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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
DESIGN

A while ago I became obsessed with making the ultimate cargo drawer system for my Xterra overland build. I've made lots of cargo boxes in the past but always from plywood. The problem with plywood is that if you make the box from 3/4" plywood and then the drawers from plywood, you are eating up something like 3 inches of available width. Too much for me. I thought aluminum was a better material choice. You can machine it almost like wood and it's light and strong and thin. So I started designing. This was my first approach:
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In this case I was actually planning to build the top and bottom decks from foam-filled aluminum sandwiches. This is strong and very light but a lot of work. So I replaced the aluminum decks with CNC cut HPL (High Pressure Laminate) plywood. That became my final design and looked like this:
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I have a solar charging system and house battery under the cargo deck so I needed to maintain access to this area. My solution was to mount the box on a pivot. The pivot is right behind the car seats. I knew I could add gas struts to this design to ease access to my house battery.
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FABRICATION:
I don't have a welder so I decided to put the cargo box together with solid body rivets which are strong, light and cheap (the tools to set the rivets are decidedly not cheap but are satisfying to use). I used a mix of domed rivets (AN470) and flush rivets. There are something like 500 rivets in the project.

I used Accuride 9308 series drawer slides. They are very expensive but unlike Amazon junk, they have true capacity ratings (600 Lbs in my case) and they provide a 3D CAD library for everything they make which allows you to get the holes into the CAD model for laser cutting which is a huge plus.

All of the non-rivet hardware is socket head + nyloc and stainless. I love stainless hardware with aluminum.

We go out for 2-3 weeks and mostly what we carry in the cargo box is food. While I was designing the drawers, I decided to make custom food boxes as well. One each for : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Fruit. They fit in the drawers perfectly and have little spring-loaded finger pulls to keep dust out.
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
I had the laser and press work done at Lehmans Manufacturing in Fresno CA. They are about 3 hours from my home which is inconvenient but have very experienced press brake operators and are competitively priced. The work was superb. Sadly, most of that manufacturing capability has left the expensive San Francisco Bay Area.

Here are some pics of the assembly.

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
The above pic also shows a custom pull-out/drop down slide unit for my very heavy Dometic CFX3 75DZ fridge/freezer. You can see my post on the design of that project here.
 

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This is an awesome design! I wanted to retain use of the space under the cargo deck (I think I want to do the 2nd battery + solar controller like you did), and was imagining a similar system to allow easy access for maintenance/troubleshooting (either a tilting/elevating design or make the entire box slide out).

Question: Is there enough clearance to tilt the cargo box up when you have the fridge installed? Do you pull out the fridge on the drop slide, then lift the whole assembly to access below?

I'm about to start some CAD work for a cargo box for the trunk and an aux fuel tank in the spare tire area, so this build is super inspiring!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Question: Is there enough clearance to tilt the cargo box up when you have the fridge installed? Do you pull out the fridge on the drop slide, then lift the whole assembly to access below?

Welcome to the forum @arfarf15.

Not sure if there is enough space but the point is sort of moot because the fridge is too heavy to pivot the cargo drawers with it mounted. Even the cargo box alone is pretty heavy with the slides and plywood top. But the fridge is quite easy to remove and the slide-out / drop-down contraption is reasonably light (all alum except for the slides). The fridge slide is bolted down to the deck of the cargo box however. Can't have it shifting around.

As far as doing a secondary house battery, I found @nworker 's excellent How-To very helpful. I also got my solar learn on from Nate over at Explorist.life.

I would also have a look @Keevohh 's cargo/kitchen tutorial. He and I were chatting during our design phases and have very different approaches (I'm a kitchen on the front bumper guy, he's a more traditional kitchen under the hatch guy) but in the time I was waiting for laser cutting, he had already finished his buildout and been camping many times!! He does not mess around. I'm very slow.

Keep us posted on your progress!
 

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Awesome Write-up! Its been great getting to bounce ideas off you! Still can't believe how deep you managed to get your drawers to be.
 
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