2009 Dodge Ram 2500 custom console

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N6PIV

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I looked for months for a commercial radio console that would work with my Dodge Ram 2500 and to my surprise there was nothing available. I considered a number of options including the removal of the center bench seat and I ultimately decided that I was going to need to build something. After studying every detail of WX4EMT’s incredible build, I knew I wanted to take my time and come up with something that was functional and hopefully looked good as well.

My goal was to have room for two Motorola XPR 5500 radios, one VHF and one VHF. In addition, I wanted a GRE PSR600 scanner and a Cobra 19 CB for use when travelling. I have a pop up camper which limits mounting antennas on the cab roof so I need to share antennas wherever possible. I also wanted an electronic air horn, radio repeat and a PA system for use off road. While I was at it, I wanted to add switches for the air horn, air compressor, air bags and motorized side steps and a couple of 12V power outlets. I also wanted to try a Ram ball mount to facilitate mounting an iPad mini when needed.



After lots of measuring and some cardboard mock ups it looked like I could get all of this to fit between the dash and the center seat and storage compartment. The first step was to build a simple wood box that would fit into the space. This took a few tries but in the end the box slid in nicely.



My next step was to design the front panel using the free cad tool from Front Panel Express: Front Panel Design Software and CAD Conversion Service: Home.

I ordered a large digital caliper from Amazon to accurately measure the sizes of the radios.



I struggled with how to measure the round corners until I found some inexpensive radius gauges on EBay. I have never used radius gauges before but as you can see they look like feeler gauges and allow you to measure the radius of the radios very accurately. Since the radios were all metric I decided to go metric for the rest of the project which in many ways is easier than using inches.



I looked at a number of different switch options and ultimately decided on Contura V rocker switches. I thought about engraving the panel which is easy to do with Front Panel Express but ultimately decided to have the switches silk screened which was done by OTRATTW who did a great job.

This is what the panel looks like when you receive it from Front Panel Express



Once I had the front panel I needed to find a way to mount the radios. I ultimately wound up building a simple aluminum frame that was flat on the left side and vice bent on the right to accommodate the different widths. I used a drill/mill to cut slots in the aluminum frame to allow position adjustments of reach radio. The aluminum side brackets are then secured to wood cross members. The front panel holds everything very securely.







I initially wanted to cover the box in leather to match the seats but this turned out to be much harder than I expected. At my wife’s suggestion I tried Joann’s Fabric Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores – Shop online | Jo-Ann which has a decent selection of arctic vinyl fabric solids that in my case matched almost perfectly. I attempted to wrap the box myself but I ran into problems with the corners. A trip to a local automotive upholstery shop and $200 resulted in much better looking finish.



As you can image there is very little space left in the console so I mounted the Whelen amp, Fleet Radio speaker combiner and Rig Runner fuse block under the center seat in what used to be a storage compartment. A piece of crinkle finished black ABS plastic from Tap Plastics was cut and provided a simple way to keep all three pieces secured. I used Molex connectors for the connections to the engine compartment and under the center seat so that I could remove the console when I take the truck in for service. All in the console cost $350 not including the replacement panel, radios, switches or amps.

Before anyone gets excited, the PA volume is set to meet California’s law of not being heard more than 50 feet from the vehicle.



Here is how the final project came out:











Lessons learned:

Cover your box first and then adjust your front panel sizing. I made the mistake of ordering the panel beforehand and found that it was slightly too big after the vinyl was installed and I had to adjust and order another panel.

The side radio aluminum brackets required some trial and error and I definitely created a number of scrap pieces.

When ordering your front panel my recommendation is to go with powder coating instead of the default which has color only on the panel surface not the sides or back. If you are going to use leather or vinyl fabric be sure to bevel the panel edges and round the corners so that the panel it does not cut the material. All of these options are available in the finishing options of the Front Panel Express CAD program.

The Cobra 19 Ultra III CB radio fit perfectly but it has an annoying feature of defaulting to channel 1 when power is removed instead of staying on the last channel which I did not discover until it was too late. My work around is to set the console power switch to be always on when on the road instead of following the ignition. Had I realized this I would have used a different radio.

The Ram ball mount for the iPad works well but there is enough flex in the mounting that the iPad moves around a lot on a rough road. To fix this, I need to brace it somehow to the dash. My current work around is to just remove it if the road is too rough.

I hope this write-up will encourage others to go the custom route, the possibilities are obviously endless.

Art
 

rbrtklamp2

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Great job!

This is one of the first times I am responding to a install post but really well done sir! It looks amazing very clean I like that alot.
 

tcm4368

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Very nice. I like your craftsmanship.

Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
 

bharvey2

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Mar 12, 2014
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Very nice work indeed! I noticed the channels on your Moto radios and realized we're not far from each other. I have two questions though: Any issues with heat buildup in the box? and I see three transmitters but four mics, is there something else that isn't in the picture?
 

bharvey2

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Fourth mic for the PA system? You're probably right. I assumed that the CB was handling the PA duties.
 

GrumpyGuard

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Oct 6, 2003
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Oregon
Looks great. building your own consoles or mounting solutions is one of the parts of this hobby I like. Your solution looks much better than the cold metal consoles from Havis. This is nice and clean and there aren't wires visible.
 

N4GIX

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I hope this write-up will encourage others to go the custom route, the possibilities are obviously endless.
Art
I wish to thank you for the detailed explanation and pictures. I especially thank you for turning me on to "Front Panel Express!" While I'm not building a mobile rack, I have ordered a nicely finished sloped desktop rack for my ham shack.

I was initially planning to 'cut my own panels' using wood, but now I'll design and order custom panels for my equipment. :D
 

durango5550

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Worthless nut state
show off :p

Just kidding , Really like the install. Alot of thinking went into that , not just crammed in there like some folks do

Dan
 

N6PIV

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Sep 9, 2012
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Location
Pleasanton, CA
Questions

Thanks everyone for the kind words, I really enjoyed working on this project. With regards to some of the questions:

There is an opening at the floor level in the front and rear of the console that offers some ventilation to the two transmitters. I am not a long winded talker so I have not notice a heat issue yet. I did think about this during the design and there is room to install some small fans if it becomes an issue.

For antennas I am using two mounted on either side of the windshield, a 3/8” custom mount for a CB antenna that connects to a HF/VHF duplexer feeding the scanner and CB. A dual band antenna with a custom UHF mount connects to a VHF/UHF duplexer and then to the two DMR radios. The duplexers are installed under the plastic plate in the center console cubby. I would much rather use dedicated antennas but as you can see if the first picture, the camper extends over the truck cab eliminating the roof as an option. I thought about installing a set of antennas on the cab with the plan of removing them when the camper is used but then I would need to install a second set on the camper with the associated cabling and switching. In the end the current setup while not ideal works reasonably well. Any ideas would be welcome.

Regarding the PA, I am using a Whelen Beta amp that works nicely with your own control switches. Another advantage of this unit is that it has a radio repeat input which I take from the Fleet Radio speaker combiner and it is enabled with one of the rocker switches. This way when camped I can select one or all radios and be able to hear friends call while out of the truck.

Art
 
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