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Are Flatbeds And Custom Pickup Truck Beds The Ultimate 4x4 Body Mod?

Firing Order editorial: What to do when your pickup’s stock bed is shot or just doesn’t cut it.

An example of a trick, custom pickup bed is found on John Simmons’ 1970 GMC pickup. It has clean lines, lots of storage, and gobs of functional features.

Is a flatbed or custom pickup truck bed the ultimate 4x4 body mod? Here in the farmland of northern Illinois, I see them quite often. I can see one with a custom bed now by simply looking over the top of my computer monitor, out my office window, and past the sheep pen. It's parked near the granary at my nephew's farm. It's a Super Duty and it's a workhorse.

Born Of Necessity

Here in the Midwest, flatbeds and custom beds are common, and they sometimes are the response to a Rust B elt-rotted or work-destroyed cargo bed. Some of them are homebuilt and are a direct reflection of what the truck owner needs. I've seen them built out of all types of material, including steel, aluminum, and wood, or a combination of the three . Fabbing a flatbed or custom bed is a great project for the winter months when the cold wind blows across the empty fields and temperatures plummet. It's always interesting to see what rolls out of the shop in the spring and how owners have fabbed their flatbeds or custom beds. Some integrate toolboxes, storage, a gooseneck hitch, or a mix of all three. Some are just a flat platform with integrated tie-downs. Sometimes new truck owners immediately ditch the stock bed. One of my brothers-in-law owns an excavating company, and over the course of a recent winter, he fabbed an amazing custom bed for his new Super Duty F-350, and it features several weathertight, lockable storage areas, and it's outfitted with a welder among other things.

An example of a trick, custom pickup bed is found on John Simmons’ 1970 GMC pickup. It has clean lines, lots of storage, and gobs of functional features.

Scores Of Aftermarket Options

There are also scores of aftermarket options that run the gamut from simple flatbeds to creative units with flip-down sides to service bodies that offer maximum storage. Like fabbing your own, the sky's the limit.

John Simmons' 1970 GMC Pickup With Custom Bed

During my 30-plus years of photographing feature 4x4s, I've had the privilege of seeing some awesome flatbed and custom bed-equipped trucks. One that comes to mind is John Simmons' custom bed-equipped 1970 GMC pickup that has some remarkable features, including a winch, 60-gallon transfer tank, 40-gallon main fuel tank, spare tire mount, and five compartments for storage that house an onboard air system and a pair of batteries, among other things. The bed was designed with a rolled tube over the rear tires to retain the 1970 GMC's classic body lines, and there's even a pair of factory 1970 GMC marker lights frenched into the rear sides of the bed for some flair. It's a mega- functional and great- looking custom bed.

This custom bed has seen its share of Midwest winters, but it still offers functionality the owner needs. It has four storage boxes mounted high on the bed floor, a rack to protect the truck's cab, and a fuel transfer tank.

A Custom Bed Is On My Wish List

I've been wanting to find an early 2000s Chevy 2500HD regular or extended cab truck for a project, and I'd like to incorporate a custom bed. I'd love to have the result be as handsome and functional as the bed on John Simmons' GMC, crafted with work truck features and combined with off-road-centric mods.

Does Your 4x4 Have A Flatbed Or Custom Bed?

Do you have a 4x4 with a flatbed or custom bed? Or do you think the factory bed works just fine? Either way, I'd love to hear what you think, so please send an email to ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com. If you've ditched the factory bed, tell me why and what you're using now, and please include a high-res photo of your rig!

Here's an aluminum aftermarket bed with low-mount storage and a rack to protect the cab.