Introduction: VW 4 Door GTI 2008 Fold Out Bed Platform for Car Camping (MK5)
Why Should You Build a Sleeping Platform for Your Car?
Fall 2020: I was thinking about winter during COVID as well as the upcoming election and potential for unrest. Having the freedom to travel comfortably in the car was an appealing idea to avoid needing hotel rooms on the road. I researched my car and found that other designs were not specific to a 4-door GTI and most hatchback plans were designed for only one person (and we are two). I was not interested in removing any seats and in fact wanted to be able to have the platform stored in the trunk and be able to use all four seats in the car. So I decided to make my own design. May you avoid many of the mistakes I made and extra work I created for myself as I finalized my sleeping platform to enable travel during COVID and flexibility in where and when I can pull over and camp or sleep!
Cordless drill, drill bits, screw bits, Forstner bit, 1 5/8 deck screws
Level, tape measure, pencil, square, saw horses
8 cam locks and screws, 4 flip bolt connectors/jig
Sand paper and/or orbital sander
Plywood 4 x 8' .75 thick birch or other hardwood, cut as directed
2 - 30" piano (continuous) hinges
Step 1: Purchase Supplies for ~$150
I made everything you see in the photo with about $150 in supplies plus some things I had on hand.
At a minimum you'll need a cordless drill with screwdriver bit and some drill bits in different sizes.
one 4' x 8' piece of 3/4" thick, sanded, birch plywood (I had the preliminary cuts done at the store)
two 30" piano (continuous) hinges
Sand paper (or you may choose to use an orbital sander)
Connectors (you may opt for other, easier connectors - go for it!):
For "wings," I purchased 8 Drive Cam connectors and screws. (Requires a Forstner bit to make the hole for the cam lock)
To connect the two main parts of the platform, I purchased 4 "flip bolt" countertop connectors. (Requires a router and jig pattern, which I made).
Step 2: Plywood Cut List - Do at Home or Have Store Do It for You
If you use your GTI to pick up the plywood, it would be easiest if you have the store do the initial cuts for you. Carry a pencil and mark the pieces as they come off the saw, as it will be ideal to put the panels together in the same order as they were cut.
1. on the short (4' or 48") side, have them cut it to 39.5" wide.
2. From the large 39.5" wide piece, have them cut four pieces that are 22" long (x 39.5" wide). These are the four main panels of your bed platform. (pieces A, B, C and D)
3. From the piece left from step 2, cut it to 36". Then cut two "wings" that are 5" wide x 36" long. (pieces E and F)
4. I saved the scrap pieces, which I used later on in the project to create the supportive angled box under the back seat and head piece. That will come later.
Step 3: Add Hinges - to Create a Three-panel Bed Platform Plus Fold Out Table
1. You should now have four bed platform pieces that are equally sized: A, B, C and D. Line them up (in that order, if you marked them).
2. Add a piano hinge connecting A to B on the 39.5" seam. Place the hinge carefully so it is sitting on exactly in the middle of the seam, and that the wood is lined up as close to perfect as possible. I like to use some masking tape to hold it in place, and affix one screw on each end of each board to make sure they are lined up correctly before screwing in the rest.
3. Do the same to connect C to D.
You should now have two folding panels that are each 39.5" wide by 22" deep by about 1.5" tall. Yay, you!
Now is a good time to try it in your Empty trunk. Watch your fingers!
Step 4: Orientation of the Panels
The first panels to load in the trunk are the foot and table panel, with the hinge closest to the back bumper of the car (A: the fold out table - and B: the trunk foot piece).
Then the C: back seat and D: head panel sit on top of that, with the hinge closest to the front seats.
If you have the same model GTI as I do, you should be able to fit these panels in the trunk while the back seats are in their normal, up position; and you should be able to close your trunk. Now is a good time to decide how much you want to elevate the platform. I would not recommend raising it any more than 11" from the bottom of the trunk, and it cannot be raised any less than 4" (or you'll be sleeping in a very upright position!)
Move the front seats as far forward as you can, and adjust the seatbacks to be as far forward as possible.
Put the back seats down. From now on, we'll call this set up BED READY.
Pull C/D panel a bit forward and flip it open. Push it up so it touches the driver's and front passenger's seat.
Flip the A table panel out, and push the B panel to touch the C panel. Note how they meet. If you are pleased with how everything operates, you are ready to begin the next step. If not, note where you want to make adjustments (I did a lot of sanding at this step to make the flip open process easier).
Step 5: Create the Wing Connection
This is where I used cam connectors. If you chose to use something different, you can!
What you need:
Sawhorses - 2
8 each cam lock and screws
dowel jig (or you can try to measure by hand)
Forstner bit which is the same size as the cam lock
Back seat and head panel (C/D)
Wings (E and F)
I set up sawhorses, as the hinge allows the two panels (C and D) to open and keep the panels level. You can test this with a level if you like.
Get your wings, pieces E and F. For each, determine four connection points to the open C/D panel (align the top of the wing with the top of the head panel D; keep cam locks at least 3" away from the hinge). Understand where the cam lock needs to be positioned to securely close on the cam screw. One connector at a time, drill hole using the Forstner bit for the cam lock on the top of the panel, then using a drill bit and dowel jig, drill a hole on the side of the panel where the cam screw will enter. Then in the same position on the wing, drill a starter hole for the cam screw to be screwed in. Once the wing is connected to the panel, confirm marking for the second connector and proceed until all 8 connections are done and working well. I used masking tape to ensure the cam lock doesn't fall out in transit.
When the bed is not open in the car, the wings should be stored in the car. Take the panels and the wings to the car and test them. Make a final decision about the height of the platform, and find items that will lift the trunk pieces to the desired height. I chose 9.5" in the trunk (the slope elevation near the headrest of the folded down back seats will be four inches shorter, so for me that is 5.5"). I had two storage containers that were 9.5" tall so I used those for the next step. I also had my scrap wood to adjust near the front.
Step 6: Determine and Add Connection Points Between A/B and C/D
The car should be BED READY. You should take a level, a pencil, and a measuring tape. If you connected the wings with cam locks, you'll need a tool to close the cams.
Place your elevation items in the trunk near or on the seam to the back seat. Slide C/D forward and open, connect wings. Push A/B so it is flush with C/D. Gently close the trunk, it should close with no problem. If it doesn't, you may need to round the corners of closed A/B. Open the trunk and open panel A to table position - stabilize with scrap wood or another "leg." if the panel does not open easily, note where adjustments need to be made. Hopefully you won't have to do any!
Now, test to see if the platform is level (or at least close enough to level). If it is, and the seams for B and C meet nicely, mark four evenly spaced places where you will create your connections (the mark should be a line across the seam so it is on both panels).
If you use flip bolts like I did, use your jig and a router to create the connection points for the flip bolts. Once you have completed four connection points, test your connection - voila!
Step 7: Optional, Saw Slats
I decided to allow for some air flow, reduce weight of the panels, and cut scrap pieces that would be used to make the sloped support box in a later step. To do this I cut slats.
My first rule was to be 3" or more away from any edges, screws, or cuts. I wanted the slats to be no more than 3" tall, and they should have 3" or more intact wood in between them. (I did not cut slats into the table panel A.)
As a result of those rules, I was able to cut 2 slats in panel B and C and 3 in panel D, creating four corner holes with a drill and then using a jig saw and scrolling blades.
If you choose to do this, use a square to measure your slat cut lines. Once the slats are cut, save the scrap wood and sand the cuts you've made. Then you'll be ready for the next step: creating the sloped support.
Step 8: Create Sloped Support
With car in BED READY state, put all of your panels and wings in sleeping position and connect them.
Use a level to confirm that the platform is in the position you want, with the trunk elevated to your desired (4" to 11") height. Subtract 4 and this is what the elevation of the area near the headrests of the back seat will be.
Draw a 3D picture of a sloped box as demonstrated above. Then take measurements as shown. Be mindful of where your slats are. The flat part of your box should be supporting the platform, and the sloped part of your box will be against the backseat. The tall part of the box will match the elevation in your trunk (for me, 9.5") and the short part of the box will be -4" (for me, 5.5"). My box is nothing special as I used the irregularly cut slats to make it. You might do a better job, or have a better way to achieve this task.
I then figured out how I can connect the platform to the car (using the loops in the trunk, back seat, and car seat); how I can raise panel D to function as an upright seating area and connect to front seats; how to easily store it.
I will use two chaise seat cushions to sleep on and storage boxes to support the platform and store supplies and clothes.
Step 9: Done!
Share photos or suggestions about how you made this better! I am road ready and I hope you are too!