The advantages to having less sheetmetal on the trail are pretty obvious. Better visibility, lighter weight, and less concern about body damage. As the saying goes though, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and if you remove all the sheetmetal from your vehicle, you might not even have a place to put your lunch (free or otherwise). This was the situation we were faced with after shrinking the bed of our Toyota pickup down to a mere 4 feet to improve the departure angle and minimize the opportunity for dents. We stood the spare tire upright and added a small over-the-rail box, but it was still a challenge to fit enough gear for a long weekend on the trail.
The solution was a double-decker approach that allowed us to put our ice chest and storage box on top and store longer items like tents, chairs, and tables under the rack. We considered fabricating our own rack from scratch to fit the stubby bed, but when we ran across the Baja Basket from Synergy Manufacturing, we knew that was unnecessary. The radiused tubing and flared sheetmetal on the Baja Basket look better than anything we could create, and the time we saved made the price well worth it.
The Baja Basket is offered in three sizes: small (33 by 24 inches), medium (42 by 26 inches), and large (42 by 32 inches). All are manufactured from 16-gauge steel and available either bare or powdercoated.
If you own a Jeep Wrangler (YJ, TJ, or JK) there is very little thinking involved in this process. Synergy offers mounts to bolt the Baja Basket to the factory rollbar with tube clamps for a secure, rattle-free fitment. There were no off-the-shelf mounting options for a bobbed Toyota pickup, but we were already ahead of the curve with the rack in hand. We headed to Samco Fabrication to have the company create a way to solidly mount the Baja Basket in the bed of our Toyota. The end result has doubled our floor space and created plenty of room for spare parts, tools, camping gear, an ice chest, and a 37-inch spare tire, all within a 4-foot-long bed.
Step By Step
The Baja Basket features flared holes on the bottoms and sides. By turning a flat, two-dimensional surface into a raised, three-dimensional surface, the rack gains strength. The holes also make a convenient location to add straps to tie down your gear.
We went to Samco Fabrication and discussed our ideas with Sam Cothrun and Tim Sanders. Originally, our plan was just to have Samco cut and bend sheetmetal legs to connect the Baja Basket to the floor of our pickup.
Cothrun convinced us to build a floating mount with a rail off of the tire carrier on the driver side and tabs that connect to the bedrail on the passenger side. This freed up room under the rack to mount longer items.
The bed already had angle iron rails on three sides to tie the bobbed bed together and keep it from flexing. Tim Sanders TIG welded tabs to the Baja Basket to tie into the existing bedrails. This required us to remove some of the powdercoating from the rack. In hindsight, it made more sense for us to purchase the less expensive bare metal Baja Basket since we were welding on it.
The spare tire mount was built out of 1-inch tubing and acted as the foundation for the rail that holds the Baja Basket on the driver side. Note that the basket bolts into the mount and can easily be removed if necessary.
The medium-size Baja Basket is a perfect fit for a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler. When we say “perfect,” we mean that you have to push pretty hard to get the cooler into the rack, and even without strapping it down, we don’t think that the cooler would go anywhere.
In front of the rack there was enough space to hold two 5-gallon cans—one for water and the other for fuel. These all-metal Wedco cans are not available anymore due to CARB rules, which is a shame because they are tough and leak-free.
The combination of off-the-shelf parts with some custom fabrication made for an excellent end product that was reasonably priced and did not take long to complete. This is what guys who wear suits for a living call a win-win.