It wasn't easy, but totally worth it.
An enterprising 1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 owner has restored and improved the functionality of the originally equipped DiamondTel carphone that became obsolete in 2008.
Software engineer Jeff Lau retrofitted a self-developed Bluetooth adaptor that links to a modern smartphone via the phone transceiver and hands-free control unit. However, that's more complex than it sounds, and it took three years to develop and assemble.
The result, though, is being able to use the hands-free kit that came with the car as originally intended and with voice control for Siri. The handset works and even displays the name of the paired device and the signal strength of the smartphone's network.
The original spec DiamondTel carphone became a brick when the analog AMPS cell service was retired in the US in 2008. In reality, Lau could have just added a Bluetooth kit for his phone, but that's not the point.
Now he can get the full classic 1990s car experience but with better reliability and modern features. The idea of a voice assistant that works as slickly as Siri would have blown our minds at the end of the last century.
Unfortunately, carphones weren't a commonly-optioned feature, so there's no business case for this retromod in kit form.
There's also a case for this being a safer approach as there is no touchscreen to distract when driving, and it removes the temptation of looking at the phone screen. On top of that, when tempted to hold the phone for a phone call while the car is moving, the driver would have to pick up a big brick of a phone.
Is retromodding an old-school carphone worth three years of development time and problem-solving? Rationally speaking, no. But driving a classic car isn't a decision based on rationality. If we only drove rational vehicles, most people would buy a Toyota Corolla.
This project and outcome show people like Lau's passion for keeping these older cars alive and as functional as possible. That's to be applauded.
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