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Excellent build and write-up!
Going to have to borrow some of the ideas...
Probably won't be an issue but those mesh grill guards can significantly reduce the airflow through the radiator, especially could be a problem with lots of mountain driving.
 

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Discussion Starter #42
Excellent build and write-up!
Going to have to borrow some of the ideas...
Thanks for the comments. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so go ahead and borrow, modify, improve, etc. my ideas, and of course post what you have done in the DIY forum.


Probably won't be an issue but those mesh grill guards can significantly reduce the airflow through the radiator, especially could be a problem with lots of mountain driving.
I think in practice it is a non-issue. Not long ago I did a long highway climb in hot weather with a full load, with the AC running, and the temp gauge didn't budge at all from its normal position. In addition, when you look at the AC condenser placement in front of the radiator:



you come to the realization that the AC condenser provides a much bigger impediment to airflow to the radiator than does the expanded metal mesh that I added to the grill.

Also, there have been many posts on EOC from users installing mesh grill guards, and I don't recall anyone mentioning having issues with airflow/overheating.

Of course if it does become a problem, the mesh would be relatively easy to remove.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
I really started doing the interior conversion in earnest in the summer of 2012. My wife and I had been to Nepal in May of 2012, visiting various parts of the country and doing a 13 day Everest Base Camp Trek as part of the trip. In the evenings, staying at the basic teahouses along the trail during the trek, wrapped up in my sleeping bag and with my headlamp on, I started writing down notes in a small notebook about possibilities that came to mind for the cabinetry and equipment that I was going to build into the back of the Element. I eventually went with my general plan I had thought up in Nepal, but made numerous changes and modifications during the subsequent planning and build.

At some point during my build I came across MTBEcamper77’s build thread:

http://www.elementownersclub.com/forums/showthread.php?t=69021

and I initially glanced at it but didn’t read it in detail, as he was using the seat attachment points to mount his cabinetry, and I had removed all of that, so I didn’t think his thread applied to what I was doing. Later, after his thread had grown some, I went back and read it in detail, and I became temporarily bummed out, as I began to think that I was just wasting my time re-inventing the wheel, and he had some great solutions that I had not thought of. Ultimately, I realized that my build was very different, as although it was removable, it was really designed to turn the Element/Ecamper into a permanent miniature RV/camper. MTBEcamper77’s build was potentially far more usable for more people, with its multi-purpose and easily removable nature, allowing the Element to be used as a daily driver, instead of as a dedicated camper. I still hope that he can turn it into a successful commercial product, as there are many good ideas in it.

One idea that MTBEcamper77 had that I really liked was the E-FALIA vinyl lettering that he made out of modified WESTFALIA lettering purchased from GoWesty (I think). I decided to borrow the idea but modify it, so I ordered vinyl lettering from doityourselflettering.com and installed it on the front and back of the Ecamper pop-top:







I only recently installed the lettering, so I haven’t had it out on a road trip, but I expect VW camper owners to do a double take and either get a chuckle out of it or be puzzled.
 

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Discussion Starter #44
The next step was to create vertical frames that would attach to the base and create a framework surrounding the Dometic refrigerator. I made these frames out of 3/4” baltic birch with half-lapped joints:





Sorry about this slightly fuzzy image, but this is the frame that goes forward (in the vehicle) of the Dometic. It is held in place with 1/4-20 bolts threaded into previously installed T-nuts in the base:



Here is the frame that goes rearward (in the vehicle) of the Dometic. The crosspiece part way up will support a shelf to the rear that will be installed later:



Both frames in place. Note that the top of the frames are level with the top of the electrical box. Eventually a cooking cabinet will be set on top of this, with its top being at the eventual countertop level. At this point the frames seem relatively prone to forward-backward pivoting movement, but that will be cured later in the build, as you will see:



The top rail of the frame extends into a notch cut into the wooden panel attached to the driver side pillar:



View from above with the platform mounted to the pantry slides, and the slides fully extended. The platform easily clears the front of the frames:

 

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Discussion Starter #45
On the driver’s side, from the rear of the Dometic refrigerator all the way to the back tailgate/hatch, I had planned a large cabinet with a shelf. I ended up building it as two frames of half-lapped construction made of 3/4” baltic birch plywood. There would be one larger front frame facing the aisle, and a smaller frame at the rear. The two frames were built separately, then nailed and glued together at right angles. The rear frame needed a big notch cut into it in order to clear plastic trim that was attached to the upper pillar between the driver’s side rear most window and the rear hatch. In addition, that same part of the frame needed to be planed and sanded in order to clear the sheet metal pillar that curved inward. A small built up block of plywood was also strategically glued to the frame to allow it to be screwed to the pillar. All of those features are visible in the frame before being placed into its final position:



Here is the combined frame in place, bolted to the subfloor in four places and bolted to the frame near the Dometic in two places. The reason that the top and bottom rail of the frame extends beyond the vertical stile will become apparent later in the build:



Here a machine screw runs through a hole in the frame and a glued on plywood block and into a rivet nut that has been installed into the metal behind. It took a lot of trial and error and fitting and cutting to get the plywood block to be in the correct position to fit properly flat against the metal wall as well as the back of the frame:



With the frame removed, this is the rivet nut that I installed that gives an attachment point for the frame:



Shows the combined frame bolted to the frame that is rearward of the Dometic:



Another view. The two horizontal rails part way up at the frames on each end of the longer frame will support a shelf that is at the height of the top of the wheel well:



After adding some additional hardware to the frames, they were later removed so that I could weigh them. I also took photos of them. At the bottom of the frame are two heavy duty picture hanging loops that have 1/2” nylon webbing sewn to them with a Fastex buckle. My wife did all of the sewing of all of the nylon webbing in the project. The nylon webbing with Fastex buckles will later be part of a system that can be used to strap down and restrain loose cargo in the cabinet. Also visible at the top of the frame are two right angle metal brackets that will be used to hold down a countertop from below. Where the frames meet there is a dark brown magnet catch that will be used to help hold a panel/door in place:



I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would make and install doors on the cabinets, while trying to save weight. Standard swing open hinged doors would not be practical, as they would open into the aisle, which is where the person using them would be. Another possibility would be inset sliding doors that slide past each other. That would have taken up space inside the cabinet to mount them, as the 3/4” thick frame was non sufficiently thick enough to machine two tracks into for two 1/4” sliding doors. Also, sliding doors only allow access to slightly less than 1/2 of the cabinet at a time. I came up with a simple solution that used a removable panel mounted on the front of the frame. The panel could easily be removed from its mount and slid forward in the aisle to allow unobstructed access to the cabinet interior from the aisle. This could be done with the tailgate/hatch opened or closed. In addition, if the tailgate/hatch were open, the panel could easily be removed and set outside of the vehicle. I used aluminum J-Mold, commonly used to mount the bottom edge of wall mirrors above a bathroom vanity, for example. It was available at the local Home Depot. As you can see in the following photo I have mounted J-Mold along the bottom rail of the long aisle side of the frame, as well as running up along the frontmost stile. These provide two rigid edges by which to support even a relatively thin 1/4” panel. The panel will also be held in place by the magnet catch that is dark brown in the photo, and will also be held by the small grey window screen clip that can be rotated into place to hold the panel mechanically. There is also a J-Mold and a window screen clip at the rear frame to hold a separate panel there:



Here is the combined frame with added hardware bolted back into place:



Another view:



Here the shelf is temporarily fitted into place. It is less than halfway up, at the height needed to clear the wheel well. There is a large un-obstructed space above the shelf to store bulky objects:

 

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Discussion Starter #46
The next part of the cabinets on the driver’s side was a kitchen/cook cabinet above the Dometic refrigerator, and a countertop running on top of the cabinet frame toward the rear of the vehicle.

I constructed a strong box out of 1/2” and 3/8” baltic birch to be the cook cabinet. In hindsight I probably could have saved a pound or two by making it out of lighter materials, but I wanted it to be strong, as it would be a structural part of the cabinet framework around the Dometic.

The first four photos show the box after it had been constructed and varnished, and with hinges installed for a flip down door, not shown. (Note that some photos further along in this post show the box without the hinges, as those photos were taken at an earlier time.) The base of the cabinet extends further to the right in the picture than does the main part of the cabinet. This is to deal with the angled seat back of the driver’s seat. The large hole is for a standard propane cartridge to fit through, so that a burner head can be above the top of the cabinet to cook on. The burner and propane cartridge can easily be lifted out, and my general plan would be to cook outside on a table or on the tailgate. However, there might be times in inclement weather in which I would have to run the burner inside. It could be operated from the aisle or from standing outside near the open driver side suicide door. I would be sure to have plenty of ventilation and have the fire extinguisher handy. In addition, I am building a folding wind screen and combustible surface protector made of aluminum that would fit around the opening, so that no wood is exposed directly to a nearby flame. I haven’t made the windscreen yet, but I have a good idea to how to make it.

Several photos of the kitchen box:







Bottom of box:



Box mounted into place with the Dometic:



Various views of the box. The rectangular piece with the circular hole in it inside the box hold the bottom of a propane cylinder in position:





Note that with the Dometic platform extended, the Dometic clears the cabinet and the top lid of the Dometic can be opened without obstruction:



Here is a countertop laid on top of the rear frame and overlapping onto the kitchen box. It has been trimmed to fit around the window opening and various obstructions:



Another view of the countertop. Note that it appears 3/4” thick and has a nice rounded over routed edge:



The bottom of the countertop. It is actually 3/8” thick with some edges/sections built up with an additional layer of 3/8” material to bring those areas up to 3/4” thick. This gives a solid appearance while saving substantial weight:



The metal along the windowsill is sloped, and the countertop needs to be supported there. I started by drilling two holes. Threaded inserts were not needed as there was cramped access behind the sheet metal that allowed the threading of nuts onto bolts inserted through the holes. This photo and the next photo are actually of the passenger side, but it shows the idea of what was done on the driver side:



Properly sized spacer blocks held in place by machine screws:



These are the spacer blocks installed on the driver side:



Close up of the four spacer blocks (two per side of the vehicle). A metal threaded insert has been screwed into what will be the top of the block, and a screw will help hold the top down on the spacer blocks:



Here the countertop has been removed, sanded and varnished. There are various T-nuts installed that will have items threaded into them from above. In addition, there are holes for screws that will hold down the countertop onto the spacer blocks:



Top view of varnished countertop:



The countertop in some sense is simply resting on the top of the kitchen box. In a serious rear-end accident, the counter top would need a lot of force to be ripped from its mounts to the sheet metal and to an obstruction on the metal pillar behind the suicide door. If it moved forward it would ride over the kitchen cabinet, instead of taking the kitchen cabinet with it. This will hopefully provide some safety for the driver in a serious read end crash.
 

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This is my new favorite thing on teh Internets.

It's like one of those serialized radio dramas, with a cliffhanger every day.
 

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this is too much fun... i love that i can get an idea of what's under the plastics now too
 

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Discussion Starter #49
As explained earlier, generally instead of making doors for the cabinets, I ended up using panels that were held in place by aluminum J-Mold, magnets and window screen clips. The panels were easily removable, and this system saved weight over using hinged doors and also greatly improved access in a cramped space.

Here is the panel that will cover the rear most frame on the driver side:



Here is the panel in place. To remove it, you turn the window screen clip at the top 180 degrees, tilt the top out and lift the panel out of the J-Mold at the bottom. It is easier to do than to describe. There is a much larger panel on the aisle side of the cabinet, but this panel might be useful to access some items from the rear of the vehicle. Since there is still some wasted space between this panel and the tailgate when it is up, my plan is to eventually add some hooks or clips or an expandable mesh pocket to this panel for storing various items. I want to keep using the camper for some time before I decide on those add-ons:



Here is the panel that will go on the aisle face of the driver side cabinet. It is made of 1/4” baltic birch:



Backside of the panel. A small spacer block with a steel catch mounted to it is for a magnetic catch installed on the cabinet frame:



The panel in place. It is held along the bottom and one edge with J-Mold. At the top left it is held with a magnet catch behind, and is held mechanically by the window screen clip. The magnet catch is strong enough to hold the panel for most purposes, but the window screen clip is extra insurance for bumpy roads. To remove the panel you turn the window screen clip at least 90 degrees either direction, pull outward firmly on the top left edge of the panel to release the magnet catch, slide the panel rearward about 1/2” to clear the vertical J-Mold, then lift the panel slightly to clear the horizontal J-Mold. Again, it is easier to actually do than to describe. There is enough clearance that the panel can be removed even with the hatch and tailgate closed:



When Ursa Minor does the Ecamper conversion, they add in a door handle (also operates via the remote) and a pull down loop to the hatch so that you can open and close it from the inside of the vehicle. The panel needed to have the cutout so that the handle could be accessed:



This is the backside of a drop down door that will be installed on the front of the cook box:



This is the cook box with the hinges mounted:



Door in place attached to those hinges:



Door flipped down. These hinges are such that they move the bottom edge of the door outward away from the cabinet as the door is flipped downward. This is important so as to clear a panel that will later be added in front of the Dometic below:



Another view of the cook box with only a small portion of the door visible at the left. The end of the door shown is not vertical, but is cut on a diagonal. I think it provides a cleaner look when seen from the front, and the diagonal edge provides a grab point for pivoting the door downward. I plan to somehow use this wasted space for storing something, but just haven’t decided what yet:

 

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As a carpenter with 20+ years experience, a shade tree mechanic and all around jack of all trades... I find this post absolutely stupefying on every level. The build quality, the craftsmanship, attention to detail, the limitless "know how" and even the incredibly detailed documentation of every step literally made my mouth fall open as I scrolled thru the countless pictures uploaded here. I am officially blown away by this project. My hat is off to you good sir. Incredible accomplishment!
 

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along those lines, i was wondering when the coffee table edition of the documentation would be available. lots of interesting pictures, good story telling. seems almost perfect for the coffee table.

and i'm not dismissing the factual and informative content, which is valuable all by itself, just saying that the presentation is very well done.
 

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Discussion Starter #52
As a carpenter with 20+ years experience, a shade tree mechanic and all around jack of all trades... I find this post absolutely stupefying on every level. The build quality, the craftsmanship, attention to detail, the limitless "know how" and even the incredibly detailed documentation of every step literally made my mouth fall open as I scrolled thru the countless pictures uploaded here. I am officially blown away by this project. My hat is off to you good sir. Incredible accomplishment!
Thanks so much for the kind and supportive words. I was always interested in how things worked when I was a child, and I liked to try to build things and work on my own cars as I grew up. Initially the results were pretty sloppy, rushed and not very satisfactory. But I kept trying and learning, and buying a house in 1980 really gave me a lot of practice with carpentry, woodworking, electrical, etc. The house was a good buy, but it had been rented for the previous 15 years, and had not been maintained. I got a lot of practice at fixing and building things, and I've been interested for years in building a small camper.
 

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Discussion Starter #53 (Edited)
In an earlier post, I had shown a cardboard mockup of the planned cabinets:



On the passenger side, the top of the cabinet would end at the bottom of the window, as I wanted to preserve a sight line there as seen from the driver’s seat. On the driver side, I could bring the cabinet all of the way up to the headliner, without obstructing a sightline. I couldn’t simply extend the lower cabinet all of the way up to the headliner, as it would partially block the sunroof opening that is used for access to the Ecamper sleeping area upstairs. So I built a lightweight cabinet of less depth so that it could clear the sunroof opening. Any heavier weight item stored in this upper cabinet would be resting on the strong countertop, so I could build the upper cabinet out of thinner and lighter weight materials. The frame was made of 1/2” baltic birch in half lap construction. The covering panels were made of 1/4” baltic birch.

Here is the partially built cabinet test fitted into place. It is missing some major pieces, and needs nail holes filled, sanding and varnish:



With the removable panel in place. The entire front piece was cut out of one piece of 1/4” baltic birch in order to preserve the grain from the left side piece to the removable panel to the right side piece. A J-Mold holds the bottom edge of the door panel and a window screen clip holds the removable panel to the 1/2” frame behind:



Another panel test fit into place. Eventually the gap where the front and side meet up will be closed up when the pieces are glued together. A small panel for switches and a 12 VDC outlet is also in place:



This panel goes between the rubber gasket around the door opening, and against the wood piece attached to the door pillar behind it. The panel rests on the cook box and is up against the forward edge of the countertop:



The various pieces glued and nailed together, nail holes filled, sanded and multiple coats of varnish applied:





Rear view showing frame made out of 1/2” baltic birch:



Removable panel:



This upper cabinet was going to cover the rearmost driver’s side window, so I ended up cutting Reflectix to place against the window. I purchased it at Home Depot and also will use it for covering other windows for privacy and light control when needed.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Reflectix-24-in-x-10-ft-Double-Reflective-Insulation-BP24010/100318552

The metal bodywork around the window provided a small lip that held the Reflectix in place against the glass:



Here the completed cabinet is set in place on top of the countertop. There are three holes in the bottom rail of the frame that line up with three holes in the countertop that have T-nuts installed beneath. Three machine screws hold the cabinet to the countertop. Notice in the first picture near the top that there is a lightweight piece of aluminum stock that I bent which connects between the wood frame and the sheet metal above the window to help hold the frame vertical. I used a nylon trim clip pushed into a hole to hold the aluminum in place:



Another view showing all three mounting screws along the lower rail, and showing the screws near the Reflectix that hold the countertop down onto the spacer blocks installed on the sloping metal below the window:



Another shot:



A second lightweight piece of aluminum stock that I bent which connects between the wood frame and the sheet metal above the window to help hold the frame vertical, also held to the sheet metal by a nylon trim clip in a hole. There is a side curtain airbag here that could deploy in a side collision or a rollover accident, and after studying it, I’m certain that it would just blow off these trim clips and push the lightweight aluminum out of the way if the airbag deploys. The plastic trim piece that initially covered the airbag and which I removed, was held on far more tightly. Of course there are no seats in the back of the camper, so the airbag back there is irrelevant. Also, I think if I have a serious side collision or rollover accident, the least of my worries will be that the airbag might destroy the upper cabinet when it deploys. In any case, the lightweight aluminum stock holds the upper part of the frame in place:



An electrical switch/outlet panel will be installed in the opening, and there is a wooden tab that will be held in place with a machine screw threaded into a T-nut in the wood panel attached to the pillar:



The panel above the cook box:



There was a small irregular space above the top rail of the frame and the headliner above. I ended up adding a 1/8” baltic birch panel above the aluminum stock. Currently I am storing some rolled up Relectix window coverings there:



Overview in which the bottom of the 1/8” panel is visible. The wooden tab mentioned previously now has a machine screw holding it in place:



Each of the machine screws holding the lower rail onto the countertop has a picture hanger attached to it with a loop of 1/2” nylon webbing and a female Fastex buckle. Near the Reflectix, there are three T-nuts placed below the counter top and a threaded eyebolt is screwed in from above. The threaded eyebolt has a 1/2” piece of webbing sewn to it, and the other end of the webbing has a male Fastex buckle with a slider, so that the webbing can be tightened or loosened. The webbing is long enough to go over even the most bulky items that can fit in the cabinet, and when tightened down, it keeps the items from moving around:



Overview of the upper cabinet in place. It fits reasonably well against the headliner, but I was not able to get a perfect fit. The headliner is curved in two directions at the line where the top of the cabinet meets it, and the curvature changes along the meeting line:



Back to some more electrical items after this.
 

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Discussion Starter #54
Back to some electrical items.

There is both 12 VDC and 120 VAC wiring for the Dometic and Battery Tender, and I wanted to control some of that from a panel on the upper cabinet, as well as have a 12 VDC outlet there.

These photos show some wiring (some was later modified and shortened), some of which runs in split looms. One of the split looms runs into the space behind the sheet metal below the eventual countertop, and then exits above the eventual counter top:







I built a small panel (out of two 1/8” pieces layered into 1/4” thickness as explained in an earlier post) that had switches and a 12 VDC outlet mounted in it. The panel has some spacers and a separate back panel to protect and hide the wiring, as the panel will be mounted in the upper cabinet:



The electrical box with the two wire looms held in place with cable tie downs, and the switches and outlets fully wired:



Another view of the wiring, all labeled:



A front view of the panel with T-nuts inserted from the back:



The electrical box mounted into place in the opening of the upper cabinet:



The machine screws threaded into the T-nuts hold the panel in place:



The panel with labeling. The l O ll switch controls the 12 VDC outlet above. The l O switch connects the 12 V output of the Battery Tender to the starting battery, for when the Battery Tender is used to charge the starting battery. The lower ON/OFF switches are for controlling 120 VAC shore power. The left switch turns the Battery Tender off and on. The right switch turns on the 120 VAC to the Dometic. There will be times when I want to use shore power to run the Battery Tender to charge the start battery, but do not want the Dometic refrigerator powered on, and vice versa. I may later re-do the labels, as they are mounted slightly crooked:



Nighttime view of panel:

 

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Discussion Starter #55
Some more electrical around the Dometic refrigerator.

The Dometic refrigerator has both 12 VDC and 120 VAC wiring attached to it, and is mounted on a platform on pantry slides. It had to slide in and out of the cabinet smoothly without the wiring binding or catching on something.

First, I had to close off or put a barrier between the Dometic cabinet and the lower cabinet further back on the driver’s side, so that items stored in the further back cabinet would not interfere with the Dometic. Since this barrier would be inside of a cabinet, it did not have to be made of finished wood. Instead I used Coroplast,

http://www.homedepot.com/p/COROSPLAST-72-in-x-36-in-x-5-32-in-Twinwall-Plastic-Sheet-COR-3672/202771364

which is very lightweight and has some impact resistance, and is smooth and easy to wipe clean. It is essentially the equivalent of cardboard, but made out of plastic.

I cut one piece to fit over the lower frame and installed it with wood screws. I installed a smaller piece at right angles to the first sheet to block off the corner. This sheet was cut to fit over the top of the shock mount and is held to the metal panel behind with a zip tie. The tie can easily be cut and replaced if the panel has to come out to access the shock:



In the previous photo at the top right, a thick black cord has red/black wiring zip tied to it. The black cord is the 120 VAC wiring for the Dometic, while the red/black wiring is the 12 VDC wiring for the Dometic. There was too much excess 12 VDC wiring, which might get hung up on something, so between the previous photo and the next photo, I ended up cutting the zip ties and shortening the 12 VDC wiring, then re-zip tying the wires together, as seen in the next photo. In this photo, the middle shelf has been added, and it has 1/2" nylon webbing and Fastex buckles that can be used to secure items in the cabinet. The combined wiring to the Dometic nicely folds up between the Dometic and the frame:



The Dometic fully extended into the aisle with the 12 VDC and 120 VAC wiring extended:



Remember that the Dometic has four round “feet” on its bottom that sit in four round holes that I drilled in the platform on top of the pantry slides. This works very well in keeping the Dometic fixed on the platform. However, on a very bumpy road, it would be possible for the Dometic to bounce out of the round holes and move around. To prevent that, the Dometic needs to be held down on the platform. I thought of using some wood or aluminum pieces bolted into the holes at the ends of the Dometic to hold it down to the platform. However, that would take up space, which was at a premium. Instead I screwed some bolts into the metric threads and used very strong Dyneema cord (330 lb breaking strength) to hold the Dometic onto the platform. The right end of the cord has a loop tied into it, looped over one bolt. The cord passes through a hole in the platform, then underneath, then up though another hole, looping over the left bolt and then ending at a guy line loc tension adjuster (black triangular item in photo.) The Dyneema cord not only holds the Dometic down on the platform, it also holds the 120 VAC and 12 VDC cords in place up against the Dometic. There are times when I might want to remove the Dometic and use it on 120 VAC power if we end up staying in a hotel room. This is easy to do. Simply twist the line loc to release the Dyneema cord, slip the end off of the bolt, then unplug each of the cords from their sockets, then lift/slide the Dometic off of the platform into the aisle to carry to the hotel room. The light blue disconnects on the 12 VDC cables are if I ever want to use the Dometic temporarily in a different vehicle. I have made up a 12 VDC cable with a cigarette lighter plug on one end and disconnects on the other end. In reality, the Dometic will probably almost always remain in the Element:



Here a Coroplast panel has been added to cover up the wiring above the middle shelf:



I bought the Dyneema cord, the guy line loc and the 1/2” Fastex buckles and 1/2” nylon webbing from zpacks.com. Local sporting goods stores and REI carry 3/4” and larger webbing and buckles, but 1/2” are harder to find. For tying items down in the cabinets, even 1/2” webbing is overkill, and 3/4” would be excessive overkill.
 

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Discussion Starter #56
Cabinet LED lighting, tie downs and panels at the back of the driver side cabinets.

This photo shows the inside rear corner of the Element on the driver side. There is some factory installed wiring here that needs to be covered and protected. Additionally, I have installed an eyebolt through the sheet metal with 1/2” nylon webbing sewn to it to be used as a hold down strap:



A second eyebolt at the right also has nylon webbing attached, and they connect via a buckle attached to webbing attached via a picture hanger on the inside of the lower frame rail. The webbing can be used in a cross pattern as shown, or directly across, depending on the need:



The picture hangers (also mentioned in earlier posts) that the webbing is sewn to are something like this:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/OOK-1-Hole-D-Rings-Hanger-Value-Box-14-Pack-59981/202258035

or this:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/OOK-2-Hole-D-Rings-Value-Box-10-Pack-59980/202258033

I wanted LED lights inside the cabinets to light the interiors, which is nice at night when looking for something in the dark. I ended up using Little Dot SMD LED accent lights from superbrightleds, which are amazingly bright for their size:

https://www.superbrightleds.com/moreinfo/led-wired-bolts/little-dot-smd-led-accent-light/639/

They consist of a small surface mount LED with adhesive on the back, and a long flat ribbon cable, eventually terminating in long wire leads. I didn’t feel that the adhesive on the back of the LED was sufficient to hold everything in place, so I also ran foil tape over the ribbon cable. I mounted two of the LEDs on the rear most pillar near the tailgate, shining into the upper and lower shelf areas when the access panel was removed. With the access panel in place, the LEDs would light up whatever was attached to the access panel. The ribbon cable is taped flat to the sheet metal with foil tape:



This is the underside of the middle shelf with two LED’s mounted and the ribbon cable taped down. The shelf has reinforcing ribs underneath to stiffen it. At the top of the photo there are some T-nuts to connect eyebolts to for webbing, and at the bottom eyebolts have already been threaded in place and are held by a nut on the underside of the shelf. The small indentation at the bottom fits right on top of a beefy factory installed metal post at the wheel well, helping to support the shelf:



The middle shelf in place with 1/2” nylon webbing shown, as well as the wiring from the LED lights below:



The middle shelf is held in place via machine screws threaded into T-nuts in the frame at the rear (shown) and the frame near the Dometic:



Underside of the countertop with 3 LEDs installed:



The wiring from the LEDs at the rear pillar, underneath the middle shelf, underneath the countertop, inside the cook box, and outside the cook box near the hidden switch panel all meet here. They are all wired via disconnects to wiring which goes up the pillar, over the headliner and to a switch panel on the passenger side of the Element. I stuffed all of the excess wiring and connections into what used to be the pocket in the wall where the rear seat seatbelt retractor reel was located:



Here are two of the LEDs underneath the countertop. They are very bright even in the daytime:



After the wiring was installed, a piece of Coroplast was installed over it to protect it all. Here the Coroplast is being held in place via a screw, and via a Phillips screwdriver jammed through a hole in the Coroplast into an existing hole in the sheet metal:



The temporary screwdriver has been replaced with a nylon trim clip:



Overview with the shelf and Coroplast in place:



Cabinet interior at night with both panels removed and all other lights off:



Cabinet interior at night:



Cabinet interior shot from the back with aisle panel in place:



LED light by semi-hidden switch panel behind Dometic and under cook box:

 

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Discussion Starter #57
Cover panel for Dometic.

I decided that it would really finish the look of the cabinets on the driver side of the Element if I put a finished panel over the Dometic refrigerator.

I constructed the panel out of 1/8” baltic birch plywood to keep the weight down. It has a rectangular vent opening routed into it to allow ventilation around the condenser of the Dometic, and a small round opening as a finger pull and release latch access. The bottom edge of the panel had to be trimmed somewhat to clear the slightly uneven rubber/vinyl flooring. Front view of sanded and varnished panel:



Rear view of the panel. The edges and vent opening have been built up with an additional layer of 1/8” baltic birch to give it a more substantial appearance and to slightly stiffen it. Even so, the panel is slightly flimsy, which is OK, since it is cosmetic and not structural. At the right the dark square item is a steel plate that a magnetic catch in the frame will hold in place. At the upper left are three strong rare earth magnets gorilla glued into small holes drilled into the back of the panel with a Forstner drill bit that can create flat bottom holes. These will be attracted to three rare earth magnets inserted into the frame. All together these magnets will hold the top part of the panel tightly against the frame when the Dometic is stowed. The bottom part of the panel will be screwed to the platform that the Dometic rests upon:



Close up of rare earth magnets on back of panel:



The pantry slides that the Dometic platform is mounted on have detents that hold the pantry slides in the closed position or the open position. The detents aren’t very strong, and although it will not be a problem in the open position, it could be a problem in the closed position if the Dometic suddenly slides into the aisle when cornering. Therefore I felt I needed a mechanical latch to hold the Dometic pantry slides in the closed position, as well as something to grab onto to pull the Dometic into the aisle. I didn’t want to mount something on the front of the panel, as it would protrude into the aisle and something could possibly catch on it or break it off.

Instead, I decided to use what is known as an Elbow Catch:

http://www.rockler.com/solid-brass-elbow-catch

which I purchased at the local Rockler store.

I drilled an opening near the bottom of the panel, and installed the catch hardware (brass colored) on the back of panel. To slide out the Dometic, you simply stick a finger into the opening from the front of the panel and pull against the elbow catch, which both releases the catch and allows you to pull the Dometic platform into the aisle:



Close up of elbow catch:



The strike that the elbow catch latches onto is mounted to the base attached to the floor. It is the small brass item shown, and the spring loaded elbow catch locks onto it when the Dometic platform is slid into place:



Dometic panel in place.:



Another view:



Cook box hinged door flipped down:



Dometic pulled out into aisle:



Front view of Dometic with Dyneema cord locking it onto the platform. At the right you can see three rear earth magnets glued into the frame that line up with three rare earth magnets in the panel. I double and triple checked to make sure I had the polarities lined up properly to attract, rather than repel:



Lid open on the Dometic. If it has power applied, a light comes on inside:



View from the rear of the vehicle:

 

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Discussion Starter #58
Finishing up the driver side cabinets.

There was a small open area at the rear of the vehicle between the sheet metal of the vehicle and the rear most frame. I thought it would look better if the opening was covered up. I jigsawed this piece out of 1/8” baltic birch to fit, then sanded and varnished it:



Here the piece is screwed into place to cover the open area:



With the adjacent panel in place:



Overview:



In addition, the cabinet frame between the Dometic and the back of the driver’s seat was open, and I thought it would look better covered. I installed a 1/8” baltic birch panel to cover the frame:



Another view. The opening to release the elbow catch and pull the Dometic out into the aisle is visible at the lower left:



At this point the major features of the driver side cabinets are done. I will still need to make a folding aluminum protective screen around the propane cooktop, and after camping in the vehicle some more I expect to add various clips, hooks, mesh pouches, etc. to various panels on the cabinets for storing items.

Time to move on to the passenger side of the vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter #59
Passenger side cabinets.

The driver side cabinets extend from the tailgate to the rear of the driver’s seat. The passenger side cabinets will extend forward only to the pillar at the rear of the passenger side suicide door, where the suicide door is hinged. This was so that when loading/unloading the vehicle, and when used at a campsite, the passenger seat could be moved forward, and access would be easy via the passenger suicide door. Additionally access would be available via the tailgate/hatch. On the passenger side, the cabinet top would end at the bottom of the window, while on the driver side, a smaller cabinet extends to the headliner.

What this all means is that the passenger side cabinets were going to be smaller in volume than those on the driver side of the vehicle. To even out load I wanted to get some more weight on the passenger side of the vehicle, since the driver side already had the Dometic refrigerator. So I decided to put some heavy items on the passenger side. This includes two 2.5 gallon water containers, the Porta-potti which contains about 2.5 gallons of water for flushing, the house battery and associated electronics, and places to store heavier food and other items. In addition, a solar panel would be stored on that side when not in use, so I had to design around that.

Instead of using a fold up or roll-up solar panel, I decided to go with a less expensive standard aluminum frame glass covered 55 W solar panel of the type installed on roofs and widely available. I specifically purchased this panel:

http://www.solartechpower.com/SPM055P-N.html

It was a little over 25” X 25”, 1.38” depth, and over 13 lbs. I decided that when stored it would be part of one of the removable cover panels on the passenger side cabinets. I designed the rear most frame of the cabinet with enough setback from the aisle so that the solar panel would be placed against it at a right angle and still leave enough space for a 1/8” to 1/4” plywood covering over the panel on the aisle side.

The rear most frame of the cabinet would be bolted into the subframe that I had already installed in the floor of the Element, and would be attached to the sheet metal at the rear most passenger pillar via a threaded insert that I installed:



Frame temporarily fitted into place. The eyebolt threaded screws were temporary, and would be replaced with machine bolts. The edge of the blue tape on the subframe represents where one face of the solar panel will be when stored:



Close up of part of frame with angled and positioned spacer block that will fit up against the sheet metal around the threaded insert. I used a stainless steel bolt. The corner edge of the frame needed to be planed and sanded down at an angle to fit the pillar as it turned inward. The notch is needed to clear a plastic trim piece higher on the pillar:



Close up of attachment to pillar. It took a lot of trial and error to get the triangular piece to the correct angle, then sized and fitted to match up with the wood frame as well as the metal pillar which was slanted. Then a diagonal hole had to be drilled to match up with the threaded insert:



Eventually after all of that work, I discarded that frame and started over. The reason was that I came across a much lighter and thinner solar panel encapsulated onto a semi-flexible plastic sheet. Apparently these type of solar panels are commonly used surface mounted on sailboats, etc. The solar panel I obtained was of the correct size to fit behind the cover panel on the cabinet, and was much more thin than and weighed about 10 lbs less than the glass/aluminum solar panel. Although I was trying to get weight on the passenger side, I also didn’t see any point in adding 10 lbs of unnecessary weight. In addition, since the panel was thinner, I was able to gain about 1.5” of depth in the cabinet. I plan to eventually use the original heavier solar panel in some yard project at home, maybe as part of a solar powered LED yard light system. Rear of new solar panel:



The panel has 50 W output. I extended the wiring supplied and added a quick disconnect plug to plug into the vehicle’s solar recharging system. The Element can be parked in the shade to stay cool, while the solar panel can be positioned in the sun via the long wires. After taking some measurements with my multimeter and the solar controller, I realized that it is extremely important to position the panel to directly face the sun to get maximum current flow. Simply laying the panel on top of the roof is far less than optimal. Front of panel:



Since the new solar panel had substantially less depth than the old one, I had to build a new rearmost frame for the cabinet:





New frame sanded and varnished, bolted in place with J-mold attached at the bottom:

 

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So I guess the most important question to ask now is; How in the hell did you get all this work done? I mean, I would imagine at least 60-70% of your work day is spent taking a step back and saying "damn I'm good"...
But seriously, you owe yourself a pat on the back, this is incredible.

I have one almost non-related question for you....
I wanted to add a rear door handle to my hatch but havent really found a good way to attach an oem handle. You wouldnt happen to have pictures of how the hatch handle is installed, would you?
 
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