Car Camping Kit: 2007 Toyota 4Runner - Hyper Custom Edition

Sometimes, most times, patience pays off.

This was the case for both parties with our latest kit, a very custom double drawer Rainier build for a family from Portland. They had initially reached out in late summer, but since we had taken August off for some vacation and to work on shop upgrades, we had to initially pass on the project. To be fair, the complexity of their request was something we quite weren't ready for yet too.

Then, we got a little out of our comfort zone on a Tundra build, but pulled off some hinged panels and trap door drawers. With enough time, we were confident we could achieve what our new customer desired. 

So, what were these challenging requests? Through a few emails and drawings sent back and forth, we agreed on:

  • A left drawer with two levels - the bottom for a camp stove and top for storage.
  • The top drawer lid would have a coffee table lift hinge to provide additional in-the-moment surface area for placing things.
  • A lateral sliding cutting board would be hidden somewhere inside the drawer. (not in the drawing below - this feature is what would need the most attention).
  • A right drawer with three section dividers that could be removed.

Since we're based in Seattle and the customer is just out of Portland, we agreed on a pickup date about a month after order confirmation. The full time was needed as that left drawer proved to be quite the mental exercise. As with all our custom builds, each piece of wood needed to be individually cut, so not only were we engineering the drawer as we went along but also cutting and perfecting each panel of wood.

The question that took the longest to solve was to have two solid outer panels to support the whole drawer while also allowing space for the hidden drawer to slide out. Our solution was to have a left panel as tall as the whole drawer while cutting two panels with different heights for the right side. This allowed for two support rails with drawer slides attached to be anchored to the lower panel and attached perpendicularly while also acting as the "basement" for the upper storage area.

For the first few hours of putting the drawer together, one wouldn't guess that its final form would resemble anything like a drawer. It looked more like a poked-out Jenga stack.

The lesson learned from previous builds was to go ground up, cutting pieces as you go along so to come to a certain point and realize the math was all wrong. This notion came in handy, especially for this kit, as every piece had its own unique dimension. 

The left drawer came into its own, but the true test would be if the space reserved for it was still accepting in the overall platform. Our process as of four or five kits ago is to build frame the supporting pillars with an inserted drawer bottom already latched in so when all is said and built, everything should slide in with ease. Even by following these guidelines however, we were still worried that there might be some quirks with the left drawer's alignment with all the poking and prodding it took during its construction. 

It took two people to support the load as we lined it up, but sure enough, those drawer sliders *clicked into place - the sweetest sound we get during the whole construction process.  

For the right drawer, we did something we'd never done before as well, using a router to create the slats for the section dividers to slide into. Not having much experience with a router, this didn't go as smooth as we would like. Still, by the end of the process, a new confidence was found.

Sure enough, the day for pickup came. The customer(s) arrived around noon, and after we loaded the drawer portion of the kit into the trunk, left their 4Runner with us to finish up the second platform. With how finicky it can be getting the proper height measurement for the support beam on the backseat platform, they were good with the suggestion that they just leave the car with us as it would be faster to do an original measurement instead of taking apart and retrofitting an already built but incorrect platform.

Since this kit was also going to be quite tippy once fully loaded with gear, we anchored to the support hooks available near the back row of seats.

A few hours gone by, everyone reconvened, checked out the work, checked off the details, and a happy family drove home with adventure in their sights!

 


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