Lots of rustbuckets hereabout are stripped to the frame and rebuilt with
wooden bed and stakes/cap.
As to fuel cost, a cap which keeps the tailgate from acting as an airbrake
is a net plus. At least it has been for my pickups.
Your tailgate dosen't do as you think.
The caps on my trucks, which were all fiberglass, hurt the mileage on
all three examples. I attributed the mileage hit to the weight of the
cap, and the bad aerodynamics of the squared-off back.
With time and effort, I'll bet a wood cap could be light and
beautiful, ala 1950's Chris Craft boat style.
Unfortunately, pretty wood caps are rare. When I think of wood caps,
I start hearing Jeff Foxworthy's voice in the back of my head.
Give me a break - you're saying that hauling around two sheets of plywood
and a few 2x4's are going to drastically reduce my mileage? Yeah, right.
: "KB8QLR" writes:
:> Has anyone ever tried to build a truck cap out of wood?
: In a word "Heavy".
: As long as fuel cost is no problem, go for it, but I'd pass with fuel over
: S/A: Challenge, The Bullet Proof Boat, (Under Construction in the Southland)
: Visit: <http://home.earthlink.net/~lewhodgett for Pictures
Fine Woodworking or Fine Homebuilding magazine had a short artical and photo
of a contractor who had made a topper for his truck. Some years latter I
had seen the truck and topper here in southern WI and it still loked good.
I built one for my 84 Nissan King cab. We were in Hawaii and the prices
they wanted were so high I decided I could do better for less. I lucked
into a place going out of the aluminum camper business and got the
sheetmetal as well as door, windows, trim and sticky tape stuff cheaply
enough to make it happen.
Desigh: cab over shell topper tapered from bed width to roughly follow the
shape of the cap, ending up at 4' wide for the top, just high enough that a
Navy seabag, 3 across actually, fit on the overhang over the truck cab when
done. Sides came out to being a 4' sheet of plywood wide. Don't recall if
that was deliberate but probably was. I knew enough to try to avoid
slpicing or reinforcing a plywood joint. Front of the shell came to the
front of the cab and tapered back, don't recall the exact pitch but it was
close to the windshield pitch.
Frame was 1x2 spf, picked to avoid knots with clear 1x3's at the top of the
cap and the botom of the cab overhand for support. Front panel, panel at
the back of the cab and rear panel were all 3/4" plywood, notched for the
Made cardboard templates before cutting any wood, and only made a few in
process design changes, like cutting 2" off a 10' side panel because it was
too ling, then adding a 1" lift kit to keep from rubing a hole in the roof
of the cab;-)
I user plywood gussets at the joints as well as glue, may have used glue
when attaching the 1/4 plywood to the outside. Insode was attached with
screws, in case I wanted to make wireing changes to the lights. Installesd
a ceiling vent, van style for airflow, and it was done. Light enough that
I could maneuver it into place by standing on a spare tire in the bed of
the truck,and lifting it on my back, I was much younger, but so awkward I
needed help to get it there. Ended up using black foam pipe insulation
glued between the cap and cab roof to help with airflow and bounce. The
foam held up for at least 15 years, but was cracking for the last few.
Let me know if you want any more info, the cap may be still sitting in one
of the kids yard down in GA. I can call and have them measure, and check
the way i put on the aluminum trim, which was the wrong way:-( But a bead
of silicone after that rain up in the mountains took care of the leaks.
Gas milage improved with the cap on, empty or full and we drove it from LA
to Charleston, SC in 85, via the 4 corners and Wolfe Creek Pass in CO.
Don't give up so quick. In 1993 those fiberglass solid lids were
starting to show up, so I decided to build one rather than pay what I
thought was way too much for the store-bought version.
This one was a little different than stock, though.
Rather than having just a hinge at the front, I made a scissors lift
linkage, but made it non-symmetrical so as I lifted the back of the
lid about 4', the front lifted about 18". This linkage was made from
1" square steel tube, and I paid a welding shop $20 to do the
fabrication I needed.
Why bother with this? I got some fancy car cover fabric from a shop
that did custom covers, and with a hot melt glue gun, made a tent
arrangement that attached to the truck box, tailgate and lid with
double sided tape. When the lid went up, so did the tent. I got this
idea after a 3 week camping trip where it rained about 19 nights. The
back of the truck always seemed drier than the mud me and the tent
were in. It also had the advantage of allowing camp to be set up or
broken down in about 10 seconds flat.
The lid itself started with good pine 1x4s with crowns cut into their
top surface placed across the bed. 3/8" exterior construction plywood
was glued and screwed to this, with about a 3" skirt around the edge
where it connected to the top of the box. At the corners of the top
surface and the skirt pieces, I used big (maybe 1") quarter round
molding to give a nice radius. The truck bed sides were actually
curved slightly, so everthing was cut and fit to match, and all the
plywood ended up with nice, gently curved surfaces.
To finish it I used a layer of fiberglass chopped strand mat and
polyester resin. The surface took some sanding and filling, but
quickly worked down to a reasonably professional finish. This was
basically autobody work, but the surfaces were almost all big and
flat, so it went quickly. The place that sold me the fiberglass
materials also sold special paint for fiberglass that they color
matched based on the truck's paint color code. It matched perfectly
(well, as far as I could tell....).
I also used 3/8 plywood to build a platform in the truck box that gave
a level surface over the top of the wheelwells. The platform surface
was made up of loose panels that could be lifted to access storage
space below. Foam rubber and a sleeping bag made up the rest of the
It took about a month's worth of weekends to build. Subtract the lift
mechanism and tent and you're down to 2-3 weekends. The thing lasted
fine outside for the six or so years until I replaced that truck. I
put it on and off myself (the problem with the lid is it's not good
with tall cargo). I doubt if it was any heavier than the commercial
fiberglass models. Got lots of compliments and requests for the
manufacturer's name while I had it. Oh, and at the time I had a B&D
jigsaw, B&D 3/8 drill, and some hand tools to build it with. The
process was a lot like building a wooden boat -- everything was "cut
When pickup bed caps got popular in the mid 70s, they were made with
wood (2x2) frames and used aluminum and plastic materials for the
skins. That's a lot of parts to cut, fit and assemble. Spraying
fiberglass into a mold with a chopper gun allows you to mass produce
caps with far less labor. That's why production of these things has
all gone to fiberglass. Not weight or any other type of performance.
So don't give up. I forget what mine cost, but it was a lot less than
buying a commerical lid. It was also a very enjoyable project, and
made later camping trips far more pleasant. (Turns out I really like
working with fiberglass and have used it in a couple of later
Joe, Do you mean a CAB or a cover for the bed?
I help a rust-bucketeer friend of mine by welding together a frame for a 41
Chevy truck cab. The frame was to support an aluminum skin with wood side
panels, much like an old Ford woody look. The cab interior was all wood
trim. It was very cool.
If you are talking about a bed-cap/cover, I think it would be easily done
using the same method, aluminum frame with an aluminum skin
veneered/laminated with a nice wood.
It was a camper shell, no floor, that went from the tailgate to the front
of the truck cab.
Bad ASCII art:
/ Camper |
/ Truck | Hole for |
/ Cab |_sliding window |
/ here |_______________________|
windshield Truck bed here
I'm going to make one out of 1/4-ply for the straight sections and
cedar-strip (a la canoe-building technique) the curvey parts. Shouldn't
weigh much at all and look a helluva lot better than anything I'd pay
five times as much for.
Lots easier than building a canoe, too :)
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