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Oak Console
Looks Great

Custom Oak Cabinets
for Your Truck

by Robert Walsh


Oak Console
Works Great

Your either thinking "Wow! What a cool thing to do to an old pickup" or "What the %#!! is he thinking". But, anyone who has an '85 Toyota knows that the insides are ugly - mine didn't even have carpet! So, I had to do something because the 22R had a lot of life left in it and I didn't want to ride in an ugly cab any more. Oh yeah, I also needed a cool place to mount my Alpine stereo...

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Truck Console

The first step is to remove the entire dashboard. Don't remove the metal rod that runs horizontally under the dash. The new dash will bolt to this and removing it is totally unnecessary. And, don't disassemble the gauge box. If you keep it intact, you can drive your truck before completing this project - just replace the speedometer cable and plug in the three wire connectors and you will have all the gauges needed for driving. If your good with wood and this first step doesn't scare you, then the rest of the project will be easy.

Truck Console

The drive shaft hump has metal tabs spot welded to it. Towards the back are two with holes in them. There is a long bar like tab in front of that. The console will sit on top of these tabs. In fact, it will be bolted down to the two rear tabs. Also, I designed my console to wrap around the stick shift. That allowed me to replace the ugly rubber boot with a nice leather one.

Before going on, be aware that I am not going to explain wood working in this article. This article is written in a style that should allow one to do a similar project to there vehicle be it is a Toyota truck or not. If you are not comfortable working with wood, don't attempt this project. Also, I don't like nails. So, all my wood joining is done with dowels. Don't be alarmed, you can use nails. And, if you ruin your vehicle attempting this project, it is YOUR fault. I am not responsible in any way, shape, or form for your inability. This article is for information only. What you do with the information is YOUR decision.

Truck Console

The method to the madness is simple. Make a frame and attach panels to it. In other words, you need to be able to make a wood frame that aligns with the existing metal bolt holes. Then, you just bolt the frame in the truck and finish it off by nailing oak panels to the frame. I used 2"x3" oak for my frame because part of the frame will be visible. I started by making a rectangular base that lines up with (and rests perfectly on top of) the rear tabs mentioned previously. I added a 2"x3" under the front for support and luckily everything ended up being perfectly level! The front tabs actually interfere with this alignment. So, I cut away just enough wood from the base so that they no longer interfere.

Truck Console

One big problem of the '80's Toyota truck is that the windshield will fog over when the temperature is really cold (like it is here in Minnesota). The only way to prevent this fogging is to have the defroster on all the time. But, in REALLY cold weather, you needed to heat the cab to keep from freezing. But, in my Toyota, it was not possible to have the heat and defroster on at the same time. So, I designed the console to always put heat to the windshield and to selectively heat the cab. In fact, my design heats the cab better than the factory setup. So, look at the picture to the left. I removed the air diverting flap from inside the heater and coated the inner walls with aluminum tape. This actually increased airflow. I added a frame for the heater on my console. Notice that it outlines the heater's output nicely. The heater frame is about ¼" from the heater. I used foam tape insulation to seal that gap.

Truck Console

The next thing to consider is what you want to install on your console. I wanted heat output, a CD player, and a storage compartment. I designed the console so that CD player will be on the bottom to prevent heat from rising up into the CD Player. I might reconsider that now because the CD player is so low that I can't read the display in bright light (hummm, maybe some more window tint will help). Anyhow, I built the frame for the walls first and they line up with mounting brackets on that horizontal pipe mentioned earlier. Yes, the console will bolt to the truck here. With the side frame installed. Measure your radio and install the framework. Notice how I have the radio supported on two 2"x3"'s laying flat. The radio in the picture is a Panasonic but I will eventually install an Alpine. Almost all car stereos can be mounted into a standard DIN box. So, I actually am making the frame to hold a DIN box in which any stereo may be installed. And speaking of installing radios. My stick shifter very close to the radio. I actually needed to mount the CD player off center so that CD's could be inserted into the player when the shifter was any gear. Oh yeah, I also have enough clearance to install or remove a stereo without removing the console. It a bit tricky but possible.

Truck Console

I finished up the frame work as shown in the picture. There is room to install the DIN box on bottom, the heat vent in the middle, and even a storage compartment on top. There are a few things to note. For instance, the framework on the front face is visible woodwork. It also extends past the side framework. This is because I will be installing 3/4" wood panels on the side. So, to ensure everything lines up, the front face is 3/4" wider than the side framework. I also needed to add wood shims on the right side where the console will bolt to the truck. Also, on the right side, the mounting tab slopes downward before ending up being a perfectly vertical mounting tab. Thus, I had to carve the frame to allow for the tabs' slope. It also helps the console fit snuggly into the cab.

Truck Console

How do you like the finished heat vent. It is actually thick, black vinyl with the smooth side on the inner side. I sewed mine but you might be able to use fabric glue. Just be sure that the ends are exactly the size of the frame or you'll be swearing when you mount it. I wanted my vent to have a clean wood look - not a glued or stapled vinyl look. So after a bit of thought, I came up with an elegant solution to my vinyl mounting problem. Basically, I wedged thin slabs of plywood at both ends. Look closely at the picture. The top and bottom slabs extend the length of the vent opening. The sides are just big enough to fit tightly in place but not so tight that they start to bend. A little glue at the corners and you got a fairly permanent mount.

Truck Console

I did the same thing to the back. Yes, the slabs are only press fit into place. Of course, a little wood glue keeps them from slipping. This works very good. Oh yeah, I left a little extra vinyl on the back to help seal the vent.

Truck Console

Now is a good time to attach the sides. The left side is permanently attached with wood dowels. However, the right side is hinged at the back so that I can access the wiring to the stereo very easily. Notice that I used aspen on the sides. It isn't as nice looking as oak but it weighs considerably less and adds an interesting two tone look to the console. I had to glue two board together two make the sides because wood doesn't seem to come in dimensions larger than 12 inches and the height of the sides is greater than that. The hinged side actually has a magnetic latch but I still use brass screws to hold it shut.

Truck Console

I thought a lot about how I should make the vent cover and decided that just having a removable face plate would be best. Although having a removable cover is a bit inconvenient compared to say a siding vent cover, this design allow for maximum air flow to the cab. That is worth the inconvenience when it is -40°. Anyhow, you can see that the cover has a magnetic latch and wood guides so that it is easy to replace. When it is in place, all the air flows to the windshield because air is never prevented from going there. However, when the cover is removed, most of the air travels out this vent because it offer less resistance to airflow than the path going to the windshield. Some air still finds it way to the windshield. This is exactly what I wanted.

Truck Console

Here is what the lid to my storage compartment look like when installed. But, this isn't the time to install it because it attaches to the front face of the dashboard. That needs to be constructed first.

Truck Console

I know you are curious as to what it looked like. So, I will tease you with this picture. My wood dowel joinery is visible in this picture. Doesn't it look pretty? Oh yeah, that Alpine looks good there, too! But, that rubber boot looks like $#!^ and those seat covers are pathetic. The leather boot was a must have for me and was the hardest thing for me to make (mainly because sewing leather by hand is very difficult). But, it isn't impossible to make. Re-upholstering the seats - Well yeah, I did that myself too - Here is my article on that...

Truck Console

Here is a close look at the leather boot. I am not very good with sewing but I still managed to make this look good. Leather is expensive and hard to find. Save a bundle by buying a leather skirt, shirt, or pants at Goodwill. I made my boot from a leather skirt that I bought at Savers for $4. To make it, I cut out four triangle and sewed them together to form a leather pyramid. Then I sewed a leather ring to the top. This was extremely difficult because it was too small from a sewing machine. Plus, there are about four layers of leather to push a needle through. My thumb was very sore after that workout! Anyhow, the whole thing slips over the shifter connects to console with velcro. How is that for elegant?

Truck Console

The next step is to make the top. Incorporate the ideas used to make this console to construct the dashboard. There won't be a tutorial for making the dash since I no longer own the truck..

I'll leave you a picture to drool over.

Copyright ©2005, Robert Walsh, All Rights reserved.