How to turn your 7-seat 4X4 into a tourer and a back again
Some say they’ve never met a kilowatt they didn’t like. Offroad tourers have never met an extra cubic centimetre of storage they didn’t like.
A storage system is absolutely essential for tourers, who need to carry a large amount of smallish items, safely, and get to any one of them quickly and easily.
Our solution for a long time has not been the popular drawer system, but a homemade shelf setup. We prefer shelves, into which are placed storage boxes, because it is more flexible and the system is lighter that drawers. Depending on what sort of trip we’re doing, we take different boxes, and it’s easy to simply lift the boxes from their permanent home in the garage directly to the back of the car, and then when you need them you just take the boxes from the car to the campsite, recovery location or wherever they are needed. It’s also easy enough to slide a box in and out, even when the boxes are a snug fit. It helps that we haven’t used automotive carpet in the shelf system because all that does is collect dirt, whereas with plain wood you can just brush it clean.
In the case of our Discovery 3 there was an additional requirement; the storage system needed to be quickly removeable, so the car could be a family run-around 7-seater during the week, and transform to a tourer at the weekend.
The solution is the title image; it’s a simple alloy-tube frame with a wood base, secured to the D3’s four tiedown points by turnbuckles. On top of that is another shelf unit, secured to the main one by four bolts and wingnuts, made smaller so the fridge can sit on the main unit. The resulting system is simple, strong, didn’t take long to build and weighs only 20kg.
Some tips after a few years of building these things; use bolts and nuts rather than screws and glue, 17mm marine ply is stiff and strong, put a rubber strip on the bottom of the legs and where it’ll touch the cargo barrier, and the alloy baseframe the marine ply bolts to doesn’t need to extend around front of the shelf, if it does you then restrict the height of the box you can slide in. Every little bit of space counts.
The other part of the setup is a Hayman Reese cargo barrier, which is recessed a little back towards the top so the side airbags work properly.
The fridge is secured to the main shelf by two straps. There is no fridge slide, because we don’t need one. The top of the fridge lifts up sufficiently to allow access for almost everything, and we can always entirely remove the lid for really big items. The D3’s suspension helps here; when we stop we drop it into Access Mode, a reduction in height of some 100mm from Offroad mode which makes it quite easy for us to get into the back. Another option is to carry the fridge in the second row; unusually, the Discovery 3 and 4 can fold flat its centre second row seat and that makes an ideal fridge spot, freeing up a lot of room in the back.
It takes less than ten minutes to convert the D3 from 7-seater to tourer; that is installing the cargo barrier, both shelf units and tying the fridge in. Then add another few minutes for selecting whatever boxes or bags are coming with us, and it’s overall a pretty quick setup, plus a flexible one as the top shelf or even cargo barrier need not be installed if not needed.
Pros of a shelf system with boxes
- Easy to remove and refit
- Can select whatever boxes you like
Cons of a shelf system with boxes
- Finding boxes the right size
- Boxes can be heavy for weaker people
- Can be hard to access things, no pull-out drawers
Pros of a drawer system
- Easy access to the rear of the vehicle
- Can use drawers for tables by placing a lid on top
- No need to open a box, pull the drawer out and there it is
Cons of a drawer system
- Often a poor external size to interior storage ratio
- Hard to remove due to weight
Example drawer system:
What’s your preferred storage system?