Let me tell you, as someone who’s had quite a lot of older cars in my lifetime, that I’ve seen some really crappy attempts at making backboards for a car! Unlike most people who criticize, I can actually do better – and here’s how you can too!
There are different reasons why someone might want to make a better backboard for their car – perhaps the original factory-fitted item has deteriorated to a point where it needs replacement, or maybe it disappeared before you acquired your car. Replacements for these items – in good condition – are scarce in the used parts market, to say nothing of the expense of buying a new one, if they’re even available! On top of that, there’s the issue of poor design.
I often wonder what these manufacturers think when they produce something out of pressed fibers, fragile plastic and even cardboard – and expect it to hold significant amounts of weight and endure years of wear and tear!
A backboard is a useful item, because it provides a cover above the space behind your back seat, so prying eyes can’t see what you have stowed away back there. It’s also a useful spot to temporarily hold light shopping items, cushions for long trips, or to display your blinged-out box of tissues for driving around town, as one does!
The underside of the backboard is also a sturdy place to install speakers for your soundsystem.
I’ve had to make backboards for mk1 golfs before, so when I finally decided to make one for my 1962 beetle, I already had a good foundation to build on!
Regardless of what car you want to make your backboard for, the principle remains the same – measure the size of the opening you want it to fill or cover, and work out where or how you need to mount it to the car. Let me show you how I did it, in this case, for a beetle.
For the beetle, the measurements I took for the space between the rear window, sides and the back of the back seat rest were 90cm x 114cm x 30cm.
Fortunately, I had an abundance of white melamine chipboard to use for this task.
Firstly I ensured the board I used was 30cm wide, and longer than 114cm and free of any cracks or chips that would affect the finish. Then I marked the intended longer side of the board at 0 and 114cm. I made a mark at the halfway point – 57cm. Then I used a T-square to mark the same halfway mark on the opposite edge of the board. The shorter side of the board needed to be 90cm long, so I used my tape-measure again, placed the 45cm register at the center mark, and marked off 0 and 90cm on either end. Then I used a straight edge as a ruler (the T-square or ordinary ruler) and a marker pen to draw lines from one end of the 90cm edge to the end of the 114cm edge on the opposite side, and then did the same with the 0cm marked sides. The end result was a rectangular shape with sides sloping inward evenly from the 114cm side to the narrower 90cm. What I had to do next, was cut along those lines!
You could use a circular saw for this job, as I did, but you could also use a jig-saw, reciprocating saw, or whatever other type of saw or cutter you have handy or feel comfortable with. The important thing is the end-result – a clean, smoothly edged finish. Once it’s cut, remember to lightly sand the edges/corners for that smooth finish!
Once that was done, I decided it was time to make the holes for the speakers I wanted to fit to the car – in this case, a pair of 6×9’s. I wanted to mount them under the backboard, and so I placed the board upside down (having chosen a side to be “top” and the other “bottom”). The speakers as shown in the photos were facing against the underside of the board. I positioned them where I wanted them, and then used the marker to draw around their mounting faces, marking where the screw holes would be. Then I removed the speakers and used a marker to trace an inner circle or oval inside the outline, leaving sufficient a margin.
The next task was to cut these inner circles or ovals out – once the speakers are fitted to the board, these will be vacant to allow the sound to pass through them without obstruction. Since I would use a jig-saw to remove these ovals of board, I needed a spot to start cutting – which meant drilling a hole at the starting point. I used a 10mm wood bit for this purpose, drilling a hole on the inside of the oval that would be cut-out to leave a smoother edge to the resulting opening.
The jig-saw made short, quick work of cutting the opening, thanks to the cutting stand I used! (You can read more about that in my other article entitled “Easy DIY Make A Jig-Circular Saw Cutting Stand“.)
After I’d done this, I wanted to fit a front-edge or lip to the board, so that if the seat were folded down, anything placed on top of the board wouldn’t simply roll or slide off. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to – and it also depends on which car you’re making this for. A citigolf wouldn’t need one at all, for example, because it’s normally attached directly to the backrest of the rear seat.
Anyway, what I did in this case, was to cut a 114cm length of flat pine strip which was already 4cm wide, and placed it against the corresponding 114cm edge of the backboard. I secured it flush along the lower edge using panel pins and then finished it off with three short screws – left, middle, and right – just to ensure it stays in place.
In terms of finishing, there really is no limit to what you can do to a backboard. I decided to go with some plain black/dark gray material I picked out at a local material mart. I got 1 meter of it, which in the end still left me with about a half-meter to spare. Fabric glue would work nicely, but so would wood glue or plain old Bostik.
I started by placing the material upside down on a table. Then I placed the board on it and test-fitted the material without applying any glue just yet, just to get the feel of the process. This is important if you want to avoid stuffing it up and getting glue all over the place, and perhaps even fitting the material wrong-side-up!
Once it was all sorted out and I felt ready to begin for real, I started by positioning one edge of the material along the underside of the long side of the board, and stapling it in place with a staple gun. With the first edge secure, I turned the board over so the bottom was on the table, and pulled the overlap of material away to expose the top of it, which needed to be glued.
I need to mention at this point that I didn’t want to cut holes in the material to correspond with the speaker openings in the board, because I didn’t want the fact that I had speakers installed to be obvious. Matter of interest, that’s also why I opted for black material – to hide the fact that there was a backboard at all. But, if this isn’t a concern to you, and you want to fit the cover grilles included with your speakers, you should wait until after the material’s been fitted to the board before doing that.
Right, so the gluing part – ha ha! Try to apply the glue evenly and try to get as mugh of it on the upper surface as possible – so that it’s close to all the edges of the board, the edges of the openings for the speakers, and in the spaces inbetween. That’s so that the material doesn’t crease or move about – it looks tacky.
Then carefully place the material onto the glued surface, starting from the edge you already stapled, working all the way from there to maintain tension on the material. In the case of the edge-strip, this also needs to be glued because it creates more surfaces and places for the material to pull away. I decided to staple it in place too, as neatly as possible, because I felt the staples were invisible enough to get away with using them. Then, around the bottom edge, apply more glue and fold material over. On the underside, I stapled the material to the board, folding and cutting off the extra bits as I did so.
Depending on the shape of your board, this could be easier or harder. Whatever you do, try to keep the folds and staples on the underside of the board, where they’ll be out of sight.
Once that was done, I attached the speakers, screwing them tightly to the board. I also wired them up to RCA audio cables, taking care to route the cables to the side where the cable from the head unit would meet it. I used some cable saddles to hold them neatly in place, so they wouldn’t sag down and get in the way when the backboard is fitted.
Then came the dreaded bit – fitting it to the car! I planned on using two brackets, one on each side of the board, which would be screwed to the side of the bodywork, and repeated test-fittings helped me work out where I’d need to locate the brackets on the underside of the forward edge of the board.
I decided to use two lengths of mild-steel bracket strip for this purpose, because once I’d secured one end to the board, I could still bend and adjust the bracket to the correct position, mark the spot for the hole, and drill it with my cordless drill.
This went very much as expected, and with a minimum of swearing, my bug now has a professional-level backboard with two 6×9 inch speakers out of sight beneath it! While I was at it, I used a piece of the same material covering the backboard to replace the bit of curled-over rooflining under the back window – I’d tried everything known to humanity to restore that, but it always returned to that state! It looks nice and finished now, as opposed to “finished”!
The best part is, unless you look really closely – say, from inside the car – you can’t even tell there IS a backboard – it looks just like a blank empty space! Perfect! Now I can hide all kinds of small stuff there while I’m in the mall without worrying it will be in plain sight and stolen!
I hope this helps inspire you to creativity!
Pictures included – enjoy!
Have a DIY day!
If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about anything on this site, or her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to email@example.com or use the Contact form on her author website.
Show your appreciation for Christina’s work!