Tech: Building a Custom Flatbed Short Cuts

| Toyota Tech | Toyota Section | |

By: Tim Stucky. 6/2002

For nearly two years, I had planned on bobbing my bed in order to get a better exit angle. I was tired of dragging my bumper and rear quarter panels across large rocks. Then came the idea of building a flatbed instead of bobbing my stock bed. I could build it however I wanted and put whatever features I needed into the design of the bed. After weighing the pros and cons and figuring the work involved in building each, I decided that instead of going to the trouble of bobbing my existing bed, I could kill many birds with one stone and build a flatbed. In a nutshell, my plan was to build a flatbed that was shorter and narrower than my truck bed, but have just as much or more storage space. I also wanted only one big toolbox to hold tools and spare parts instead of 2 smaller boxes that I had been using.

With these ideas in mind, plans for my flatbed. First I decided that it would be short so that the rear of the bed would be just behind the rear shackles. It also needed to be a little bit narrower than the cab so that it would fit through tighter spots. If the front went through, the rear would as well! After a bit of measuring, I decided that it would be 60" wide and 63.5" long. Next I made a trip to the local steel supply yard and picked up about 50' of 1.5X1.5X1/8" square tubing and 20' of 1X2X1/8" rectangular tubing. The entire bed was constructed using the 1.5X1.5 while the supports for the floor are 1X2.

Humble beginnings

After getting the steel to build the basic frame, it was tack welded together. It is 60"X63.5". Then, 8 4.5" long risers were cut and welded on as you see in the picture at left with the corner pieces being added later. Next, the bottom bracing that would run under the diamond plate. This is also visible in the picture. Last I built the top frame the same size as the bottom one, set it on the risers and welded it on. I later added the 1/8" diamond plate floor.

The mounts

Next on the agenda was figuring out how to mount this thing! Since it wouldn't have any fender wells, it would need to be mounted fairly high to clear the tires. Being as I have a 2" body lift on my truck, my existing pucks served as a starting point for height. I figured that it would need to be at least an inch higher so I cut four pieces of 1.5"X1.5" each about 2" long, drilled a 1/2" hole in them and welded them to my bottom supports where the body mounts are. For reference, the bed sits 3.5" off the frame and just barely clears my 35" BFG's with Mazda rear springs. After everything was welded together, I bought a 5'X8' sheet of 1/8" diamond plate and cut out a piece to serve as the floor for the bed.

Making room for the spare and how it's mounted

With the bed complete, it was on to other things. First off, I wanted the spare tire underneath the bed to save room on the already short and narrow bed. In order to fit a 35" tire underneath, the rear frame cross member had to be cut out. Then a new one was welded in just behind the rear shackle hangers. Then I realized that it would be a little more work than just cutting out the cross member and putting the tire up there. The rear shocks would need to be remounted as well as the exhaust. I broke out the Sawzall and went to work cutting off the rear upper shock mounts, the exhaust, and the stock upper passenger rear shock mount. After finally laying the Sawzall down, there was enough room for the tire. Then the shocks were remounted and exhaust bent around the spare tire placement. To mount the spare tire, the stock hoist was welded to the bottom of the bed.

Closeup of the tail lights How they are attached to the crossmember

Next, I went to work on the taillights. I didn't want anything to stick out past the rear crossmember and didn't want anything hard to find in case they break. I ended up with a set from AutoZone that cost about 4 bucks a piece and bolted those to a piece of angle iron and welded that on the rear cross member in between the bottom of the bed and the top of the frame. They are recessed back enough that the truck could backed straight into a wall and not break anything. I also mounted a pair of backup lights in similar fashion at the rear of the bed in the center by welding the mounting brackets to the floor of the bed.

The tool box and the hi-lift mount

With the bulk of the work done, the next thing to do was accessorize it to fit my needs. First, I purchased a large box to serve as my toolbox. It measures 18"X18"X48" so it's big enough to hold all of my spare parts, tools and much of my camping gear. Next, I welded 2 bolts onto the insides of the top rails to mount my hi-lift jack to. It's secure, doesn't rattle, and occupies little bed space. I also welded 2 tabs to the top of the rock sliders in order to mount rock lights that shine on the rear tires and under the bed area. They can be pointed in different directions and are out of harms way enough not to be grabbed by pesky rocks.

After taking it out for a test drive, I realized that it would need a set of mud flaps to keep the local law enforcement happy. Mud flaps serve their purpose on the road, but only get in the way on the trail so mine are quick disconnect. I welded a piece of 2"X2" square stock with a hole drilled in it on top of the frame just behind the taillights. Then I purchased a mud flap intended for a semi-truck, cut it in half and bolted each one to a piece of 1.75"X1.75" square tubing with a hole drilled in it as well. They come off in seconds and there's nothing sticking out past the frame to get torn off or bent by rocks. The last thing needed was to fashion a mount for the fuel filler. For this, I did the simplest thing I could think of. A piece of 1/8" diamond plate was welded to the bottom the bed with a hole cut in it for the filler to mount to. It was mounted a couple inches from the outside of the bed so it's out of harms way and can't get damaged.

Quick disconnect mudflaps - Purely for function

Great functionality on the trail

I had a chance to wheel the truck with the new bed on the Rubicon shortly after completion and I was very happy with the results. Gone are the days when I worried about denting the bed, or clearing that big rock. These days I know that if the front half of the truck can make it between two rocks, there is nothing to worry about from the cab back. This was a large project that took a little over 40 hours and 2 weeks of working on it just about everyday after work, but was well worth it. The more I do with it, the more I like it and would never go back to wheeling with the stock bed!
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