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Design: The Tailgate / Platform

Tailgate / Platform

Tailgate / Platform

I have been investigating many different methods & materials to build the drop down platform. I haven’t decided which way to go yet, but I do know which way other camper manufacturers construct their drop down platforms.

First off, as you’d expect, most of them use aluminium. As far as the construction goes, this is usually an outside box frame with 4 or 5 internal supports, all made from 40mm aluminium box tube. Cover the frame with aluminium sheeting (tread plate or normal) at around 3mm thick, to act as the floor, you then have a sturdy platform to walk on. This seems like the common construction method and if you didn’t want to spend too much time figuring out the various load spans & ratings of other materials, I would recommend going with this approach.

Platform Box Frame

Platform Box Frame [+]

However, if you wanted to dig a little deeper into the engineering sides of things, I think there may be some improvements to be made here. According to my rough calculations, a box frame & sheet described as above would weigh around 35kg. That’s not terribly heavy, but if you were planning to manually lower & raise the platform yourself (like I am), plus have a storage box attached to the back, you may start to wonder whether you’ll need assistance from another person just to lower or raise it (not ideal in my opinion!).

Composite Panels

Composite Panels [+]

The box frame and aluminum sheet would both weigh around 15kg+ each. So I’ve looked at alternative flooring materials to compare the weight and performance (e.g. load spans) to that of aluminium sheet. Composite materials are of course available (at a price) but do offer many advantages (i.e. thermal breaks, etc). Some of the sheet/panels I’ve researched had high enough load ratings that you wouldn’t even need as much support underneath, which would save us considerable weight in the box frame itself also.

Here are a few of the flooring panels I’ve come across so far:

I’m currently still reviewing viable options & costs for the platform flooring material. If anyone has experience in this area or ideas that could help with the design & construction of this platform, please leave a comment!

6 thoughts on “Design: The Tailgate / Platform

  1. Dean says:

    Great work Michael. I am looking at building one to this design too. With some changes to the inter design.
    I also have a dual cab and you have to watch how you distribute the weight. The heaviest above the axel and work your way back. As you have pointed out, the hardest think is building to strength with minimal weight.
    I hope you can find a design on the tail gate. As I am keen to find out witch way you went.
    I did not Know that the fold over top was made of fibre glass. As I have not had a chance to look at a wedge tail camper in person. When I get to start making the unit, I will have to look into that area more.
    Cheers Keep up the Good work
    Dean

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  2. gday mate , having a look at your blog on the camper, looks like you have done all the hard work for me ! i too am looking to build a camper / lockup box on my patrol and was concerned about steel being too heavey and the ally breaking on the joins. i did consider the nylon joiners i was also looking to clad the outside with ULLRICH composite panel. How much further have you gone on this project ?

    Kevin

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    • Hey Kevin! Thanks a lot for your comment.

      I have been continuing to test out quite a few construction methods (like 3d printed corner brackets, access door frames/seals and being able to mix between both Qubelok, the Nylon joiners & their extrusions – a bit tricky!)

      The aluminium composite panels are definitely the way to go. The 3mm panels seem to be the most commonly used too. The Ullrich extrusion brochure also has a lot of joinery & capping for those panels. Most of them also support routing & folding for up to 135 degree bends (e.g. https://youtu.be/qCj-bQDLmfc). There are a few brands which produce them but I haven’t extensively researched the differences between them all.

      There’s Ullrich (link) & Alucobond (link) just off the top of my head.

      All the best with your build mate!

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  3. HI Michael Thanks for all the information you have attached for building a slide on Camper. I too have a crew cab but its an extended tray on a 130inch Defender so I have approx 2 meters of space behind the cab. Plenty of room for everything I need to including under floor space for 2 spares. I would never go on a long trip with only 1 spare. I have been almost caught out with new tyres and 2 punctures. How strong or resilient are the plastic push in connections. I had a look at some the other day and they did not appear to be too strong especially for a vehicle being used on long trips and where corrugations could be a problem. Have you completed your design any further? Thanks for all your assistance,

    Regards
    Gordon Lamb.

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    • Hey Gordon!

      I too share your concerns about the Qubelok connectors. They are made from a hard & relatively inflexible plastic. For the apparent lack of a better option, they are still being used by all types of campers and tourers. Some do report though that they’ll crack over heavy corrugations or when you stand on them (obviously leverage is not their friend).

      That’s why I’ll be using nylon joiners instead (see my previous post). Nylon is far more flexible and will take a lot more of the vibrations than Qubelok will. They also use a thicker/stronger aluminium tube (1.6mm as opposed to 1.2mm), win/win in my book!

      All the best.

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  4. Thanks Michael. I will keep in touch and let you know how I get along. One of my biggest problems living in a small regional centre finding a local access for the materials. I don’t like the idea of using Bunnings they are too expensive.

    Regards

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