The downside of wanting to live in something small enough to travel anywhere is that space is at a premium. We like to backpack and as we prepared to sell our home it became clear that we needed to free up more space in our rig for storing our camping gear. I had the epiphany that the factory-installed jump-seat could be removed freeing up that much-needed storage space. Designing and installing our custom storage truck console quickly became one of the most challenging renovation projects we undertook.
Removing the seats
The first step in this renovation process was to remove all three of the front seats. The driver and passenger seats share the front mounting points with the jump-seat so the driver and passenger seats had to come out in order to get the jump-seat out.
There are two hex bolts located at the front of the passenger and driver seats as well as two nuts with lock washers on the back. The inside front bolt also locks down the jump-seat in the front but the back of the jump-seat is mounted with two Torx bolts, the bit for which can be hard to source. We picked one up from Advance Auto Parts. The driver seat had an electrical connection underneath the seat that had to be disconnected before the seat was able to be fully removed.
Once the jump-seat was out I remounted the driver and passenger seats making sure to reconnect the electrical connector under the driver seat.
Designing the Custom Storage Truck Console
With the jump-seat out of the way the design of the custom storage truck console could begin and it was now very clear that this was not going to be an easy build. To say that the floor of the F-250 under the jump-seat is uneven is a colossal understatement. Almost every square inch has some roll in it and to add to this uneven surface there is an electrical j-box located directly in the center of the area. Luckily, the j-box is covered and so building around that took little effort.
The first step was to get good measurements of the floor, dash, and seat placements to determine the available dimensions for the custom storage truck console (roughly 16” wide x 37.5” long). I also needed to decide how high the custom storage truck console would rise up from the floor to make a comfortable armrest for Jennifer and I. We decided 20.5” from the lowest point to be the ideal height. I took the measurements and did a basic CAD design in Sketchup which you can download here.
Pre-Construction, Construction Passenger Side
The floor’s uneven nature, as well as the angular dash and 4×4 drive shaft, made getting accurate dimensions nearly impossible so the first step in the construction process was to cut the long sides (the most uneven parts) of the design out of foam. I used 1/2″ foam that came with my solar panels. The foam allowed me to shave and tape back on pieces until I had a design that fit the floor like a tailored suit.
Once the foam was perfect for the passenger side panel of the custom storage truck console, I traced it out on a piece of 1/2” thick plywood and used a jigsaw to cut out the panel.
Driver Side Panel
Once the passenger side panel was cut out and the fit checked, I then used the same foam panel process to determine the exact form and build of the driver side panel. It was more difficult as the box had to have a nook built into it for it to work around the 4×4 drive shaft. This caused the driver side panel to really be two pieces resting on the floor at varying heights due to the hump in the truck’s floor. Once the foam was adjusted the two abnormal pieces were traced and cut out with the jigsaw.
The last piece that needed foam design was the piece that connected the two driver panels together. This piece was finalized and cut out as well.
The Front of the Custom Storage Truck Console
The front of the custom storage truck console is the dash itself with only a 9” x 4” piece of plywood used to hold the form of the box together across the front.
The Back of the Custom Storage Truck Console
I used a 3/4” thick piece of plywood for the back of the box but only above the Bike Box as the Bike Box was not only used to enclose the lower half of the back but also to mount the entire custom storage truck console structure to the frame of the truck. I used 3/4″ ply as the hinges needed to mount into this piece and this gave them more wood to bite into than the 1/2″ used on the rest of the custom storage truck console.
Framing up the Custom Storage Truck Console
As with all the renovations we did for our nomadic rig, the goal in this design was to maximize usable storage space but to limit the weight of the custom storage truck console itself. To this end, the design has no bottom but instead, uses the truck floor as the base. I used a 2” wide piece of plywood just behind the inset for the 4×4 driveshaft to span the floor between the two sides of the custom storage truck console in order to hold them together.
While the back panel is 3/4″ thick and the passenger side panel is 1/2″ thick I used 1/4” plywood for all the other pieces. I reinforced all the connection joints with 5/8” square pieces of pine wood cut to the various required lengths in the design. I used wood glue and crown staples to affix almost all the pieces to one another for strong but lightweight joints.
The Top of the Custom Storage Truck Console
For the top of the custom storage truck console, I designed an armrest 21.25” long x 16” wide and then dropped the top of the console 4.5” lower to have a forward section. This part flowed into the dash where three cupholders are mounted and a sticky pad to keep devices like cellphones from slipping off the top.
The forward top section is screwed into the framing of the truck console with four 1” long screws so that it can be easily removed. This was mostly done so that the rest of the custom storage truck console could be slid into place once finished. If I hadn’t made this removable the final custom storage truck console would have been impossible to install given the combination of the hump in the floor of the F250 and the way the truck console was designed to flow into the dash.
The Passenger Side Hatch
I also designed a passenger side hatch that is hinged to open easily and allow easy access to the storage space under the front section of the custom storage truck console. This allows us to store smaller items here and still have access to them without having to remove all the larger contents from the main storage area of the custom storage truck console. I made sure when designing the size of this hatch that the door would swing open in front of the passenger seat. It would have been very easy to design a hatch door too large that the passenger seat would have blocked it from opening.
Sanding, Painting, & Urethane
Once the custom storage truck console was constructed I tested the fit and then used wood putty to fill all the crown staples & nail holes as well as blemishes in the wood. After several days of drying, I lightly sanded these areas and cleaned off the dust.
I then put on two coats of paint primer followed by two coats of Rust-oleum Desert Bisque spray paint that mimicked the texture in our F250’s dash. It took way more spray paint than I anticipated to cover the area and this became the most expensive part of the renovation. Once the paint had fully dried, I applied four coats of urethane (indoor/outdoor, satin) making sure to lightly sand between each coat with a fine grain sandpaper.
Building the Armrest
In order to cushion the armrest just like one manufactured by Ford, I used some 1/2” thick foam (more packaging from my Solar Panels) that I affixed to the board with contact cement. Contact cement is used on countertops and when applied properly, the bond is instantaneous! I cut the foam relatively to size before attaching but I would highly recommend giving yourself several extra inches. The bond is instantaneous and if you cut it to the size you will have to be precise when applying. You cannot adjust once the two sides of the contact cement touch. Anyways, I attached the central part of the foam and, once glued, I then rolled the foam edges over the side and used the contact cement here as well. I clamped the edges for a few hours to make sure I had a really solid bond before continuing on.
Once dry, I removed the clamps and then used a razor blade to cut off the excess foam to make it even with the back of the board.
Upholstering the Armrest
The next step was to cover the armrest in fabric. I cut out a section of fabric from the F250’s bench seat that I removed when I installed our bike box. I used the seat section because it blended perfectly with the fabric in the front of the truck. Other fabrics could obviously be used when building a custom storage truck console.
Once the fabric was cut out I used an inside stitch on the four corners and folded the fabric around the foam of the armrest. I then used a pneumatic crown stapler to affix the sides of the fabric to the back of the board. In the corners, I used staples to line each side of the crease and then cut off the excess fabric. Finally, I used staples across the cut fabric to make sure everything was tight and clean. If this is confusing, watch the install video above.
The Finishing Touches on the Armrest
I mounted two cabinet hinges to the inside of the custom storage truck console and then to the armrest. These allow the top to easily open and stay up when opened. To finish off the armrest I attached a console latch that I picked up off Amazon and a window latch hook (I only used the hook side) which together holds the armrest closed.
Next, I used a 3.75” hole saw to cut the three holes in the front section panel to mount three plastic cupholders into. We’ve liked the cupholders which hold almost every size cup out there. I originally tried to use gorilla glue to affix these to the custom storage truck console. In the long run, the glue gave way which turned out to be a good thing as they are easy to remove and clean. The marine style cupholders have a water drain at the bottom which could be used with hosing to channel water away from the cupholders but I didn’t want to fool with that so I just cut the stems off and filled them with a small amount of sealant (ProFlex) so they wouldn’t leak into the storage area below.
Finishing the Custom Storage Truck Console Install
I finally mounted the custom storage truck console into the truck and reinstalled the passenger seat one last time. The seat needed to be removed once the box was constructed in order to fit the truck console into the area. I screwed the custom storage truck console into the bike box locking it in place. The front section of the top was then mounted in place via the four removable screws. The cupholders slid into place after that.
Some final touches included adding an anti-slip gel pad to keep phones and other small objects from sliding off. I even added a two-way T-level to help us find a level spot when parking the truck for the night. I also attached a gooseneck clip to hold my phone when driving. The media player has navigation capabilities but it can be a pain to set up every time we need to drive somewhere new (nearly every day) and the phone is easy and quick. I do love the backup camera on the media player I installed, but that is an install for another time. The gooseneck itself was easy to attach with some cable clips and 1/2” long machine screws.
The final touch was using velcro to attach half of a credit card wallet to the underside of the armrest. This gives us a spot to hold a little bit of cash and change for tolls but is primarily used for gas reward cards (why aren’t these all digital?) and park passes.
Conclusion for Our Custom Storage Truck Console
The amount of storage space that this seemingly small and painfully detailed build freed up for us is amazing. All of our backpacking gear fits in the space with the only exception being the hiking sticks and backpacks themselves. If I hadn’t done this renovation I’m really not sure where our camping gear would have ended up. For Jennifer and I, having our backpacking gear was a prerequisite for living the nomadic lifestyle. If we are going to explore the Americas we want to be able to strap a bag onto our backs and head off into the wilderness to truly explore and this renovation has allowed us to do just that.
I should mention that the one downside (or upside depending on the mood we are in) of this renovation and the bike installation is that our huge Ford F-250 SuperCab that originally could seat six people is now only able to accommodate Jennifer and I. As a result, we often get dirty looks by hitchhikers especially in State and National Parks when we drive by them. Being people who occasionally hitchhike ourselves it is a shame that we aren’t able to reciprocate and give others rides as we literally have no room. We actually gave a park ranger a lift once for only a few miles and Jennifer sat on top of the custom storage truck console. She said, “Never again.” It was very uncomfortable.