Setting up a new/old car
Bought a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan LXi (leaving about $20K more in my bank account over buying a new car). Having a mechanic you trust changes the equation wonderfully. Took the newly acquired vehicle into his shop, asked him to do whatever he thought it needed, and call me when done. When done his bill was less than I'd expected.
The car came with a decent stereo - but no way to play MP3's (not so odd for 1998). What I wanted to do was retain the original stereo's "head unit", but somehow add the ability to play my entire MP3 collection (12.6GB at present) - all of which is music I bought, BTW. This is too much to fit even on a DVD, so some sort of hard disk based storage is needed. Given that the existing stereo is capable of controlling an external CD-changer, it seemed at least possible to find some sort of lash-up for an external MP3 player.
Wanted to retain the manufacturer-installed unit as most (all?) of the after-market units look really "cool", but have a lousy user interface. When you are driving down a busy road at night, you want to keep your eyes on the road. The manufacturer-installed unit is better designed in this regard. Most adjustments can be performed by feel, without your eyes leaving the road. After-market units are generally not as well designed in this regard.
Turns out the solution that both makes sense and is most widely supported is to buy an Apple iPod and an adapter kit to connect the iPod to your existing car stereo.
Went to three different big local electronics retailers. This is where things started to go wrong. Two of the local "experts" claimed what I wanted was not possible. One said it was going to cost at least $500 in addition to the cost of buying an iPod, and would take an entire day to install.
Went back home and started digging around the Internet looking for better information. Eventually came across the excellent Crutchfield site. Crutchfield got my business by offering more clear and useful information than others I had visited.
Ordered an iPod from the Apple store, and the install kit from Crutchfield. Will see if this all will actually work...