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Custom Truck Bed Build Options

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#1 pawleyk


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Posted 25 March 2016 - 06:41 PM

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'm sure it's possible to compensate for that. I'm open to any ideas, maybe strategic rivets?


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.



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A farm boy and a Chevy truck take a long drive.




#2 pawleyk


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Posted 25 March 2016 - 07:02 PM

This was also posted over on ExPo, in case anyone sees it twice..


I'm leaning toward building the bed, I've had the basic design in my mind since I bought my first pickup (1988 Mazda B2600) but it's going to be a massive amount of work. I'm considering the stock bed modification option because it has the potential to meet a lot of my requirements without the work and expense.


I'm thinking 2x2x0.120 or 3x3x0.120 for the basic frame of the custom bed and 0.125" sheet for the box and bedside construction, if I go that route.


Any suggestions are definitely welcome. I'm self-taught but have been fabricating steel professionally for about 5 years. This would definitely be the most complicated project I've tackled though. Not impossible, but daunting just the same.




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A farm boy and a Chevy truck take a long drive.




#3 Vic Harder

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Posted 25 March 2016 - 07:19 PM

I love this idea!  Lots of space there and a "better" solution than a flatbed, although each truck model would be a custom job.  

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#4 iowahiker


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Posted 25 March 2016 - 09:39 PM

We had the same camper/truck goals as you but solved our issues differently by buying the truck/camper to suit these goals.  We narrowed our regular cab truck choices down to Ford F-150 or the Toyota Tundra which both have storage behind the cab seats.  We deleted the water tank/pump and ice box/refrig from the camper.  We store our water in 3-6 blue 2 1/2 gallon Reliance water jugs behind the cab seats along with coats, boots, 2 folding chairs, hand saw, tow strap, jumper cables, etc.  The ice box/refrig spot is a wardrobe for clothing and the old water tank space is a food locker.  We also have the roll over couch with lots of storage below on the passenger side and a 30 qt cooler goes in front of the cabinet row (also, maybe a good spot for a top loading 2-way refrig)  on the drivers side of the Granby along with our folding table and sleeping pillows.  We have enough storage space to put our gray water tank below the sink and so carry no hoses, we just dump the tank.  Many campgrounds we visit do not have place to connect a hose to fill the water tank.  Also, we number our water tanks and drink from the highest quality water and use the bad tasting water for dishes.  We move nothing and just lift the roof to make camp.  We settled on the Ford F-150 because of the 36 gallon fuel tank and payload package (better springs at all four corners).  We thought of building a truck bed exactly as you describe but decided it was too much work and we wanted to stay totally stock.

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#5 Rusty


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Posted 26 March 2016 - 02:01 PM

I'm embarking on a similar journey with a minor twist.   but that's another story....


They make some pretty nice (well detailed and finished) manufactured truck body's for contractors...not you typical utility body but custom to match the truck. I'll see if i can fine the link


My situation is modifying an old Alaskan to fit a new pickup which requires lifting it...the previous owner had already modified the Alaskan to access those locations you spoke of from inside the camper.  Not the best, waterproof storage but easily accessed from the camper and storage being what it is...valuable space.


 I'll be strengthening the camper walls where he cut some access holes and building an aluminum framed box to raise the camper 5" for the Cab over clearance...current thought is welded channel and riveting with long drawers accessible from the rear of the truck...


Space saving is always a challenge

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#6 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 26 March 2016 - 02:24 PM

Pawley, if you're close to Grants Pass, check out Highway Products for ideas. I posted a photo of an Alaskan on one of their aluminum flatbed units on an older F350. The owner had lived in it for 14 years. It was a really nice setup.
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#7 ckent323


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Posted 29 March 2016 - 01:32 AM



Try searching google for "Trailer Hauler Bed".  I think you will find some things similar to your design.  


I am still trying to find a shop that will customize the bed for my 1993 Dodge W250.  I am looking for something similar to a Hide-N-Side bed (look it up) or a Royal Sport Body (look it up) both have been discontinued unfortunately.


I found a couple of shops that are capable of doing the work but they are both booked for a year or more doing custom hot rod trucks.



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#8 ski3pin



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Posted 29 March 2016 - 02:22 AM

Take a look here -


Diamond Camper Bodies, Stockton, CA

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#9 ntsqd


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Posted 30 March 2016 - 03:06 AM

I've looked at a lot of different utility bed, flat bed, and trailer/hauler bed mfg pages and not really found what I was looking for either. A utility bed could work, but it would need to be one of the relatively rare low bedside versions to not force the camper to sit ungainly tall on a spacer in order to clear the more common 'deep' bedside tool boxes.


I have played around with modeling this. I think that you could actually sit the camper lower on a custom built bed (assuming cab roof clearance) than you can get in a regular pick-up bed as there are supports under it that add height. Start with the camper's actual foot-print and build a frame just for that. Attach it to the truck's frame. Add support stringers to your frame between the rails of the truck frame. I don't think that you even need a floor in that frame, just some thin stock to keep the camper's wood bottom from being exposed to the road debris/grime/weather-induced yuckiness.


Then add the storage compartments as desired & needed. Keep in mind your fuel filler neck(s) and what you might need to do if they need to be relocated.


I don't see a winner in aluminum for several reasons. You need to electrically insulate it where it comes into contact with steel or moisture in the gaps will create a corroding battery. It's weight is 1/3 or so of steel, but so is it's strength. Unless you have a structural or aircraft design and engineering background its going to cost 2x-3x as much as steel and end up weighing about the same.

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#10 pawleyk


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Posted 30 March 2016 - 04:31 PM

Thanks for all the feedback guys!


Those Hide-N-Side beds are kinda what I had in mind for the truck bed modification idea, I'm just not sure I have the body work skills to get it done nicely. I've never seen those before, they look great. 


I also like the Diamond Camper Bodies, those are some of the rare utility beds that I've seen that fit campers very well.


A few of the Western Hauler style trailer beds are close to what I'm looking for too.. if I saw any of those options out there used for a good price, I'd probably jump on it (assuming it would work for my truck and Grandby). Having something custom built by a shop isn't in the budget, and I typically enjoy building things just the way I want to anyway..


At this point I'm heavily leaning toward building a bed myself. I even built a sheet metal brake last weekend in anticipation..

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A farm boy and a Chevy truck take a long drive.




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