks good enough on your phone, it's not always really that great...

    Apart from the antenna installation, I did everything myself. Having the workshop manual for my bakkie helped significantly. Sadly no CAD designs (yet).

    I started out by tracing the contour of my cab roof liner using cardboard packaging from a security gate. Cutting this out, it became a kind of "pre-prototype":
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    The basic idea was that the radio would mount in the strong diagonal portion of the structure. Other features include extra, small, packing spaces in the center part and at the back, and a spot to mount a speaker for the VHF radio. To make sure I had symmetry on the two sides (at least as much as you can by doing these things by hand), I simply stapled two pieces of cardboard together and cut them at the same time.

    Next up was a prototype. I ended up using 3mm Masonite and some pine, as I have quite a bit of that lying around from other projects. I used the cardboard as a template to trace the outline. As with the cardboard, I fixed two pieces of Masonite together with screws, then cut out the sides using a jigsaw.
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    Next I took some 32mm x 20mm pine I had lying around, and cut it into 200mm pieces to use as cross supports. At this stage I was focusing on getting a rigid structure, so I did not pay too much attention to placement.
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    (Side note, if you're into Cosplay, this will make an awesome arm-mounted weapon-type prop )

    The front bracket consisted of 2 shelving brackets from Builder's Warehouse attached to the front most support, with a spacer block, to slide into a cavity right above and in front of the front reading light. This is a "passive" attachment, no screws and no drilling required. Due to the length of the shelving brackets, it fit snugly along the roof and did not move around after mounting. Before fitting though, I wrapped the contacting ends in foam liner and duct tape to prevent damage to the vehicle roof. The cross-member there is also more than strong enough to carry the load.
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    The rear bracket was a leftover piece of the security gate installation that i didn't need. Connecting that to the middle support in the rear section of the console, I drilled to holes to match up with the existing dome light fixture holes:Attachment 533865
    Unfortunately I don't have a photo of that here, but as that particular piece made it all the way to the final console, it's in one of the later pictures.
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    As we had an outing, I decided to use the opportunity as a test fitting with the radio and speaker mounted:
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    The sharp-eyed will notice that at this point I already had to make a modification to the design. The diagonal part originally intended for the radio was too far towards the back, as well as too low down to be practical. I removed the triangles at the bottom as they were now just something that was in the way, and mounted the radio a bit more forward. I should probably add that the fairly narrow front portion was to allow for sunvisor movement without any interference (ie. the sunvisors can be moved from front to side as normal).
    At this stage I still connected the radio to a mag mount antenna, and powered it via a cigarette socket (the power cable can be seen going forward).

    As far as holding the radio in a convenient place, with the microphone easy to reach, this worked fantastic. As it was still just a skeleton at this stage, I could not yet test packing space.

    MK I
    The outing did expose another flaw in the prototype though; Being a fairly tall guy, on the shaky bits of track, my head would occasionally hit the side of the panel. Thus some modifications were necessary to end up in what would become the MK I console. Unfortunately I didn't take photos specifically for the purpose of indicating the changes to address the flaws, but in summary the main flaws of the prototype were:
    1. It was too wide (in a vertical sense), it had to be far lower profile
    2. The original position of the radio was too far forward and too low. This prompted the front end of the console to be a bit deeper. An unfortunate side-effect is that the sunvisors now need to be pulled down slightly to clear the console when moving them to the side (the simple flapping down motion is still un-obstructed though)
    3. Looking closely at the prototype test fitting, one might notice that the console is slanting forward. This is because the prototype assumed a fairly horizontal roof lining, but that's not the case.

    Building on this new information, I started work on the MK I. I used 20mm angle iron as a general "lining" on the bottom edge of the console sides. This allowed me to also secure the bottom sections onto more uniform mounting points. I tapped the holes in the angle iron, so there's no need for nuts (no welding required).
    I have to apologise that the order of the next few pictures will seem odd, but I got so excited when things worked I immediately pushed on to the next thing and forgot I wanted to document the process

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    Here is the assembled MK I with a test fit of the radio and speaker. At this stage I had not yet cut out the holes for the cabin lights.
    I tried to cut the holes in the panels as close to the size needed as possible. I made the rear panel separate, as that's where the rear attachment point would be, as well as wiring and fuses for extra power sockets, so basically a maintenance panel.

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    Next up, a test fit after the holes for the factory lights were cut. I used aluminium angle to make mounting points for these. For the front light, the angle simply fits in the appropriate locations for the light clips, and for the rear light I drilled holes for the screw holes.
    At this point, the storage space still needs to be cut out. It should be clear how different this looks from the prototype.

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    This is all (well, almost) the pieces after being painted. I used light grey chalk spray paint that I covered with a spray on varnish. The rear mounting bracket is on the right of the picture. I cut a rough hole and lined it with duct tape for the factory power cable. In the final design the rear light cable was just-just long enough to be used as is. I had to extend the power cable of the front factory light, but unfortunately I don't have a picture of that.
    The bracket in the top right is the speaker mount.
    The bracket in the top left is the radio mount, but I ended up replacing the pine with an aluminium flat bar with the ends bend at 90' for 2 reasons:
    1. It gave a bit more space for the power and antenna cables
    2. I didn't drill the holes in the pine as accurate as I wanted them

    The aluminium fittings in the lower left are for the front reading light.

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    The new front mounting bracket (missing from the previous picture). This was just a flat bar I bent to replace the wood (once again, more space for cables). As i wasn't quite happy with some aspects of the original mounting bracket I adjusted the design a bit. These are T-brackets from Builder's Warehouse, mounted on a ~20mm square tube used as a spacer on top of the flat bar. What's perhaps not so clear on this picture is the 40mm (I think) angle iron right below the T-brackets. This was needed because the T-brackets are a lot shorter than the original design, so there was lateral movement of the console. The angle iron fits snugly (after being duct taped for protection) in the small cavity visible on the picture of the front light opening. It caries no weight though.
    This is all held together with 4mm screws and nuts.

    Some after-assembly photos:
    The assembled front compartment:
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    The front mounting part for the reading light can be seen here, as well as the mounted radio.

    The assembled rear compartment:
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    The rear mounting bracket and mounted speaker. The rear mounting bracket hides the wires at the back somewhat. I have a cigarette type power socket on the one side, and a 2x USB port socket on the other side, both fused with 5A fuses using inline fuse holders. The small storage compartment for the rear seat is also visible. I tried to cover exposed metal (especially screws) with foam lining. Cables are routed in normal trunking where possible.

    Final fitment:
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    I drilled and tapped an extra hole in the right-hand forward angle iron to fit the microphone clip holder. The cable holder in the middle is just a 20mm dowel with small piece of Masonite glued to it and screwed into the pine support after being painted black. I made the radio panel black to look more uniform across that face.
    To round things off and to protect the roof lining, I used rubber U-channel on the topmost edges.

    Wiring and connectors:
    Back-of-the napkin calculations showed that the setup shouldn't really use more than 9A, and that's with everything going full throttle all the time (which really should not ever happen).

    I initially wanted to use 4mm2 cabling, but that seemed too thick for some of the spaces, and at 9A, I ended up using 2.5mm2 cable instead. The cable runs from the driver side foot-well through the A-pillar into the roof to the front reading light.

    I wanted the console to be powered as an "accessory", since I don't have a permanent second battery, and I don't want the main battery to be run down accidentally. To do this, I added a relay switched from the ACC fuse using a piggyback-fuse. Due to space limitations in the fuse box around that fuse, I technically have the piggyback holder the wrong way around, but as the relay coil only draws ~150mA, I decided this is acceptable.
    I tied the main power into the existing fuse box with another piggyback connector on an open fuse that according to the workshop manual is sometimes used for the rear window defogger. As my bakkie doesn't have that feature, the fuse space is blank. I initially just wanted to tap into the wiring loom, but in my case the loom does not even have the connector in the plug (and I don't have the correct one to add it), hence the piggyback route. This is switched through the previously mentioned relay.
    I opted for this route, as it's far easier than trying to run an additional cable through the firewall (there's basically no space to work with in the engine compartment unless you're willing to remove components first).

    For fuses I used a 10A fuse on the main power line, which is in line with the value for the rear defogger fuse according to the workshop manual. The two power sockets and the radio each has a separate 5A fuse.

    I had an antenna installed (though the guys were friendly to let me stay and watch) on the passenger side next to the bonnet. Initially I wanted a C-pillar install, but on my bakkie it's simply to tricky, as it's apparently a double layer metal sheeting. I'm quite happy with the end result though. Fortunately these guys found a space in the firewall to run the antenna cable next to the bonnet-opening cable. From there it also goes up the A-pillar to the front reading light opening.

    Future considerations:
    Yes, I'm already looking for ways to improve things
    • My first modification will be to add a manual override switch to have the console powered even when the keys are removed. This is because I have a tendency to switch the vehicle off and remove the keys when I stop, even if it's just for a scenery appreciation moment. Unfortunately, this ends up with the radio being switched of. Normally this would be fine, but on trips, it becomes annoying.
    • As part of the override switch, I want to add an LED to indicate the console is being powered. I'll probably add this next to the radio
    • In future designs I would try to accommodate a proper fuse box. In-line fuse holders tend to clutter small spaces.
    • I went with mini-Anderson plugs for power, though in future I'll probably try to rather find DTP type Deutsch connectors.
    • Probably not a bad idea to make the radio bay slightly larger. Although I tried to be able to accommodate standard single DIN dimensions, I think it's just-just too small for most radios.
    • I'd probably try to do something CAD wise and have the cutting done by CNC.
    Last edited by Pienats; 2019/07/15 at 08:37 AM. Reason: Fixed typo
    2012 Isuzu KB300LX D-TEQ D/C 4x4 MT
    • Unichip
    • DIY Overhead Console

    2015 Infanta 4x4 Offroad trailer (Bessie die Boskampwa)

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Thanked: 64

    Default Re: DIY Overhead console

    Thank you for a very informative and well explained project. I hope you enjoy it and improving it, as much as I enjoyed reading it raise:

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  5. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Brentwood Park
    Thanked: 399

    Default Re: DIY Overhead console

    Well done on a great diy project. It would have taken me six months of trial and error and it probably would still not have come out so neat. You can be proud. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Cape Town
    Thanked: 31

    Default Re: DIY Overhead console

    Quote Originally Posted by Chopped View Post
    Well done on a great diy project. It would have taken me six months of trial and error and it probably would still not have come out so neat. You can be proud. Thanks for sharing.
    To be honest, I think no-one is more surprised by the outcome than I am
    All-in-all, it took about 6 weeks from cardboard to final fitment, but that's working on it on-and-off: being winter in the cape, usable light only lasts until about 18:00 and my garage does not have terribly great light. Even using a camping light by the workbench didn't help that much, as that was from the side instead of from the top. So basically week nights were out, leaving only weekends to work on it. And once again, we weren't home on some of those.

    That being said, I also surprised myself by opting for hand tools in many cases instead of power tools. I did all the sanding by hand to try and get panels flush; this mostly worked . I think this worked in my favor in-so-far as precision go, but in general i had to force myself to be far more patient than usual, especially with the cutting parts. I was definitely a lot more careless with the inside panels that are hidden from view
    2012 Isuzu KB300LX D-TEQ D/C 4x4 MT
    • Unichip
    • DIY Overhead Console

    2015 Infanta 4x4 Offroad trailer (Bessie die Boskampwa)

  8. The Following User Says Thank You to Pienats For This Useful Post:


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