1988 Chevy P-30 Postal Truck, Ethan style
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NOTICE! The truck will most likely be featured in an upcoming edition of O'Reilly's Make
Magazine! I will post more information in the future. We also plan to put it in our upcoming IPTV
show called Protovision.tv. More info as it becomes availible. There are LOTS of pictures
of the truck under the personal page, geek photo gallery under p30.
This added March 5, 2006.

This page will follow my progress in my customization of a P30 postal truck into a marketing truck.

Click the images and you will see the full version in a new window.

The truck before mods...

A bit of background....

I actually like the P-30 body style! That's right, out of all the step vans this particular body style is my favorite!

Local print advertising is very expensive. I mean, it's stupid expensive to advertise in the Virginian Pilot. What's worse, is whenever I think about advertising I think about how often I ignore such media outlets and how little effect it really has on my purchasing decisions.

So I had to move because the asshat owner of the house I rented upped the rent, plus the place was tired. So it was a perfect time to purchase a truck. I was looking on feeBay and plotting a trip to New Jersey to pick up a truck, when I discovered a local company *RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER* had one! Holy crap. So I went over to Planet Auto, and spoke with them. Cool guys! Soon after I had a truck!

She had a few problems. The shifting on the tranny... quit. It turned out to be a vacume line plugged into the tranny. I plugged it back in, and shifting started again. Magic. It's possible it got yanked out when I was checking out the engine.

A known problem before I bought it was that the battery ran dead. Well, in my adventures in installing a stereo I monkeyed with a switch for the air conditioning (a fan). Now it doesn't drain. *shrug*. And it jams!

My goals...

The truck has to be stunning. It has to look decent, but I can't afford a paint job. It has to be loaded with technology. Neat stuff, that works. Sniff the 802.11 networks, perhaps be able to access the internet via GPRS, GPS location, and video playback. It needs to be able to terminate an 802.11b directional shoot, and display MPEG2 video from it.

Part 0 - Make it rock

First thing that went in the truck was the tunes. I picked up some cheap Pyramid speakers (truck speakers) from the local stereo outlet. I needed the wire, and the speakers would allow me to rock a bit. I think I killed them. Of course, Pyramid, they are rated at 200 watts on the box but couldn't take 30 clean watts from a Sony amp. Who can complain.

I mounted my old Sony MDX-C150 Minidisc deck in the truck, along with a 40 x 4 Sony amp. My friend Erik gave me an old MTX crossover he had, which helped ALOT. My old SAS 10" Subwoofer went in the back, and does an okay job. Later a larger bass bin will be installed, but I want to avoid damaging the projector with hard hitting bass.

Amp and crossover...

The truck before mods...

Part 1 - Projection

First and foremost I had to figure out what to do for video projection. I looked at various projection ratios and compared to the structure of the truck. The door is a pocket door, so that space is untouchable. I checked into various do-it-yourself websites about video projectors and video projection, but there was little information about rear projection.

First stop was Norva Plastics. They lent me a sample of some 1/4" plexiglass that features an antiglare surface, and a matte finish on the back. Under tests I thought at first it wouldn't work, but after consulting a few others (Chris, Matt, Josh) they said it looked okay. So I purchased the largest piece I could that fit my ratio... 64" wide by 48" high.

After testing this plexi, I found that the hotspots were bad. Too much light was leaking thru. I tested paper on the back, and things looked better. So next spot was WalMart. Oddly, I ran into Mary there! I explained my need for a white shower curtain and a white bed sheet. Then took them and tested. The bed sheet worked fairly well and is the current item in use.

Cutting out the side was a pain. At first I started with a dremel tool, but that wasn't cutting it. Hahaha, get it? Cutting it? So I hit up the Lowes and got this gadget called a 10,000 RPM angle grinder. It cut it.

It was hot and humid that day. After I got done cutting out the truck, I learned that all my friends skipped out on yard work because it was too hot. Too hot to mow the grass? Try cutting out the walls in a TRUCK! Sheesh, wusses.

Next step was to mount and seal the plexiglass. I did, it worked.

Then I made a frame to stretch the bedsheet. It needs to be tensioned (pending), and needs to be pushed well up against the plexiglass. But at this point, it's not 100% but looking good!

I was using a 300 lumen halogen driven video projector made by CTX. Not good! After seeing Adam's 1000 lumen Sony unit, the color temperature was NIGHT and DAY! Projector had to be replaced, so off to eBay it was. I scored a nice Sony unit, and couldn't be more excited.

The video stuff is mostly in place. I need to mount a computer in the vehicle.

Painted and prepped plexiglass...

Partial cut out...

Side cut out...

Hot spots big time...

In operation on Sony projector...

First time in public...

Subpart 1 - YOU GOT SERVED

So I'm at the local 2600 meeting and a few friends come up all excited. They are both talking at once, sentences like "YOU GOT OWNED. WE SAW THIS TRUCK WITH TVs ON IT! THEY TOOK YOUR IDEA!" Sounds like my life story. So I inqure. They only saw the truck briefly, but did catch that it was a Busch Gardens truck and believed it had plasma displays behind glass. So I called and emailed Busch Gardens, and found the truck. Some other company has these trucks with 6 rear projection screens on one side, and often another on the back and other side. They use short throw lenses, really nice glass panels with anti-glare coatings. The truck has a generator set and two AC units on top. I've got a bunch of pictures, and yes, I got served. Very nice trucks. But hey, mine is much cheaper and more fun. They don't have all the bells and whistles, either!

Part 2 - Juice it up

One difficult part is going to be powering things. At first I looked into diesel generators, cheap campsite (quiet) generators that run on gasoline and gas/oil mix. Finally I decided to hold off on the generator, but did go after an inverter that can take 110vac input and switch.

I toyed with various APC and Exide UPSes. I tried taking UPSes that run from 12vdc battery setups and feeding them from the truck. The Exides played better than the APC, as the APC didn't seem to like to power on when there was no AC input. Plus the DC power was unstable, something these UPSes weren't designed for. The larger UPSes all use 24vdc and larger battery sets, so are no good for truck hacking. The Exide UPSes did indeed work, but couldn't handle the requirements of the halogen LCD projector.

I picked up an inverter from eBay. It's a no name, but similiar to the expensive Xantrex and Tripp-Lite units in functionality. it features a 20 amp battery charger when running from AC input. It can shift from AC to DC and back without interruption. Sounds quite a bit like a UPS. So far, it has worked! And it came with a remote panel.

The ultimate idea is to have the two batterys that start the truck sitting on an isolator, separate from 4 large marine deep cycle batteries in the back. The deep cycle batteries will feed the stereo amp, and the inverter. The inverter will feed the projector and ocmputers. So far the inverter is mounted, remote is mounted, and one battery in place. I still need to add blowers in one of the vents in the truck, along with air filters on the air intake vent. When these batteries are charging, ventellation is a _MUST_. I predict over 8 hours of run time from the battery bank. I'm worried that the battery load will fry the alternator. Time will tell!

Mounted inverter ...

Part 3 - Information systems division

No computers are installed yet. I have some point of sale terminals on the way. They feature 10.4" LCDs that are touch sensitive. The truck will run on an AMD 2500mhz PC for video playback. Most likely it will run on Linux. The control system will be NetBSD, and will talk over the on-truck LAN. Other systems will sniff Wifi, and handle wifi termination. The truck will serve content via an onboard WAP.

Part 4 - Gettin' jiggy with it

A big feature will be the Ethan made LED ground effects. The truck will be equipped with two 6' bars on each side, along with two 5' bars on the front and rear. 12" circuit boards will be chained together and feature 12 LEDs per board. 4 groups of 3 LEDs, one each of RED, BLUE and GREEN. Each LED is 5000mcd, and very bright. Every 2 LEDs will be independantly controlled via the computer. This will allow for really neat ground effects, including many colors. I have already sourced the LEDs and purchased 400 each of the R + B + G. I've sourced and bought the copper PCB material, and have the plotter to plot the boards. The board layout is done. So it shouldn't be long! All of this is based on my experimenting with the Blaze kit, which can be found under my Honda accord page! This isn't snake oil folks, this is pretty much proven and completely tested!

Testing the 5000mcd LEDs...

Whats next?

I need a way to synchronize video and the LEDs. I want to make a nasty loop from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.... "This... This means something!!" followed by the music sequences on top of the mountain platau, which will be synced with the LEDs under the truck following along. SMTPE? Not sure how to do it. But I'll figure it out.

I'm working with Flash to make some HRConnect updating information bulletins for the side. Real time data.


The stories that come from this project will be great!!

Debut night

So I wanted to take a few pictures to show my friends that the truck is up and running on the inverter. I drove her around the corner on a Sunday night to the Pembroke mall parking lot. It was night and in the summer, so probably around 10pm. I positioned the truck to capture the Towne Center building in the background. While I was trying to take the picture, people were busting u-turns on Independence and pulling into the parking lot to check it out! I was getting ready to take a picture, and other people behind me took one! This thing is going to be _HOT_! Some younger people stopped and we talked for a few minutes. They suggested that the police were going to have a field day, since it's Virginia Beach and fun isn't allowed unless your a tourist. Some others asked me if I'm local. I wonder if the impression is that locals don't do cool things like this? Guess what? At least one does!

More to come later....