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Marty C's custom party cooler

Tailgating will never be the same

Alexander Hrabe has owned a '77 Chevy Nova, '86 Toyota Camry, '88 Jeep Cherokee, '92 Ford F-150, '94 Volvo 960, '86 Jaguar XJ6, and made rocking out a priority in every single one. He brings his enthusiasm for freeway fist-pumping and hands-on installation experience to Crutchfield's car speaker category.

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A while back, we transformed a cooler into a rolling party by installing a Kicker audio system and a Wi-Fi® hotspot into it. It was a proud day that we’ll never forget. But as history tells us time and time again — a challenger will always rise.

Enter Marty C. from Macon, GA, who spent almost a year and over a thousand dollars to make his version, which he describes as "triple overkill.”

Super-cooler with drinks

Marty: “We got more money in things that you’d never see. The goal was if we touched it, it was going to be functional.”

Items used:

Planning was everything

Marty is a competitive fisherman, and by proxy, a cooler afficionado. So, while he admired our concept, he didn't love that our cooler used ice packs rather than actual ice. He brainstormed fixes with his best friend, Steve, and in the process, they came up with some additional requirements for their version. It would have to be bigger, more mobile, and they wanted a pair of speakers on either side. Marty explains, “We didn’t want to have to spin the cooler around to hear it and have half the people hear it, and half the people not.”

B-8PTD

Marty satisfied his thirst for bass with this Sound Ordnance powered sub

When they called Crutchfield, the Kicker speakers that our article recommends were no longer available. So, Norm, their Crutchfield advisor, recommended the Infinity INF-MPK250 package which includes a multi-faceted marine-grade receiver and 6-1/2” speakers.

Marty had some reservations about having enough bass: “I got to thinking, if I’m going to spend all this time, money, and effort, it needs to have bass. So, Norm did some research and came up with the Sound Ordnance B-8PTD for several reasons. He said, ‘You don’t want it to show. You don’t want it to take up limited surface space, and you are wanting this cooler to still be a cooler. So, I recommend this one. It’s a powered sub, and it’s an 8-inch, so it won’t overpower the little Infinity 6-1/2” speakers.’ And I took his advice on it.”

Building the perfect chassis

The guys took every precaution to ensure that the electronics would never be in danger of getting wet. They divided the top half of the cooler from the bottom with a floor of ABS plastic. To house and protect the rear of each Infinity speaker, they connected opposing speaker openings with PVC pipes.

Infinity marine receiver wiring conduit

Marty protected the back of the Infinity receiver with a curved PVC pipe that leads down to the electronics level

Marty explains: “We knew the speakers couldn’t share the same airspace, but we also wanted optimum space behind each speaker for great performance.”

So, on a work table, they wired a speaker for sound, placed it in one end of a PVC pipe, stuffed the pipe with a towel, and just listened. They moved the towel forward or back to get the speaker’s best sound, then drew a pencil line. They filled the middle of both tubes up to the pencil lines with expandable, spray-in foam, then installed the tubes like crossbeams. It's a nifty trick that gives the cooler a unique look.

Filling in the fun

Marty knew this system would require a lot of power. Our article recommends using one marine-grade battery, but Marty had other plans: “There’s no way to make something be exactly what you want. Either you’re short, or you come out extra on everything. So, we did two of them back to back.”

Cooler with wheels

Marty: “With the electronics, and a case of beer, and ice, you’ve got a ton of weight. So, we extended the aircraft aluminum plate that reinforces the bottom and put wheels in the front."

The cooler boasts a 2-day charge.

Marty chuckles at the spec, saying: “Everything was overboard. I mean, we used epoxys and caulks and silicones. You could turn that cooler upside down or sideways and it won't leak.”

In the end, after all the electronics were installed, not even Marty could have predicted how well it functions as a cooler: “No joke now. The cooler will hold exactly a case of canned drinks and ice on top.”

But how does it sound?

This is where Marty gets quiet, as if he’s telling a ghost story: “Anywhere in a 360-radius, you hear it. And the sound carries. A lot of times, something’s loud, up close. And when you walk away, it fades, hard and quick. This sound is more solid. Like a laser. And if you say, 'Marty, tell me why,' I’ll just white-flag give up, and say I don’t know why.”

A friend of Marty’s puts it another way: “That cooler is the Rolls Royce of coolers. My sound system at home, which costs quadruple, doesn’t even sound as good as this cooler.”

But to call it a cooler sells it way too short, given everything Marty says it does: “This damn cooler plays radio, SiriusXM, MP3, iPod®, iPhone®, it’ll play it direct plug-in, it’ll play it via Bluetooth®. It plays everything but record player and 8-track.”

Fish door

Marty installed an LED light inside the cooler for convenience at night, and made good use of the marine cooler's built-in fish door. “We put a plexiglass square (with the Infinity logo decal) there so you could see what's inside without letting the cold out.”

If you build it, they will come

Marty and Steve debuted the cooler at Steve’s 40th birthday party. They were thrilled by the response it got, and the novelty still hasn’t worn off.

“Every time we take it somewhere, for kicks, we’ll just put it on the truck and let it play, and it gets an audience. They’ve never seen anything like this. It doesn’t matter who it is, or what the age, people are mesmerized by it.”

Marty and Steve with cooler

Steve, Marty, and the one-of-a-kind cooler. All it needs now is a name.

  • Rich A from Atlanta, GA

    Posted on 5/4/2015

    Hello - is there another site we can see more pictures and details on exactly how they built this? I am really interested in how and where they placed all the components, sub, batteries, amp, etc. Thanks!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/5/2015

    Rich, we don't have blow-by-blow details of this installation, but check out the Crutchfield article that inspired it. We have a video as well as a free, downloadable MasterSheet to guide you.

  • Greg S from Minneapolis

    Posted on 5/16/2016

    Maybe call it The Coolest Killer??

  • Marty from Macon

    Posted on 6/9/2016

    Rich, the sub is mounted under neath (ext) of the cooler. The batteries are mounted to brackets in the floor of the cooler.

  • Dan M from Holly

    Posted on 7/20/2016

    Marty, I am doing a similar build with four 6.5" Kicker KM654LCW running off a MTX 75x4 amp as well as a 10" Kicker KM10 sub running off a JL audio HX300 150 x 1 @ 2 ohms anmp. I also bought two of the XP 750 batteries and I am curios just how long you are able to run your cooler at a "loud" level with this set up? I plan to have it spend most of its life floating on a raft in the middle of a sand bar.

  • MartyC from Macon

    Posted on 7/24/2016

    Hi Dan, my buddies & I have designed & built numerous coolers & each has its own advantages/weaknesses. Some end up being smaller, more mobile, others have the absolute best overall sound, and everything is a trade off. To try my best to answer your question, if u run your cooler at "loud" level like u desire, the battery drain pull from powering your (4) 6.5" speakers is low. However, the 10" sub is the main power drain. Just make sure you install a separate sub control knob, b/c different songs have diff levels of bass and you will easily be able to adjust the sound with it instead of having to go into sound settings on your head unit or on your ph EQ settings. Since u will be needing it to be mobile and on a float/raft, i would actually recommend using (4) 8" full range speakers like i did on another cooler build. They are the Kicker 8" marine with built in LED lighting I got from Norm at Crutchfield. Back to your amps-instead of the weight and power usage of two amps, I would consider a high power 4 ch Class D amp like the Rockford Fosgate M600-4D b/c the Class D amps have the least battery drain and just play longer than AB amps.

  • Dan from Holly

    Posted on 7/25/2016

    Thanks for the reply Marty! I purchased a switch and a gain control for the sub, I plan to switch the remote signal off when I will need to rely on the internal batteries for a long period and the gain control for exactly what you pointed out. I had already purchased the 6.5" speakers, I will give them a try and if they don't work out I might look to the 8's for version 2. . Thanks to your advise I just ordered a class D JL marine amp instead of the less efficient MTX.

  • Jeff from Columbus

    Posted on 1/3/2017

    Any chance you could help me build one of these

  • Tyler Shelton from Belington

    Posted on 6/12/2017

    Great build guys! How exactly did you route the wires from the speakers to the receiver. I saw the curved piece running the reciever wires into the bottom section but was not exactly sure how you did the wires off the speaker. Was thinking of different ways to do it and wondered how exactly you guys did it.

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