TOYOTA’S FJ Cruiser is a great 4x4 for people who don’t need or want the size of a larger vehicle.
Its Prado-based chassis and suspension, simple part-time 4x4 system and well-calibrated A-TRAC traction control make it pretty capable right out of the box. The only things worth complaining about are that the quirky styling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, they only came with a V6 petrol engine and no diesel option, and, as with any smaller wagon, there comes a time when you need more space.
Managing the space you have is a great way of optimising it, and the most efficient way of doing that in the back of any wagon or ute is by fitting a set of cargo drawers. Slide-out drawers allow you to compartmentalise your gear, secure it in rough terrain, keep it out of the prying eyes of thieves, and give easier access to items up the front of your cargo area. An example of how you might use a pair of drawers would be to store 4x4 kit and recovery gear in one of them, while the other is reserved for food, stove and camping equipment.
When 4X4 Australia’s chief photographer Ellen Dewar was looking to maximise the cargo space in her 2016 FJ, she researched online and found that Drifta Camping & 4WD in Gloucester, NSW, is one of the few drawer manufacturers that have a set-up ready to bolt into an FJ. As Drifta makes its products to order in its own Australian factory, it can customise them to suit depending on your needs. “I chose the Drifta drawers for ease of use and they are purpose-built for specific car models,” Ellen said.
“Quick installation and being removable means you don’t have to keep them in the vehicle all the time and it’s an easy changeover.” There was no need for any customisation for this application, but Drifta offers a few options with its system. The standard kit includes a pair of drawers measuring 1050mm (W) x 770mm (D) x 25mm (H) to sit behind the FJ’s second row of seats.
A slide-out table with fold-down legs slots in neatly over one of the drawers, and all mounting hardware is included in the kit. Ellen added the slide-out top on one of the drawers to mount a Waeco fridge on, and an extended bed panel that lies over the folded back seat to create a 1500mm-long flat storage space. Installation of the Drifta drawers into an FJ is a breeze. You remove the four factory tie-down loops and the plastic trim across the back of the cargo area, and then place the unit inside the car.
Being made of 12mm plywood, the Drifta drawers are lighter than steel units and, with the drawers removed from the unit housing, it can easily be lifted and placed in the car. The unit is then secured to the threaded holes where the tie-downs were, using the supplied brackets and bolts.
The drawers slide in on a Teflon-like plastic material, which means there are no metal or ball-bearing runners to take up space or jam if they get dust in them. This simple slide system saves space and allowed the designers at Drifta to maximise storage space in the drawers themselves, which becomes handy. “The Teflon drawer slides make them smooth, and easy to open and close,” Ellen explained. “The size of the drawers enables various-sized items to be stored and, with the addition of the in-built pull-out table, you can slide it out to quickly make lunch on the run, or pull it out completely to use as a coffee table or dining table for longer overnight stays.”
The drawers are covered in quality marine carpet and each has a locking handle at the front and a simple spring-loaded catch at the back, to stop them sliding all the way out, but still allow you to remove them when needed. The drawer unit sits 250mm high, so it lines up with the wheel-arch trims at the side of the FJ. There’s an internal access hole to get to the factory jack location and, on later-model FJs like this 2016 example, they cover up the factory 12-volt outlet so you need to relocate them up above the unit.
We had the always capable Phil Cochrane from Ontrack Automotive in Ferntree Gully wire in a dual-plug unit with heavy duty-rated wiring, to cope with fridges and so on. Ellen did have this to say of the drawers, though: “I had to check regularly that the fridge slide didn’t pinch the cord at the back when pushing it in to the locked position. This is unavoidable due to power-plug position of the fridge. You should check the actual sizing of compatible fridges before buying, as the CFX-40 Waeco I had didn’t quite allow for the back seat to be locked in place.”
Also coming from Drifta is the 270-degree Rapid Wing awning. Another great Australian-designed product, the Rapid Wing spans 2.4 metres around the back and side of the FJ to offer protection from all conditions. “The Drifta awning is the perfect fit for my style of camping,” Ellen said. “Being able to prepare food and access the interior under the protection of an awning makes living without a tent easy.”
The FJC’s factory Toyota roof rack poses a problem for mounting an awning, but that was solved by sourcing a set of 6061-T6 billet aluminium from Fourtreks in the USA. These brackets are metal porn and are made to mount a variety of things to tubular roof racks or roll bars. They weren’t cheap, but they are beautifully made and got the job done. After unzipping it from its bag, opening it out and folding down the four telescopic poles, the awning sets up in minutes.
The Drifta rope and peg kit has sturdy sand screw-type pegs, regular metal pegs and high-vis guy ropes to secure your awning in windy conditions. For added protection, side walls are available as an option and these can be easily attached by the stitched-in Velcro. “I love the ease of set-up and pack-up. Literally minutes and you’re ready to go,” Ellen told us. “The built-in poles with twist spreader capabilities are a major plus for those with height disadvantages, and it also alleviated the need for an additional pole bag.
The peg set and orange guy ropes keep tripping hazards neatly compact and visible. “Being easy to set it up solo is great, but with its size also opens up the risk on high-wind days of catching and flipping the awning on pack-up or set-up.”
AVAILABLE FROM: www.drifta.com.au
WE SAY: A great way to organise gear and utilise available space.
AVAILABLE FROM: www.drifta.com.au
WE SAY: Easy to set up, offers great protection from the elements.