Vanagon Sunset

Vanagon Sunset

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Center Console Project

I have a million custom projects in my mind that I want to tackle with Ferdinand.  One of them has been a center console with cup holders and storage.  There are a few options online that you can purchase, but none have caught my attention, or if they did, I felt they were over designed and expensive.

I built a small console shelf for my first Westy a few years back so that I'd have a place to put my phone and a couple of water bottles underway, but it lacked storage.  It worked great for a while and then I sold the van.

Last fall, I was heading out to a campout in Ferdi and wanted a cup holder, so I looked around the garage, found an old wine box, cut 2 holes and voila.  I figured that would get me through the weekend and I could tackle my "real" console later.  Well,  that wine box lasted almost a year before I finally got around to doing the console.
My "Wine Box Quickie"

Here's what I had listed for "console criteria".

1. storage for small items. chargers, wallet, flashlight, 2-way radios, paperwork... things that typically would end up in the glove box.
2. Cup holders!  2 for travel mug/coffee cups and 2 for larger water bottles (32oz+)
3. I wanted to still be able to step through to the back of the van
4. I wanted it to be able to support my weight
5. I wanted the storage to be less obvious in case some non-vanagon-privy tweaker broke in, he might not realize that there was a compartment there.
6. I also wanted it to look like a custom fit and not just a box on the floor.

quick sketch of what I wanted
So, I began making some sketches and taking notes from other consoles on the market.   Vanagon Life has a steel locking console ($600) that I really liked, however it was out of my price range and it didn't make use of the area near the shifter, which I wanted to incorporate.  I liked the extra attention to detail put into it, so I tried to think about how I could do the same with mine.
Vanagon Life Console

So, here's what I came up with using 3/8" Birch Plywood and some 1/2" Pine.  The side pieces are attached to the seat bases with self tapping screws (just 4).  The forward part of the console near the shifter has no screws and fits so snug that you can't budge it.   I have a shift boot coming to seal off the hole around the shifter.  I plan to install a small secret compartment just aft of the parking brake that I can store a few items and potentially a kill switch.

Total time to build it, was about 4-5 hours including one trip to Home Depot for wood.  I used a jigsaw for all my cuts and added some dark stain to finish it off.   I also have a piece of carpeting cut out (not pictured) that lays onto of it so that you can't tell it's a console.

The advantage of using wood, is that I can cut holes if needed, mount things with screws easily and wood is easy to work with.  I also rounded off the edges around the parking brake so it's easy to get your hand under it.   Total cost, about $50 including the hinge and stain.

framing it in. Notched for the seatbelt bolts. Eventually I'm going to upgrade to the newer belts with longer receptacles on both sides.  

Framing the front around my Big Shot Shifter

Add caption

The divider is a support to hold the weight of one large adult.

Stained and ready for action

Doubles as a Cornhole game on rainy days.  
This was a fun project, pretty easy to do if your good with a jigsaw and creativity.  I absolutely love it.

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