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1994 Dodge Ram Van B250 Vanputer

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  • 1994 Dodge Ram Van B250 Vanputer


    I am new to this whole car pc idea. I was so intrigued I gave it a whirl. I purchased a dinosaur Dell Pentium 2 with 256 MB of RAM for $10 and a 15" rebuilt Compaq LCD for $50 from the local electronics resale shop. I loaded up Windows XP and a custom built front end interface I created, to simplify access to the media and software now installed on this machine. As of late I have added GPS, WiFi and a 4-Port USB 2.0 powered hub. I am powering everything so far with a 400W Coleman Inverter. I had to keep it all on a very, very, very cheap budget. I crafted a custom LCD and control mount using MDF and installed it where the original cup holders were previously on the interior engine cover of the van. Now the LCD is just below eye level and the controls are within reach of the hand while driving. I use a gamepad to move the mouse cursor and emulate mouse clicks.


    I encountered a few issues while doing this project. One, it took alot of my time ( the wife was beggining to get upset ), two RFI noise picked up by the van stereo, three, cooling and four, turning off the inverter at the same time the PC powers off.

    I only could resolve the later three issues. The first one is still in the works. LOL.

    I eliminated about 95% of the RFI noise by literally installing a nice size bolt through the metal case of the PC and gounding it to a nerby seat bolt. Before that, the audio features were not an option. Their is a small amount of noise but you forget about it after a minute or so. I think a GLI could remedy this.

    The cooling resolution is still in the works. I have just installed a 3" fan in the front, lower part of the PC's case blowing front to back. I tried to seal the case as best as possible so the internal air currents could be self contained with no leakage or interference from exterior air currents. I looked at it like this. Keep the front fan low and blowing from front to back forcing cooler air into the case allowing the PC's Pentium 2 CPU blower and PSU fan to pull it over hot components then to the back of the case and then finally out to the interior of the vehicel.

    The iverter issue was resolved. I used a momentary switch, the PC PSU and a automotive 12VDC 30AMP relay. Follow me, this how it works: the momentary switch is pressed the inverter turns on and then the PC PSU turns on. The PC PSU energizes the automotive 12VDC 30AMP relay which effectively jumped the switch that powered the inverter from the vehicle 12VDC. This kept the current flowing and allowed the inverter/PC PSU to run when the switch was released. When the PC turned off it de-energized the automotive 12VDC 30AMP relay and shut the inverter off. Allowing me to leave the vehicle after the shutdown process began on the PC, confidently knowing the inverter will turn off and not drain the vehicle battery. I have to give my boss a little credit with this he helped and drew a schematic for me because I am no electrical genius! I just know enough to hurt myself!

    As of now I am not to concerned about the front end software I use on the VanPuter. I want to perfect a stable platform first then worry about the software later. I am running a very bare bones system. Windows XP, Microsoft Streets and Trips 2007, Delorme EarthMate GPS, Netstumbler and finallly a custom programmed front end I created using Microsoft Visual Basic 6 ( no not .NET, it sucks! ).

    The headaches that still remain are proper wire routing and labeling. Moving from rough wire splices to male and female plugs. Installing DC fuses where necessary. Trim and hacking the Windows XP boot process, etc..

    More to come, stay tuned...


  • #2
    sounds awesome, how about some pics?


    • #3
      Working on it...

      Yes I am working on it. I misplaced the dang USB cord to my digital camera. I know it is somewhere in my bottomless junk jore.


      • #4
        Pictures Galore

        I hope you like these. Like I said it is still a tad rough and I am no pro by any means.
        Attached Files


        • #5
          [email protected] wife was beggining to get upset

          I think this is the norm. When I first told my wife about my project, she was like "you wanna do WHAT now?"
          [HL]Warning - NSFW [/HL]


          • #6
            I beleive it is a "guy thing". My wife is very pratical woman. How do you explain these things to a woman ? We will never know LOL!


            • #7

              My new screen name is lbergamo. My previous screen name leo_bergamo was blocked for unknown reasons so I had to create a new account because after many attempts I could not get help with my old account.

              Please direct replys and or post to this post to lbergamo and not leo_bergamo.

              Thank You


              • #8

                I have attached some updated pictures. Also the PC is no longer strapped to the back of the seat via bungee cord. I migrated it all to the back of the vehicle. I extended the USB and audio cords from the console to the back of the vehicle using some Cat5 cable I had laying around (30+ splices later). I also created a cradle for the PC using a couple of old bicycle tire inner tubes and small lengths of 4X4 and 1X3 wood I had tacking up space in the labratory (A.K.A. garage). As "MacGyver" as it sounds it does an admirable job as a shock absorbing platform for the PC and it was free! I can furnish a rough diagram for this platform if needed.


                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Can you swing the monitor from side to side to adjust it? Nice Work


                  • #10
                    Yes I can it will swing about 45* from center towards the front passenger side. What I want to do is redo the console to allow all the controls to be swung from driver to passenger. The console you see in the pictures is the successor of 4 prior attempts. It was kind of a headache to get things the way I wanted it giving my limited fabrication know how I posses.


                    • #11
                      Future Ideas:

                      Continue to refine the look of the console to look more OEM and not a hodge podge of PC peripherals.

                      Add another monitor facing the passenger compartment and use it for media etc. while on trips.

                      Add indicator lights to the console.

                      Re-install the original cup holders and install a new ash tray for the passenger.


                      • #12
                        Another update...

                        Here is some updated pictures of the modifications I have made to the console as of late...
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          Another Picture Update

                          I was able to scrap the gamepad and replace it with a plane jane mouse. I fabricated a custom mouse pad for the mouse using MDF and thin guage sheet metal. I attached the mouse pad to the console using an old articulating automotive fan mount.
                          Attached Files


                          • #14
                            A little side not. I eliminated all RFI and EMI noise in my system by grounding the DC to AC inverter to the PC ground and then grounding the PC ground to a seat bolt in my vehicle. When I say all I mean ALL. I am sorry do not mean to sound silly but this was a real battle. I know I could of went out and bought a GLI and called it done but I did not want to put a bandaid on it.


                            • #15
                              Update: I have just added a USB backup camera to my system. I purchased a USB 2.0 PCI adapter card and USB WebCam for $20 from the local computer store and hooked it up last night. It works great, real easy to install in comparsion to the other things I have done. I will post pictures as soon as the USB cord to my camera re-materializes!