It's an age-old problem, where to you put "stuff" when you own a vintage pickup? Sure you can cram some of it under and behind the seats, but those areas fill up quickly and are often the location of such necessities as a jack, tool kit, and roadside repair items like wire, duct tape, and so on. No doubt about it, storage space in a vintage cab is at a premium.
And so it is little wonder that many trucks end up with a storage chest of sorts in the back of the bed. After spending untold hours finishing the bed wood it can be difficult to cover any portion of it with a trunk, and for that reason you need to shop around and find a trunk that is as cool as the rest of your hauler.
We stumbled upon this Yoo Poong Enterprises aluminum clad steamer trunk in a local antique mall and for the princely sum of $65 it was ours. The entire interior was wood and it had delaminated, so restoration of the inside was in order. We did that with simple 1x2 poplar in the corners and around the top and the bottom of the chest, followed by tongue and groove cedar to line the chest. An aluminum hood prop by Joe's Racing Products was sourced from Summit Racing and installed to hold the top open. Now that the trunk was structurally sound it was time to mount it in the bed.
We already mentioned spending a good bit of time refinishing the bed so when it came time to mount the vintage trunk we weren't about to drill holes in the wood. The solution was simple enough and also made the trunk easily removable. We cut three pieces of red oak 1-inch wide by ¾-inch tall to act as spacers on the stainless steel bedstrips. Next we removed two of the stainless steel carriage bolts from three bedstrips and replaced them with longer stainless carriage bolts to hold the strips in place. The trunk was then carefully centered and located on the bedstrips, allowing room for the lid to open without hitting the front bed panel. Inside the trunk we fabricated three aluminum strips and attached the trunk to the new oak strips with nine screws.
Our aluminum-clad trunk is quite unique in the world of trunks and we were pleased with the appearance of the old steamer trunk, but felt there was something missing. Belts.
It just seems appropriate for an old trunk to be strapped down by belts, it adds to the whole vintage look. We also had another problem. Although the trunk is clad in aluminum, it is far from watertight and since we drive the truck long distances in all kinds of weather, we decided the trunk needed a canvas cover to keep the water out. This will protect both the integrity of the trunk and assure that we would have dry clothes upon arrival. We had a simple black Sunbrella cover made at the local awning shop, but any upholstery shop could handle the job too. The cover slips over the trunk and most certainly required belts to hold it in place.
We began by placing an order with Restoration Supply Company for some of their great stainless steel quick-release latches, hood strap springs, and footman loops, all in stainless steel. They also have leather straps in natural, black, or brown in varying lengths. Armed with the hardware to build our belts all that was required was some rivets, a couple of pieces of aluminum sheet, contact cement, and a rivet gun.
Actually building the belts is fairly straightforward process and in a few hours we had the belts completed and installed on our trunk. We opted for some distressed leather belts that we found in a local store and were quite pleased with the end results. The belts hold the weatherproof cover in place while we are traveling and then simply strap over the chest when the cover is off, giving the appearance that the belts are holding the steamer trunk in place. We also replaced the missing lift straps on either side of the trunk; in that case I literally took my leather belt off, cut it into pieces and riveted it together to make the straps. A simple sacrifice for the greater good!