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A Place for Everything & Everything in Its Place

Posted in Features on June 4, 2018
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They say that no project is every truly finished, and our Tracker is no exception. After a year of hard wheeling all over the West Coast, the lightweight, minimalist rockcrawler has proven its worth on the trail. We fear that we might have taken the minimalist theme a bit too far though, as a recent multiday trip to the Rubicon left us looking like the Beverly Hillbillies with sleeping bags and ice chests piled up on the roof. It became abundantly clear that more elegant storage was required for anything longer than a daytrip.

To help solve our dilemma, we returned to Samco Fabrication, who had performed all of the wiring and plumbing on our Tracker (“Down to the Details,” Oct. 2016, and “Track A’Field,” Sept. 2017). Master fabricator Austin Hall came up with a solution that exceeded all of our expectations in terms of functionality, a solution that is loaded with the sort of details that make our Tracker stand out in a sea of Jeeps.

Hall TIG-welded together lightweight, thin-walled tubing to create a rack over the rear cargo area that pivots up to permit access to the spare tire and fuel filler. A floor was built from dimple-died aluminum, and the tubes were capped with coins from around the world. The rack is large enough to hold an aluminum Zarges case and a small Dometic freezer-fridge.

Under the rack, the spare tire extends behind the body and holds a custom vinyl bag from MasterCraft Safety, which holds all of our recovery gear. If we dismounted the Maxxis Trepador and ran the spare tire without a wheel we could save weight and generate even more storage space, but this would be a gamble because time to change a tire increases significantly when you need to dismount the wheel. Compromises and trade-offs come with the territory when you are trying to cram 10 pounds of gear in a 5-pound vehicle.

We had a tall order when we went to Samco Fabrication. We needed more storage but still needed access to the fuel filler and spare tire. With these parameters, Austin Hall set to work. The solution he crafted from 1-inch-diameter, 0.065-wall chromoly tubing exceeds our expectations and matches the CR Fab sheetmetal panels perfectly.
The rack sits on polyurethane bumpers and is secured by a rattle-proof latch. For daytrips we typically run with the rack empty to save weight and improve rear visibility. It is easy to load up with added gear for longer trips into the backcountry.
When is a Chevy Tracker more than a Tracker? When it had a fabricated frame, link suspension, a custom dash full of Autometer gauges, and aluminum panels. Using coins from our travels as tube caps doesn’t add any function but is another detail that helps set the Tracker apart.
We used simple, inexpensive lashing straps to hold down the Dometic fridge and aluminum Zarges case. We cut the straps to the proper length and then melted them to keep them from fraying. The Dometic fridge obviously holds our food, while the Zarges case holds camping gear like our tent, sleeping bag, and stove. We just leave the gear in the case so it’s always ready to go and we don’t forget anything.
Freezer-fridges typically conjure up images of overlanders wearing pants with enough pockets to fit all of their Instagram followers. While there is no denying that freezer-fridges are useful on long, unsupported expeditions, they are also a valuable accessory for a far larger audience. The compact Dometic CFX 28 we added to our Tracker means that we never have to stop for ice no matter how hot it is or how far we are from home. No ice means no concerns about soggy sandwiches or waterlogged salads.
One of our favorite features of the Dometic CFX28 fridge is the cover. Like other fridge covers, it keeps the cooler from getting scratched up and provides an extra layer of insulation to allow the fridge to be more efficient. The difference between Dometic and its competitors is that the zippered design of the cover makes it easy to remove for cleaning yet fits like a glove. No need to affix Velco to your new freezer-fridge!
Hall added a hood prop on a small rod end to keep the rack open when we need access to the fuel cell or the gear stored under the rack. We considered adding a remote filler for the cell, but the routing was complicated and filling the tank has proven to be a nonissue with the rack open.
CR Fab built storage compartments into the rear fenders of the Tracker. These hinged boxes are kept closed by Quik-Latch pushbutton latches. One side has fluids such as WD-40, brake fluid, motor oil, and gear oil, while the other side holds a small bottle jack and a jump box as insurance with our tiny Braille battery.
In an effort to maximize all possible storage locations, we had MasterCraft Safety make us a heavy-duty vinyl bag to fit inside our spare tire. It attaches securely to the wheel with straps and holds our Bubba Rope, snatch block, gloves, and soft shackles.
We ordered our MasterCraft Safety PWR Sport Seats with map pockets on the back. We don’t have a glovebox, so items that would normally live there are in the map pockets. These include items like an air gauge, wet wipes, goggles, registration and insurance paperwork, and a multitool.
One revision we made after the original build process was to raise the seats 2 inches in the front and 1 inch in the rear. The goal was better visibility on the trail, but this also created space under the seats for more storage. Each side has a canvas MasterCraft tool bag that is tied securely to the floor with a strap. The bag on the passenger side has assorted handtools, while the bag on the driver side holds items like a multimeter, zip ties, duct tape, and bailing wire.

Sources

MasterCraft Safety
Santee, CA 92071
800-565-4042
www.mastercraftsafety.com
Samco Fabrication
775-856-4100
http://www.samcofabrication.com
Dometic
800-366-3842
http://www.dometic.com
Zarges Cases
888-357-6285
zargescases.com
CR Fab
775-741-3589
crfabdotcom.wordpress.com

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