Custom Child's Bed in Camper

by Michael Benthin

If you actually want a front bed that'll satisfy the kid to age 11, try this:

Using quality 3/32" ply paneling, (the mahogany stuff is OK) cut out a piece that will sit over the front dash, between the windows (leave 1" gap for curtains), and sit against the driver seat and turned around passenger seat. Trace the curve of the windshield onto cardboard and transfer to the board. Use cloth tape along edge to prevent splintering. I unlocked the turned passenger seat (lift that pointy tab on the seat along the rail) and slid it more forward, using a string loop from seat to the release lever that stopped the seat 2" before it comes off the rails- yes you can sit on it this way! The front to back size of the board is determined by this seat back to window. (Or you could notch the board for it and size the other side for the distance to driver seat).

Now cut a frame from 1x1" oak, using two that span from over the dash to just behind the seat belt to door frame attachments. Hang these level via nylon rope or strapping loops that slips into same slot that seatbelt goes into. (I used nylon sash cord and knotted it into a loop- also groove the underside of the oak side spans where the rope sits so it can't slip out.) On the driverside, the board slips against where the headrest starts, I recall). Now span another 1x1 between these 2, so it rests against the seatback. I used 2 pieces of steel (cut from hardware nailing plates for joists), fastened to each side rail (used 3 small screws) so the spanning piece could rest on them and be held via rounded nails going thru a hole drilled thru span and metal. In retrospect, end drilling a hole thru the side span and into the cross span, and inserting an 8-10 Penny nail would do the same. These frame pieces I stored above the closet where cot used to go. The board stores above right over the upper Westy bed, along with the 1" foam pad we cut to fit and made a flannel cover for.

To set up the bed, just turn the seat around, put up the poptop, and take the 3 framepieces, setting the side pieces up first onto dash and slipping thru the rope loops. I also had ground out a bit where it goes over the dash so it wouldn't slide back. Fasten the cross span with the 2 nails. Slide the board off the roofbed and place onto the frame. So it wouldn't shift around, I added 2 nails to each side that went thru board and span below. It fits JUST over the steering wheel. Worked beautifully from 1986 to 1994 (yr of the 6 week x-USA trip), and much more comfy for our daughter! Yes, it holds even my 150 lbs, but you get claustrophobic with the low headroom. Indeed it would be simpler to cut 2 2x3" and span them on the door lips between the door windows, but then you couldn't open the doors to get stuff from the front, where we put a lot of stuff from the rear when sleeping.

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