Introduction: Adding a PowerPort to Mid-Century Van Doghouse

Picture of Adding a PowerPort to Mid-Century Van Doghouse

Old vans have a lot of character but not too many comforts or modern conveniences in their stock configurations.   One thing my 1965 Econoline lacked was a cigarette lighter / powerport or the hole for one on the dashboard.  It was not part of the original package.  Rather than drill an ugly hole in my otherwise flawless dashboard I decided to make use of one of the existing "mystery holes" that someone had drilled into my doghouse during the past 47 years for unknown purposes. 

There are 2 advantages to having the port in my doghouse:
1. My phone usually rests on top of the doghouse while I'm driving so the wire doesn't need to stretch across the cab from the dash creating clutter.
2. It is very easy to tap into the hot lead from the horn relay, or other power source, to power the plug... and the dog house is already grounded so the ground ring doesn't need a wire.

I made it at Tech Shop  where I first discovered the beauty of the Step Bit .  http://www.techshop.ws/
They have a fantastic collection of useful tools.  Here's what you will need

0. Auto Powerport / Cigarette Lighter Assembly
1. Step Bit
2. Power Drill
3. Soldering Iron & Solder
4. 14 - 18 Gauge wire


Lets get started...

Step 1: Drill a Pilot Hole or Use Existing Hole

Picture of Drill a Pilot Hole or Use Existing Hole

First drill a pilot hole or, if you already have an existing hole in a good spot then use it.  I considered using the empty heater control hole since that would look pretty nice but I wanted to make sure this would work AND if I ever want to return my doghouse to stock I'd have a really big hole to patch before I could fit the control  knob back in.

Go to an auto parts store and find a good metal power port or cigar lighter assembly.  It might include a metal ring for mounting under the dash.  I tried it that way for a while but I don't like how it looks with the exposed wires and the port hanging down.  My dash is too beautiful for that.  ;)  You can unscrew the two halves and remove the mounting ring if necessary so that it will fit into the hole we will make in the doghouse.

Step 2: Increase the Hole Diameter With a Step Bit

Picture of Increase the Hole Diameter With a Step Bit

There might be other good ways to make the hole the right size for the port but I really like using a step bit.  Get a drill with a good amount of power.  You may want to add some cutting oil to make it less likely to jam.  If the bit jams it can distort the metal slightly so be careful.  I would suggest testing the hole each time the bit breaks through to a new ring just to be sure you don't go too far.

Step 3: Solder the Hot Lead

Picture of Solder the Hot Lead

Solder about 1 foot of stranded copper wire, I used 14 gauge, to the hot center lead on the insert.

Step 4: Ground Ring Wire

Picture of Ground Ring Wire

If you want to can also solder a wire onto the ground /outer ring.  In my van the doghouse is grounded so when the unit is screwed together the outer ring makes contact with the metal of the DH and forms a solid ground so this wire was unnecessary.

Step 5: Wiring It Up

Picture of Wiring It Up

Feed the hot lead through the hole in the doghouse and then insert the port.  Thread the lead through the ground ring and slide the ground ring down the wire until you can screw it together with the power port insert.  Tighten it up.  I like to have the rubber cap hang down out of the way when I use it.   If I had been thinking ahead I might have added some heat shrink tubing to protect the finished assembly from the weather.  I will most likely take it apart and heat shrink wrap it.  For now I wrapped some electrical tape around the whole thing.

Step 6: Connect to Horn Relay Hot Wire

Picture of Connect to Horn Relay Hot Wire

There should be a hot lead on your horn relay that can be used to supply power to the port.  On this 1965 Ford Horn Relay it is the center lead of 3.  Attach your hot wire to this center lead.  You can add a special forked connector to your wire, if you have one, to make things cleaner.  Also it might be good to add an inline fuse here but I haven't done that yet.

Step 7: Finished

Picture of Finished

Plug in something to test it out.  If you chose the right power wire for your system (Dodge and Chevy vans might have different setups) and the ground is making good contact then you should be done. 

Charge up your 21st Century gadgets in your Mid 20th Century van.

Comments

thesavo (author)2014-03-20

The "doghouse" you are referring to, Is this the dash cowling between the front seats? Is this the cover you can remove to access the rear of the engine for maintenance? Good job finding a spot that is deep enough for the socket. You will want to bundle your wires so that nothing snags on them. Also, adding a connector near the rim of the housing would be good. This provides a easy disconnection means when removing the cover.

audreyobscura (author)2012-11-08

Would it be possible to modify a modern car in this manner?

Sure. You just need to find out where a good source of 12 volt power can be accessed without doing any damage. These old cars are fairly primitive and raw exposed 12 volt sources can be found in numerous places. The newer cars get the more complicated their electrical systems are, eventually incorporating computers. I'd say the best way would be to run a wire from as close to the battery as possible...unless you are really good with wiring diagrams and feel confident you can open a bare wire somewhere and splice into a 12 volt line. The other problem being whether your want to port to be always on or switched by your ignition. That's another issues where the wiring diagram is necessary.

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Bio: I'm a game programmer, character designer and musician. I love working on my van, Noistar and other projects at the Tech Shop. I have ... More »
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