By Dick Eussen
One of the biggest hassles in a 4WD station wagon is where to put everything, especially recovery and travel gear.
Okay, you pack it in tool boxes and bags, but when you want something you can’t find it. Arguably the best solution is the Black Widow’s answer to this untidy problem — a couple of sliding drawers that are installed in the rear of the wagon. You pack the stuff you keep in the car in one drawer and use the other for travel, while the side containers hold much gear also.
Black Widow storage systems are available for most popular makes of 4WD wagons. I had one recently fitted to my 10 year-old Toyota 100S Landcruiser. It is still in top condition, and putting a storage system in it was long overdue. The Black Widow system is super strong and designed to take it, whether it is for normal use or as a tradesman’s tool box. Stainless steel, aluminium, zinc and galvanised metal components are used in the construction. The system is backed by a lifetime warranty. It is a sizable investment, but if you change vehicles it can be interchanged with an optional extra kit.
In my own wagon I had the choice of fitting a full-length drawer system, (front seats only), which requires removing the rear passenger seats, or a part system that retains the 5-seat configuration. Both do away with the optional 8-seater arrangement of the GXL wagon. I chose to the rear passenger 5-seat configuration. The vehicle was already fitted with a cargo barrier and this was retained, though Black Widow can supply one. It is highly recommended to fit cargo barriers in wagons, as in case of an accident heavy items in the rear become deadly missiles.
The system consists of a strong and robust galvanised frame that is neatly bolted into the vehicle using existing boltholes. The system weight is about 80 kg — about normal person weight — and no problem for a good suspension system. The frame is fitted with carpeted flooring, drawers and has side pockets. The drawers are ultra-smooth in operation due to the 80 roller bearings used. The drawers are fitted with flush-fitting keyed-alike stainless steel locks. The drawers are cross-pressed to take extra weight, will not sag and are rated at 250kg carrying capacity in case you want to carry lead — or gold in these days of investment uncertainty! A dual one-piece galvanised steel fridge slider with flush-fitting lift-up tie down rings bolts through the floor and into a steel slide - one of the most secure fridge holders in the business.
The space between the drawers and the vehicle side panels — the pockets — are fitted with removable side lift-out lids that allow vehicle wheel jack removal when stored in the side panel, though access to some side panel inserts is lost. The fridge slide is something that I truly appreciate. No longer do I have to climb into the rear to get a drink or food out of my 60 litre Engel fridge. Instead, I unlock a retainer pin and pull the whole fridge out on the slide for easy access and packing. The fridge is secured by heavy tie down straps that attach to recessed tie down rings. When not in use they lay down and out of sight. The inbuilt fridge slide can be had in either a left or right hand side configuration. Stand alone fridge stands are also available from Black Widow.
The beauty about the system is that you can leave tools and recovery gear in a drawer or the side pockets and hide valuable equipment — laptop, cameras, firearms, fishing reels, etc. out of sight when travelling. It is completely secure, though lock the tool box away also. After all, you don’t leave a crowbar at your back door — or do you? That brings up another point, because the floor is now almost in line with the windows, meaning any heavy sliding cargo can cause damage. Secure it, or lock it away in the drawers. My own system is a basic one. Optional separate cargo holders, water tanks and more can be incorporated in a purpose-build underfloor drawer system. The Tourer Series is much more comprehensive and ideal when on the road, especially if you are living out of the wagon. Black Widow also does commercial systems for dual cabs, tray backs, utes and vans. It is all about sensible, workable, secure and safe storage of valuable items. The systems are fitted in selected workshops around Australia. Mine was fitted by Cairns 4x4 Megastores. MIX & MATCH Black Widow Accessories The Black Widow range of 4WD personal storage products are worth considering if you are sick and tired of having tins, sunscreen and insect sprays and other containers rolling about the floor of the car. The Black Widow range is the answer to having a clean car, especially when kids are in it. Made from quality canvas and rubber backs, the materials are of marine grade with high UV rating for lasting durability and performance. All products have a 3-year guarantee against faulty workmanship and material. Some are also handy for use in boats and dinghies.
Dash Stash With four pockets and a map/notepad insert, this is another handy item to fix to a convenient spot on the dash, or door, especially in a small 4WD, car, or again, in the boat. The pockets are designed to hold drinks, sunscreen and insect repellent containers. It is semi-permanently fixed with glue straps to a selected spot. The bag is attached to the straps with Velcro fasteners and thus can be removed easily. For more information contact Black Widow, P.O.Box 176, Gisborne, Vic. 3437. Ph: (03) 5428 8088. Fax: (03) 5428 8077. Email: email@example.com or visit www.blackwidow.com.au