30 April 2012

Building A Cargo Organizer For My Vehicle

Bring Home The Cut Aluminum

Test Fit The Side Panel
 You have decided you need a Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV), but you have no budget to purchase a new vehicle. So, your only option is to outfit your daily driver. One major concern, is having all of your gear stolen from the roof rack. It is hard enough to buy all of that gear the first time around. who can afford to do it twice????

But what if I can show you a way to keep all of your tools handy, without exposing them to the weather or thieves?? I guess I have your attention if you are still reading this.

First you have to assess the space available in your daily driver. I, opted, for an older Chev Tahoe. Has seating for my family and space for camping gear or road-trips. I have a large cargo area, although not as large as a Suburban. The slightly shorter overall vehicle length will aid in a smaller turning radius, in case I have to get out of trouble quick.

I discovered if I had a raised platform, I could store all my tools below the luggage deck, they would be accessible without having to unload all of the luggage. So, I drew a simple plan on a blanket piece of paper. I calculated the size of each piece,

Prepare Bracing On Side Panels
and when I had a total, I was off to the metal shop to order up the metal. In this case I decided that aluminum would be lighter than steel and easier to work with, as I was going to be pop riveting not welding. Using pop rivets also allows for as simpler tool requirement which most people can afford.
  • Hand Drill
  • Drill Bit(s)
  • Pop Rivet Gun
  • Pop Rivets
  • File
  • Vise-Grips or C clamp
  • Ruler or Carpenter's Square
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Odds and sods of 2x4's for a work bench
 Not only are these tools more affordable, you can perform this construction almost anywhere. Keeping it simple. Once you get the metal home you will need to organize the pieces into groups;
Drilling & Riveting Centre Braces
sides, deck, and supports.

First determine if your sides need any fine tuning. In the Tahoe, I had to notch the front bottom corners of the side panels to fit over the floor molding and a larger notch in the upper back, for the retractable cover. Not serious, but easier to do before the whole unit is assembled and painted. Once the side panels fit, the next step is to add the angle metal to brace and join the deck to the sides. Start by measuring, in my case 5", and draw a line across. Keep your angle on the line, drill and pop rivet. Here is where I found the Vise-grips to come in handy. One pair at each end. Drill and pop rivet once at each end then the angle will stay in place for the remaining holes to be drilled and pop riveted.


Next step is to add angle metal to your centre braces.


Drill For The Final Pop Rivets
Basically, try to drill and rivet the angle so it is flush with the top of the flat aluminum support.In my case, I have two centre supports, so I had to do this twice. Once your centre supports are built it is time to layout the cargo deck.

First steps in the layout requires you to turn the cargo deck over so you can draw on the underside. Find centre and then measure the correct distance on both sides of centre. In my case, it was 5 1/2" from centre to create an 11" opening. Then draw or chaulk your lines so you can align your centre braces for drilling and riveting. Again use your Vise-grips to hold the brace in place until you have a rivet secured at
Add A Coat Of Paint
each end.

Upon completion of riveting the centre braces to the cargo deck, the next step is to attach the cargo deck to the sides. Turn the cargo deck over, good side up. Next, with the aid of the Vise-Grips, secure one side to the cargo deck, drill and pop rivet. At the very least secure 2 pop rivets at each end before attempting to attach the last side. Fill in the remaining pop rivets on both sides and then the assembly process is complete.

You will want to go around and file off any rough or jagged edges. Once this is done, it is time to proceed to the next step, painting.
Test Fit Organizer Into Vehicle

Add Cargo Pouches
Painting. Try to pick a warm day, not too cold nor too hot, and definitely not hot and humid. Humidity is not a problem here. However, the wind can add challenge.

I chose Krylon Camouflage Flat Khaki in the 312g spray can (Wal-mart) and a Can Gun 1, spray can trigger from LeeValley. The trigger keeps your hand away from the spray can and makes paint less fatiguing. I only applied one coat of paint, but two would have been better. 

Voila! Organized Chaos!
As luck would have it, my cargo mat that came with my Tahoe fits perfectly on my cargo deck once I turned it ninety degrees from its normal alignment. This gives the project an almost factory finish look. I am not complaining. 

The next step was to build custom storage pouches to be attached to the sides of the cargo organizer. I learned how to sew many years ago, so this was not too challenging for me. Other options available would have been to purchase MOLLE pouches that could fit your gear and secure the pouches to the sides. 

In my case, I found snaps worked well for the primary securing of the pouches. Most of the weight is resting on the cargo deck, so there is not a  large load on the snaps. My secondary securing method was to run one to two layers on bungie cord over top of the pouches. This really keeps things in place and cuts down on any rattling that many have occurred without the bungie. If I could have found tan coloured bungie, I would have a near perfect finish to my project. It works, so I am not whining.

My last challenge at this stage is to secure the cargo organizer to the vehicle to minimize damage in the event of a rollover motor vehicle accident.



Keep it Organized and Ready!

Mountainman.