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My 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan didn't come with a computer but it had this big space between the seats so I thought...




Silverstone SST-SG01-B MicroATX Case.

ASRock 939NF4G-SATA2 939 GeForce 6100 Micro ATX Mobo.

AMD Opty 146 Venus.

1 GB OCZ Platinum Rev 2.

Antec Neopower 480 PSU.

Samsung 720N Black LCD Monitor.

NEC ND-3520A Burner.

Seagate ST3160815AS 160GB HD.

Zalman CNPS7000B-ALCU hs/fan.

D-Link DWL-G510Wireless Adapter.

OKGEAR 10" SATA II cable with metal latch.

Logitech RX1000 USB Wired Laser Mouse.

Matix MB2000 LCD flat-panel Wall Mount.

HP Deskjet Color Printer.

West Marine/Xantrex 700W Inverter.


Originally I was going to use a 12V PSU from http://www.powerstream.com/DC-PC-12V.htm.

This would have required me to bypass the AC adaptor on the monitor to keep everything at 12V.

Then I decided to include a printer so the I could print invoices, etc. so using an Inverter seemed like the way to go.

As it turns out the monitor only uses 1.2A on the DC side of the Inverter and the computer only draws 11-11.5A on the DC side.

That translates to about 1.5A on the AC side for both units or 180W.


For now I'm running it total loss - meaning that I have to recharge the battery every few hours but that will soon change.

I was going to use a Blue Sea 7600 ACR battery combiner to parallel the Optima battery to the start battery on my van.

The combiner would only charge the Optima when the alternator output reached ~13.4V and it would drop out at ~12.6V.

But since this is a low budget operation I decided that I would connect a 12V 30A Bosch relay to the Ignition On circuit at the fuse box.

I'll be able to get away with a 10 gauge (10/2) charge wire since the most I will probably ever see is 15A assuming I don't run the computer with the engine off and deplete the battery.

To protect the wiring and limit the charge current I'll use a 25A resettable breaker between the start and computer (Optima) AGM battery.

That should keep me from setting the van on fire. tongue.gif


When I start making money again in the Spring I plan on buying MS Streets & Trips with GPS locator.

I'll also get an amplified WiFi antenna (using a D-Link ANT24-0700 antenna atm) and may eventually decide to use Verizon wireless internet service.


This was the original drawing but as you'll see it changed a lot along the way.




Since I work in the marine trades I wanted to be very nautical in this build so I used King Starboard marine polymer for the base and shelf.

My buddy Paul at Warren River Boatworks sold me a piece of 3/4" black for almost nothing and he also donated the 1" diameter stainless stanchions for the 4 posts.

More importantly, he let me use his shop to do the construction.


Here's the first phase.

I clamped the shelf to the base plate and bored the holes for the posts with a Forstner bit in a drill press.

I only bored into the base 1/2" since I didn't want the stanchions to go all the way through.




Here's the finished console complete with Stainless caps for the stanchions (Home Depot).




A close up of the vertical T track and jib car donated by Hinckley Yacht Services where I did the final assembly.

You also have a good view of the Matix LCD mount.




Here's the monitor in the down position.

A spring loaded latch allows the jib car to slide up or down.




The printer ready to spew documents on to the driver's seat.




Another view of the monitor in the down position.

The piece of white Starboard below the monitor is locked into the rails previously used by the ash tray.




And finally the battery box and Inverter.




Reasons for building this:

I work in boatyards and marinas that have internet access so now I can go online when I need to find manuals, etc.

I also use AutoCad to do schematics so now I make new drawings or modify existing ones right in my van.

I can also print invoices instead of having to convert them to PDF and e-mailing them.

I can use Google Earth and Streets and Trips to find a place I've never been.

I can watch a movie or listen to 20GB of MP3s once I jack it into the van's stereo.

I also had most of the stuff lying around so it cost almost nothing to build and since I occasionally build computers for yachts so I can use this as a demo.

Because I could.



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Thats crazy cool. Most people would use a laptop! lol

I'd be really worried it wud get stolen, or more to the point someone would trash my car to get to it.

Do you not have this problem?

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Thats crazy cool. Most people would use a laptop! lol

I'd be really worried it wud get stolen, or more to the point someone would trash my car to get to it.

Do you not have this problem?

I work and live in a pretty safe environment so that's usually not a problem and when the monitor is down you really can't tell what it is.

I worry more the tools, meters and parts that I carry.

really cool idea; great work ;)
Thanks radodrill.

Glad you like it.



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Well Hinckley Yacht Services was nice enough to let me bring the van into the Electrical/Electronics shop yesterday to run the charging circuit for the Inverter battery.

I found a spot to mount the 25A breaker on the start battery platform under the hood.

Then I ran an Ancor Marine 10 gauge duplex cable to a spot near the 12V (Ignition On) power outlet and cut the red wire and attached it to the contact terminals of a 30A relay.

I cut the power leads to the 12V outlet and paralleled them to the coil terminals on the relay so that it would be energized when the ignition was on.

Then I continued the duplex cable run to the Inverter battery behind the computer.

I'll try to post more pics.


It's 12 miles from Hinckley to my house and I put the temporary WiFi antenna on the roof.

Right now I'm using a D-Link 7db high gain antenna with magnetic base until I can afford the amplified one I linked to in the first post.

I must have picked up 500 to 1000 networks and about half of them were unsecured.

Not a good idea folks - I know I was tempted.



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Thats pretty dam cool !


It must be pretty hard to drive while sending an emailing and watching youtube. ;)

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With WiFi it's impossible since I'm out of range just about the same time I find the signal.

I only use the internet when I get where I'm going.

The only thing I watch while driving is MS Streets and Trips - GPS which is like a Garmin or Tom Tom navigation system on steroids.

This is from a trip to New York state last month.




I'm getting an amplified antenna with a built in card on Monday.

It should increase the WiFi range up to 1-2 miles.


When it warms up enough to work outside I'll see about connecting the computer to the van's sound system.



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Thanks Carl.

I thought you guys were mad at me c021.gif.


When there appeared to be only minimal interest here I did an article on the building of the Van Computer for that other computer forum.


I'll probably downsize the monitor to 15" (so it fits between the seats better) when work picks up.





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