A vehicle computer system has a housing sized to be mounted in a vehicle dashboard or other appropriate location, a computer mounted within the housing, and an open platform operating system which executes on an open hardware architecture computer. The open platform operating system supports multiple different applications that can be supplied by a vehicle user. For instance, the operating system can support applications pertaining to entertainment, navigation, communications, security, diagnostics, and others. The computer has one or more storage drive (e.g., CD drive, floppy disk drive, cassette player, or hard disk drive) which permits the vehicle user to download programs from a storage medium (e.g., CD, diskette, cassette, or hard disk) to the computer. In the described implementation, the computer has two independent processors. One processor, which runs the operating system, is mounted in a stationary base unit of the housing and the other processor is mounted to a faceplate which is detachable from the base unit. When the faceplate is attached, the first processor provides the primary control over all operating systems (i.e., entertainment, navigation, communications, security, diagnostics, and others) and the faceplate processor is subservient. When the faceplate is detached, it forms a portable RF device with the faceplate processor providing radio and communications capabilities.