Homemade Truck Bodyby Richard Rowe
Whether you're building an off-road trail buggy or are looking for something unusual to drive around town, a new truck body can be created with the right tools and skills. Before embarking on such a project, consult your local tag and title office to determine whether such fabricated bodies are legal in your area.
Create the simplest and most basic body possible. Think of it as the Hummer H1 approach. The Hummer's beauty isn't in its flowing lines and pleasing proportions, but in the sledgehammer functionality of its boxy construction.
To build a body from the ground up, start with a bare frame. For most trucks, that amounts to removing the front clip, cab and bed. After removing these major body components, re-install the factory body mounts and fabricate steel plates and crossmembers to create a sub-frame for the body. For the cab, a rectangular frame of 2 by 3 inch steel tubing will serve as a floor. You can use 1 by 2 inch steel tubing for the front clip. As for the bed, that's up to you. You can frame for a standard bed, a wood flatbed or even a work-truck style cabinet bed.
One crucial step to proper bodybuilding is to install the systems as you go along, and then build around them. Start with the steering column, brake pedals and mechanisms, gasoline pedals, fuel tank and anything else needed to run the truck. Plan ahead, and build framing for these with 1 by 2 inch steel stock. You should have a complete, running vehicle before you even start building the door posts, windshields, ceiling frame and wheel arches.
Skinning the Frame
After you have the basic framing, install the skins that will keep the rain and dirt off your back. Nine-gauge stainless steel will last a long time and take a high polish, but might be a bit heavy and pricey for some. Alternatively, you might consider aluminum diamond plate because it's strong, looks rugged and can maintain its look for a long time, if you don't mind periodic polishing. One idea for a particularly tough look is to mount the skins to the inside of the framing, leaving those gloriously square tubes exposed for all to see. Black diamond plate skins secured with pop-rivets and exposed, truck-bed coated framing will make a Humvee look like a powder blue Prius in comparison.