It’s now exactly three months until we leave on our big trip so we’re all getting excited. As part of the preparations I finished a job I’ve been meaning to do for a while, removing the rear seats from Liam and making a false floor in their place.
The Prado 150 GXL comes with rear seats that fold down into the floor and are not easily removable. The design of the seats is one of the most common complaints about the car given the amount of room they take up in the back. Taking out the seats has given us about 130 litres of additional storage space, lowered the floor level by about 100mm (making it easier to get into the fridge) and slimmed about 40kg off Liam.
I’m not going to describe the process for removing the rear seats here but there are a number of instructions on the web showing you how to do it and it’s reasonably straightforward as long as you can use a spanner. Once the seats are removed, Liam’s cargo area looked like this:
Actually there were a few more corn chips in there but I quickly got rid of them before I took the photo!
And here’s a quick preview of the end result:
At first I was a little overwhelmed about the job ahead, particularly about how I would deal with the irregular shapes on each side and the angle bolt holes (see below) but after thinking about it for a few days I came up with a plan. Here it is …
The main floor section
The main part of the floor is perfectly rectangular. I used 12mm plywood and the floor is 1050mm x 1070mm. This photos shows the piece of ply simply sitting in the cargo area:
Unfortunately Liam’s floor once the seats are removed is not flat and there’s a number of cables etc that I didn’t want the false floor resting on. I ended up using a number of supports below the floor to lift it above the cables and keep it level.
The piece closest to the bottom of the photo is 12mm x 20mm while the others are all 30mm x 30mm pine. The piece second from the bottom sits above the four bolt holes in the floor so I drilled holes through that piece for the new bolts. I used 60mm bolts (I think the thread is M10x1.25, but you should check) which were a bit longer than I needed; 50mm would have been perfect. I also put bolts in all four holes. If I did it again I think I would only use two bolts on the outside holes, that would be more than strong enough and a lot less trouble trying to get only two holes in exactly the right spot.
It took me a little longer to work out how to secure the floor at the front. With four bolts across the back that might not have been necessary but I was a little worried about the floor rattling around if not bolted down securely. As you can see in the photos there is a raised section of steel (covered in carpet) across the floor about 300mm behind the seats. The threaded bolt holes, which is where the front bolts of the seats bolted into, are however angled. I’ve seen others on the web that have made brackets that bolt into that hole and then provide a horizontal piece to bolt the false floor onto. I decided that was too complicated and instead used two butterfly anchors in the holes just above the angled bolt holes.
The butterfly anchors worked really well. I’m sure they’re not as strong as the bolts at the back but they’re certainly strong enough to hold the floor down and stop it rattling. The only tricky part about them was getting the screw the right length because mine were originally too long so I had to cut them down. The trick is to get them short enough so that they can be screwed down tight but long enough that the butterfly anchor will spring open when the screw is pushed down through the hole.
To actually use the butterfly anchors I just drilled a small hole through the ply, pushed the screw through and then screwed the anchor on from underneath. Then when installing the floor the anchor simply pushes through the hole, folds itself up as it goes through and then springs open when it clears the hole.
Finally, I just glued the various support pieces to the underside of the floor with wood glue, and drilled the bolts holes right through the floor and drilled a shallow larger hole to countersink the bolt heads.
The side ‘wings’
So far, so good. Other than some difficulty getting the four bolt holes in exactly the right spots the false floor was going pretty well. Things started getting a little trickier with the side ‘wing’ sections.
I ended up deciding that it would be easiest for the wings to sit at the original floor height. That meant I needed to cut two more pieces of ply for each side, one horizontal and one vertical. The following photos show all the ply pieces sitting loosely in place:
I cut horizontal pieces out using the wing sections removed from the old floor as a template, and left a few millimetres all around to allow for the carpet. In retrospect I shouldn’t have cut out the horizontal sections out at this stage but should have waited until the vertical pieces were fixed in place. I ended up having to trim off one of the horizontal pieces later. I cut the vertical pieces to fit around all the various bits of plastic so they ended up quite an irregular shape.
I originally planned to simply glue and screw both vertical sections into place and then insert the floor. That didn’t work. With both in place I just couldn’t wrangle the floor into place in between all the various protruding plastic pieces. Time to come up with Plan B.
Plan B was to leave the right hand (driver’s side) vertical piece glued and screwed into the main part of the floor but to build a little shelf for the left hand piece to sit on. That way I was able to get the floor into place with one side piece attached and then just sit the second piece into place.
With all the pieces cut the final step was to carpet everything. The two horizontal wing pieces and one separate vertical piece were carpeted separately and everything else was carpeted together. I used automotive carpet bought from Bunnings.
I just used a combination of wood glue (on the top of the floor and visible surfaces) and tacks (underneath) to hold the carpet in place. That seems to be working fine so far.
I also tacked some offcuts of the carpet to the underside of the support pieces. I figured that would reduce any rattling of the false floor and damage to the steel floor in Liam.
Then it was just a matter of putting everything into Liam, cutting some slits through the carpet for the bolts, and bolting it all down.
The end result you can see at the top of the post. There’s still a little touching up to do. I need to put a little bit of carpet on a couple of sections and I still need to fix down the two wing sections. I’m thinking of using hinges so I can access the storage space below them but I haven’t made up my mind whether that is worth it yet. Then the final step will be some tie down points for the fridge and other gear.