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My TJ has not had a rear seat since a couple of days after I got it. I decided back then I didn't want back seat passengers (or back seat drivers). I got tired of the seat being folded up and using up prime real estate (hey, there just isn't that much space between the front seats and the rear tail gate).
I started with a small Rubbermaid storage container to hold a few things. Then I added a tool bag. When it came time to do an over night run, the cooler and a bunch of other stuff got tossed in. I had my hands full finding adequate space for this gear while trying to keep it stable. I hate having my gear shifting around while doing a steep hill or boulders in a wash.
So....with an initial idea from my Jeep mentor and some measurements of the TJ, I took off to Home Deport in search a 4'x8' sheet of 1/2" plywood, a big box of 7/8" wood screws, a couple of 1"x2"x8' for bracing, and some wood glue (don't skip the glue....it will fall apart without it). I opted for some $1.29/foot indoor/outdoor carpeting to line the storage box and dress off the cover. The carpeting provides more of a non-slip surface on the top and helps quiet things inside the box. The box measures 36" long by 35" wide, give or take a little (depends if I measured once and cut twice, or if I measured twice and cut once). The box is 6" deep. You could make it taller if you want to pack a few more items in the box. As is usually the case, the bigger something is, the more we will put in it. I didn't want an extra 400 lbs. riding around in the TJ after everything was said and done!
Here is picture of the box. I used black enamel paint and gave it a quick coating
before mounting it in the Jeep. If you can, let the paint dry for more than 36 hours
(all the time I had) before installing it in the Jeep, unless you are topless. The
paint fumes can get a bit strong those first couple of days.
After it was installed, I added a half dozen low profile anchor points so I could attach bungie cords or straps to hold down those things that come and go for the day and over night trips (sleeping bags, small cooler, junk food!, etc. Although not yet installed, I think I will be using a 1" wide ratchet strap to secure the lid in place. The strap will easily slip through the anchor points on each side of the box.
The above shot show the interior of the storage box. I used the left over plywood to make some dividers in the box so things would not get to sliding all over the place while going up and down the hills. The divider in the center section slides out so if my requirements change in the future, I can still accommodate yet another long "thing" in the box.
The box hold quite a variety of items. A few of these get moved to
the "upper deck" when I hit the trail, such as the tow strap. I have
multiple dehydrated meals, enough water to turn them back into food, and a great little
butane backpacking stove to heat them up. Of course the first aid kit is stocked
with the normal requirements. I also have foul weather gear, gloves, battery cables,
canvas tarp, rope, wire, oil, tire repair items, funnel, siphon, spare fluid containers,
part of my Hi-Lift jack, and other things that I don't remember right now. I still
have to put in some spare parts, such as u-joints and bolts, etc.
The tool bag rides on the top when I take a trip. It is almost impossible to get it to slide on the carpeting. There is a 1"x2" strip at the very forward edge of the cover. It reinforces the area where the hinges attach, as well as making a great "slide stop" for something that might want to get going on the steep down hills.
April 15, 2000 - I've had a chance to use this setup for several months and a number of trips. It does a great job of organizing and protecting my gear. Because I can leave the box packed all times, the chances of leaving items on the garage bench have been greatly reduced. When first building it, I thought I might hear a lot of rattling and bumping from the items in the box. I am happy to say that this is not the case. Everything rides fine and I don't even notice the storage box is there. Although this "mod" doesn't do anything for your suspension flex, ground clearance, crawl ratio, or engine performance, it is certainly worth the time and effort to install it. My trips are much more enjoyable with now that my gear is securely packed away!