Jun 30, 2004
Some could be annoyed. I'm obsessed with my 25-year-old SUV. But my retro-fit bringing it into the 21st century appears at an end. "On the Seventh Day, he rested, and he saw that it was good . . . " I made some tremendous discoveries, although some would say irrelevant, because . . . who is driving a 25-year-old car, attempted to preserve the original OEM audio system?

When I was seven years old in 1954, we had black and white TV which, for some makes and models, required a technician to visit the house frequently for repair. It was the beginning of the Golden Age of television, and there was a precursor of Star Trek entitled "Captain Video". Captain Video was more realistic in some ways than "Flash Gordon" with its characters Dale Arden, Dr. Zarkov and the Emperor Ming ("yellow peril"). Captain Video featured aging space freighters -- the equivalent of used cars and trucks.

My mother would bring home cardboard boxes from the A&P grocery; I would find a nice stiff one, cut the open side of the box at an angle so that it would sit on the floor like a space-ship command console, and I would use my Crayons to draw little "LED" lights or pushbuttons on the box. Then I would find a pencil or something of an appropriate shape to stick in the box as a "lever". When Captain Video appeared on TV, I was ready at the helm.


Star Trek was always entertaining, presaging the age of the "Beam-me-up-Scotty" cell-phone era, but after the movie release of "Star Trek: First Contact" which I first saw at the age of 49, I became something of a pervert. It was the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), who brought forth in me taboo desires. With Picard shackled and standing before her, the Borg Queen is doing some maintenance on herself, lifting her torso and head from her lower body using her spaceship's robotic arms as she continues a nonchalant discussion with her captive. I thought to myself "Wow! What a rack on that b****!" I began to have erotic dreams of slam-dancing with lavender or gray colored female humanoid space-aliens -- all cold and slimy like fish.

So in the spirit of my innocent childhood play and my X-rated adult obsessions, I began to think of my Trooper project along similar lines. My Android tablet is my Borg Queen. And the entire makeover I gave to my OEM 1995 digital receiver and speakers adds two independent Bluetooth receivers, three USB ports (two "QC"), three separately-stored and accessed music libraries -- the least of which is my OEM 12-CD changer. I have a "backup camera" which is really a "rearview" camera -- switched and turned on persistently as long as I want. I've got voice-recognition and voice-navigation from the Borg Queen's "Google Maps". I'm on the verge of something big, here, if I can make the voice announce at my destination, "Home Depot! You have arrived at your destination. Please connect the electronic Vac-U-Jac, and I will give you a b***-j** . . . . "


The original Isuzu receiver head-unit has FM radio (of course), a cassette tape-player and the CD changer -- selectable with each of three push-buttons. In another thread, I showed how I added an MP3-player (FM-transmitter and Bluetooth receiver), with some neat woodworkng to produce a walnut face-plate for the device. To use it, I only need to punch the FM radio button, preset to an unused frequency to pair with the transmitter device.

At that point, some folks asked me why I didn't just replace the OEM head-unit/receiver. My answer, of course, was that such a choice pre-empted the continued use of the 12-CD changer, integral to the OEM Isuzu audio system. And the Trooper's Isuzu head-unit was considered to be a darn good one in 1995. I was told that I was missing out on the new stuff "out there and available", like a $1,000 double-DIN Pioneer Android head unit that would allow addition of a backup camera, like the Rohent model I chose (another thread, easily found by its title). Well, I was certainly missing out on spending $1,000! And a double-DIN unit might require cutting up the "lower console cover" to make it fit. What could I do for much less, without cutting up or modifying my dashboard? I hadn't even thought of the possibilities before installing the MP3 player. Whatever it would cost beyond the approximately $50 MP3 project would also be less of a consideration just for wanting to keep the function and appearance of the OEM audio parts.

The Vankyo S7 tablet cost me about $80. It does not have a SIM card; there is no mobile connection paired with a phone number. I don't need or want a subscription to pay monthly for having mobile access. I only need GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an accelerometer sensor and the remaining features of the tablet with Android 9.0. From our garage, I can always connect to our household LAN and Wi-Fi to download software updates, Google Map data files, new music and so on.


Tablet PCs -- Androids or I-pads -- can weigh up to 1.3 lbs. How do you mount them on your dashboard so that they (a) don't obstruct your windshield road-view, (b) don't wobble from road vibration and worse -- (c) don't fall off to cause a distraction and driving hazard?

I've found two types of devices for mounting tablets. Both are exemplified with the OHLPRO mounting kit:

OHLPRO Tablet Holder

which allows one to use a suction-cup dashboard mount or an air-vent mount that secures to the vent louvres.

How any particular model performs on your car depends on the type and strength of the vents and your dashboard's ability to maintain a reliable suction with the suction cup mount. Customer reviews are mixed; sometimes the suction cup comes loose from the sun's heat. Special 3M discs are available for a "permanent" mount of the suction cup -- an additional part with extra implications for removal that complicate the strategy. The vent mount option can still be a problem: vents can be broken or damaged; the mount might seem to be installed properly but they come loose; they may wobble more from vibration than with the suction
cup approach, which still behaves the same way.

Another example is this vent-louvre mount which seems more promising in certain respects than the one bundled with the OHLPRO:

Air Vent Tablet Holder by ANSWERWIRELESS

So I decided to add my own construction to the OHLPRO suction cup mount -- which, for the time being, seems stable and strong. I designed these little "Thunderbird wings", laminated in pairs of black foam art-board, which fit snugly in between two or three louvres at a time. The louvres can't move, and they can't be broken -- assuming the wings are cut with some precision with slots 2mm wide and 1cm apart (the specs will vary from one make and model of car to another).




At the moment, these two inserts take the tablet's weight off the OHLPRO mount, insuring that the suction cup won't come loose from a construction-zone jolt. If indeed the OHLPRO does fail, a local intersection's construction zone proved to me that the foam core additions prevent the tablet from falling off the dash, because the bracket holding the tablet can be knocked off its mount to the suction-cup device -- which it did -- and the foam-core inserts still held it in place.
But the plan goes beyond the hybrid of the foam-board and $20 tablet mount. I may eventually add two more foam-board pieces to the equation which secure the upper edge of the tablet and eliminate the need for the OHLPRO altogether. This poses an option of an outer frame and sun-visor for the tablet -- nothing that can't wait for a long time. In the meantime, one might wonder if the ANSWERWIRELESS device wobbles from road vibration around the axis of the single vent-louvre mount. Since the foam-board DIY parts work so well, I may never bother trying this latter item at all.

I can redesign the foam-core parts so that the tablet will sit lower on the dashboard. But then, I have the problem that the tablet's rear camera can't serve as a dashboard camera and recorder. I have an idea to resolve that, which I can explain later.

I'd chosen a 7" Vankyo Android tablet because it only weighed 8 ounces, and I made the decision before I proved the success of the foam-core inserts. I might instead have opted for the 8" Vankyo MatrixPad, but the 7" tablet seems perfectly adequate.

After my construction-zone observation proving the partial success of the foam-core vent inserts, I was anxious that I needed to proceed more hastily with the additional foam-core parts that would nail down the tablet on its upper edge. I also purchased a high-quality 10"-long USB-to-micro-USB cable to run from the thoughtfully-placed USB QC ports to the tablet.. It turns out that the cable is stiff enough, and can be secured to vents behind the tablet to do just as well holding the tablet in place during rough travel. So I can save the extra heat-knife work with foam-core for later.



Earlier in my "fuse-box extension" thread, there had been a lively discussion as to whether wiring these accessories to the ACC circuit and its 50A fusible-link was adequate. I'd been concerned that I only had so many amps to allocate to stay within the fusible-link's limit. The cigar-lighter has a 20A fuse, but probably draws less -- how much less, I don't know. However, that discussion was biased by mistaken specs. The specs I quoted for amperage draw on each of four devices was based on an internal device voltage of 5V, while the draw against the fusible-link involved a 12V circuit -- therefore considerably less amperage than I had cited.


Rearview Camera____________________0.3A____________________________1A
MP3 Player _________________________0.5 to 1.5A*_____________________2A
USB QC Charger ____________________1.5A____________________________2A
WinPlus Interior LED system_________3.0A____________________________3A


If I want to play cautious while firing up a doobie from the cigar-lighter, I can switch off the LED system and USB charger. But I doubt that it matters. Other accessories -- the robotic mirrors for instance -- are never going to be operated when the newly-added accessories are turned on, so only the radio receiver bears any consideration. Yet, the OEM manufacturer fused audio and mirrors with a 10A fuse. Further, the anti-theft system supposedly can draw up to 10A, but it has been de-activated.

Rocker switches come in two or more flavors -- the most common being the 3-pin LED switch and the 5-pin switch with 2 LEDs. These latter switches allow you to connect your parking/side-marker light circuit to illuminate one LED, and flipping on the switch illuminates the second LED. So ground wires for the LEDs can be jumpered. One wire comes from the battery and fusible-link -- perhaps for the ACCessory circuit, another connects to the device drawing power, and a third connects to the comb-switch parking-light hot wire.

For a different reason I won't discuss here, I didn't want to add LEDs to the comb-switch light circuit, so the 5-pin switches I use still draw power from the ACC fuse-box extension. Thus, they light up when you start the car. One of these I used for the backup camera's power. The remainder of my switches are 3-pin.
I tried connecting the Android charging cable to the USB port provided by the MP3 player. The Android charges from it, but slower than it consumes power. I needed "QC" Quick-Charge ports, and investigated the options. Since I had rocker-switch blanks on my dashboard located just below the tablet's mount and center console vent, I chose to put the dual-port switch there, and switch it with a 3-pin rocker switch.

At this point, what did I have? I had two Bluetooth devices to pair with a cell-phone or other item independently. With the MP3 player's BT06 Bluetooth receiver, I could play music from the Android through the MP3 player and transmitted to the FM receiver, and I could toggle at will between the Android's playback and the MP3-player's own USB album library.

That left available my tape player. If I play my old rock-and-roll cassettes, it's usually for a one-time conversion to digital media. I don't take them in the car.


There are many devices available as cassette adapters for MP3 players and Walkman CD-players, which transmit music through the tape heads of the car's tape deck. Sony once made a pretty good one, and now there are others. Yet, after 2000, fewer and fewer cars offered tape-players and opted for Cd-players in the OEM head-unit/receivers. That was 20 years ago!

Who is going to use these devices you can still find at Amazon? The other day, I was watching a video recording of the Rolling Stones' free concert in Havana, with their Latin American tour. And I remembered. Cuba's motor fleet has a lot of old cars, some dating back to the 1950s -- due to the US embargo. Third-world countries around the globe probably have large inventories of older cars with cassette players, and this might still include China, India, SE Asia and Latin America. Maybe there are a lot of old cars in Russia or eastern Europe. There's a car-culture in Iran that takes pride in oldies from the 50's and 60's, and there are probably -- more broadly -- more used cars across the Middle East, excluding centers of wealth like Abu Dhabi. Did I forget Africa? Can you imagine how many used cars there are in Africa?

So there's still a market for cassette-adapters, whether they feed sound by 3.5mm stereo-phone jacks, or . . . something else. There are Bluetooth cassette adapters -- some of which accommodate an SD/TF card of music files as another source music library selectable from the driver's seat. I began to salivate over the possibilities.

What else can one do, to re-deploy a vehicle's cassette player? Here's a DIY project, that requires removal of the head-unit/receiver, its disassembly and soldering about 4 wires to the cassette circuit board in order to connect a USB-to-3.5mm Bluetooth dongle:

DIY Cassette-to-Bluetooth Project

For me, just removing the head-unit is a lot of work. The author of the article cites his own mistakes as he works through the project. How can I avoid all that -- the work, the mistakes?

There are reasons to use a conventional cassette-adapter with 3.5mm phone cable. The Vankyo tablet not only features Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. It offers digital FM radio. The FM radio needs a 3.5mm phone wire for an antenna. And the only problem with using it: it cannot feed sound through the 3.5mm phone-jack and cable when there's a Bluetooth connection to the Android. So the Android's BT connection must be disabled. It offers these possibilities.

Reception of FM through the Vankyo is not as strong for pulling in stations as the OEM radio. So you can play music from the MP3-player USB library, to pass it through the FM-transmitter to the Android after pairing the frequencies. This then allows for regular use of the OEM radio as originally intended. But this is just an option. It is not a necessity.

We want to choose a cassette adapter which has the highest sound quality, produces music at a volume equal to that of the OEM CD-changer, and generating little or no background noise. I looked at two conventional cassette adapters, and two which offer Bluetooth receiving music transmitted from the Android.
Here's my summary of results.

Last edited:


Jun 30, 2004
I thought that a conventional cassette adapter made by Maxell would be a good bet, and it was only about $12 plus tax and shipping (which may have been free):

Maxell CD-330

I can expect these products will vary among stock off the assembly line, an aspect of "luck of the draw". I have good ears -- nearly perfect pitch -- but I'm getting old. So if I pronounce a judgment about an item's performance, it is of course "just my opinion". It isn't that the Maxell is bad. But right away I could tell it was short on bass and longer on treble. I wouldn't call the sound "tinny" although others might say that, but it just didn't have enough bass volume, and I had to adjust the Isuzu receiver's settings to some extremes to make it right.

And then, for about $8, I found this Westgo adapter, with about 1,700 customer reviews and popularity a function of the price as well as the performance. The 3.5mm jack housing and wire seem flimsy, but a flimsy, flexible and thin wire has advantages for routing in crevices of the dashboard to resolve the "dangling wire" problem. the 3.5mm jack itself makes a nice stiff connection. There's a little background noise coming from the cassette wheels or their effect on the cassette player, but nothing to raise a stink about. The sound is robust and pretty good. So for conventional wired adapters, I'd pick this one. If something went wrong with it, that's about $8 in dissatisfaction, and no obstacle to trying another model.

Then we have the Bluetooth adapters. I shelled out about $27 for the Aluratek model.

These have a built-in rechargeable battery which should operate for 6 hours at a time before needing a USB recharge. Charging might take about an hour. Conceivably, one could eject the device, plug in a micro-USB to USB A cable, and charge it in the car if the car has a USB port. I took care of that as I showed earlier with my dual-port QC rocker switch, but other folks might have to take the cassette adapter into the house and charge it there. More clutter to manage in your life; more things to remember or forget to take to the car.

Sound is stellar. There is mild background noise without music-play when the car is running -- a faint staccato of burping noises that likely reflects the firing of spark-plugs. Again, nothing to raise major objections, and one customer-review posted pictures with circles and arrows and instructions on how to remove the internal toothed wheels to get rid of noise. But you cannot charge the unit while it is being used, so you'll interrupt your listening enjoyment for an hour or so for charging.

I wanted something better than that. My search turned up another Chinese item (they're all Chinese) called the I-Tape from an outfit named HeiBaige. Plenty of promising reviews, but that particular posting on Amazon was labeled "no longer available".

This is why I wanted to try it. It charges while in use. It has a 3-button tootsie-roll dongle, with the buttons serving multiple functions: the middle button turns it on and off if you hold it for 5 seconds; the "+" button raises the volume if you hold it persistently, and punching it intermittently will advance the play to the next track or song; the "-" button lowers volume and skips back a track as desired in the same way.

Sound quality and reproduction: I can run Metallica's "Sandman" on both the Borg Queen Android and the CD-changer at the same time, switching between them. The first time I made a comparison -- I intend to make several more -- sound quality was a total matchup to the CD-play. A day later, I made a startling discovery, one which I never saw touted in reviews or the Amazon item description -- I'll check again, too, because there's always a possibility I missed it. But nobody of several people I've read in the reviews seemed to mention it.

Other devices have a volume limitation built-in. The JINSERTA MP3/FM-xmitter/BT follows digital progression from 1 to 31 before it will go no farther and make an audible beep. After that, the only way to adjust the volume is on the OEM receiver, and then you get to the end of a combined effect. The MP3 player falls behind the maximum volume of the CD-play by 10 to 15%. That's not bad, really, because that's still the maximum level I can stand to hear the CD-play, even if volume on the receiver can go farther.

The Heibaige i-Tape 6, on the other hand, doesn't have a volume limit that stops before your ears can't take it anymore. Going into that excessive range, it clips and distorts on the receiver and my speakers. You have to set a kind of overlap between a sound range for the i-Tape 6 and the receiver. You have to tune the receiver to a setting close to its maximum setting, and then shift the i-Tape 6 range back or forth until turning the receiver knob from 0 to 3/4 (more or less) gives you the smoothest transition when adjusting receiver volume.

That discovery came as a big surprise, and I was beginning to shriek when I heard the badly-adjusted combination for the first time. At some point, I had pressed the + button instead of the on/off and held it down 5 seconds or even more. I guarantee that re-adjusting the volume goes back and forth in decreasing increments, but it's not any failure of the button or switch. It actually takes practice -- even call it "training".

So while you benefit from this tremendous option to even boost your receiver's output a bit, you may find yourself readjusting the volume settings on the i-Tape 6.

As to dangling wires. We may have started looking to eliminate those visible cables altogether, but now we have technically about 2 of them. The tootsie-roll cable just forms a loop about 3 cm diameter, if you can stick the button dongle on a nearby surface so that ejection of the i-Tape 6 can take its full stroke. I used the white foam 2-sided 3M tape of broad familiarity. It works great. If you have to cut off the 3M tape and dongle for some reason of maintenance or use of a different device like the Aluratek, that's really not a lot of trouble unless you're doing it more than once a month or not at all. You really don't want to see doing it on a regular basis, but no damage is done for reinstalling the dongle with new tape. For reference, the collar around the wire going into the dongle is red, in the middle of the following pic. I have to feel the buttons, because I can't see them directly. I suppose some improvement could be made there, but I'm just happier'n'a pig-n-shit that it has this degree of permanence.


To the truth of it, this problem of unintended volume adjustment can be reduced just by letting the unit turn itself off after 10 minutes trying to pair with anything. That leaves the USB wire, which is conveniently slim and flexible. It can be routed and secured with Pit Crew's Choice or Stik-n-Seal.

Do you SEE any WIRES??!! Maybe if you look hard enough.

Now I just need to see how permanent that can be. To be honest, I haven't had any trouble with any Chinese tech product I've purchased lately. None.

I grew up in Riverside, California. Riverside was settled by British immigrants in the 1870s, and became a hub of the California citrus industry until many of the orange groves -- some which I planted myself! -- gave up the land for tracts of McMansions. There was a time in any given spring when you could take a motorcycle ride on the outskirts of the city in the cool air, to be overwhelmed by the heavenly scent of orange blossoms. Or, to borrow Marlon Brando's script-line in Cappola's war movie, speaking of the gardenias along the banks of the Ohio River -- "It smelled like heaven."

Victoria Avenue is an historically-preserved street with roads divided by a center boulevard planted with roses and date palms. Orange groves persist on either side of the thoroughfare. There are no stop-lights -- only signs. Street lights are few and far between. So, from the west end of Riverside to the north of town, the railroad tracks follow a C-shape. Outside the tracks is the Gage Canal -- used to irrigate the groves. And about a half mile outside the arc of the canal -- Victoria Avenue. I remember visiting a curio-shop in Georgetown -- Washington DC -- around 1975, and an enameled orange-crate filled with ceramic geese was featured in the display window. On the crate was a label, showing the rear of a Model T heading down Victoria Avenue -- underneath, the words "Victoria Avenue, Riverside, California".

I had successfully installed my Wi-Fi backup camera -- featured in another thread. When I got it working with the Android, I was almost disappointed during daytime road travel. Sometimes there was the glare of the sun on the Android screen, and other times, you had a better view of the cars behind from the rearview mirror. I shrugged my shoulders. "Oh, well!"

Then, on a moonless night, I took the Trooper out for a tour of Victoria Avenue. The rearview mirror showed nothing but pitch blackness. But the Android with the Wi-Fi Cam?! Amazing! Night vision! A whole new dimension in driving at night, especially for an old fart and his declining eyesight. Next time, I'll use that street to get farther out where I actually might have a chance to savor that lovely smell of the blossoms.

Nothing to do but turn on the camera dashboard switch first, then boot up the Android and raise the backup camera app. No fuss, no bother, no problem.

With the camera off, the Android reverts to a connection to our household LAN and wi-fi when parked in the garage. I can download more MP3 files, and update software. I can also keep an eye on my invalid Moms through our wi-fi Amcrest security cams while I'm in the garage, working on the car. With the camera on, the Android immediately connects to it instead.

Google Maps -- an absolute necessity. The backup cam app. The regular Android camera app for the tablet's "dash-cam". Google Play for the music. There's a digital speedometer app, which works well enough.

The only thing we're missing here is OBD-2 connection to the vehicle's ECM, so that a Bluetooth connection to a device attached to the OBD-2 plug can be used by software like ELM 327. But then, I couldn't use the Android's Bluetooth feature to stream music to the OEM receiver-tape-player. So that project is on a back burner.


I'd like to reorient the tablet so it sits lower -- just above the rocker switches. But then, the rear camera of the tablet will be obstructed, no longer able to function as a dash-cam and recorder. What to do? What to do?

Well, we were planning eventually to complete my foam-board frame and maybe remove the OHLPRO tablet holder. Can I make a simple 1.5"x1.5" x 5" box of foam board and build it into the frame? Sure I can. I want a stubby periscope for the Android.

I discovered these "eyeglasses" for about $12, and ordered three pair: one for my Moms, who is bedridden; one for me, so I don't have to prop my head with pillows to watch TV; and one to see if I can use the essential parts to build my periscope.

I'm no Leonardo da Vinci and no physicist, so my understanding of optics is weak. I'll have to cut up a pair of the eyeglasses and play with the two resulting prisms. We . . . shall . . . see. Anyone who has insight on orienting the prisms in my periscope box, please post insights or comments.


I spent a lot of chump change testing items, and haven't sent any of them back. I give stuff away to friends. Call that the "price of knowledge and information". So what was the actual expense of my BORG-QUEEN ANDROID project, including the redundant MP3-Player/FM-transmitter/Bluetooth receiver? We also won't count my Trooper's audio speaker upgrade -- replacing what was already there in the first place and practically from the assembly line. We're only interested in the "21st century retro-fits".

MP3-Player, switch, parts and supplies__________$50
Android 7" S7 tablet____________________________$80
OHLPRO tablet mount__________________________$17
Rohent Wi-Fi Backup camera___________________ $80
Wi-Fi antenna extension________________________$10
[optional -- for aesthetic preferences of vehicle exterior]
HeiBaige Bluetooth Cassette Adapter___________$26
Miscellaneous switches, cables, wire___________$50

Did I forget anything? I have abundant supplies. Art-board is cheap, maybe $3.00 for a 2'x3' panel. Pit Crew's Choice -- tube of Loctite Stik'n'Seal -- maybe $8. I have a bottle of "Hold-the-Foam" for welding foam-board together, but that's another $10 item from Michael's Arts & Crafts.

So I count $334. I can buy a dash-cam/backup-cam kit by THINKWARE from B & H Photo for $400, but it doesn't stream music; doesn't tell me "Turn left in 600 feet"; doesn't have a speedometer app. I think I can get real-time "weather" without a mobile internet connection on the Android -- I'll look into that. I could be wrong about the THINKWARE; many of these items feature GPS or MP3 play. I suppose that's fine if you want to deal with the wiring around your windshield or dashboard, and have something hanging from your OEM mirror which is now no longer functionally visible. I thought I saw a price range from $140 to $250 -- more or less either way.

But none of them provide this. I can queue up Rolling Stones' "40 Licks" album on the Android, Bach's Goldberg Variations for Harpsichord on the JINSERTA MP3 player, and Metallica on the CD changer. Or I could queue up Metallica on the Android, the Beatles White Album on the MP3 player, and Led Zeppelin on the CD player. For any given day, I could simply pick three albums as if I were a DJ with three turntables in front of me, and pick and choose to my listening pleasure without searching further through my libraries, using only this or that pushbutton to shift from one source to another.

The easiest of the sources to manipulate has the fewest options: the 12-CD-changer. But I can pick from over a hundred albums (and growing!) drawn from the two other sources if I pull off the road for a few minutes and poke some buttons or the touch-screen.

What's better than that? You can tell me -- I want to know. I'm an old fart from the 20th century. What do I know? But I kept my OEM receiver and CD-changer. No dangling wires. I built it! It's mine! Sound quality -- superlative! I've got a four-wheel-drive juke-box concert-hall!

Rock and Roll! Live Long and Prosper! Klatu! Barada! Nicto! ET-- call home! And that's also right -- I've got hands-free Bluetooth calling, and soon I'll be able to pick the interior lighting for any given day with a third Bluetooth receiver -- WinPlus Type S LED kit. Maybe -- next month. I've already installed the wiring and fuse, ready to connect.

One more thing. Amazon must love me. Am I making Jeff Bezos rich?!
Last edited: