Introduction: The Trunk Rack

About: Do your best to make all the parts of a project the best you can, Even the parts that no one will ever see; These are the parts that really show your craftsmanship

-The theory of staying organized in small cars-

When space is limited, making efficient use of that space is crucial. When that space happens to be your car, and you happen to be the type of person that needs/uses/carries many different things, this can be deceivingly challenging.

Cars don't promote the stashing of goods very efficiently, not in my opinion at least. For example; a picturesque rectangular cabinet will fit snugly in the corner of your room. The nice, perpendicular corners mate flush with the walls, allowing for maximum use of the given space - I have yet to see a car with nice, square corners of the trunk that will stack your belongs like a properly played game of Tetris.

So how do we segregate our precious cargo from moving around when your apexing a corner on your drive to work? Well, the easiest thing to do is just find a box of any material, and put that stuff in the box! Maybe a bag instead? Sure, that will work just fine too. But these are really just band-aids, and brings me to two areas of interest:

1st - This creates a problem with using pre-made partitions. The (usually) geometric shaped container will almost inevitably leave useless air spaces in between. Almost every trunk in every car has some sort of odd angled walls, radiused corners or some sort of irregular shaped interior. Good luck finding a box to mate perfectly with that surface.

2nd - The floor space in your trunk is a hot commodity, and should be used sparingly when finding permanent homes for those things in your car. When you've already occupied this prime real estate with trivial items, it just makes things more difficult when you really need that space for something big or important, like when you got to hide those dead bodies and get out of ... I, I mean bring a big load of groceries home from the store, of course!

-My Solution-

So, as we mentioned before: The space on the floor is valuable and all to easy to use if you lack a bit of self discipline. The space ABOVE the floor is much less used and prime for the containment of your stuff. I'm talking about the ceiling of your trunk, this is where we need to go! Utilizing this space will take a bit of work though, but not to worry, that's what this Instructable is here to help you with.

-Enter Trunk Rack-

I drive a 1992 Volkswagen Jetta, refereed to by VW enthusiasts as a "MKII", because it is the second generation of the Golf/Jetta series, and refereed to by myself as the "Rally-wagon", because race car. Long story short - I needed a better way to keep all my stuff from flying around when i'm setting the pace in the Monte Carlo Rally (At least in my mind) and after seeing a miniature version of the trunk rack in my friends E30 BMW i came up with my version.

The following pages will show you how i made and attached my rack and although your car will presumably be different, the idea should apply. Some irreversible modifications to your interior paneling may be necessary, and some creativity will most likely be required. The best part of this project is very few tools are required, as i made the entire project with a jig saw, power drill, a sheet of 5/8" ply and other miscellaneous hardware. Almost everything i used was a recycled material or item and i spent almost nothing to make this whole project.

Step 1: Making and Attaching the Board

This is the trickiest section of the project. Once you have overcome this step, you're pretty much home-free.

So the construction of my rack is very simple. It is just a large board of 5/8" maple ply with three holes for three 1/4"-20 bolts. I was going to use more bolts but three evenly spaced bolts ended up being all i needed. The board i used was actually a shelf for a display stand that was no longer being used. I really didn't need that thick of a board and actually i kind of wish i had a thinner sheet. i think 3/8" or 1/2" would be ideal - Still enough material for your wood screws to dig into but not to heavy. Everything i wanted to attach to the board was just screwed in with wood screws. You can position your item or fixture where you want, drill some pilot holes and screw it in.

I had to cut off a section of the board to clear the trunk when closing, and i also wanted to put some larger radii on the corners to make it look a bit cleaner. Here's where i used the jig saw. I managed to hold the board in place, trace the contour from the back side, remove board and then cut with the saw.

My car has a series of slots cut into the sheet metal, which i managed to fit a fender washer underneath to catch the sides. If you can imagine a cross section of all this, my mounting hardware goes like: Head of screw, fender washer, sheet metal from trunk, plywood board, washer and nut. This is a bit hokey, but i kept the bolt from spinning by gently grabbing the exposed thread with pliers while i tightened the nut (As you can see, there is no way for me to get a allen on the back side of that board).

You can see one of the screws poking through the board in the picture. Please forgive my lack of a washer, as this nut had loosened and the original washer had fallen into some dark corner and for now i just tightened it back up with the nut. Nylock nuts would be a great upgrade for this reason, but if i can't hold the bolt from the backside when tightening, i think a washer and split washer combo would be the next best thing. I'll get around to doing that at some point in time...

Step 2: Space and Time, Part 1

Now you've got a bunch of space for things n' stuff. Take some time to decide what you want to do with it next. Here's a list of my attachments, what they hold, and how i made them:

-Bicycle inner tube tool holder

This is a section of a 700c bicycle tube cut to length, and screwed in at varying distances to snugly hold specific tools. I have a shock pump, 8" crescent wrench, some metric allen key thing i've had forever, needle nose pliers and a 4-in-1 screwdriver.

The trick is using the right washers so your tube won't tear when putting/ pulling tools in and out. If you screw right into the tube, i guarantee the tube will tear and some point.

-Peanut butter screw on containers

Any plastic container will work for this. Something big enough to fit your hand inside will probably be best though. Inside these i have: ... too much stuff to list. This is where i keep all the little things that i may or may not need when out and about.

Two or three screws screwed through the inside of the cap is all you need to keep these in place.

-Jumper cables and disc golf discs

I used an old duffle bag to stash my jumper cables in. Instead of screwing right through the fabric, i used an 1/8" board, cut to fit inside to spread the load out when i screwed it in place. The board sandwiches the bag to the trunk rack.

The disc golf rack is another board, perpendicular to my rack, with two aluminum rods and a toe strap. When the trunk is closed, the rods support the discs from the underside, and the strap keeps them in place.

Step 3: Space and Time, Part 2

-Crayola box container

Pretty simple here. Screw three screws through the top from the inside your pretty much done. In my box i have: Friction toe strap, spare headlight, spare fuel pump

-Roof rack accessories

My older Yakima rack uses two end units to hold a bike - one that grabs the fork and takes place of the front wheel, and the other grabs the rear wheel. These units are small enough to store on my rack. I've seen a lot of newer styles that are about as long as an entire bike, so this attachment may or may not work for you. I found a piece of conduit that was almost the same diameter as the bars on my rack that i could clamp these units onto. I machined a mount with two bolt holes and a cut out of the diameter of the conduit (sideways this looks like a skateboard half pipe) and welded the mount to the center of the conduit.

-Bike lock and water bottle

Missing from the picture, is where my bike lock should be, if i hadn't misplaced it. Just a simple strap screwed the board is all i need. A bicycle water bottle cage holds an extra water bottle when i get a bit thirsty.

Step 4: Safety Pin

The added weight in your trunk may make your trunk want to close on itself when opened. When i park on flat ground, my trunk stays upright, but if i'm pointed uphill the trunk needs some assistance. I machined an aluminum pin that fits in an oh-so-convieniently located hole that Volkswagen added when they made this car. The safety pin works great in my case, but may not in yours. I used some fishing line to tie it to a point inside my trunk so i always no where the pin is. I use this pin sparingly though, as you can see it wants to deform that spot on my trunk seal.

Basically, you will most likely need some way to support the added weight on the trunk when it's opened, unless the kinematics of your trunk's hinges make the inside surface fall past 90 degrees vertical or over the center of the fulcrum point. It may be as crude as a 2x4 propping it up, but you will probably need to figure something out.

Step 5: Bonus Points!

-Skateboard rack

I used two aluminum dowels with threaded holes on each end to support a wooden frame that cantilevers out to hold my skateboard. Two small blocks glued in place keep the board from falling out. I cannot think of what this section of the car is called, but it's the section underneath my rear window, behind the top of the rear seats that doesn't really hold anything, it's just a flat surface with some fabric over it and two speakers. Directly under this is where the rack lives. Two 1/4"-20 bolts are visible in this section, and is how the rack attaches to the car.

-Portable table/countertop

This is just a long board with notches cut out on each end to clear the walls of the trunk. A wood block with a slot cut into it snaps the countertop into the latch that locks the trunk. I used a polyurethane finish, which is not considered food safe, so i wouldn't be cutting any meat or veggies on this but a food safe finish might not be a bad idea. I cut a hole in my board so i can keep the white gas container from falling over and catching my car on fire. Instead i'll just knock my soup or whatever over and make a big mess ...not that this has happened to me before...

The board hides underneath the carpet in my trunk, with the little mount nestled in the well where my spare tire is. It sits totally flat and only a discerning eye would be able to spot it.

Step 6: Making It Your Own

My rack caters to my needs, and your's should cater to yours as well. I ride mountain bikes, so i like to keep a handful of cycling specific items in my trunk, like a few spare tubes, bike pump, patch kit, shock pump, etc. If your a runner, maybe an extra pair of shoes would be a good idea to always have on hand. Some useful general items I always keep in my car include:

  • Car tire patch kit
  • Bike Pump (you can indeed pump up car tires in a pinch with a bike tube pump, it will take a while but will fully inflate your tire)
  • Tools
    • Screwdriver(s)
    • Allen keys
    • Crescent wrench
    • Work rag(s)
    • Flashlight
    • Combo wrenches and/or sockets (Crescent wrench will work for most general applications, but you can never be too prepared)
  • Sunscreen
  • AA, AAA batteries
  • Paracord
  • Zipties
  • Superglue
  • Duct/Gorilla tape
  • Jumper cables

I could keep going, but these are some key items that are without a doubt good to have on hand. It might say something that a Volkswagen guy puts more emphasis on having tools on hand... hmmmmm....

One thing i must warn you is without a bit of self discipline, this rack is only half as useful as it can be. Try to take a just a bit of extra time to put the item back where it belongs. Throwing stuff back into the trunk will render your car back to a primitive state of organization. This can end up being a really fun project, and usually changes over time as you find what works well and what doesn't. The first picture in this Instructable was taken the afternoon i initially finished, and the rest of the pictures were taken about 2 years later in it's current state. I know my rack is still a work in progress!

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