Introduction: Vespa ET4 IPod Speaker System

Picture of Vespa ET4 IPod Speaker System

I got my first Vespa about a year ago and have loved tooling around New York on it. From day one though I wanted to be able to listen to my iPod as I zip around but the idea of riding with headphones on in all that trafiic seems crazy. When I read on a Vespa forum that there is a secret compartment behind the two knee pads that are above the glove box I saw the opportunity to do a really cool mod to my scooter.

Here is how I did it.

I have to preface this tutorial with the fact that I have access to a 3D printer for some of the parts I made. If you like I can provide 3D files but I cannot make more parts for your projects.

Step 1: What I Got to Start

Picture of What I Got to Start

I started with an iHome IH13 portable ipod speaker system and a Kensington mp3 car holder.

I took the IH13 totally apart to extract

speaker gaskets
speaker grills
5way controller board
5way controller rubber cover
2 controller boards
and the iPod connector

Then I took the Kensington car mount and removed the MP3 player clamp off of the bendable arm by removing one small screw.

Step 2: Design the Power Regulator

Picture of Design the Power Regulator

Now the IH13 takes 7.5V DC to power it so I needed to build a small regulator board to convert the 12V of the battery down to 7.5V. This hand drawn diagram shows the circuit.

I had originally wanted to have a lighter adapter for a GPS unit also but decided against it in the end (I am hoping the new iPhone will have GPS ).

Most parts were obtained at Radioshack. The LM350 variable regulator was purchased from because I needed a regulator that would supply 2A or more.

Step 3: Design the Custom Parts

Picture of Design the Custom Parts

With the electronics ready I moved on the creating the speaker, 5way controller, controller board enclosure and iPod mirror mounting. Below are exploded views of the assemblies I created.

STL files are available here:

Step 4: Mod the Left Knee Pad

Picture of Mod the Left Knee Pad

After printing these parts (2 sets of the speaker mount) I began cutting holes into the the two knee pads (which are each easily removed by a single screw that is covered by the glove box door). There is alot more room behind the right knee pad so I opted to put a speaker and the 5way controller on the right and a single speaker on the left.

Using a dremel tool I cut and sanded a hole only slightly bigger than the cylindrical part of the speaker mount assembly. With a two-part epoxy I then attached the speaker mount. After that firmed up I sanded the cylindrical part flush with the front of the knee pad a filled any cracks with bondo. After sanding the bondo, some primer, black spray paint and a lacquer spray finish I had this to show for myself...

Step 5: Mod the Right Knee Pad

Picture of Mod the Right Knee Pad

I repeated the same steps for the right speaker. Now the 5way controller also lives on the right pad but the geometry is a bit more complicated. I wanted the circular part of the control to end up at the small end of the feature that bulges out for the ignition. This compound shape required me to cut a small hole and sand material away slowly to get the opening right for my mounting parts. Again after 2 part epoxy, bondo, sanding and painting this is what I ended up with.

Step 6: Extended Cables (and Another View of Both Knee Pads)

Picture of Extended Cables (and Another View of Both Knee Pads)

The last thing before installing all of this is to extend the speaker, 5way controller and iPod connector wires. I made most of the extensions about 3 feet long and I had extra length in most cases. For each I used a different type of wire to splice.

Speaker - I used USB cable - two wires and shield ground
5way controller - I used ribbon cable (you need 6 conductors)
iPod connector - I used a VGA video cable which is shielded and has enough conductors (9) to trasmit the audio, power and control signals.

Below is another view of both knee pads.

Step 7: Remove the Vespa Glovebox

Picture of Remove the Vespa Glovebox

Finally we are ready to start assembling this together.

First you need access to the area behind the glove compartment. Other projects have show this before so I will go quickly through it.

1. Carefully pop off the Piaggio emblem off the front of the horn cover (I actually broke mine so I suggest you do it very carefully).
2. Remove the screw holding on the Horn cover and then remove the horn cover.
3. Remove the two screws behind the horn cover. Then open the glove box and remove three screws inside.
4. Now carefully remove the glove box panel. You will have to hold the latch down to get it past the ignition mechanism.
5. Now there is a fuse box that lives in the space behind the left knee pad. I popped that off it's mount and fed it through the opening to free the glove box panel from the rest of the scooter.

Step 8: Ground and Power

Picture of Ground and Power

Now to begin wiring it together...
First I screwed the ground wire to the frame of the scooter. It is a bit hard to see but the black wire is screwed in behind that white box.

Then I spliced the power line together with one of the orange wire going to the fusebox mentioned earlier. The 12V lighter kit I got but didn't use had a 10A fuse inline. I would suggest you place a fuse on this line.

Step 9: Install Modified Knee Pads

Picture of Install Modified Knee Pads

I then installed the two knee pad panels and fed the wire through the available openings.

Step 10: Mount the Electronics

Picture of Mount the Electronics

Next I placed the electronics box on the ledge that forms the top of the rigt side of the glove box with some velcro tabs.

Step 11: IPod Mount

Picture of IPod Mount

Then I screwed on the iPod mount, assembled the Kensington clamp and cut off the excess screw.

Step 12: IPod Connector/wire

Picture of IPod Connector/wire

Then I fished the iPod connector under the rubber mirror gasket and into the handle bar cowling. From underneath the handlebars I was able to continue fishing it down and out the center of the steering shaft.

Step 13: Wire It All Up and Test

Picture of Wire It All Up and Test

Now connect all the wires together, close up the electronics, pray, then test it out to make sure it is all wired up correctly.

I realized that I wasn't going to be able to put everything back together because the top corner of the electronics box was going to hit the front panel. So I cut of the corner with my dremel cutter. I also covered over all openings in the box with electrical tape to keep out the dirt and grime that will probably get inside. (Sorry no pictures of the corner cut or the tape).

I also moved the fuse box and inline fuse for my speaker system near the horn so that I could have (relatively) easy access to the fuses if I needed.

Step 14: Reassamble the Vespa... and Viola!!!

Picture of Reassamble the Vespa... and Viola!!!

Finally I put the glove box panel back into place basically by reversing the disassembly process. Enjoy the pics of the completed project.

The funny thing is that to hear it above the engine sound you need to crank it up pretty good. Then when you stop at a red light it sounds extra loud. I thought about adding a circuit to attenuate the volume as the speed decreases... maybe the next project.

Hope you enjoyed this project. Please post replies, I would love to hear your opinions!!!

Avram K


SydneyJackson (author)2012-12-01

Love it!
Did you take any steps to waterproof the speakers or controls?

bone_chaos (author)2011-06-27

This is so bad a$$! I love it!
I'm too afraid to do this to my Vespa and ruin everything.

ihope (author)2008-05-29

wow, this is incredible, great great job.

hackmattr (author)ihope2011-06-21

My dad has a Goldwing and we have headset's built into the helmets and a cord connected to the bike. We use it to talk to each other on the highway through the CB radio and we listen to music with it.

It gives you an idea for listening to music without having to turn it down at stoplights.

This is an example of the headsets that are installed in our helmets

qdogg (author)2008-05-30

I have something like this on my all electric Panther Retro scooter (no longer sold). I put two 5'speakers up front and wired a car stereo w/tape deck & input jack under the seat. A motorcycle battery & power booster is also under the seat. I made a servo from a broken toy firetruck that is hooked to a fender mounted spdt switch. I also put a cd player & flash player under the seat (there's a lot of room there even after all this!) I have a remote for the CD player & the flash player can be remote via a cord. It gets pretty loud & always turns a few heads as I drive by. It's nice to find others who independently come up with what my wife calls "weird ideas". BTW this scooter only has 1 hp but can carry 2 adults @ 25mph for almost 25 miles.

cas6767 (author)qdogg2008-07-15

you would be surprised how powerful 1 horse is

Flashflint (author)cas67672009-10-05

It is approximately as powerful as a horse :P

toddasmitty (author)qdogg2008-06-26

I would love to learn more about how you did your sound system. I just bought a new Vespa GTS250ie and want music on it bad !

avik (author)qdogg2008-05-30

That is awesome!!! I am curious to learn a bit more about the firetruck speedometer you rigged up.

qdogg (author)avik2008-05-31

No, it's not a speedometer, it's a servo. I just used one of the gearboxes in the firetruck to turn the volume/off-on knob. I hot glued the unit to the stereo so one of the reduction gears touched the knob. I attached a rubber band to it to keep it taut against the knob. The motor was connected via wires to a 6v lithium battery and a spdt switch so polarity of the motor could be reversed. The switch can be pushed forward to turn on & increase volume or backward to decrease volume or turn off. It has a neutral center position when I get to where I want to leave it(turns off the servo). It's really handy because I can work it on the fly with one hand. However, w/ an IPOD you can do all this stuff easier.

isacco (author)2009-07-08

I am a Vespa 125 PX (year 1983!) owner. My scooter is not equipped with a sound system, but your idea was already home-made implemented on Vespa scooters since the '80s, using car stereo parts. Your work is a very well realized upgrade for digital sound in the podcast era! I have rated 4/5. Congratulations! However, the last step title "Reassemble the Vespa... and viola!!!" is strange. Why "viola"?. In italian "Viola" means "purple" or "purple flower". Maybe you meant "vola", which means "fly"?

Briguy9 (author)isacco2009-07-13

or maybe he meant voilà, which is "That's It!" in french. Maybe he just spelled voilà wrong, as Viola.

matbh (author)Briguy92009-07-23

hahhahahaha "viola" hehahha in portuguese viola means "acoustic guitar" (with 10 or 12 strings)

Lt. Duct Tape (author)2009-04-26

I just inherited an old vespa scooter that hasn't been registered (or touched) on more than two decades, and this'll put a nice spin on it to make it truly custom. Thing is, it's my only transportation, so is there any way to make it semi vandal-proof?

=SMART= (author)2008-07-03

Vespa's are awesome Music is awesome This is awesome You are awesome So yea i like this very much :P 5*

avik (author)=SMART=2008-07-03

*Blush* Awe shucks... it was nothing really.

=SMART= (author)avik2008-07-03

Haha modest, really this is very cool, i can imagine riding along with your favorite music blasting out, that would be sooo cool I cant wait till im old enough to get a vespa :P (only 1 year i think)

zjharva (author)2008-05-29

So, how are vespa? In a couple years I'll be able to drive, and a vespa would be fun! Or maybe a piaggio one.

avik (author)zjharva2008-05-29

Vespa scooters are a great and stylin' way to get around, especially in urban areas. The gas mileage is great (I haven't measured it but should). Mine is a 150cc and max's out at about 55mph so if you need to go faster you will need to go up to the 250cc models which will hit 75mph. I took a motorcycle safety class (which you will take on a regular motorcycle) and I highly recommend it for anyone planning on using two-wheeled motorized transportation. Good luck.

80211mdr (author)avik2008-05-29

I ride a kawasaki ninja 250cc. I hit 110mph the other day ;-) The gas mileage is great, i average 60-70mpg

nightrain71 (author)80211mdr2008-06-28

People who ride motorcycles this fast on the streets are CRAZY! You will be the ones who make it so we have to have a mandatory helmet law! I wish every rider would be required to take a safety course. NOT wearing a helmet is ONE of the few things we as AMERICANS still have a right to choose. BE SAFE- RIDE SAFE-

sunnygrl (author)nightrain712008-06-30

After years of working the ER I will just let you know that we have had 100s of cases come in from motorists not wearing helmets who were NOT speeding. To BE SAFE & RIDE SAFE, all riders should wear a helmet. You cannot control how other motorists drive on the road.

nightrain71 (author)sunnygrl2008-06-30

Motorcyclists on the road are not seen by other drivers. If motorcyclists were to take a safety course, that is the No. 1 problem with riding a cycle. I am just saying it should be a CHOICE not mandatory. This is still a FREE country I think? I think the law could take measures in other directions than to pass a helmet law.

sunnygrl (author)nightrain712008-07-02

You are definitely right about the safety course versus the requirement to wear a helmet.

zjharva (author)80211mdr2008-05-29

I like those, would those be a good beginner motorcycle?

skunkbait (author)zjharva2008-05-29

All bikes are dangerous, but the Ninja 250 is one of the most forgiving bikes I've ever ridden. It's best to learn how to work the gears and brakes on a beat-up dirt bike or something. But once you get used to the clutch and shifting positions on a bike, these little Kawasakis just about drive themselves. My son bought his last week and I hopped on and rode it 65 miles (to get it home for him). It wasn't a bad ride, even at 70mph, which I thought was unusual for such a small bike.

80211mdr (author)zjharva2008-05-29

Probably the best beginner motorcycle out there. Enough power to beat a mustang off the line without being intimidating for a new rider. I bought my '06 250 for just under $1000 used. Insurance is about $400/year on my own policy which is a steal considering i'm 18yo and the title is in my name. Remember if you can afford the bike you can afford the safety gear!

skunkbait (author)80211mdr2008-05-29

How did it handle at 110? My kid has one and I want to wind it out when he lets me borrow it. I've done 130 on my old Katana, but I worry about blowouts at that speed.

80211mdr (author)skunkbait2008-05-29

at 110 its on the rev limiter, but it still handles fine. Don't forget that the ninja speedo lies :) it's 8% fast if the bike is stock.

zjharva (author)avik2008-05-29

My mom said no motorcycles till you're out of the house (like a sportbike) but I think she would let me get a vespa or something like that. First I have to get a job (still have to wait a couple of years for that).

avik (author)zjharva2008-05-29

I would say that although the Vespa is cute, it is pretty much the same as riding a motorcycle. You can get road rash at 30mph either way. You don't need to tell her that... wink wink. But you should always drive smart.

h3idi (author)2008-06-19

I have a helmet with speakers for rollerblading which i love, so thought i'd post an alternative here for scooter drivers, too. The great thing with these things is that it lets you hear traffic noises, while still enjoying your music. Of course there are more $$ bluetooth helmets out there, but this is a pretty good deal, still giving you some hearing for safety purposes. In Vancouver we just had some poor guy get killed by a helecopter landing on him in the street, because his headphones didn't let him hear anything. Safe riding.

Mitchgebb (author)2008-06-13

Hi i must say iv been browsing Instructables for some time, and i love looking at various posts n tutorials but this one caught my eye i was very impressed by your 3D cad modeling and the planning that went into your project well done indeed although im a car driver i an imagine driving without any music and its a bit of a bore, good idea to overcome that! Mitch

avik (author)Mitchgebb2008-06-13

Thanks for the comment. Once I get my hands on the 3G iPhone with GPS - it will serve dual purpose as a GPS nav unit too!

MadScott (author)2008-06-02

Well done! Good design incorporation. Re: The volume problem -- you might consider angling the speakers upwards so that your ears (rather than your knees) get to listen to the best parts of the music. Also, you might mechanically link a volume pot. to the throttle linkage; throttle = noise, right?

avik (author)MadScott2008-06-02

Thanks for the ideas.

Although throttle does = engine noise you get a lot of noise from wind resistance too. You can get up to a cruising speed then let off the throttle a bit and still have quite a bit of noise. A wind screen would help that a lot though.

MadScott (author)avik2008-06-02

If you *really* wanted to work at it, the speedometer operates by inducing a counter magnetic field in the speedo indicator via a rotating small magnet at the end of the speedo cable. If you put an FET sensor near that and then ran those pulses through a PIC such as an Arduino, you could output a control voltage for the volume control (or drive a servo on a pot. etc. etc.).

Plan B is to just leave it turned way up like most motorcycles.

skunkbait (author)2008-05-29

Where can you get a Vespa in the U.S.? I used to see them a lot when I travelled, but I never see them around here.

avik (author)skunkbait2008-05-30

I am not sure where you live but you can check Vespa USA. I bought mine used of off Craigslist, and you can find em on eBay too. They are getting very popular in New York...

bofarr (author)avik2008-06-02

Craigslist is a great place to buy many things but always be careful buying scooters from there. In the Bay Area we've had problems with people importing old Vespas for pennies on the dollar from Indonesia or Vietnam that have been run into the ground or severely damaged , wrecked, etc.. They are "reconditioned", i.e. given a cheap paint job, made just viable enough to run and then sold as vintage. They very dangerous bikes as just about everything on them is ready to fly apart. Try to buy from a legit shop or dealer if you can.

avik (author)bofarr2008-06-02

Wow - I didn't know about that scam. I guess when something starts to get popular there are always those who will jump in to screw you. Mine is a 2005 model and I met the lady I was buying it from so I felt pretty comfortable that she was on the level, but it is always good to be on the look out.

PKM (author)2008-05-29

Apparently there was a car back in the day that had the wipers speed controlled by the speedo, so the faster you went the faster it wiped... IDK if the speedo on new vespas is cable operated or electrical, but if it's electrical you might be able to tap into the voltage to control the volume somehow. Just make sure you don't make the voltage sag and throw off the speedo calibration :) This is a neat project, anyway. I had a friend who installed a car head unit and an 8" sub in the trunk under his moped seat, now that was something to see...

drummonkey92 (author)PKM2008-05-30

wow! any pics? could you ask him for some advice on any parts he found difficult in doing it please? i'm getting a moped next weekend (hopefully) from my friend and since convincing my mum to let me have one i've been wondering how i could put a stereo or atleast ipod speakers into it. the main problem i could see was waterproofing as i live in Wales and the weather can be pretty harsh, the moped would also be stored outside under a waterproof cover but would still probably get damp. putting a speaker in the under seat are sounds perfect though becaus eas far as i know that is completely waterproof

avik (author)drummonkey922008-05-30

The IH13 I used is advertised as Water Resistant. The speakers have a rubber gasket and the 5way controller is a single piece of molded rubber that slips over the button assembly. I too keep my rig on the street and under a cover. I think it should be fine, but we shall see...

PKM (author)drummonkey922008-05-30

Sorry, this was getting on for five years ago, before I had a digital camera. Essentially the car stereo was "on its back" facing upwards in the under-seat storage, wired into the bike loom for power, with an 8" oval speaker (probably about 8" by 4") mounted in a hole cut in one of the panels. The moped was a gilera runner, I believe, which had a lot of space under the seat so this might not work with a lot of smaller bikes. I wish I had photos actually, he also mounted a car LED strip brake light on the topbox and a couple of small CCFL neons under the bodywork.

avik (author)PKM2008-05-29

I actually would love to see that. If your friend has some pics please ask him to share. I though about the subwoofer too but the scooter is already so compromised when it comes to storage I decided to keep it simple. As for the speedometer being cable or electrical I am not sure but I suspect it is electrical. I will definitely look into this. Thanks for the great idea!

acaz93 (author)2008-05-29

A perfect mod for that scooter , looks pretty clean

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-05-29

Very nice! 5/5

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