Why? That is the obvious question I can hear you thinking through time and space. Yep, I’m that good. So, why would we want to remove the backseats out of an F-250 SuperCab and turn the space into a type of portable garage? Space in a nomadic home is at a premium so we wanted to make the most use of every inch of space that we have. We didn’t need the extra seating as it is just the two of us so we felt like the best use of the SuperCab space would be for storage. For us, we primarily wanted to store our bikes there and so a complete SuperCab renovation project started to take shape.
Why the Bikes?
We could have used a Yakima swing hitch rack to carry our bikes across North America, but we also want to be a bit incognito about what we are hauling. Having our bikes sit in the open at trailheads or in Walmart parking lots just seemed like a good way to have them stolen. Plus I didn’t want to hassle with swinging the bikes away from the camper door every time we wanted to get inside.
SuperCab Renovation – Removing the Seat
The first step to our F-250 SuperCab renovation project was to completely remove the backseat. This was no easy feat as on the 2008 Ford F-250 the bench seat is held in place on either side by two large hex bolts and one central Torx bolt. The backrest is a separate piece that is removed by peeling back the cushion to find a kind of metal latch that when pinched together releases the cushion from the back wall.
The bench seat is surprisingly heavy and offset a lot of the weight of the new construction and bike weight. The final piece was to remove the seat belts. The buckles were once again held in place by a Torx bolt. I left all the strap sides of the belts in place as I didn’t see the need to remove those and they would most likely be more costly to replace should we ever need to revert the SuperCab renovation. I did remove the plastic housing from the center-mounted belt to allow for easier construction of the wooden box.
Checking the Bike Fit
After the bench seat was out but before removing the seat belts I double-checked my hypothesis that the bikes would even fit in this space. I knew from basic measurements that the front wheels would have to be removed. Mounting the bikes via the forks was the only way this was going to work anyways. I wanted to mount the bikes with the handlebars turned sideways so that they followed the frame of the bikes (see the image). I have never seen a bike-mounted like this and wasn’t sure that it was even possible, but if we could do it they would fit in the space perfectly.
The next piece to the SuperCab renovation puzzle was to find the bike mounts I would use to actually attach the bikes inside of the truck. I used a Sunlite Fork Mount Bike Block for Jennifer’s bike as she has a traditional bike fork where the fork slides over the axel pin and squeezes it. My bike has a solid pin that passes through the fork known as thru-axle. In order to mount this bike we purchased a Sunlite Bike Block Fork Mount, 100mm.
The Thru-Axle Problem
The thru-axle fork is better for a bike as the wheel can’t slip out of the fork. But, it caused us an issue as this type of fork requires the bike to be stored on the mount so that the handlebars are in a more natural, perpendicular-to-the-frame position. We did our initial test with the handlebars turned so that they followed the frame of the bike. If mounted this way the bike pivots on the pin and there is no way to lock it in place on a thru-axle. The perpendicular mounting caused some changes, but short of swapping out the bike fork, there wasn’t much else we could do. The biggest change was that the mounting box would need to be slightly wider pushing the driver’s seat forward by about an inch and a half. I tested it out and felt comfortable with the change.
The Front Tire Wheel Mounts
In order to mount the front tires of each bike to the truck we picked up two Delta Cycle Wheel Hitches. Once again, the thru-axle on my tire became an issue and we needed to pick up two axel adapters in order to use this wheel mount.
Measurements for a SuperCab Renovation
Once demolition for the SuperCab renovation was complete, I made sure to get some good measurements. Here again, is a task that is easier said than done. The floor of the F-250 rises in an arc so getting good measurements is difficult. It is also difficult to get a width measurement as the doors need to be closed.
CAD (Computer-Aided Design) – SuperCab Renovation
Once I had my measurements I used Sketchup to put together a CAD file for manipulating the layout prior to constructing anything. I worked up good heights for the mounting bike height so that we could get the bikes in when the doors were open but maximized the storage underneath the bikes. We have 29″ tires which cause the bikes to sit very high. If we had owned 26″ tire bikes we might have gotten more storage space under the bikes. For us, the magic number was 10.5″ from the lowest point on the floor of the truck to the top of the bike box.
You can download my CAD design here.
The design ended up being constructed of two main pieces. The front section with drawers for storing winter supplies and hiking gear is the full 10.5″ high section and is 1′ 5.25″ wide. The back section only rises 6.5″ from the raised floor of the truck and is 1′ 3/4″ wide. The whole unit is 5′ long, but the drawer faces overlap causing the unit to extend another 1/2″ more on either side. This literally causes the truck doors to push up against the drawer faces meaning nothing is shifting during travel.
The goal for the storage box was to make it strong but also as light as possible. The primary obstacle was building the unit in two pieces that could be slid into place and screwed together once inside the truck as it wouldn’t fit through the doors fully assembled. In hindsight, the truck seats could have been totally removed and this would have given us the space to slide the whole unit into place fully constructed but I didn’t realize this until a few months later when I went about replacing the jumpseat in the F250 with yet more storage (details coming soon).
The Back Box
To keep the unit as light as possible I used varying sizes and thicknesses of wood for this project but the primary building material is 1/2″ plywood with a single-side sanded finish. I had a lot of scrap wood from other projects so I had a lot of inventory to pull from.
I constructed the box with a rib type construction constituting the internal structure. For this, I striped 3/4″ pine planks down to 3/4″ square pieces and created the framing needed for the desired dimensions. I recessed dowel pins into each joint and used wood glue to make strong connections. A variety of short and long clamps along with time are needed to get a solid connection. I used crown staples to later attach the plywood to these ribs which further strengthed the overall structure.
Framing Out the Doors
I built the ribs for the top section of the box first. The framing for the hinged door openings isn’t even (see the image below) and that is very intentional. I tend to ride my bike more than Jennifer does so the door layout was designed so that when her bike is mounted in place I can still access one of the holds which is where my helmet, shoes and bike gloves reside. This access hole also allows us to grab other materials stored in this area while both bikes are mounted in place.
The Hinged Doors
From the driver side to the passenger side the doors are 1′ 11-7/8″, 1′, & 2′ 8-7/8″ wide. I shaved about a 1/8″ off of each CAD dimension to allow each door to slide by the others easily once the urethane was applied. The doors are cut from a 1/2″ thick single-side sanded plywood. I drilled a finger hole in the front center area of each door and used a router to round the edge on one side to work as a flush-mounted handle for opening the door.
The Back Box’s Back Panel
For the back part of the back box, I used the same 1/2″ plywood stapled directly into the ribs which were continued in an L-shape to give this section more rigidity. I had to notch this piece to allow pieces of the truck’s metal structure to slide into the notches.
The Hinge Attachment
I also added a 3.5″ piece of 1/2″ ply to the top of the backbox. This strip of wood gives the box more rigidity but the primary function is to mount the door hinges to this piece. The screws that came with the hinges were a bit long for the 1/2″ wood so I bought new 1/2″ long screws so that they wouldn’t protrude from the underside of the wood.
The Shared Wall of the Two Boxes
For the opposite side (the shared wall of the two boxes), I continued the ribs with 3/4″ square pieces supported with evenly spaced verticle pieces of the 3/4″ wood. I used a thicker 3/4″ x 1.5″ thick pine board for the base of this structure. This piece is thicker so that the screws used to mount the drawer rails, later on, wouldn’t split the piece. Likewise, I used thicker pieces on both vertical ends. The reason being is that these two pieces extended past the primary section of the box to the full 10.5″ height of the front box section. This thicker board makes sure that this section of the structure remains square.
I used 1/2″ plywood across the structure to close off the box in the front. This keeps items from falling into the front drawer section of the bike box. I eventually mounted the drawer rails to this piece making sure to screw into the thicker 3/4″ supports behind the ply. I also had to notch this majority of the center of this piece of plywood to allow the rounded floor of the truck to sit under it. While I estimated this dimension in my design I notched this piece after fitting the box into the truck and getting a more accurate dimension.
Covering the Truck Bolts
The floor of the truck is solid so no need to create a floor for the box. Because of bolts protruding from the floor I used some 3/4″ ply strips about 2.5″ wide to square off the box and simultaneously straddle the bolts with recesses cut into them. This ensures that none of the gear we store in these places gets caught on the protruding bolts.
The End Caps
The final step to the back box was to add the end cap pieces which, due to the odd dimensions of the truck, is an abnormal shape. For some reason I wanted these endcaps to look solid as I thought they would be seen more than the top of the box which further added to their odd shape. If I had it to do over again I would rework the design of the top of the box to be more solid and the endcaps would recess under them.
The Front Box
The Front Box was designed around two sliding drawers. The width of the two boxes was based on these drawers sliding past the open doors of the truck. I used 1/2″ thick plywood for the drawer’s structure with a hand hole cut into the face of the drawer. The drawer face overlaps the drawer’s structure so that when closed the box looks seamless.
I reinforced all the corners of the drawers with 3/4″ x 3/4″ pine wood and recessed dowel pins just like in the ribs of the back box and used crown staples to affix the plywood to the ribs.
The depth/design of the two drawers was really dictated by the mounting bolt hole for the bench seat that was removed. I reused this mounting bolt to hold the bike box superstructure in place inside the vehicle. So one drawer is 21″ long and the other is 37″ long. For this reason, I used an 18″ drawer slider and a 24″ drawer slider. I could have gone longer on the 37″ drawer but I actually had a 24″ slider in the shop.
The Mounting Bolt for the Boxes
The structure of the front box is one primary rib connecting the back box to the front panel of the front box. The mounting bolt passes through this rib. The rib was constructed with thicker 1.5″ wide strips of the 3/4″ pine wood while the verticle pieces used the 3/4″ square pieces. This allowed for the floor piece to be notched so that the bolt and nut could slide into it. The bolt itself having a recess in the floor was attached to the boxes superstructure via a bolthole drilled through a piece of 1/2″ plywood, cut to be recessed into the space in the floor but secured to the floor part of the rib. This is very difficult to explain so look at the photo 🙂
Front Panel of the Front Box
The front panel is constructed with one solid sheet of 1/2″ single-sided sanded plywood. I framed out this piece with strips of 1/2″ plywood running the length of the box in three strips. I used the wider strips of 1/2″ ply here instead of 3/4″ pine to maximize the drawer space. Yep, I made sure I had that extra 1/4″ of space for storage. The third strip is used to mount the drawer slide to the panel. I capped the ends of this panel with another piece of 1/2″ ply cut in 1″ thick strips to cover the two pieces of sandwiched plywood and to add rigidity to the piece.
The Top of the Box
I used a full sheet of 1/2″ plywood cut to dimension (5′ x 1′ 5-1/4″) to cover the entire top of the box. This piece was added to the box once the unit was inside the truck.
Supports at the Floor
Like the back box, the front box has no floor as that would be unnecessary weight. To hold the frame of the front box’s structure together I used a 3/4″ piece of pine attached to the bottom of the sides of the box. This extends beyond the 10.5″ depth. There is a space where the truck floor dips near the doors and this extra piece fits there nicely. (See the Two-Piece Design photo above to see the floor dip.) Once again this was done to maximize the drawer space. Where the two boxes meet I used an aluminum right angle bracket to attach the two units because once in place there was no way to access the bottom of the board to attach it to the frame.
Checking the Fit
Once both pieces were constructed I squeezed the pieces into the truck to ensure a proper fit. I screwed the two boxes together and then screwed the top piece onto the front section making sure to use a countersink bit to recess the screw heads into the top of the wood. The drawer slides were mounted before fitting the boxes into place so I now slide the drawers onto the rails. I then attached the hinged doors to the back box to check the fit of those pieces. Once the fit was confirmed and everything was tested I completely removed the boxes from the truck and removed the drawer rails and hinges.
I then used wood putty to clean up the marks left by the crown stapler. Once that was dry, Jennifer applied three coats of indoor/outdoor semi-gloss urethane on every surface of the bike box. I sanded between each coat to ensure a solid hold. I added two additional coats to the top sections of the box as they see the most action from rolling the bikes in and out with mud and dirt on them.
Once the urethane had completely dried I reinstalled the boxes into the truck. I added a window sash lock to each of the doors of the back section to hold them closed when the bikes were mounted.
The Bike Mounting Hardware
The next step was to add the mounting hardware for the bikes themselves. For this, I once again slid the bikes into place, now on top of the new box, and Jennifer held them in position as I did some more precise measuring of the hardware placements.
Jennifer’s Fork Mount
This done I mounted Jennifer’s bike block to the door of the driver side back box section. I originally designed the bikes with the handlebars fitting parallel to the frame of the bikes but with the added height of the box and the curved door of the F250 the bike mounting block needed to be mounted so that the handlebars were at a slight angle. One side rests nearly against the back window of the cab. We later put a piece of foam on the glass to keep it from being scratched. The other side slides inside the recess of the back door’s window. Because of this angle, the bike block had to be mounted at a slight angle on two axesses otherwise the bike’s fork doesn’t slide in evenly. I used several washers to give us the necessary lift on one side of the bike block.
Jake’s Fork Mount & the Front Tire Mounts
Once Jennifer’s bike was in place I once again added my bike back to the mix and checked its placement as well as the placement of the two front tire holders. Dimensions double-checked I attached my Sunlite Bike Block Fork Mount, 100mm to the top of the front section of the box and then placed the bike on it. Next, I mounted the two Delta Cycle Wheel Hitches to hold the front tires in place.
Strapping the Back Tires
I once again put the bikes and tires in place and adjusted the placement of the back tires accordingly. To hold the back tire in place I used a long velcro strap with a hole cut through it and a short 3/4″ long carrier bolt passing through that and the top of the box. To keep the strap from pivoting too much on the carrier bolt I also used a strong adhesive around the bolt area to affix the velcro strap farther to the box. This velcro strap wraps around the back tire of each bike securing them in place.
Hiding the Bikes – SuperCab Renovation
The final step of our F-250 SuperCab renovation was to ensure that the bikes were hidden well. Mounting them in the SuperCab extension was one thing but if would-be thieves could still easily spot them it would just make breaking into the truck more appealing. To hide the bikes we had a two-part problem.
Truck Curtain Divider
The first problem was being able to see the bikes through the front windows of the truck. To prevent this we needed a curtain to divide the truck cab. We had some old thick curtains that we repurposed for the task. We had to cut and resow them and add velcro so that they attached together and attached them to the bike box. I used a 5/16″ dowel rod slid through the curtain pocket and a piece of string to attach that to a piece of plastic on the ceiling of the truck.
Blacking Out the Back Windows
The other way of spotting the bikes was through the back side windows. The easy solution to this would have been to use a dark window tint on them but that would be pricey and wouldn’t be completely opaque. Instead, for a few bucks, I bought a can of plastic dip. I used some plastic sheeting and painters tape to ensure that the spray-on rubber only made it onto the windows. The result after several coats was a completely blacked-out window although the edges have curled back a bit over time. Still, it is not possible to see inside when the doors are closed.
Hidden Bikes – Check
With these two renovations added the bikes are almost fully concealed from the outside world. Jake’s bike handle does slightly protrude from the curtain on the passenger side of the truck but unless you are looking for it you are unlikely to spot it.
SuperCab Renovation Complete
Adding this bike box was a hard and very customized SuperCab renovation project to do for our full-time nomadic lives. We wanted to take our bikes with us on this adventure, but we also wanted them tucked away and hidden from would-be thieves. This renovation adds a bit of peace of mind while we are parked in remote places and out on multi-day backpacking adventures.
The added benefit of extra storage space helps as well. We later actually removed the longer drawer as we found that we were storing camp chairs and hiking poles in that space. Gear that is easily removed without the need for a sliding drawer. The other smaller drawer is a perfect storage area for our seasonal clothing.
We’ve been very happy with the design. It took some practice to get good at removing the bikes from the area but now we are pretty quick at it. I hope this post helps others think outside the box about what is possible when designing a full-time nomadic rig.