Putting in the Wood Bed!
There’s nothing purtier then a wood bed in a pickup, don’t you think? My Bondorella, though, didn’t have one. No. She had a sheet metal bed when I bought her. At first, I thought someone had simply welded it in over the wood, because when you looked underneath, there were all these splintered boards jutting out from the bottom. I couldn’t understand WHY anyone would do that!
Years later I found out why, but I’ll share that answer in a minute. First take the journey with me.
I really wanted a wood bed. The guy who built my flathead had also been working on a ’51 F1, and the owners wanted to put in a brand new shiny Oak bed. I asked Charles what they planned on doing with the old one. Toss it, he said. Toss it?? NO! It was so pretty! So I bought the wood from them for $20. Granted, the boards needed to be refinished, but the character of the weathered planks fit Bondorella. I couldn’t imagine a brand new shiny oak bed in the back of her. No. She needed something with a few years on them. She needed the mars and scars of age.
A couple years later, Bondorella got all mechanically sound and became the road demon she is today. With the boards beautifully refinished in Cherry, it was time to put in the bed, I figured. Yeah. Not so easy. When I laid it all in, none of the mounting holes lined up. It wouldn’t lay flat because of the wheel wells. It seemed too narrow. What the heck? I went on a hunt for answers, and after a little cruise on the information highway, learned the truck beds changed between ’48 and ’51. The later years didn’t have the wheel well indents like my ’48. Great. Now I owned a useless stack of wood and still had an open frame for a bed (although I did like looking at my cool exhaust!)
Dang it! There had to be a solution!!
I pondered. I postulated. I experimented. I contemplated buying new bed wood. Finally, I found some reference on the internet about cross slats–this after Brian had suggested that might be the solution to getting the bed above the wheel indents. I gave it a try and bought six 1×2 boards, laying them across the frame then putting the bed wood on top. Sure enough, it worked.
Next stop, put all the boards together with the slats using the bolts and large flat washers that pressure fit them together. First, I checked the metal slats to see if there was a top and bottom; didn’t seem to be. The holes were spaced the same amount from the ends. I put the wood together outside the truck, in two sections to make it more manageable. And guess what? I was wrong. There was a top and bottom. The internal holes weren’t equally spaced! So yeah… I had to take the boards apart again, and flip around a couple slats. No biggie. All in the learning process.
The next obstacle: How to mount everything to the frame. None of the slat holes matched up, and I didn’t want to simply use the side and end pieces to hold them down because I actually want to use the bed to carry around my trials bike when I head out to El Mirage. Looking through the catalogue for the hardware to put boards and slats together, I saw a bag of four bed to frame bolts with tapered washers. But how did they attach???
Again. Back to the internet to find pictures of beds. Most of them didn’t show any indication of how they mounted. Then I ran across a picture where the bolts
were drilled right through the wood. Yikes!! Drill through that pretty wood? You know what? YES. It made the most sense, would be the most secure, and really… fit the nature of Bondorella. She’s not about show perfection; she’s about being FUNCTIONAL. And cool, of course.
So that’s what I did. I now have a bed. WOO HOO!!!! Yes, I still need trim pieces, and I plan on mounting a big metal box in the back to stash things… but I HAVE A BED!!! And it’s so, so pretty. The cherry finish works perfectly.
Oh! So the answer to “Why would someone cover a wood bed?” Turns out the ’48 didn’t come with a wood bed, it came with a sheet metal over tongue-and-groove wood bed, just like Bondorella had when I bought her. Because of the war-time need for metal, manufacturers switched away from the more desirable sheet metal bed to the wooden beds in ’49. But you know what? Wood beds are way too pretty, and even though Bondorella wouldn’t have had one in ’48, I think she deserves that beauty now, don’t you?