Forum Mod: Electric Bill's Van-Puter: Computing goes mobile!
The preliminary work
As a marine electrician I've installed a few desktops in yachts to avoid the above mentioned problems so when I bought a used Grand Caravan in July and it had this empty space between the front seats I thought, why not? The first task was to measure the distance between the seats and see if anyone made a case that could fit there.
10-1/4" was all I had and while that would be fine for a full or mid tower I wouldn't have room for a printer unless it sat on top of the computer and then it would be higher than the armrests. After some research I found the Silverstone SST-SG01-B MicroATX Case which measures 10.5" W x 8.3" H x 15.5" D - only 1/4" too wide.
The space between the seats was only restricted by plastic covers on the sides of the seats and when I removed the covers I found that they protruded a bit further then necessary. The covers were part of the seat belt latching mechanism and held them where they could be reached so simply removing them wasn't an option but I had an idea.
Now I ran into another roadblock - the printer. Since I only had a bit over 10" to work with I needed a small printer that would print standard documents like my invoices and not break the bank like the portable ones I saw advertised. HP had a couple that looked like they would fit the bill but the only dimensions I could find were with the paper tray extended so I downloaded a picture from the website and using the length measurement I interpolated the depth which, when mounted sideways, would only be restricted by the amount of space between the seats.
Just when things were looking up I realized that the tray would have to be able to load and discharge paper without hitting the seat but not be above the armrests. I thought, OK Bill, damn the torpedoes things will work out and so I started ordering parts.
The case width issue was solved with a heat gun. I taped a couple of pieces of poster board to the sides of the case and heated up the plastic seat belt covers. Then I pushed the case between the seats and let it mold the covers into the new shape. I actually did it a few times adding a couple of thin catalogs to widen the space for additional clearance.
With the width problem solved I put the printer on top of the case and by placing a phone book under the printer I simulated the height I needed to allow the paper to eject on to the driver's seat and still be below the armrests..
I was now ready to start construction of the console.
Here's the initial drawing I did and as you will see things changed significantly as the build progressed.