2012 VW Beetle with Custom iPad Mini dock in dash.

Posted: April 22nd, 2013 | Author: justino | Filed under: design | 4 Comments »
DashCMD with Speedometer

My 2012 VW Beetle with iPad Mini in dash. Pictured is the DashCMD app in speedometer mode.

Recently, VW announced the iBeetle in conjunction with Apple. Before this new integration was announced, I had a custom iPad Mini dock installed in the dash of my 2012 Beetle. From what I’ve read about the iBeetle, I think using the iPad Mini instead of the iBeetle’s iPhone integration results in a much better experience.


My 2012 Beetle

If you haven’t ever seen a 2012 or later VW Beetle on the inside, the dash is pretty stunning. The wraparound gloss of the car’s exterior color creates a very polished look to the interior. Instead of wood veneer or carbon fiber, the simple extension of the car’s exterior brought inside the car creates a more cohesive look. What is even more remarkable is the size of the standard stereo is almost exactly the size of an iPad Mini.

I mentioned the desire to integrate an iPad Mini into the dash with a friend and he suggested a custom body/stereo shop here in Portland, Musicar Northwest. They specialize in custom installations and Tom Miller was up to the challenge I threw at him.

My requirements:

  1. iPad Mini dock that looked factory. Same black gloss as rest of the dash with small footprint.
  2. iPad Mini needs to charge when connected
  3. iPad Mini needs to supply audio through stereo aux connection and not use the Bluetooth signal. Need to reserve Bluetooth for my phone in case I need to make or receive a call.
  4. iPad Mini needs to be removable and standard stereo needs to be accessible when not docked.

Tom hooked me up and within four days, had a complete integration complete. Here are the photos that show the process.

Original Dash

Factory 2012 VW Beetle stereo and original gloss trim

Acrylic parts

Acrylic parts custom made for iPad Mini dock


Dash taped and acrylic parts spaced correctly for iPad Mini to slide in from right


Final adjustments made before finalizing dock shape


iPad Mini dock assembled and primed


Dock installed. Factory stereo accessible through new dock.

Dash without iPad docked

Dash without iPad docked


iPad Mini docked in new custom dock.

After driving around with the iPad Mini integration, it really does change the entire driving experience. It is remarkable.

The apps I use primarily are:

  1. Waze (for navigation). I tried Apple Maps and Google Maps and found Waze to be the most attractive and accurate when it comes to traffic patterns from day to day.
  2. Music by Apple. The default music app is great to work with. The iPad landscape view works great and being able to view album art nearly full screen is attractive.
  3. Podcasts by Apple. The redesigned podcast app is very easy to interact with with large touch targets and simple UI.
  4. DashCommand (DashCMD) for engine readouts and additional gauges. In conjunction with a OBDII WiFi module that is connected to my car, this app reads all my engine and performance data and displays a series of gauges to display every element of my car’s operations and performance.
iTunes app

iTunes app


Podcast app

Waze app

Waze app

If you are not impressed with the factory iBeetle, you should take your Beetle to Musicar Northwest.  You can check out their photo gallery of other work on their Facebook page.

Update 1 (April 20, 2013):
Jim Dalrymple writes, “This is cool.” and links to this article on The Loop! Web traffic to this article goes through the roof.

Update 2 (May 1, 2013):
Jim Dalrymple and Dan Benjamin discuss my iPad Mini dash on the Amplified Podcast. Listen Here. Skip to 46:10 if you want to hear just that segment.

Update 3 (May 3, 2013 morning):
Dan requested via Twitter that I call into Quit!, another 5by5 podcast to discuss the iPad Mini Dash.

Update 4 (May 3, 2013 afternoon):
I called into Quit! I cleared up how the Mini Dash came to be with the talents of Tom over at Musicar Northwest. Dan Benjamin and Danielle Moser chant “Do it. Do it. Do it,” to get me to make this a Kickstarter project. Listen Here. Skip to 1:16:00 if you want to hear just that segment.

Update 5 (May 4, 2013):
I meet up with Tom at Musicar Northwest and we are sourcing the cost for the parts. We are also determining how many car models we can initially launch for. I know there is demand to make this a Kickstarter yesterday, but please be patient. It will launch soon.

4 Comments on “2012 VW Beetle with Custom iPad Mini dock in dash.”

  1. 1 Scott said at 8:28 pm on April 30th, 2013:

    How did you get the iPad audio to the AUX jack of the Beetle?

  2. 2 justino said at 10:47 pm on April 30th, 2013:

    There is a lightning connector in the dock that converts to a 30 pin and audio out. That audio out is plugged in directly to the factory radio where the aux connection goes. Tom at Musicar NW figured this all out. He’s a smart guy.

  3. 3 Martin said at 9:24 am on May 1st, 2013:

    Will it be similarly possible to do with other cars, as long as there is an existing stereo with AUX connectivity ?

  4. 4 justino said at 11:31 am on May 1st, 2013:

    Sure. The only issues you want to consider is to make sure that the radio interface doesn’t serve other functions like A/C. You want to keep access to those other functions. Also, it helps a ton if your steering wheel has volume control. Otherwise, you have to figure some other way to adjust the volume based on the line in input. The latest version of iOS 6 doesn’t let you control volume anymore if it is coming through the lightening connector.

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