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    Ever notice there's a definite paucity of 'Burb bed kits available for the parts vendors? What's up with that? Well, if you're gonna do it (replace the bed), you're just gonna have to do it all yourself. And because there's no easy way to do this, you're left with two options -- doing it the hard way (compared to pickup bed replacement) or doing it the harder way. It's up to you to figure out which way is which. But Weeds has figured out a way to do it with plywood...

Old 'Burb, New Bed

(January 07 / Updated April 08)

By Dick Weeden
1949 Chevy Suburban Carryall
Bolter # 3133
Brodhead, Wisconsin

<< Be sure to click on the images for a larger view >>

        I’m sure there may be other (better) methods of doing this. This is the way that I did it and other methods are probably just as good. (And we are always open to suggestions / ideas / feedback ~~ Editor)

        To start with I had the help of a retired cabinetmaker who would not let me take any shortcuts, which I am prone to do, so I am sure there are simpler ways. One thing I do know is that the old floor will NOT come out in one piece.

        The first thing I did was to remove the body from the frame. I did this using two Harbor Freight hoists ($79.95 on sale) attached to two roof trusses in the shop. I’m not sure if the old floor could be taken out with the body on the frame.

        I then positioned the body on two 48” high saw horses with the help of seven other gearheads that happened to be standing around watching. I got underneath and began removing the bolts that hold the two main crossmembers to the body and the floor.

        Most of the bolts twisted off but some were particularly stubborn and I used the grinder on the offenders. It is important that ALL the bolts be removed including the ones across the front, rear and through the angles around the perimeter.

        At that point, I tried to remove the two main crossmembers that are located just ahead and behind the fender wells. Nothing doing. So then I went to work with Mister Sawzall and cut the old floor out in manageable pieces. The crossmembers now came out along with four shorter channel irons that help support the floor. I saved the pieces and laid them out on the floor of the shop in order to take pictures to help in replacement.

        With the old floor out, I obtained a large piece of cardboard from the dumpster from our local furniture store. This is used to make a pattern for the new floor. I was reluctant to use the old floor as a pattern because of it now being in pieces.

        You need to reinstall the crossmembers so the cardboard patterns will have something to lay on while fitting. I laid the cardboard in the opening where the floor used to be and began marking and cutting the cardboard, developing a pattern.

        The pattern is developed in two pieces -- one left and one right -- and letting them overlap roughly in the center of the truck. Once the two patterns are close, the two crossmembers are lowered by letting them hang on their bolts. A notch is then cut in the patterns at the bolt locations which allows the patterns to rest on the crossmembers for the final fitting of the cardboard patterns under the side perimeter angles. The notches in the pattern should straddle the bolts that the crossmembers are hanging on. Be sure that the pattern is fitted up snugly against the sides of the body. This needs to be done so the perimeter bolts pass through the wood of the new floor.

        I did a lot of careful cutting of the cardboard sneaking up on the final configuration of the pattern. This works good if you can find a helper willing to lay under the body and mark the pattern while you cut and fit. Once you are satisfied with the pattern, you can move on to the cutting of your expensive plywood.

        I bought two sheets of oak veneered marine plywood for my replacement floor. These were 4 x 8 x 5/8 thick. I measured the old floor and found it to be not quite 3/4 but a little more than 5/8, so I went with the 5/8ths plywood. I plan to varnish (instead of paint the floor black) so that was the reason for the oak veneer.

        Lay the plywood out on horses and using your very accurate pattern, mark the cut lines and begin your cutting. I used a saber saw. Cut a couple of notches at the bolt locations that hold the crossmembers so the plywood can lay on the dangling crossmembers as you cut and fit the plywood.

        Again, I very carefully sneaked up on the sawing of the plywood, fitting it to the body after each sneaky cut. Make sure the edges of the plywood fit up close to the body under the side perimeter angles. When you are happy with the fit, remove the plywood and do the same with the opposite piece of plywood.

        Once the edges of both pieces are cut, you are ready to make the seam cut. The first thing you want to do is decide where you want the seam. I will be putting stainless strips on my rear floor to help prevent gouges in the plywood, so I located the seam about 12” from the right side. I understand that AD 'Burbs did not come with the strips but mine is not stock anyway -- so what the hey!

        Lay the two pieces back in the opening and carefully mark where the cuts will be made. My seam was made using an overlap joint so that the two pieces could be epoxy glued together.

        This works best if the larger left-hand side piece overlaps the smaller right-hand side piece. When sawing the two pieces of plywood, don’t forget to leave stock for the joint. When the overlap cuts have been carefully made, the two pieces can be fitted into the body to check for final fit.

        The pieces are then put back on the horses so the seat socket depressions can be routed in (you panel guys can skip this operation) and the reliefs for the rear frame kickups can be routed in on the back side. These must be carefully measured off the old floor.

        At this time, a measurement can also be taken to locate the heat shield placement for the exhaust pipe on the underside of the plywood. On my Sub I will have to fab another one (see the pictures below) because my 'Burb has dual exhaust.

        You will find that the plywood must be patiently fitted in and out of the truck many times in order to end up with a nice looking job. Once the edge and seam cuts have been made and the necessary routing done, the new floor is now ready to have the bolt holes drilled.

        Before putting the new floor back in the truck, place the the secondary support channels in position on the primary crossmembers. Now put the floor back in the truck, being careful not to disturb the position of the channels. The four bolts that the crossmembers are hanging on can now be tightened which will raise the floor into position. Get under the truck to tighten the bolts and check to see that the secondary support channels are still in the correct position.

        There isn’t enough clearance for a hand drill to drill the holes in the side angles through the plywood straight. I marked the position of the holes through the angles using a magic marker from the top and the position of the holes through the crossmembers from the bottom. Don’t forget to mark the hole positions for the front and back while you are under there.

        There is a channel that fits over the front edge of the plywood floor. This channel cannot be used as is because of the sequence in which the floor must be installed. The bottom flange must be sawed off making it an angle or you could use a purchased angle iron. This front angle can only be installed after the glue joint is made. It's hard to explain but it will become very obvious as you assemble the two plywood pieces.

        The holes through the crossmembers could be drilled from under the body but I chose not to do this for fear of splitting out the plywood on the good side as the drill breaks through. The floor can now be removed and all the bolt holes drilled from the back side as marked. The floor should be laid bottom side up on another piece of plywood to avoid the good side splitting out as the drill breaks through. Fit the drilled floor back in the body and check the hole position one last time.

        At this point, I removed the floor so it could be epoxy varnished on the top side and painted with some good waterproof paint on the bottom side.

        This was as far along as I had gotten when this Tech Tip was started. The plan was to install the finished floor after the 'Burb was painted. Now (April 2008), it's all done! I’ve located and installed the stainless strips. Here's two pictures for you to see how it all turned out ... one, and a two!

        As I said previously, there are probably better ways to do the floor. This is the way I did it. I hope this helps all you 'Burb and Panel guys.

        If anyone has questions go on the Panels and 'burbs forum and ask away -- or email me and Il’ll try to answer them.


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