As I feared, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to work on this in the last couple weeks. It seems like the whole thing is dragging on, but the good news is that while in project downtime, I’ve been able to put some thought into a few things that I might have otherwise not even considered. I’m anxious to cut some plywood and finish the thing off, but truth be told, I would have probably been beating myself up for rushing it. I did get some work done and the following modifications would not have been easy had I already tacked down the surface of the platform.
The most important thing I needed to work out still was how to support the front piece of the sleeping platform when set up for use. While in transport, I knew that the loose front piece would be somehow fastened down on top of the back piece, which would in turn be secured somehow to the body of the car, but how would it be set up when in use? I drew up a few different ideas for fold down legs, but I decided those ideas would require specialty hardware and I didn’t think there would be proper clearance under the frame of the front piece to allow it to sit flat on the back half while not in use. Also, hardware like that would require being attached to the underside of the flat surface, which will eventually be 1/2″ plywood. I didn’t think that was a good idea. It didn’t seem like it would be sturdy enough. I wanted a solution that could use the strength of the 2×4 frame structure to hold the weight of whatever was on the platform.
The solution I landed on had me beefing up the front platform a bit to create a couple “pockets” in which two upright lengths of 2×4 would be inserted when in use. Of course, as is, that would mean the eventual plywood surface would still be taking the bulk of the stress. To solve that concern, I used a paddle bit and cut holes straight through the 2x4s of the pockets I made in the frame and the front upright leg 2x4s. Then, luckily, I managed to find some hardware that would serve as makeshift cotter pins. In my case these were just chunks of perfectly-sized electrical conduit to match the hole size and some other pieces that would screw on and hold everything in place.
Another modification I made was to add sort of a divider to the frame that would help separate the front and the back of the main sleeping platform section. The divider serves a few purposes. For one thing, it separates front and rear access to underneath the frame and keeps things from sliding around too much. It also provides a little extra stability, which can never be a bad thing.
Then, I started thinking that it might be nice to have some sort of a slide-out surface on which to set up the camp stove and prepare a meal in the event there wasn’t a picnic table around, so I started to sketch up ideas for that. In the picture of the newly installed divider above, you’ll see a couple small blocks attached to the divider. Those are the main supports for the slide-out surface when in transit. As for the surface itself, I happened to have an almost perfectly sized chunk of 3/4″ plywood from another project. I cut it to size and attached a chunk of leftover carsiding to the front as a pulling mechanism. I still needed to come up with a means to hang the other end of the slide out surface without sacrificing my access to the underside of the frame from the back. By this time, I had a pretty good working theory using carriage bolts and wingnuts that would work as both a means of hanging it while in transit, and supporting one end of it when in use, but that work will have to wait until later when I finally get around to tacking down plywood for the surface.
The next thing I worked on was trying to figure out how to secure the bulk of the frame to the vehicle itself. What I came up with isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing. The hatchback space already had some built-in tie-down hoops that were designed to keep a cargo from sliding around. I decided to cut a few holes in the crossbeams of the frame and feed through a couple ratchet straps. Then I secured the ends of the hooks of the ratchet straps on the tie-down hoops and tightened them up best I could. I’m sure a huge sleeping platform made out of 2x4s wasn’t what the designers had in mind when they came up with the idea for the tie-downs, and I am sure this whole concept is not very “safe” anyway, but again…it’s better than nothing. It did take out just about all of the “wiggle.” I may need to undo the straps occasionally from behind if I need access to the spare tire compartment, but that shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Why cut holes at all? Why not just route the straps over the frame? Good question! I was afraid that if I did that, after the plywood surface was attached, the straps would be pinched between the frame and the plywood and eventually wear.
As for other means of securing the whole thing…I may continue to research options for securing the front end of the main box by re-purposing the bolt holes in the floor that the backseats used to be secured with. We’ll see.
The final little bit of work I did was to install a couple toggle latches that I found online to the sides of the frame to help cinch the front, non-fixed piece, right up against the body of the fixed rear frame for when in use. The little ledge system I built to take the weight of the front piece can only do so much. Without being able to pinch the two pieces together without any wiggle, it wouldn’t do much good. The hardware was pretty cheap. I bought a six-pack of them, but until I use the others for something, I’m only adding in the cost of the two I used. If I do the correct math to split the cost of shipping with other items I purchased, and only include a third of the cost of tax, then these two hasps only add $4.80 to the cost of the project, and for less than five bucks, I think they do a damned good job at holding the two pieces together. Oh, and those hooks are adjustable, so you can get as tight a fit as is needed.
Tallying up the costs for the modifications listed above, the only other new items to add into the running total were the bits of conduit and the screw-on pieces for the front legs, and the two ratchet straps. The conduit parts were a mere $5.18, and the ratchet straps were $7.46, bringing the grand total (so far) to only $38.52. I am not counting in any scraps and leftovers that I had laying around. Also, I probably should be including the cost of all the 3″ drywall screws that I’ve been using to build the frame, but again…I had them on hand already, so I am not including the expense. Not bad either way!
In my next entry, I’m going to start working on ways to secure the front of the frame to the back of the frame while in use, and I’ll probably make some more progress with my ideas for the slide out cooking surface. Stay tuned.