This is just a quick write up, not a full one unfortunately, on how I customized my rear cargo area with wood. I have been thinking about doing this since my last jeep and was inspired by the hot rod pick up beds as well as the simple clean look of older jeep interiors, like the 1950's willies wagon. The true hot rod style materials are fairly expensive and since I wanted more money to go into bumpers, rock sliders, roof rack etc, I looked for budget friendly options.
1. 5/8 sanded pine plywood - Home depot
2. Mounting - nut serts (don't remember the size)
3. black piano hinges
4. 1" Shur Trim Seambinder, hammered Silver - Home depot (floor Trim)
1) Remove all the old nasty carpet panels from the back of the 2nd and 3rd row seats.
This was fairly straight forward, however I broke almost every plastic trim fastner even though I made a custom pry bar to do it. In the end I wouldn't waste my time trying not to break the plastic fastners and just go for it … the point of no return
I would however keep the carpet panels in one piece because that's what I used as a template for the wood panels.
2) Make cardboard templates.
This isn't 100% necessary because the carpet panels will work for templates but I used the carpet panels to trace out new templates onto cardboard just to double check measurements and have something to write measurements and notes on.
3) Cut out panels in plywood
I first checked that the cardboard templates fit properly in the jeep. Then I cut all the straight sides on the table saw and used a band saw for the corners. I used a hole saw and jig saw to cut the 2 anchor insets on the back of the 2nd row seats. You will also notice that the 2nd row seats have a flap at the bottom which swing freely to allow the back seats to recline. For this I cut separate strips and fastened them back to the main panels using piano hinges.
4) Test Fit and make adjustments
Place the plywood panels on the seat backs and check your measurements, this is just a quick eyeball / overall check before you mount them and do a final check.
5) Mounting the new panels - Drill Plywood
: I think the way I tackled this can be improved upon, I am happy that I went with Nut serts instead of self tapping sheet metal screws however I think the placement of the mounting holes could have been better. If I were to do this again I would have either used larger nut serts so they fit in the existing holes left by the original fastners or been more aware of the metal tube that runs around the entire perimeter of the seat, under the sheet metal (not visible) and avoided trying to place any fastners there.
Positioning the mounting points:
Since the screws would be visible I wanted them to be uniform, not randomly all over like the original plastic fastners were. I first roughly mapped them out on the cardboard for aesthetics and then checked those positions on the back of the seats to see if they were suitable spots, there are a lot of existing holes / slots and a tube that runs around the perimeter underneath the sheet metal that should be avoided. After comparing the aesthetic positions on the cardboard to the reality of the seat backs I adjusted the cardboard templates with these compromise positions. Again if I was to do it again, I would consider just using the randomly placed existing holes. You would just need to be clever about a way to transfer those exact position to your cardboard template or plywood panels.
Once you are settled on the mounting positions, transfer those to your plywood and drill / counter sync the holes, into the plywood.
6) Mounting the new Panels - Drill back of seats, insert nut serts
If you decided to utilize the original mounting holes, then skip the drilling and insert the nut serts.
Fit the plywood pieces to the backs of the seat, be sure to place all of them so you can align the tops of the seats and ensure they won't rub when placing seats up or down individually. once you are happy with the placement, drill through the plywood holes from the previous step to mark the new holes in the seat backs. Remove the plywood and drill the appropriate size holes in the seat back to fit the nut serts. Now use your nut sert tool to place the nut serts in the holes.
7) Final Fit test - Screw plywood onto seat backs
Screw plywood to seat backs, ensure a uniform fit, ensure they don't rub when raising or lowering, ensure the second row will recline properly, check the gaps look straight and uniform, ensure the 2nd row anchor points still work with the original trim piece and the anchor holes are aligned. Remove and make any final adjustments, trim or sand as needed
8) Finish the plywood
I went with a varathane of some sort, however if you want a more utilitarian look you could attach rubber, or checker plate, or whatever.
9) Install and finish
Screw plywood back in. I added metal strips to help guard against wear, I just placed it over top of the wood, marked where I wanted it cut, cut the strips and screwed it in place.
I love it! Mainly because it looks cool and I now feel I can adapt and change it anyway I want with ease. Using soft wood and just a varathane finish means it can get marked easily enough, so I would either use a harder wood and tougher finish (as well as keep a mat handy) or I wouldn't bother with the finish and instead attach a rubber floor to the wood … or checker plate.