Picking a direction...

If only this were a story about having a built out van and all that was left to do was pick a direction and drive... but it isn't.

I've been letting the thoughts about how to proceed with the initial framing of the bed platform so that it can accommodate having a second bench seat. Really, the goal is to have a platform that can be torn down and taken out in less than 30 minutes, without the need for tools.

This seems like a tall order, with conflicting parameters. I want a sturdy frame, yet one that can be removed with minimal effort for the purpose of having that space available. We don't have the luxury of owning a single purpose vehicle yet. I need to be able to haul stuff (Scarlet is my pickup, for all intents and purposes), and people, in varying proportions. I struggle with the prospect of reducing function in one arena by putting more emphasis on another.

I only want it all, is all.

So, to achieve this flexibility of function with Scarlet, I've been looking at different ways to create a transformable frame. To wit, I have concluded there are 3 options with my budget and construction expertise constraints:

  • E Track - a system used mostly in cargo trailers that is basically a strip of hardware that can be positioned horizontally or vertically on the wall of a trailer. It has an appealing array of accessories that will work with it, but really the most useful of those is the equivalent of a joist hanger.

    Pros:
    ... inexpensive
    ... easy to install
    ... makes for easy disassembly
    ... readily available for purchase onine

    Cons:
    ... requires a contiguous area of suitable wall in order to mount and achieve the desired strength needed for the structure I am building on it. The problem is that the interior walls of the van are far from uniform in their denuded state, and patches of whatever that interior framework is called are not significant. There are single slot E Track brackets (vs strips from 1 foot to 8), but I am not sure I would trust them to support the weight being loaded on them.
    ... aside from the joist hanger item, I can't immediately think of any of the others that would come in handy for this specific purpose.
    ... would still require dimensional lumber for the main bed platform support joists

  • Slotted Strut (Unistrut, Superstrut) - basically, an expensive erector set for building infrastructure.

    Pros:
    ... sturdy, and lighter than lumber
    ... easy to assemble once pieces are cut to appropriate length

    Cons:
    ... on the expensive side (for me)
    ... not as easy to acquire in the amounts I would need for this project
    ... not easily disassembled, which in another application would be a pro
    ... would likely rattle around
    ... a bit more work to design the frame

  • Joist hangers and 2x6s

    Pros:
    ... easy and quick to put up
    ... joist hanger attachment space requirement works with what's available on the van walls
    ... cheap
    ... sturdy (possibly overbuilt, but...)
    ... easy to disassemble. Taking the frame out would be a simple matter of lifting the (2, maybe 3) joists out of the hangers and setting them aside. Joist hangers could stay mounted to the walls and be unobtrusive.
    ... easy to add to or modify
    ... simple

    Cons... actually, I can't think of any significant cons right now.
As it stands, I have pretty much concluded that the joist hangers and 2x6 joists will let me construct a simple (2 or 3 joists across the van, 2 hangers each), sturdy, cheap, and easily disassembled framework for the bed platform. 

Having picked a direction for this critical part of the project is a relief. There is only so much web surfing for ideas that I can manage, and all those van build blogs and videos have started to run together in my head. Maybe now I can get some sleep.

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