BOB'S GARAGE

Interior Decorating

Interior Redo

The primary upgrades are a multi-purpose table and a nice power station / work station. A bed would be nice. Another project for later. There may be some other stuff but as usual this is where it starts!

Gimme some space!

The first step was to unload all the factory seats. Two short and one long. This leaves a great big open area. Plenty of room to get creative. And to clean it up even more I got rid of all the over-the-top shoulder belt assemblies. It took some panel pulling but I got them all removed. Plus you are always up for more storage space.


Under Seat Storage

Like most vans it lacks some storage areas. The smaller cousin of the Express, the Astro, provided the needed solution.

On one of my latest forays to Parts Galore unearthed a nice slide out, latching storage bin under the passenger seat of an Astro Van. On first glance it was about the right size and dimensions to possibly fit under an Express seat. After undoing the four 18MM nuts that hold the seat base to the floor I was able to extract the complete unit. There just happened to be an Express conversion van in the yard so I wandered over to it to check the fit.

With access to the four mount studs it was alarmingly obvious that this was a prime candidate for the swap. It was odd that the express has a shorter front to back dimension by about 3/4 of an inch but a dead match side to side. So it went home with me.

Once home I set out dimensioning and re drilling the rear mount holes. No biggie. Then a test fit exposed an interference with the seat base shell on the inside rear bracket. A quick cutaway of the inside bracket, actually to match the profile of the outside bracket, solved the interference issue. So with a quick edge cleanup on it went. The seat was dropped in on top of it and bolted down with the 18MM nuts. It works like a dream and snaps shut when pushed in. NICE!

Now I have some much needed hideaway storage that is relatively easy to get to. And when it is extended it clears the doghouse. EXCELLENT!


A Multi-Purpose Table

The Project

The original premise was for a table that could be mounted solidly in the van while traveling but also be used outside the van when parked. A bit of noodling had me heading for my parts stash. I had salvaged a bedside table, the kind that the legs slide under the bed putting the top over it. I decided to re -purpose this unit as the legs for my van table.

My Solution

After some disassembly and polishing of the chrome legs I went about fabricating an H brace to stabilise it. The width was determined by the floor mounted seat pads. A bit of measuring and trimming of the legs got the table top to correct height. I wanted the legs to land on those pads for a reason.

And I really suck at welding but I just persisted until I got the square tube spreader welded to some angle stock uprights. Once that fiasco was completed I measured and drilled for the fasteners. I use my goodie box of screws, nuts and bolts to determine what size and length of hardware I need. With those bolted together I cut out a top from some scrap 1/2 inch plywood stock with a 1 x 1 stiffener in the middle. Four carriage bolts hold it down to the frame.

Now came the part of how to fasten the table top the floor for traveling but to be able to release it for use outside. Well, my solution was a simple plastic knob on a 1/4 - 20 threaded bolt which goes through both leg bases and threads into the vans existing floor mount. A hole was drilled and threaded in each the mount plates. It holds the table in place while on the move and simply unscrewing them releases the legs to use the table outside.

And being as goofy as I am about stuff I didn't like the way the floor mount looked so I fabricated two filler plates that are now carpeted to pretty up the floor mount pockets when the table is in.

And what's a table without cup holders and storage? Right!

First, the cup holders. More rummaging through my parts bin snagged a cool retractable cup holder originally mounted on a Dodge Ram center jump seat. It expands when pulled out and collapses when stowed. I mounted it under the middle of the table top. Kool! Cup holders!

Now for some storage! On a pass through Parts Galore I spotted some under seat storage bins in I believe it was a Ford Winstar. I ended up snagging two. I got them back to the shop and after some measuring and mocking up I ended up mounting them on either end of the table top. Just inset from the edge. Sweet! Now I have storage!


A Power Station

The Project

This project stemmed from the want / need for power in order to power assorted electronics [ stereo systems, phones, tablets and lap tops ] while out and about. A place to plug in all your stuff with no fear of running down the vans' main batteries is the quest.

My First Solution

I put my hands on a pair of good used Group 31 commercial batteries. I needed a case for these guys so I spent most of a day slicing and dicing a combination of thin and thick plywood and pine stock. I got to play on my table saw and my chop saw for a bit. It was a simple 3/4 plywood base for the battery boxes and a "hat / cover" to make the combo a bit more optically pleasing. The shell is covered with tan utility carpeting to help it blend in with the rest of the interior.

One end of the top also mounts a small 800 watt inverter to accommodate a 115 plug-in if needed. And a module with (2) USB ports and (2) 12v power ports. These batteries have proven to be a more than adequate portable power source for my needs. And for convenience I also mounted a externally plugged battery maintainer (1.5 amp) as well since they are totally stand-alone. No external feed. I may go solar but that's for another day.

The one down side to this unit is that when it is fully populated it is frickin heavy and awkward. And being over 3 feet long it is by no means easy to maneuver. So it's not going anywhere quickly!

My Second Smaller Solution

This one is a bit more compact, less intrusive and way lighter than the first. After a year of wrestling with the dual battery unit I decided it was time for a more compact single battery unit. I had considered mounting it under the second seat but first there was a physical logistics issue with the vertical space under the seat and second that would present a problem if I decided to remove the seat for some reason. I had to take a different tact. After some consideration I settled on a location directly behind the driver seat.

I used a single large format marine battery box and embedded a pair of 12 volt power ports in the lid. I then bolted a nice little charger console I found at a local auto parts store to the front of the box. This little console has both a USB charging port and a 12 volt power port. Integrated into this unit are three vertical pockets to hold the device you are charging. There was initially some interference between the console unit and the lid so a bit of creative trimming eliminated that.