Cutting the cargo box off a Coleman Laramie to install a bike rack

Discussion in 'Cargo Carriers / Bike Racks / Other Storage Option' started by Venusfly, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. Venusfly

    Venusfly New Member

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    Basically I started out with a great used PUP I had just purchased at the end of last year. It came with a damaged cargo box (cracked lid, broken seal and resulting rotten floor and water bloated front and side inside paneling). I bought it with the idea to replace the box with a bike rack. The advantage of a bike rack between the tow vehicle and the PUP is that the bikes are out of the wind and that you do not add any heights or weight (bikes and rack replaced the weight of the box). Plus as this is a 12 foot frame (10 foot PUP with a 2 foot cargo box) there is zero interference when backing up at a steep angle as everything is contained in the original footprint.

    So here we go with lots of details for the do-it-yourselfer:

    To take the box down you basically need to destroy it. Remove the battery and gas cylinders, take all the screws out that you have access to and have at it. Using a sharp carpet knife and a few screw drivers as levers you can lift and pry the panels apart.

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    Snap the wires close to the lights and cargo box light as you will need them again and remove all plastic and wood down to the floor board and front side (inside wall) of the camper. A lot of the brittle vinyl siding just peels off as you pull on it, there is not much too it.

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    You will be left with the top vinyl lip where it connects to the bottom of the aluminum support rail.

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    This lip is glued in with some pretty strong double sided tape and is sandwiched between a piece of wood and the rail, nothing that cannot be removed using some force…
    Then you use a carpet knife to cut the vinyl flooring and peel it up. And voila, no more box.

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    Next you need to cut the floor board. As there are frame rails underneath and a gas line snaking across, you need to know where to cut. There happens to be a cross frame rail in the same plain as the front of the aluminum rail underneath the pull-out bed, some 2 inches from the new wall, so an ideal cut line. Using a drill from underneath the deck, drill a pilot hole through the wood to identify each frame rail corner and the gas line. Use a straight edge and mark your cut line. A jig saw is ideal to make the cut. Use the pilot holes and cut between the marked rails and avoid the gas line. Most of the board is now cut. The only remaining wood cuts are above the frame rails where the saw does not reach. As the plywood is not very solid, you can cut it with a carpet knife.

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    Here you can see the steel cross member underneath that will create stability as new leading edge.

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    Now that the box is gone this entire thing needs some support. Construct a frame using 1x2 wood. Basically lay a foundation 1x2 strip, it wedges nicely underneath the remaining aluminum angle piece on the outside of the wall.

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    Use vertical braces to support a top 1x2. The same aluminum angle will be used to support the 2 outer braces, 3 more will be installed across the span, 2 of them where the floor board meets the steel frame underneath. Like this you ensure that these braces are actually supported by something other than plywood. After everything is cut and put in place where it is supposed to be, mark all joint connections and number the different pieces of wood and remove everything to screw the frame together. I used deck screws as I had some. The frame will end up looking like this.

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    Lay a nice silicone bead on the top and underneath the bottom rail and install the frame. Tab the frame in place to ensure an even distance underneath the front lip of the top aluminum rail for a proper gap to fit the new front panel. Once all is in place, screw the frame to the vertical aluminum angle to tighten everything together. Remember, the intent of the frame for me was to support any load from the top and to create a skeleton for the new front panel to rest against. It was not to close the gap between the new front panel and the interior wall. As the frame rests and is bolted against the aluminum angle pieces, it creates a ¼ inch gap behind the wood frame, ideal to run the wiring.

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    The new front panel will be an aluminum diamond plate, already cut to the proper dimension. The panel will wedge on top in the newly created gap between the top aluminum rail and wood frame and it will be supported on the bottom by its own weight resting on the 4 steel frame members.

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    To block any water from underneath, my idea was to also install an angle profile aluminum rail between the diamond plate and the wood/steel floor, in essence creating a 1 inch watertight lip that sits vertically flush against the wood floor and horizontally against the steel rail from underneath. This aluminum strip will be riveted in place.

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    After everything is fit and the rivet holes are drilled through the panel and aluminum profile, the panel needs to be removed so you can rivet the pieces together. There are 3 pieces of the aluminum rail to fit the space between the frame rails. In addition I made some cutouts to go around the existing bolts that hold the camper shell to the floor. So a nice bead of silicone, and put the angle profile in place and rivet everything together.

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    Once it is all together you can create a nice even silicone bead across the entire length to seal out any moisture in the future.

    Don’t forget to drill holes for the new marker lights. The old lights were no longer usable as they were riveted in place. Measure twice, drill once! You will probably need two holes depending on the lights, one for the mounting bolt, one for the wires. Deburr the holes so the wires won’t chafe.

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    Before the final installation of the panel, rest it on the frame rails about a foot from its final position. Install the lights and wire them up. As I wanted to avoid any unpleasant surprises I pulled up the Jeep and hooked up the harness to make sure the lights would work. Secure the wires to the wood frame with some zip ties.
    Now you are ready for the big silicone tube. Basically put a large bead in the angle riveted to the diamond panel where it will meet the wood and steel floor. Seal the bolt and wire holes of the lights, create a nice bead in the receiving slot of the top rail and a nice bead on top of the frame rails where the diamond plate will bud against. Install the new front panel. As the panel wedges in from the bottom it will be super secure. Make sure the panel is exactly where it is supposed to be. There will be a bit of silicone oozing everywhere, but my logic was better to have too much than too little. Clean up the overflow silicone and run another bead underneath the camper where the aluminum angle stops against the steel floor rail for good measures. Also seal the frame rail cutouts and bolt hole cutouts from underneath.

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    Now that the front panel is installed, there is still a 2 inch gap to deal with on each side as the original cargo box vinyl panel extended all the way to the first aluminum camper shell panel.

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    The simplest solution to cover this gap was to create these small panels out of the old cargo box material. There were 2 pieces on the box that had a 90 degree angle and were long enough to cover the length of this strip. Using some metal sheers and a carpet knife the pieces were cut to size. There is a ½ inch deep slot in the receiving aluminum panel where the new piece will be wedged in, on the front side it will rest through its 90 degree angle from the inside against the diamond plate, sealed and held in place, you guessed it, with silicone.

    Now that the frame is exposed you might as well give it a good rust proving paint job.

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    My thought was to cover the newly exposed frame with decking. Not just any old decking, but white Azek composite decking to ensure it is fit for the outdoors and I never have to worry about it again. The stuff comes as a 5x1 in 20ft long pieces, which actually fit perfectly. As there is a significant gap between the 2 inner frame rails, I wanted to prevent sagging of the boards and constructed some new cross members using the leftover Azek. These 3 pieces are just cut to size and wedged in place and are secured by the deck screws from the top.

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    I used stainless steel bolts and self locking washers the connect the boards to the outside metal frame, and stainless deck screws to bolt to the new Azek cross boards. The result is actually quite nice, like a little deck, and it matches the Coleman color.

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    Now the camper portion is finished. As a bike rack I chose a Yakima Hold-up hitch rack as a base, mostly because I had one. As this rack is a hitch rack there needed to be some modifications made to be able to bolt it down on the deck. This bike rack in essence consists of 2 separate sleds, each holding one bike upright with both wheels.

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    To be able to connect it to a flat surface I had to create the right spacer. Basically a leftover aluminum piece from work, with a custom milled shape to hold the rack in a centered position. One center bolt to connect to the rack, two bolts to connect to the new deck.

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    I installed them at an angle so the handlebars of the different bikes would not interfere with the camper top when closed.

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    The two bikes fit perfectly and are securely held in place. And it will hold any type of bike no matter what size or shape.

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    The bikes are nicely centered and overlapped to avoid any interference and do not stick out further than the camper itself. Reinstall the gas cylinder(s) and battery. Finished.

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    Now my 10 foot PUP is truly 10 feet long, and it has a 2 foot wide versatile all season ‘recreational’ deck in the front where the rotten box used to be.

    You may think that this was a lot of action to go through for a couple of bikes. But these are not your standard bikes to tool around a camp site with. Lets just say that there will be more value on the deck than what comes behind it, so it I all relative. Plus it was fun to figure out how to do this and I need to challenge myself once in a while.

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    And off we went, 900 miles without a hitch…
    Thanks for reading.
     
    KamperKel and wayoutwest like this.
  2. friartuck

    friartuck Well-Known Member

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    Nice work! Now you'll always have your bikes handy.
     
  3. RhinoDave

    RhinoDave Active Member

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    My compliments also on the modification. Very nice work. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.
     
  4. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    I wish the all pictures would load...

    Waiting for the new trailer to be shipped to Korea...
     
  5. TCRUSH

    TCRUSH New Member

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    Very nice! Great idea and write up. I still want to cut the tongue off of mine and stretch it two feet! We keep camping so I haven't had time to cut it up and weld it back together. Nice job! TC
     
  6. blimey

    blimey New Member

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    Nice write up.I have been thinking about doing this myself as I really don't use the cargo box as much as you would think. I have a 1980 Honda C70 that we use as a pit bike and general run around vehicle(it is street legal)

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  7. MIPeaceDudeCamper

    MIPeaceDudeCamper New Member

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    This is AMAZING! I want to rip off our rotted, water bloated box right now and make it a storage platform. I wonder if we could somehow clamp down or attach a smaller storage box to hold misc stuff, only because we do put stuff in there, but I'd love to put the extra bikes there too.
     
  8. NegroTundra

    NegroTundra New Member

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    Great job Venusfly! Can you tell me about what the project cost you? My wife and i are currently scouring CL for a pup and found an 03' Laramie just like yours with a pretty mangled storage box. came across this post and my interest for the pup is now reinitiated! Thanks, great job.
     
  9. Venusfly

    Venusfly New Member

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    Hello NegroTundra, just saw your question. The most expensive part was the diamond plate, the thicker the more $$. I paid about $300 with a discount through work. The decking was the next major cost factor, the Azek was a whopping $100. I could have used wood or some other kind of semi-weatherproof decking and that would have been significantly cheaper, but I wanted it to be white and maintenance free. With all the other things (aluminum profile, wood slats, lights, stainless hardware, paint, silicone) I probably spend $450 altogether. This gives you the deck to mount whatever.

    Thanks.
     
  10. NegroTundra

    NegroTundra New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I'm in deep right now with my modification. The AL diamond plate is installed! Will post pics when I'm done, thanks for detailing your project so well, sure made it easier for me!
     
  11. blimey

    blimey New Member

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    Is the original front panel not usable after you remove it?
     
  12. bigdad

    bigdad Active Member

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    Good job it came out nice
     
  13. NegroTundra

    NegroTundra New Member

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    The original "front panel" isn't really a front panel and is thus not an option for re-use for a modification such as this. The cargo box VenusFly and I took off has contours and is made of weak plastic/MDF material. I am looking to improve the strength of the forward side and build a basket for coolers and misc gear.
     
  14. MIPeaceDudeCamper

    MIPeaceDudeCamper New Member

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    Please post pics when done, I think this may be a mod we'll want to do after the 2013 camping season when we find out that my leak fix isn't going to work.
     
  15. NegroTundra

    NegroTundra New Member

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    Well here is my finished product, much like Venusfly I had a mangled storage compartment that I made work for one trip (duct tape), but after that I got busy with something that would suit my needs better.

    Just a little before and after, will put my whole process and restoration of camper in different thread. Big thanks to Venusfly for making this SOOOO much easier [RTM] [:D]

    Before:

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    After:

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  16. Flyfisherman

    Flyfisherman New Member

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    Great job! For me those front storage compartments just did not work out so well ... leaked. And I could think of many, many things your new mod would work out for.
     
  17. Raycfe

    Raycfe Waterford Ct.

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    I will second that great job ........ nice work. [;)] [;)]
     
  18. smit1088

    smit1088 Well-Known Member

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    I still like my box, but WOW. You both did an amazing job with the front deck!
     
  19. clock152

    clock152 Member

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    what a great ideal!
    Here is the one I am looking to get with some of the same issues.
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  20. jmcclung11

    jmcclung11 Active Member

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    Awesome idea and great work!
     

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