Friday, February 6, 2015

The VW Bus Bed Part 6

Lights and Electronics on the VW Bus Bed

So this next part of the VW bus bed build is going to drive anyone who’s familiar with electronics absolutely crazy, so if that’s you, skip ahead. Apologies in advance.

As you might have guessed, electronics isn’t my strong suit. But I still wanted to have the dashboard do more than just have a steering wheel you could spin. I had the idea to take an old driving toy I’d found ($3 at the thrift shop), take the guts out, and attach them to the dash for some fun driving sounds. Amusingly, the little toy was also trying to teach kids Spanish, so I could now call the VW bus bed an “educational” project. :)

Here’s the back of the taken-apart toy.

It has a bunch of small momentary (if that’s the right term) switches that do things — make a turn signal noise, or start an engine sound, or sing a little verse about driving. It also had two small LEDs, one green and one red. Which fit in well with something I’d just added: a speedometer!

It’s from an old car, obviously (bonus points if you guessed a 1953 Dodge). It goes to 120, which is funny if you’re a VW bus person. It also has two little holes with glass in them that are designed for light behind the indicator to transmit up to be seen by the driver. So I figured I’d tape my toy’s LEDs right up to those little pieces of glass, and then have something else that happened (besides sound) when you pushed buttons.

Here’s what it looked like underneath.

Basically I’d set those switches up behind a button I rigged through the steering wheel, as well as behind some holes I’d drilled in the plywood of the dashboard. Using binder clips (to hold the switches in the right direction) and some screws and washers I had around, I was able to line things up to where I could then put a small machine screw into the holes, have it rest on the switches — then when you pressed the bolts, it would activate the switches. When you released, they sprang back up.

It all looked ridiculous underneath. Note the plastic vuvuzela end (orange) that amplifies (slightly) the sound from the toy's tiny speaker.

But on top, it worked pretty well. And, more importantly, my daughter thought it was cool. I had her test it a couple of times.

There were a few kinks to work out; getting just the right little screws out of my random screw can was a bit of a challenge. But:

She liked the driving songs in particular, and seemed satisfied with the progress in general.

The headlights were going to be much simpler, sort of. I’d found a couple of puck lights at the big box store that were cheap and perfect; I was hugely paranoid they’d be crooked, so I used my laser level. Duct-taped to my trash can.

The headlights were powered by batteries, so I moved the batteries into the bumper box area so I could put them on a switch on the dashboard. They worked!

A quick bit of stain made the dash look more professional. You can also see the switch I used, which (again) I had on a shelf in the garage already.

The VW bus bed was almost ready to drive; now it needed a few homey touches, and (of course) I had to manage the Volkswagen logo somehow. Luckily my wife had a few ideas on the former, and I on the latter.

On to The VW Bus Bed, Part 7

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