The Expedition Box started out as a simple box to fit on the back of my Subaru Forester. For good or ill, I talked a really nutso cabinet maker into doing the job for me. God bless Scott Lang, former big-time professional chef, expert carpenter, and stay-at-home dad for a severely handicapped child.
The basic problem, as those who follow this blog know, is that a Subaru Forester is a great little SUV. Little being the operative term. Just not enough room at the inn for a three-month trip to Alaska with dog and cameras. So the need for a caboose, aka, the Expedition Box.
When I bought the car 15 months ago, I was too broke (read cheap) to get the next trim level up, which would have included a roof-rack. Sigh. So if you can't build up, you build out:
So I bought a platform which plugs into a receiver hitch I'd installed when I bought the Forester. Mostly, such platforms are used to lug bags of mulch around suburbia. This kind of platform is hinged to tilt up (and down a tad, which is a really useful feature as you'll see). It is rated for 400 pounds load.
For Alaska roads (and Canadian roads, eh), dinky toy spare tires won't do. This shot shows a full-sized spare balanced on the shaft of the hitch arrangement shown above. If it hadn't fitted bwstween the paltform / box and the bumper, we'd have had to re-drill the receiver hitch .... but the gods smiled.
With the box installed, to open the tailgate to the car, you have to remove the spare (easy; just see below), then pivot the trailer jack shown in lower foreground. Pull the pin from the platform shank, which allows the whole platform to swing down a couple of inches, and crank the jack to lower away. This permits the tailgate of the car to clear the top of the box, giving access to the cavernous depths revealed thereby. Sounds more complicated than it is, but without the jack, and some weight in the box, you'd need to be Hercules to get into the trunk if the car were without an arrangement like this one.
Here's a close-up showing the pin which ordinarily allows the empty platform to be raised to vertical, but fortunately has a few degrees of swing the other way, providing clearance for the tailgate with the box in place.
This shot, with the box in place, shows how the tire is secured. The blue line (one on each side) cleats off to the structural posts of the box. The tire can't go down, won't go up, and is secured laterally by the cleated lines. That puppy ain't goin' nowhere!
The other feature in the photo above is a drop-down shelf, designed to carry a small supplemental gas tank. There's one on each side. Take that, Alaska!
Note the handle above the shelf. This is the end-handle from a casket, provided by Mueller-Parker Funeral home, of Mason, Ohio. There is one handle on each side. The original hardware has been replaced; the handles ordinarily only need to be used once, while in this use they must stand up for years! These handles allow two people to lift the box clear of the platform, once the securing pins have been removed (see below).
We ran into a problem with the "wings" (shelves). Much of this box was made from scrounged / found materials, including the piano hinges that support the wings. The round-headed screws mean that the wings won't rise to a true vertical. The shot below shows a wing, raised as high as it goes, the snap shackle (not marine grade) securing it, and the blue line and cleat securing the spare. Scott gets "cheap and handy," I get "marine grade." We differ. Let's let it go at that.
The problem is that when the box was assembled, the gap between top of wing and handle was too tight; you'ld have to be an anorexic midget ballet dancer to grip the handle, and then you wouldn't have enough oomph to lift the box!
The solution was to change all the hardware, or slice 1/2 inch or so off the wings. That's why the end of the wing in the photo above is unfinished; it's literally been cut-down, and though it's been primed, it needs real paint tomorrow.
OK, we have a platform, a box that has features and sits on the platform, and a full-size spare that fits between box and rear bumper of the car. You can still get into the trunk of the car with a little effort. What's missing?
GRAPHICS of course.
Maxx Graphics of Mason, Ohio, printed the wonderful stick-on of the graphic I'd prepared. Unfortunately, I'm lousy at applying these things, so there are some wrinkles, but I'm going to have live with it. Here's the box with graphic in place:
Note the gas can (unsecured) resting on the right wing. I may even splurge and buy an extra for the left wing. Note the two bolts left and right of the jack; these are 22" bolts that go right through the bottom of the box and secure it to the platform, Ain't no one gonna steal my box!
Here's the whole rig sitting in my drive way, ready to load containerized supplies, dog, and moi!