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I’ve worked as an automotive body structures engineer-

my .02c is that most peoples builds are ~death traps. Anything bolted in to plywood/using wood structurally will likely come loose in a serious crash, and if it hits an occupant they will be seriously injured or killed.

the seats actually will provide a good amount of protection, it’d be hard for things to go through the seats to hit you (although I wouldn’t want to find out what happens if a 75lb fridge to crashes into it at 50 mph). You could maybe put in some thin steel plates behind the seat fabric in the back for extra protection. Something hitting your head is more of a concern though, you could maybe fabricate a steel “shield” to go behind the headrest.

I think if you do an aluminum extrusion interior structure for everything (interconnected) and bolt those in to the metal walls with plus nuts, that will be much safer than a wood build or most any RV. That’s the route I’m taking. I have a folding aluminum bulkhead up front as well, which is more for break in security but would also help in a crash. To me it was the best of both worlds, I get swivels and easy can access, but can have the safety/security of a bulkhead when I want.

A permanent metal bulkhead will definitely be the safest option. I’d still definitely want a door in it though, I go from the cab to the back all the time in my van
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Custom made, with big piano hinges, and an aluminum extrusion frame bolted together. Here are my 3D mock-ups (haven’t actually built it yet but I have no doubt it will work):

Thanks for the thread link. Still considering roller, as I have more than 6" of head room so it could be integrated pretty easily. Building a frame for it might be difficult with the airbag blobs.

I like the folding aluminum door idea in that thread, but when collapsed it would stick out almost 10" which would interfere with the swivel I think.

Crossposting from my new idea I put in the other thread:

What about a 3-sectioned hinged partition? If you can get 20" of space from the back of your seat to your first cabinet on the driver's side, you could put hinges connecting the first panel where the cargo area meets the cab. Then have a 20" panel, with a ~360 degree hinge on the end connected to the next 20" panel, which has a hinge which connects to the last 20" panel. This setup allows the partition to curve around the seats jutting into the cargo area as well, and come back in front of the sliding door.

Add a way to chain/lock the last panel to the area in front of the sliding door. Maybe some sliding bolts into the floor and/or ceiling for extra strength.

Could find some thin metal panels (or even wood or composite, I doubt anyone will be throwing their weight at this thing) and when folded against the wall only adds a few inches of thickness to the wall.

Rough mockup of what I'm thinking. Color key:

Green: Seats
Red: Hinge Posts (8020?) Bolted to Van's Structure
Pink: Walls of Van
Yellow: Hinges
Blue: Sliding Bolt Locks into floor and ceiling
Gray: 3 Folding Panels
White: Countertops.

Currently I only have about 12" of space between the rear of the driver seat and my front countertop with my van as-planned. Could maybe get to 15" and go to 4 folding panels, otherwise I'd have to remove drawer space in my layout.

Alternatively, I may put the main hinge to the body on the passenger side (where I have a 22" gap from back of passenger seat to my sink counter in the slider opening), and it will normally be folded out 1/3 of the way, covering just the passenger seat width, but leaving the middle walkway open. Since I'm living solo in the van for now, I don't mind blocking the passenger sear swivel. If I have a guest over and want to use the passenger swivel, the door panels can hinge to covering the slider.

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Yeah, I think you could pretty easily add a window in the middle panel, and maybe a thin door you can squeeze through sideways.
I was also thinking I can cut the upper outside corners of the first and 3rd panel so that the match the contours of the airbag blobs, so there wouldn't be any gaps.

Ona van like mine without windows in the cargo area, this could also serve as an easy way to insulate the rear end from the front cab that gets hot through the windows in the sun. I like your idea of sandwiching XPS cores. could possibly do a composite design:

Lay 1/8" Plywood flat on the ground. Use adhesive and maybe a few bolts to screw in some 1/4" or 1/2" Aluminum bar rectangular frame all the way around the panel, with some cross beams inside (would want to weld the frame or have a shop waterjet the cavities out of one solid piece of 1/4" aluminum). Then fill in the gaps in the metal frame with XPS or the like. Then another plywood layer adhered to the other side.

Thin, lightweight, and strong, insulates. Solid mounting through the metal.

Mockups of cutouts and panel construction. Gray is aluminum, pink XPS, then wood sheets sandwiching this core.

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My folding bulkhead simply has notches in the top outside of the side panels to clear the blobs and roof curvature. When extended across there might be a small gap up top, but shouldn’t be large enough for a person to squeeze through. Folded the panels only take up about 3” of space in front of my shower behind the driver seat.

CAD is useful to figure out right spacing before building something

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I recommend OnShape (cloud based CAD) or SolidWorks. SolidWorks is available for $100 a year now? OnShape is free if you keep your files publically viewable, with big files like a van build it might be slow though.

youtube intro videos will easily get you started.For a van build, you’ll mostlyjust need to make simple 2D sketches (I.e. a rectangle) and extruding it out into 3D. Works for cabinets, 8020, lots of other things very simply
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