I had a lot of fun hanging out in the Driving Line booth at Nitto Tire’s Auto Enthusiast Day at Angel Stadium last weekend. I got to meet some of our readers, hand out copies of the latest issue, and talk to people about my Jeep while checking out some very cool cars and watching the awesome drift demos. The modification on my Jeep that got the most questions and compliments was my custom Jeep storage solution, so I thought I'd share the details.
One of the big problems that Jeep owners face when they go topless and doorless is that they lose the ability to store things securely out of sight when the Jeep is parked, mostly because we don’t have a trunk. The glove box and center console can only hold a few small items, and the small cubby in the rear is usually filled with tools and tow straps. If you use your Jeep as a daily driver this can really be an annoying problem. It's a big hassle when I am out running errands and don’t want to have to carry all of my purchases with me into every single store I visit, or if I’m out on a shoot and don’t want to drag multiple camera bags in with me just to grab a coffee. You never want to leave things out and visible in a topless Jeep because the temptation is too great for a passer-by to just reach in and grab it (I’ve had a couple of quarters taken more times than I can count). If you spend the day at the beach and are going to stop somewhere for dinner, what do you do with the bag full of stuff you took the beach? What about that favorite jacket you grabbed on your way out the door because you know it’s going to get cold once the sun goes down, but you don’t feel like carrying around all day in the heat?
I needed a way to stash something as large as my camera backpack or purse, and I was really getting tired of having to run home to drop things off after every single stop on errand day. And I needed something that was easy to put in and take out so I could remove it when I’m packing up for a trail run.
There are aftermarket storage solutions, but they can be pricey. When I was looking into adding lockable storage to my Jeep I could only find two alternatives. One was a drawer that was more suitable for tools, and the other was a lockable deck enclosure that required leaving the rear seats in the Jeep. Like most 2DR owners, removing the rear seats to create a larger cargo area is one of the first modifications I made and I don’t intend to ever replace them.
My husband came up with the idea of customizing an ATV storage box, the kind that is used to store tools, helmets and other gear on a trailer. We measured the dimensions inside the Jeep and the size of the largest item I might want to store inside (my camera backpack), and purchased a black powdercoated diamond plate aluminum ATV locking storage box that is 32”x14”x14”. You can use one that is a bit wider (up to 48" to fit between the wheel well humps), but this was the closest match we found locally and it was a size that would work well for me.
We attached the box to the Jeep using the rear seat brackets. We marked the bottom of the box where it would match up with the location of the brackets, and cut holes to allow the box to fit over the brackets. You can use your metal cutting tool of choice; we used a hole saw because it was handy.
After fitting the box over the brackets, we use a ratchet strap to secure the box. We cut a couple scrap pieces of board to fit inside the box. They help keep the box pressed against the floor of the Jeep to prevent the box from rattling. Hook the ends of the ratchet strap over the seat brackets, tighten it up and you’re good to go!
When I’m using the box I always place it with the lock facing forward. This allows me to quickly place something in or remove something from the storage box while I’m sitting in the driver's seat.
It's very easy for me to put the box in when I need it and remove it when it's in the way. Now my “grocery getter” is much more practical when I have the top and doors off, I no longer dread errand day and I don't have to worry about driving home to drop things off before I head to my next destination. It won't prevent a thief who is determined to break into your Jeep no matter what, but I believe in the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind”.
How do you store things when you have the top off your Jeep? I'd love to hear your creative ideas!