Yep. We’re on a full version six of changes — excluding all the smaller tweaks in between. That’s one, two, three, four, and five other ways to build an Expo Box (sleeping/storage system) for the Nissan Xterra.
The most recent version of this is based on Raingler nets. I’ll go over each of the tweaks we’ve made since the post, because this most recent box is really an evolution of it (although hardly recognizable).
We built a new sleeping platform for the dog. It’s a single piece of 1/2″ plywood with cut-outs for the e-brake lever, gear shift and dashboard shape — that slides into place on the passenger seat bottom (simply slid forward, not folded flat). It’s a lot more comfortable for her (height to stand-up) and stores under her in the rear during transit (so a lot easier to pack).
We nuked the front barrier net (between the front and back seats). While great during driving, it took extra time to move it every time we setup camp. And it’s rearward angle into the backseats made sitting up in the back pretty uncomfortable.
We also dropped the shelf completely. The same net is tied to the floor, creating a barrier between the folded flat seats (where we’ve been folding the mattress during transport) and the rear cargo area with the dog, cooler and Action Packers.
As simple as it sounds — this is far and away our fastest and most comfortable system yet. Setup was down to moving the Action Packers to the foot-wells, the dog and her platform to the front seat, and unloading the cooler.
After a week on the trails in Colorado — it hit me. We’re a family of three (me, wife, dog) and hardly ever have rear seat passengers. The X is either full of crap from camping or Home Depot or whatever outdoor pursuit occupied our time that weekend (and constraints like bike racks have us down to two humans anyway). Why have backseats at all?
And because of that, v6 is not for everyone.
v6 is basically the modified v5 you just read about — but no Action Packers to move and unload. Instead, that and all the other free-floating bits go into a new box that replaces the rear seats. So going from driving to camping includes moving the dog, unloading the cooler, and unfolding the mattress. It takes 30 seconds.
Step 1: Remove the back seats.
To remove the seat bottoms, flip-up, lift the red tabs and pull up. To remove the seat backs, there are twelve 15mm bolts. This is actually a fairly involved process. I’d done this twice before and it still took me a little over an hour. The bolts (at least mine) are stubborn about coming out. Crawling under the truck and hitting them with PB Blaster a few times the days before you do this should make it a lot easier. And anti-seize when they go back in. I actually broke one off in the floor… so if I ever go back to needing rear seats, that’ll be a fun project.
To get to four of the bolts, you’ll also need to remove the front most corners (they just pull up) from the cargo area, the rear cargo floor (lift up and rearward) and the “honey hole” track (five phillips screws, then up) to get to four of the 15mm bolts.
With basically the entire rear of the truck disassembled — now’s a good time to vacuum all those areas you can’t otherwise and tape up all the little holes that let dust in.
Step 2: Create box brackets.
Despite being a certified welder — my garage is pretty limited when it comes to metal working. I re-used five of the seat mounting locations and bolts. And created brackets to support the two width-wise boards out of heavy-duty corner brackets that I cut, drilled and bent to fit.
Step 3: Frame box.
I used premium solid pine for everything but the lids. It’s a lot lighter than plywood and easier to work with in my opinion. The front most section is a lot wider to support the weight of us sleeping at the edges of the box. Those “wings” also create a great nook to stick shoes at night or other items during transport. Note also the angle. Without those angles cut, I couldn’t slide things like our stove in and out of the foot-wells without moving the front seats.
Step 4: Build lids and extensions.
There’s a number of ways to do these. How many lids, the orientation they open, etc. We settled on what’s pictured because we thought it kept the most interior space available — including long items — and made it easy to get into with the mattress lying on top.
Each has two hinges which fold out to create the full-length sleeping surface. The ends are supported by 1X2’s which are pressed together when open to support the additional weight of a sleeper. To get the wheel-well cut-outs just right, I created one out of cardboard first, then mirrored it to create the other side. I also found the 1/2″ plywood to flex a little more than my liking when sitting in the middle (which is more weight than it’d ever actually see in use) — so there’s another 1X2 brace there.
You’ll notice that the extensions leave a six-inch gap at the center. That’s purely because of what I had left in materials. I did the entire thing with two 2×4 sheets of 1/2″ birch plywood. Filling those three inches on each side would have required another $27 sheet… and it just wasn’t worth it to me. Because of the center-console, no one sleeps in the middle anyway.
Step 6: Paint and pack.
Slowly more and more Rust-oleum bed liner is taking over Sebastian. A quick test shows that we gained about the equivalent of a third Action Packer in space inside the box. And the items in the foot-wells fit with the extensions out — so no longer do we have to unpack that area before filling them with the Action Packers to sleep.