Triple Threat: Three Truck Add-Ons for All Reasons

These inexpensive, homemade truck add-ons will increase your pickup's hauling capacity and all-around versatility.

| September/October 1984

Most of us would agree that one of the homesteader's first requirements is a truck, and because of its low cost and ready availability, the truck of choice seems to be either the half-ton or three-quarter-ton pickup, preferably of the 4' x 8' box size. There are a great many jobs that this basic vehicle can perform in an admirable manner, such as hauling hay, grain, fertilizer, firewood, cement, soil, the shorter lengths of lumber, 4' x 8' sheets of plywood, and so on. In fact, I'll venture to say that after owning a pickup for any length of time, most of us have asked ourselves, "How did I ever live without one?"

Even so, there are times when the standard pickup truck box won't do all the jobs that are required when you're converting raw land into a livable homestead. It shows its weaknesses, for instance, when you need to haul 20' lengths of rebar and PVC pipe, the longer lengths of lumber and corrugated sheet iron, livestock, or large loads of firewood, brush, or trash ... or, perhaps, when you wish for a short-stay camper for hunting and fishing.

Various commercial and homebuilt truck add-ons are available for all such hauling jobs, of course. For bulk loading or moving livestock, for example, you need a stake bed, while a lumber rack will handle the longer pieces of pipe, rebar, board, and the like. The short-stay camper top also can be either commercial or homebuilt (though it's usually expensive either way). But if you provide for your needs by using three separate pieces of equipment, each of the units will require storage when not in use, not to mention equipment or extra hands for mounting and dismounting. (If you've ever had to go out and round up neighbors for chores of this nature, you know what a pain it can be: Jane had to go into town for a tractor part ...Bill's gone fishing ...Bob's on the other side of the hill, cutting timber.)

After giving much thought to the extra jobs I wished my truck could handle, I decided I needed an arrangement that could manage bulk and long-length hauling, as well as serving as a camper. What's more, I felt it was necessary that one person of normal strength and stature be able to erect and disassemble each unit.

The Stake Bed

I began with the stake bed. Since I expected to leave this unit mounted on the truck most of the time, I wanted it to look good. Therefore, I bought the best straight-grained Douglas fir 2 x 4's that I could find for the stakes, and 1 x 6 vertical-grained Douglas fir for the side boards. Granted, this is fairly expensive lumber, and you can do nearly as well at less cost by buying standard boards. But whichever grade you choose, I'd advise you to go to a lumberyard that will let you select from kiln-dried stock. Then check each piece for grain, knots, sap pockets, and especially for straightness. (To be sure about the last, bring the board end to eye level and sight down its length on the shouldering side.) Reject anything that doesn't please you.

Both for aesthetic reasons and to provide corrosion resistance, I'd planned to use brass carriage bolts and countersunk wood screws to join the side and end boards to the stakes. But the only place such hardware could be found was at a marine supply house — in a distant town and at a prohibitive cost. I ended up substituting zinc-coated hardware, first primed and then painted in a subdued yellow color to simulate brass.

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