Everybody who owns a short-wheelbase Jeep takes their top off once in a while (at least they should). When you do this, or when you run with the insecure soft top, you’ll probably find yourself wanting somewhere to store a handful of valuables that you don’t want to walk off while you’re away from the Jeep. The obvious solution is to get a center console to put between the front seats.
Some people just bolt 50mm ammunition boxes to their floor. These offer cheap storage, but they look ugly, aren’t very big, and aren’t lockable.
Many people with YJs (including me, initially) buy the OEM console from Jeep. This matches the decor of the vehicle, offers cup holders and a large storage area with a locking, water-resistant lid. It cost about US$120 when I bought my ’95 YJ new. The factory console has problems, though. First, the rubber seal around the inside of the lid is only mostly waterproof. In a good downpour, water will leak through and get all your stuff wet. Second, and more importantly, the latch sucks. Even when locked, it doesn’t take much muscle to pull the lid open. I had the dealer replace my latch, but the new one had the same problem. This still leaves you without any lockable storage when running topless. I tried not carrying anything valuable in the Jeep, but you’d be amazed what worthless stuff people will steal.
This spring, my Jeep was broken into (while wearing the hard top), and the idiots broke the latch on the unlocked factory console while looking for valuables to steal. Click here to see how I fixed the window. Anyway, this left me in the market for a new, more secure, waterproof console and a new CB before topless weather arrived. (The old, spice-colored console is for sale if anyone wants to make me an offer. A new latch will cost $13.50 from the dealer. It’s otherwise in good shape.)
Since I was concerned about security and not just aesthetics, the only real choice I had was to get a Tuffy console. Tuffy makes a fully line of security storage boxes for various vehicles, including Jeeps. Their Deluxe Stereo Security Console has a locking compartment for a DIN-sized radio, into which many people install a CB instead. It costs about US$200-220. They offer it in black, gray, and spice with widths of 12″, 10″, 8″, and 6.5″, with the 6.5″ recommended for ’92-’95 YJ’s due to the wider seats. They say the 8″ will work, but it’ll be a very tight fit. I got my 6.5″ model from Savanna Jones for $217, including shipping. Some retailers (like Quadratec) used to try to sell the armrest pad separately, but most include it for the published price. If fore/aft space is a concern, the cup holders may be mounted at the front, at the rear, or not at all.
The stereo portion of the console has a single-DIN-sized opening. Looking at it from the top, the stereo cavity is 7.5 wide by 3.0″ long total, with a 7.25″ x 2.125″ hole in mounting plate. Depth gets interesting, since the mounting area sits at an angle. A side view follows. The bottom is open for routing wires & stuff. The mounting plate is perpendicular to the walls of the box.
Front & back plates are 9.25″ tall. The depth below the mounting plate is 8.0″ in front and 6.75″ in back. The mounting plate is only attached at the back side, so it wouldn’t take long to remove it with a grinder if you really needed the extra space. The hole in the mounting plate is pretty much centered, but maybe a little closer to the front edge than the back.
The size limitations on the CB would be about 7.5″ deep from the face (not including knobs) to the rear antenna jack & cord. You have about 1.5″ for knobs above the mounting plate, which should be plenty. The mic can be unplugged and kept in the Tuffy’s storage compartment when not in use. You’ll need either a front-firing speaker or external speakers if you expect to hear anything, which limits your CB options. Click here to read about my CB
Installation took about 2.5 – 3 hours, but most of that was after dark using only the dome light and a flashlight for illumination. (Our club’s 4×4 Fest was the next day, and I wanted this installed before then.)
The instructions were straightforward and easy to follow. Most necessary hardware is included. For tools, you need a drill with 3/8″ bit, a 5/16″ hex wrench/driver, two 1/2″ (I think) wrenches, a knife, and a pen that will mark on your carpet. I found a tape measure, a 3/16″ drill bit, and 8-10 3/8″ washers helpful as well.
I had to do three things differently from the instructions. First, the holes on the lid were too far apart for the mounting screws on the armrest pad. I used a similar-sized (3/16″ ?) drill bit to ream all the holes inward diagonally a couple millimeters before I could screw on the armrest.
Second, the instructions tell you to position the console where you want it and then use a pen to mark the mounting hole positions on your carpet so you can drill the holes after removing the console. This is fine for the front hole, but the back two holes are a good 3″ off the tub floor. I couldn’t find a pen that would stick that far through those holes and still mark on the carpet, so I instead marked the position of the corners of the console and used a tape measure to measure the position of the holes from the corners.
Third, the longer rear bolts are only threaded on the bottom 1″ or so. I’ll never understand why they make bolts this way, since it’s caused me grief on several occasions. Anyway, after shoving the bolts down through the console and body tub, I found that the threaded portion of the bolts didn’t reach all the way up to the bottom of the tub. I had to scavenge a handful of washers from my toolbox, and ended up using five or six washers on each bolt before I could tighten the bolt down. Bolting in the console requires two people, one on top to run the ratchet and one underneath to hold a wrench on the nuts.
After a week of use, I love it. It looks good and appears to be very secure and mostly waterproof. The radio compartment has some gaps on the top that would seem to let a lot of water in. I’ve installed neither a radio nor the neoprene seal on the front compartment yet, so I can’t say for sure if the seal will adequately cover those gaps. The padded armrest is nice to have if your arms are long enough to reach it while driving with one hand on the stick shift. The 6.5″ model still allows the passenger seat to tumble forward with only minimal rubbing on the side of the radio compartment. I’m glad I didn’t get the 8″ model. My only complaint so far is that the cup holders are almost too big to prevent a smaller cup, can, or bottle from tipping over. I imagine a foam can cooler could be cut to fit and inserted into the holder to remedy this situation.
[Last updated 14 June 2001]
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