Disco Trunk 2.0

Disco Trunk 2.0

We’re excited to have Disco Trunk (weather permitting) come to our opening event! Featuring freely licensed music that can be shared and remixed by all in the community. This shareable and re-mixable playlist will be a first in disco trunk history.

Artist Spotlight: Shawn Patton

I created the disco trunk September of 2010. Back then it was in my classic 1994 Ford Taurus LX. The very first time I popped it was Sept 9th and within minutes, even though I was in a back parking lot with no music playing, it attracted a cop on a bike. He was super cool and answered my questions (never drive with it deployed, popping it while parked before sound ordinance curfew is fine, etc…). The disco trunk was born

I have always been fascinated with electronics. Tinkering was encouraged by my father and his “box of wires”. I had intercoms and lights running throughout the house by grade school. Radio Shack could keep me interested for hours (still does to be honest). I had electronic horns, lights, generator, and smoke bomb igniters on my bike. So obviously when I got my first car in 1998 I installed a secret control panel where the ashtray used to be. It triggered a tape cassette recorder, LEDs, and smoke bombs hanging under the trunk. It went through many iterations but it wasn’t until 2010 that I decided to take it up a notch.

It started simply: a 300 watt keyboard amp run off a power inverter, two LED spotlights, a disco ball mounted on a battery-powered motor, and two white LED strips that reacted to the music based on volume (a simple transistor circuit fed off the headphone jack of the amp). Music was provided by my phone and that was it. Easy peasy. The first night I took it out corresponded with The Big Pour, a beer drinking extravaganza held every year at Construction Junction. Here is a video from that night:

Too many people were dancing in the street so they had to shut us down. I considered it a success.

Over the years I added more lights and some lasers, made the wiring easier to manage, and other small improvements. It still needed the car to be on though and that car smoked… I didn’t need a fog machine because of the exhaust. I had fun though, drove in some parades, played taxi to drunk people for fun before Uber and Lyft made it profitable, took it to Steelers games, and distributed dance parties. I even DJ’ed a wedding with it once.

However, the Taurus was getting up there in years and I needed to retire it. The disco trunk needed to live on, and it would, in our 2009 Honda Fit!

For the second version I had some requirements; some goals I wanted to hit. I wanted the trunk to auto-deploy and auto-close. I wanted more lights, more lighting control, bluetooth functionality, better mounting for the lasers, underglow, and a fog machine. And, possibly the biggest challenge. I wanted it to run off its own battery so I wouldn’t have to have the car on all the time. I also wanted it to be able to charge the battery while driving around.
I planned and re-planned for months, trying to get things just right in my mind. I ordered parts and acquired new tools from Harbor Freight. I needed a reason though, a deadline. That came in the form of an offer to DJ the Greenfield Bridge closing party: a local neighborhood had a bridge being replaced and they were planning a big party for that night. I had driven the old version in the parade in Greenfield and they asked if I could bring it to the bridge party. It was time to get real.

Here is the wiring diagram I made before wiring everything up. No, really:


Crazy right? I respect people who make real electrical wiring diagrams, but I’m not one of them. I need something to keep things straight in my head, but more than a battery symbol weighs me down, just draw what it really looks like, where the wires need to be long and short, where the different circuits begin and end.

It’s quite simple really. There are some circuits with 12V from the car battery, some with 12V from the disco battery, and some with 120V from the two power inverters… and never the three shall meet or bad things happen.
With 3 relays, a 900W inverter, my original 300W inverter, a deep cycle marine battery, and a battery charger, I knew I could make it all work. I didn’t skimp, I soldered and heat shrunk all connections. I used 4, 8, 14, and 20 gauge wire based on distances and estimated amperages. I used 2 fuses inline in addition to the car’s existing 80 AMP fuse. I dismantled all the panels on the driver side of the car and liftgate to run the wires back cleanly and I checked and double checked using my diagram constantly. The craziest thing… when I first flipped on the master switch… it all just worked. Well, almost, the circuit to take the 12V down to 1.5V for the disco ball motor failed and I had to use a D battery the night of the bridge party, sigh…

While the 130lb linear actuator does raise and lower the rear tailgate, I have to control it separately for now. Also, I still have the old transistor circuit for blinking the lights. I am currently hooking up an arduino mega to run all the lights separately and control them with an RF remote. It will also do true beat detection and handle the raising and lowering of the tailgate. I also have the hardware equivalent of a winamp visualizer that I’ll connect to a small LED projector to further enhance the dance floor. Eventually I want to have everything controlled by the arduino, so all I’ll have to do is press the big red button on my key fob to start a party. I’m renaming that button from PANIC to PARTY, and it will be amazing.


For more videos, please visit http://discotrunk.com/