OTHER THAN a regrettable tendency to rot, what”s the biggest shortcoming of a pickup load bay? Max Eggert, boss of Siamax Contracting, reckons it”s wheel arches and fixed sides. “Arches limit what goes in the space, fixed sides govern how you load it,” he says.
A dropside flat bed gets round both problems. A while ago Mr Eggert saw commercial aftermarket conversions in Australia and fancied one for his Hilux farm runabout, but the major pickup makers didn”t (and still don”t) offer such things over here. And there it might have rested if his Toyota hadn”t shed a back wheel, writing off the steel bed. A good second-hand replacement wasn”t to be found, so Mr Eggert took a deep breath and imported an aluminium tray from Down Under.
That was three years ago. “People liked it and asked if I”d do one for them, so the business started from there,” he explains. “Now we make and fit dropside fixed and tipper bodies to most chassis-framed pickups, including Land Rovers.”
Siamax”s drop-on replacements feature bolted aluminium sections on a galvanised steel subframe. Why bolt-up? “It”s simpler and more flexible than welding and makes for easy replacement if a section gets damaged,” points out Mr Eggert. Aluminium is favourite for two reasons – compared with steel it doesn”t rot, and it”s much lighter. A typical replacement bed weighs around 150kg less than the original, which means an extra 150kg for payload. And designing a replacement from scratch usually means that it can be bigger than the standard item. For example, Siamax”s Hilux substitute measures 2438mm x 1828mm (8ft x 6ft) externally, boosting length by 580mm (23in) and width by 363mm (14in) while staying inside legal limits. The downside is that loading height goes up by around 75mm (3in).
How does conversion stand with the law? Mr Eggert says he spent many happy hours thrashing that one out. “We don”t alter the chassis and use the original body mount points, so there”s no problem”, he confirms. “But as with any modification, you should tell your insurance company about the swap.”
Siamax supplies kits for DIY fitment or will do the job at the firm”s base at Lindfield, Sussex, with turnaround time usually 4-5 days. How the new bed is specified is up to the customer. Prices vary with spec and are less VAT. A replacement fixed bed for a typical single cab pickup is around 1500, for a doublecab 1200. Tipper versions use a UK-made ram and pump, and kick off at 2400.