Installing a TracRac Cargo Support System
By Tom Brownell

I needed to carry home a 36-ft. extension ladder. The calculations were simple. At 18 ft. per section, the ladder would hang out of the back of my pickup just shy of 8 ft. A short distance I might be able to make, but not the 60-mile tote that I planned. Clearly, if the ladder was going to travel in my truck, I needed some sort of rack system to support the
ladder over the truck's length instead of carrying it in the bed. I ruled out homemade racks as too crude and began looking for a commercial product. Since my truck has earned collector status-it's a 1969 Chevy "Longhorn" (a low-production model with a factory elongated 8 ft. box)-I didn't want any sort of support structure that had to be permanently mounted to the box. I also wanted a product that had nice aesthetics, so that I could leave it in place when I took the truck to shows. Finally, in a builder's magazine I spotted an ad for the TracRac-a product that matched all my specifications, and more.

Since General Motors built "Longhorn" pickups with their odd 8 ft. bed length for just three years, 1969-71, nothing designed for a modern pickup fits my truck. When I telephoned TracRac Inc. to inquire about their rack system I expected to hear, "No, that's not available for your truck." when I gave the bed dimensions. Instead, Patti Bedard, the Sales and Marketing assistant, said, "We'll send you a sheet to mark down the dimensions and engineering will draw up a rack system for your truck. And so they did. I received a detailed sheet calling for over 20 different dimensions and when the rack system arrived it fit like they'd had my truck in their shop when they made the cuts.

The TracRac consists of front and rear supports, attractively made of anodized aluminum and stoutly heliarced at the base and legs. The racks slide on tracks that sit on top of the box sides and attach by rubber plugs that fit into the stake pockets.

The plugs compress into the pockets by tightening 3/8 in. cap screws. The whole unit fits sturdily enough to support 1000 lb. weight, yet has no permanent mounting to the truck.

The instructions put assembly time at one hour. After you've mounted one or two rack systems so you don't need to read the instructions, and have gathered all the tools and supplies needed at the start, an hour might be feasible. From cutting open the box to putting away the tools, mounting the TracRac on my truck took me 3 hours. There's more to this job than bolting a few pieces together. First, the tracks need to sit squarely on the tops of the box sides. If the tops are beveled, as they are on some trucks, then plastic shims (supplied with the kit) need to be placed under the tracks. In order for the racks to slide, it's crucial that the tracks be both parallel and on a level plane.

You may wonder why it's necessary for the racks to slide. After all, the purpose is a support structure for long objects. True, but being able to draw the racks together has advantages I'd never considered when I first saw this product. The obvious advantage is using the racks like a clamp when carrying tall objects.

Mounting the TracRac over a bedliner requires an extra step of drilling holes in the liner for the mounting bolts that thread through the rubber plugs. Likewise, installing a TracRac System on a truck without stake pockets requires drilling holes in the tops of the box sides to attach the tracks.

Whatever the application, TracRac is a top-quality American-made product, conveniently available through nation-wide retailers like Home Depot, GMC and Chevrolet dealerships, and from the manufacturer by calling 1-800-501-1587. If your truck's dimensions are "out of standard," as mine were, TracRac can engineer a system to fit.

Besides safely carrying home the ladder, the TracRac System on my truck will have lots of uses, from toting our canoe to whatever cargo won't conveniently fit inside the truck's 81/2 ft. box.