Custom camper friendly truck bed..


Running from Monday..
Hey guys,

Just looking for a little advice, or to bounce some ideas off the internet brain trust…

I have a regular cab long-bed Silverado. I really like the size and am very happy with the RCLB layout. For most of it’s life I’ve had a good quality water proof crossbox in the back to hold my recovery gear, tools, and even groceries, camping gear, luggage or whatever won’t fit in the cab but shouldn’t ride in the bed…

Recently we picked up a FWC Grandby and so the toolbox has been sold. I know a lot of people with truck campers stuff outdoor gear inside on the floor, install hitch racks, or store things in their backseats.

I REALLY want to keep camp setup as easy and painless as possible, and don’t like the idea of moving stuff from inside the camper to outside whenever we want to use it. I also would like to avoid anything sticking out beyond the bumpers because of what it can do to my approach/departure angles and because it looks like it’s just waiting to be destroyed in a fender bender. Not to mention the weird stuff it can do to handling to have a bunch of weight hanging out behind you..

Something I’ve always thought about truck beds is that they waste TONS of space between the inner and outer bedsides. There seems to be an opportunity to increase secure, enclosed storage.

My original thought was to build a bed. Not a flatbed exactly, and not a utility bed exactly. A bit of a hybrid I guess. I haven’t really seen anything like what I have in mind before. One thing I don’t like about flatbeds is how high they have to be mounted to allow for articulation. I don’t need a truly flat bed, so I can have wheel wells on mine, allowing the load floor to be just above the frame like the stock bed.

That will help keep my CG as low as possible, which starts to get pretty important with a camper in the back. This also allows me to eliminate the sub-frame that is so common on flatbeds, all I’d need is crossmembers. Just like the stock bed.

The bed would have built in boxes between the rear wheels and the cab running from where the bottom of the stock bed essentially is now, to basically the top of the bedrails or so. Then I’d have foldable bedsides stretching behind these, across the top of the wheel wells to the back of the bed. The bedsides would basically match the line of the original bed, but be foldable for better access to the bed and the storage available beneath the sides of the camper.

I threw together a really basic example of what I'm talking about in Sketchup and attached it.

I’m thinking aluminum for the bed to keep weight down. I know it has cracking issues because of the rigidity, but I’d like to try and use rivets strategically to help keep the cracking to a minimum. I think I’ve seen some of the more off-road oriented aluminum beds built that way.

Camper Bed DS.jpg Camper Bed Top.jpg

Second option would be to cut out the lower front bedsides of my truck and essentially build aluminum boxes behind them, then strengthen the removed sheet metal and use them as doors (or door skins) to help kinda retain the stock look. The space below the bed floor, between the cab, rear fender, and bottom of the sheet metal is about 14x16x22”. Here's a facebook link to some pics of the area..

My fab skills are definitely better than my body work skills (read, NO body work skills) although aluminum is a relatively new animal for me. The bed definitely lets me customize everything exactly the way I’d like to and gives me a ton more storage and access options than just cutting up my current bed, but obviously would be a bunch more work and I’m assuming more expensive.

Even on trucks, they don't make them like they used to. Once you cut the inner structure out of the bed, the outer body panel has very little strength. I don't think you could use them as door panels without reinforcing them. That would mean lots of body work. If you have to do fabrication, I would just go with your custom design.


Running from Monday..
I'm definitely leaning toward fabricating a new bed. I've had the basic concept in mind for years, now I've just got to figure out how to make it come to life.

Oh, and how to work with aluminum. And aluminum sheet.

Looks like I'm building a break this weekend. :chef:


Running from Monday..
Threw a brake together this Saturday..

Building tools to build more things!

I just used some leftover 3"x0.25" angle and some 6" channel from a big truck bed project (11 16' flatbeds..) along with some gate hinges and pipe.

I've never actually used a brake before so building it turned out a bit trickier than I thought it would.

I had to think good and hard about how the geometry of the hinges would have to be setup, but it seems to work great. The hinges are adjustable and I've got it bending maybe 1/4" radius on 1/8" steel.

I'm thinking the softer edges should be a bit easier on the aluminum. I figure I'll have to anneal 6061 before bending, but the bigger bends should make the corners a bit stronger and give me less risk of cracking.

I guess..

I'm thinking 1/8" 6061 for the boxes and doors, essentially the "skin" of the bed.. That would be pretty thick for steel I'd think but want to bump it up for the alu. Any suggestions? Could I get away with a bit thinner?

Now I've just got to teach myself to tig weld next week.. :)

12717599_10208697987064346_2523156625055654480_n.jpg 12809739_10208697989864416_889524287853342620_n.jpg


Running from Monday..
Ok, here goes.

I put the bed on craigslist and ordered up 3"x0.25" angle and 2x2x0.125" square aluminum to start the build this weekend.

I'm planning to get the base or frame of the bed and what will be the inner fenders done this weekend so I'll have a functional and legal truck to drive.
I ordered an ac TIG machine for the aluminum sheet welding, mostly for vanity because the welds just look so nice.

I've been doing a lot of MIG on aluminum lately and am confident in my welds, they just aren't as pretty as a nice TIG bead. They'll work just fine for the frame work though.

I'm wondering if you guys have any good ideas for mounting the bed to my frame. I'd like to use the stock mounts, but am thinking it would be a good idea to use some sort of spring system where it's bolted to allow for a little floating and flex. Should I have some sort of solid mount on one end, or can I use springs and bolts (with guides to keep the bed centered) on all the mount positions?
How it is mounted will certainly depend on just how much the chassis flexes.

If it doesnt flex much at all, there isnt any need to use a torsion free design.

Stuff the thing into a bank to flex it out, and take a look at just how much it flexes.

If it flexes a lot, Id suggest a 3-point pivoting mount system.

Loads of info about that on the forum already. Plenty to read.
I like the idea, thinking outside the box. That pun just arrived this second...
Building the deck and then adding storage I think is best, reduces the issues with a rigid alum bedframe and boxes as a unit. Lucky you to find a used FWC, great campers!
Look at how the original box was mounted and try to not deviate too far from that and you should be okay. You should be able to fab up some really effective brackets for holding
the camper to the floor that are better than four turn buckles. I'll follow along and see how this goes. J


Running from Monday..

Not as much as I wanted, but got pretty close. I just didn't quite make it to the fenders this weekend.
I'll get the fenders made up, floor (marine plywood) installed, and camper tie-downs made up this week. You know, probably.

With the amount of flex, I'm thinking I'll also do a 3-point or other isolating mount system as well. I realize it will flex the chassis less and springs more with a load, but I really don't want to crack this thing out. Once I get the bedsides and boxes made up and installed I'm thinking it will stiffen up the bed a lot making it a lot less willing to give with the frame.

Revised Frame~.jpg IMG-20160606-01232.jpg 13325646_10209264725872462_453990511991177612_n.jpg
Looks good!

Being alloy, I wouldnt think you would want it to even try to minimize flex.

Over time the alloy may fatigue to the point of failure.

Might just be me, but Im not seeing much flex. It might be more worthwhile to go with a spring mount, instead of a 3-point.


Running from Monday..
Looks good!

Being alloy, I wouldnt think you would want it to even try to minimize flex.

Over time the alloy may fatigue to the point of failure.

Might just be me, but Im not seeing much flex. It might be more worthwhile to go with a spring mount, instead of a 3-point.
I don't WANT it too, just figure it will once I add the boxes and bedsides.

I was thinking just a spring-mount also. I'm glad you had the same thought.
You're one of my ExPo "build heroes" so your input means a lot.