Mark Batty, one of our customers from Victoria, recently sent us a heap of photos of a DIY 4WD storage project he had just completed on the family GU Patrol Wagon. This project was all about trying to save weight when touring with the family. He recently put it to the test on a big Tassie trip and came back all smiles.
The GU was previously fitted up with a set of steel Titan drawers that Mark estimated had a weight of around 80-odd kilograms empty. He said what he wanted to do was remove the drawers and build a removable lightweight frame to house the fridge, along with the food, kitchen gear and all those other little things required for lengthy camping trips with family. He wanted more flexible storage options that would save him weight.
How it all looked before the changes
Mark said the removal of the steel drawers was a bit of a pain, but nothing anyone a bit handy couldn’t achieve. The base of the new frame was the most important piece to get right and had to be notched on the driver’s side. Some countersunk holes also needed to be drilled to match up with the vehicle bolt points.
The new frame would be housing a Waeco (Dometic) fridge and slide on the drivers side, and since space was now available, a small Engel freezer, too. Getting good ventilation was achieved by large cut-outs on the back side.
The basic box frame showing rear ventilation cutouts
The fridge and freezer would be housed down low within the frame itself, leaving enough room for a total of four Expedition134 storage boxes to sit on top. These boxes would hold all the food, kitchen and cooking gear.
Ready for bolting into place
The frame was very simply bolted in place using three bolts and large washers and could be removed quickly and easily.
Test fitup to find everything a new home.
During the test fit-up and pack, Mark was able to add in two 20-litre Jerry cans of water behind the Engel freezer, which he found were likely to partially block the ventilation. Mark decided to add some extra holes for better airflow for the smaller Engel freezer directly above, which nicely aligned between two of the Expedition134 storage boxes.
Mark then added strips of aluminium angle down each side to prevent the Expedition134 boxes from sliding sideways during travel.
All up, Mark says that the project took him about four or five hours to complete, including removing the steel drawers. He says he now has a system that is quick and easy to install when taking off for a camping trip, and which can then be removed when at home and the vehicle needs to become the daily driver again. It’s the flexible, lightweight and cost-effective 4WD storage option that Mark was hoping to achieve.
Mark says the best thing about the new setup is not just that it’s all removable, but that he is not tied to camping beside the vehicle with everything packed in the drawers. The Expedition134 storage boxes all get taken out of the vehicle, so that food and supplies are sitting next to the kitchen table for easy access.
The camp table packs in down one side, the portable solar panels down the other, Jerry cans behind the freezer and other bits and pieces anywhere they will fit.
Once the sleeping bags are put on top of the rear boxes, everything has found its place. Clothing and other light-weight items are packed onto the roof rack in another set of four Expedition134 storage boxes. Overall, Mark reckons he managed to save around 40 to 50 kilograms, which has now been used for extra items and the freezer.
For anyone interested, all this took was about one and a half sheets of some scrap form ply that Mark had on hand, a couple of basic power tools, wood screws and glue, and the correct bolts to hold it all down. All up, the cost was under one hundred bucks. Mark also said that he used a 19 millimetre ply because he had it handy, but right down to 12 millimetre would likely do the job as well.
Mark said that it’s easy enough for anyone to do this installation as in its simplest form you are just making a box with some cut outs and holes. Using the vehicle bolt points in the cargo area means no drilling of holes in the vehicle and the bolt thread is already in place.