The bed of my compact pickup measures only 40 in. between the wheel wells. To be able to carry 4×8 sheets of plywood without canting them up diagonally on one wheel well or propping them on the tailgate, I built the cargo carrier shown in the drawing.
The carrier is composed of four interlocking crossbars that are made from 1/2-in. plywood. The two long members are 9 in. deep, which equals the height of the wheel wells plus 1 in. The short cross members are 7 in. deep. The intersecting members join each other by way of 1/2-in.- wide notches cut halfway through each member. The pieces go together easily, and just as important, they can be taken apart quickly.
As shown in the detail drawing, I cut out about 3 in. of material from the tops of each short cross member. This created a shelf at a lower level for carrying lumber beneath the sheet goods. All the crossbars are padded on top with carpet scraps to prevent scratching. I also bored a number of 1-1/2 in.-dia. holes in the crossbars in various locations for bungee-cord hooks, allowing the carrier to be strapped to the bed and cargo to be strapped to the carrier. My bed liner has recessed cavities in the sides, allowing the ends of the rear crossbar to be held securely in place. Lacking that anchorage, I would wrap a rope around the back of the rig and then tie it securely to the cargo hooks that are near the tailgate.
Gary Westmoreland, Apple Valley, CA
Edited and Illustrated by Charles Miller
From Fine Homebuilding #173