Have you ever wanted more room?

6

Removable Shelf for Traveling

Whether you’re going out to the field for the day, or going to an all-weekend event, there’s certain items that make staying at the field more comfortable. I have been to many places where there’s not much more than a fence line separating the pits from the runway. Unless I’m going to my local flying club, I like to bring a few ‘extra’ items along. These items are as follows:

Shade Tent

Chair

Assembly Table

Cooler

So how do I bring these larger items to the field along with my favorite airplanes? Well, I have a trailer – Normally…  My trailer is down right now for a major overhaul. In addition, I downsized from my ’97 GMC Jimmy to a 2010 KIA Soul. That means even LESS space inside my vehicle! HOWEVER, the other vehicle at my house is a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. What it lack in ‘cool’, it makes up for in versatility. So, it has plenty of cargo space, but without a little help, most of that cargo space is open air. How did I fix this? I built a removable shelf system for the van! It’s fairly easy to do, and requires just a few tools and some ingenuity. I didn’t have a blueprint, but I knew what I wanted. So let’s get started!

Tools

Most of (if not all) the tools required are already in your garage. If you don’t have something, this is a good excuse to purchase a new tool – if you can’t purchase, check your local rental center or borrow tools from your buddy! Here’s what I used to build my removable shelf:

  • Miter Saw
  • Skill Saw
  • Assembly Table or Work Bench
  • Cordless Drill with a 1/8″ Drill Bit
  • Cordless 1/4″ Impact driver with a #2 Phillips Bit
  • Square
  • Pencil
  • Tape Measure

Materials

The materials list may differ, based on the vehicle. My Town and Country has a width of 4′ 2″ between the wheel wells, so a standard width sheet of plywood fits nicely. With both the second and third row seating folded into the floor, I was able to make the shelf exactly seven feet long! Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be overbuilt to hold a car – you’re just going to put RC airplanes on top!

Here’s my full list of materials used for this project:

  • Quantity 1 –  4′ x 8′ x 3/8″ plywood sheet
  • Quantity 10 – 1″ x 3″ x 8′ pine lumber
  • Quantity 1 – 1 Pound box of #7 x 2″ construction screws
  • Quantity 1 – 1 pound box of #6 x 1-1/4″ construction screws
  • Quantity 8 – finish washers
  • Quantity 6-9 Brass Screw-in Cup Hooks
  • Quantity 3 – Large Rubber Bands

Let’s Get Started!

It’s always nice to head out to the flying field with refreshments, and it’s really nice when they’re cold. I decided to make room for the cooler right from the start. With the cooler in place behind the drivers seat, I started taking measurements. I still had six feet to make my riser. With the measurements fresh in my mind, I started cutting and assembling the first riser. I used #7 x 2″ construction screws throughout assembly of the risers – a 1/8″ pilot hole was made for each screw, as it prevented the pine lumber from splitting.

Moving on to the second riser, which was a foot longer than the first, I cut and assembled it in a similar manner. For this side, I decided to omit the front truss. This will allow better access to the storage area under the front of the shelf!

 

With the risers in place, I added the cross beams that will keep the risers in position and help carry the load across the plywood sheet. You’ll notice that the front cross beam is running at an angle – though I’m using 3/8″ plywood to keep the weight down, a foot of unsupported sheet above the cooler won’t be a big deal. You may also need to add ‘shims’ under the risers if the floor of your vehicle has low spots.

 

With the plywood sheet cut down to seven feet, I slid it in place on top of the cross beams and secured it to the beams with #6 x 1-1/4″ construction screws and finish washers. At this point, the shelf was complete. Because the shelf has such a tight fit in the van, I didn’t see any reason to attach it to the floor. In the event of the vehicle rolling over, I may have a problem, but for most other circumstances, the shelf will stay in place.

 

I am setting this shelf up specifically to travel to the SIG Fly-in down in Montezuma, Iowa. I already knew which of my planes I was taking, so a quick test fit was done. At the same time, I laid out the locations of the wheel blocks. The blocks will help keep the planes from rolling around in the van while travelling.

With the block and the planes in place, the last item was to secure the planes from bouncing. I purchased some screw-in brass cup hooks and large rubber bands to secure the tail end of  each plane.

That about wraps up this article – as you can see, I have now effectively doubled the amount of floor space in the van – With the shade tent and six foot long assembly table on the floor, I still have plenty of room to put my chair and wings! My transmitter case and other essential equipment can be placed in the open area under the shelf on the passenger side of the van, and the cooler is easily accessible on the driver’s side!

Summary

Even though my trailer is out of commission right now, I’ll be able to get everything I need in the van (safely and easily) with the help of my new travel shelf. By the way, when it comes time to remove the shelf, it can easily be removed with the help of another person if you want to leave it assembled. If you don’t have room or need to remove it by yourself, it can be disassembled quickly by removing a few screws.

Thanks for taking a look, and I hope this article will give you an idea for safer transport of your planes to and from the flying field. Nothing is worse that having a plane get damaged – especially in the back of your vehicle!

Geoff Barber

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6 Comments

  1. G.Barber

    DINGO – Any time I’ve carried a warbird, I’ve made a cradle specific to that plane. Some pink foam, epoxy, and a few screws with large fender washers make quick work of making a custom cradle for your warbird!

  2. I built a very similar shelf in my Astro van. It worked great, I was just always worried if someone rear ended me the wood “could” cut me/passenger in half 🙁 . What I did was built it as flimsy (crumple zone) as possible, I used 1/4″ ply and some 1/2″ x 2″ wood to strengthen it so it wasn’t as flimsy in some spots. After all it only needs to be strong enough to hold our planes up, This is something not worth “over” building. I know in an accident you could never predict what would happen or how it would happen. That’s my thoughts. Be carefull 🙂

  3. Geoff, this is a fantastic idea. I did something similar with PVC pipe. My question for you with this project is this; what do you do for a warbird? How would you transport that without having anything to really hold down those round fuses?

    Chris

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