It’s Land Cruiser time again! This time, I’m going to be cutting into the back panels to make some custom tailgate storage.  

I’ve been browsing the Land Cruiser forums and found a lot of people who have added custom storage spots to their trucks. If you remember a while back, I added some pull out toolboxes to the back of my Land Cruiser. The toolboxes took up a lot of room in the bed of my Cruiser and I never ended up using them, so I took them out. The appeal with tailgate storage is that it offers a place to put items like cargo straps, first aid kits, and bungee cords without eating into the cabin space.

  1. Cut an Opening in the Tail Gate
  2. Make a Covering
  3. Add Some Latches
  4. Clean up the Tail Gate

1. Cut an Opening in the Tail Gate

Yes, to do this project, you have to cut into your car. I know that sounds scary, and it can be. My tailgate has a few access panels, so I unscrewed them and inspected the areas that I was hoping to use. After this inspection, I decided to not cut out most of the tailgate surface like I originally thought. On either side, there are some deeper wells that would hold all of my small items, so I’ll just cut those out.

I drew out the square openings that I intended on cutting, using a straight edge to make clean lines. Using an angle grinder, I cut along those lines and finished up the radiuses with a jig saw. Now that I have two holes in the tailgate, I had to clean up the edges with some files to remove the sharp burrs.

Custom Tailgate Storage- Cut an Opening in the Tailgate

2. Make a Covering

I decided to cover the storage bin with a sheet of expanded PVC from Tap Plastics. Again, I order this piece larger than I needed so I had to cut it to final shape with the jigsaw. To attach it to the tailgate, I riveted a piano hinge to both the plastic and the tailgate. It was really rewarding to have a hinged covering that fit the tailgate’s shape and looked really nice.

One note about using the PVC sheets; while we were working in the summer heat, the sheet began to warp slightly. This material may not be the ideal covering for a project inside a hot vehicle, but if it starts to deform I can use this sheet as a template for another more resilient material.

Custom Tailgate Storage- Make a Covering

3. Add Some Latches

The storage covering had to be able to close securely when the tailgate is closed. I decided on some low-profile marine latches that have a positive catch and release when the handle is lifted. These latches are designed to attach to boat doors, so my plastic sheet was a bit thin. Josh modeled the profile and laser cut some spacers that fit perfectly and allowed the latch to mount properly. So that the latch would catch on the tailgate and stay closed, I had to attach the included metal bracket to the underside of the cutout. Using some nuts as spacers, I mounted the catch bracket with some small bolts and nuts. I was really impressed with the satisfying click that the latch had when closed. The marine latch looked really sleek and simple and totally fit this project perfectly.

Custom Tailgate Storage- Add Some Latches

4. Clean Up the Tailgate

Functionally, the project was done; I cut some pieces of EVA foam floor mat so that the items in the tailgate wouldn’t knock around and secured them in place with some spray adhesive. I did a general cleanup of the painted surfaces and removed some of the marker lines I drew earlier. Now that it was cleaned up and working great, this project was done!

Custom Tailgate Storage- Clean up the Tailgate

Scary, but Totally Worth It!

This project was a little intimidating at first. You should really be prudent when thinking about cutting into your car, but in this circumstance, it paid off! I got the idea from some people in a Land Cruiser forum so I didn’t go into the project blind, but if you have an idea to make your vehicle more useful for you, get out there and try it!

Is there something in your life that seems scary or insurmountable? Research as much as you can to get an overview of the concept, but its up to you to take that first step. Get out there and face those fears and you can end up with something completely unique and awesome!