Rear Seat Delete: New and Improved

This entry may seem like déjà vu if you’ve been following my site for a while. Yes, I had created and installed a rear seat delete in 2019. I removed it after a couple months of use because I felt that it wasn’t practical. It added to the cabin noise and anything that I had placed in the trunk would inevitably wind up on the floor behind one of the front seats. Fast-forward two years (I can’t believe it’s been over two years already) and I have a newfound use for a rear seat delete, both as a cargo option and for new ventilation wants. I’ll explain; plus, I’ll include some measurements and specs…

CFX3-35 resting on a flip-up platform…

A lot happened in our world in 2020. In my world, my mother passed away in California and I needed to travel there from Virginia to retrieve her cats and other items. I’ve written a series of entries about that trip, starting with this entry. Lock-downs, restaurant closures, and my wife’s food restrictions compelled me to purchase a Dometic CFX3-35 refrigerator/ freezer so that we could prepare our own food. The fridge was very handy during the trip and my follow-up trip in 2021, as well. I continue to use the reefer for grocery store trips and for visits to our friends’ homes for cookouts. It spent most of its first six months in the trunk. Eventually, I made a flip-up platform so that it could ride behind the driver’s seat.

Previous design with horizontal trim pieces to cover exposed seat base area…

In May 2021, I decided to dive deeper into my ham radio pursuits. I’ve been on the radio nearly every day since then. There came a point when I was carrying enough ham radio gear in the car that I wanted a cleaner solution than the storage tubs that I had been using. That was when I decided to try the “delete” again. I reinstalled my old setup, shown in this photo. The fridge blocks access to the driver’s side storage area. Coincidentally, my local ham radio club is sponsoring a group build for 100-Ah LiFePo4 batteries in November. The storage area beneath the fridge will be a perfect home for the batteries since I won’t need to access it very often. My self-justification for a rear seat delete was forming very nicely!

Previous design made from 1/2″ plywood…

I had told my daughter that she could put my delete into her car before I realized that I’d want to use it again. So, I owed her a delete. I went straight to work designing a replacement, one that I hoped would be better than the original. My planned improvements included gray carpet that matches the factory trunk carpet, enclosed side panels for a cleaner look, retention to prevent the front and doors from lifting during dips or an incident, and forced ventilation that would push heat from the equipment area. I accomplished nearly all of those goals! As I tell you how I did it, I’ll start by sharing this photo of the old frame during construction. Look closely and you’ll see that I used 1/2″ plywood and some 2×2″ pieces at the corners for extra gluing surfaces. The front is glued to the sides, but everything else is slid together without tools. The seat back hinges are the only points at which this frame is firmly attached to the car. In retrospect, I could have made this a little stronger by fastening the removable parts with pocket screws.

New frame made from 1×8″ lumber, which is 3/4″ thick…

I had ideas for the new frame, but the design still followed some familiar shapes. This frame is made from 1×8″ lumber instead of the 1/2″ plywood that’s shown with the previous paragraph. I added side trim panels for cosmetics and bolt-down points for the doors in lieu of the non-structural center divider on the previous version. My daughter won’t need the trim panels since her lack of rear doors means that the area will never be visible. The front board is five inches tall, which allows the doors (or replacement floor if you omit the doors) to sit level with the trunk floor. The 1/2″ plywood from the previous design is certainly strong enough to work as a delete. However, I felt that lumber would provide a stronger surface for the screws and lateral loads that were to come.

Next, I decided to tackle a solution to my old package’s ability to lift in the event of a fast dip, railroad crossing, or accident. I hadn’t seen anyone else’s design address this without running screws through the car’s body, which is a show-stopper for me. A popular commercial maker of deletes told me that his kit is held in place mostly by gravity and friction. It doesn’t even fasten to the seat back hinges, like mine. I wanted a better solution, especially since my package would have doors. Refer to the photo of the naked frame in the previous paragraph and you’ll see that I added tabs in the center of each cross-piece. Those points are where I bolt-down the doors. Look more closely at the top of the photo and you’ll see a turn-buckle that pulls the frame down against an outboard LATCH tether point. Later, I decided to use the turn-buckle on the seat bottom’s anchor. That point provides more leverage for the front of the frame and is what’s shown with this paragraph. THIS is the “lateral load” to which I referred earlier.

Whether created by stereo amplifiers, a pair of ham radios, or their associated power regulation, the potential for heat to build in the tight, 1-cubic foot equipment space had always been a concern. I haven’t had anything overheat, except one time during an unrealistic 90-minute torture test in which the equipment fail-safed as designed. Building a new rear seat delete package seemed like a great time to address airflow through the space. I bought two pairs of 3-inch USB-powered fans, as well as a thermostatic controller to activate them after the equipment area exceeds 88°F. The four fans are mounted to the front wall of the delete and move 104 cubic feet per minute.

Neither the rear seat delete nor the trunk floor are sealed. So, any excess air pressure caused by the fans would simply leak out through the unsealed panels. Still, pushing air into that space does little good if there’s no clear path for the air to exit. I had cut a hole in a driver’s side trim panel in the trunk to route coaxial cables from the equipment area to the roof. I enlarged that hole and duplicated my efforts on the passenger side. What was intended to be storage pockets now serves as ventilation exits. See photos in the album below. Air flow and temperature testing has shown excellent results! I’ll share more details in the future.

I used the same design for the doors as before. This time, I omitted the slide-together center pieces for friction mounting and simply drilled two holes so that the doors can be bolted to the frame. I laid 1/16″ neoprene sheeting to help conceal the piano hinges. Using a 1/8″ sheet would have been better. I glued gray carpet on top of the neoprene. The carpet is supposed to match the VW factory carpet. It may be a match for the Mk5 or Mk6 trunk carpet, but it does not match in the Mk7. It’s still a decent look, though, and is fairly close to Volkswagen’s “CarGo” Protection System. The only way to improve this is to replace the factory trunk floor with black carpet and then cover the delete with the same carpet. It’s not important enough for me to pursue at this point. I covered the underside of the doors with black carpet. It adds a cleaner look and eliminates any rattling or clicking sounds that bare wood or paint may produce. I attached the carpet with 3M Hi-Strength 90 spray adhesive.

As with my original delete, the floor opens as two doors, mounted with piano hinges. For now, I keep ham radio accessories under the passenger side door and will put my forthcoming 100-Ah LiFePo4 battery and DC-DC charger under the driver’s side. As shown below, the new platform is excellent for hiding extra cargo, supporting the refrigerator, and carrying other large objects. I could even sleep on it if the car was a little longer. I accidentally discovered that the space forward of the tie-down hook (lower right in photo above) is perfect for holding a can of Stoner’s Invisible Glass cleaner.

Unlike with the previous delete, I’m going to provide measurements and details about my package to help others build their own. Details are in the photo album below. I’ll share some screenshots from my video, which have the measurements on them. As mentioned above, I made the frame from 1×8″ lumber. The top/doors are made from 24×24″ sheets of 1/2″ MDF, plus a 2.5″ strip in the middle for the piano hinges. I’ve provided a template for my sides below. However, I did not include templates for the top/doors or side trim pieces since they can vary from builder to builder, depending on how close one follows my plan. Those templates are easy to make using sheets of cardboard, which is how I made mine. CLICK HERE to view and download the full-size template. Have a sign shop print it to poster board, cut it out, then use it to trace a pattern onto the building material of your choice. I did all of my cutting with either a jigsaw or a miniature circular saw. So, there’s no need for a fancy wood shop.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I have more photos, dimensions, and a template in the photo album below.

My First Two-Seater,

Scott

About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
This entry was posted in Ham Radio, Microlanding, Mods & Projects, Trailer/Cargo. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply