TOP DRAWER

WE PIT FRONT RUN­NER AND SMITTYBILT SLID­ING DRAW­ERS AGAINST EACH OTHER

4WDrive - - Contents - Re­view and photos by Pat Har­ri­son

It’s a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion when you par­tic­i­pate in any­thing that is equip­ment-in­ten­sive, like of­froad­ing, over­land­ing or rock crawl­ing, that you will gather a lot of stuff. Ask any­one that has done a fair bit of the above and you will hear that stor­ing equip­ment so it can be ac­cessed is as im­por­tant as hav­ing it all tied down (so that it doesn’t end up in your lap, or worse). Like any rig out there, the JKU can use a lit­tle help in the area of ac­ces­si­ble gear stor­age. We got to­gether with our good buddy Ron Howard (no, not the film di­rec­tor and child­hood star of Happy Days) to do a lit­tle com­par­i­son on each of our own re­cent pur­chases. We want to pass along what we learned in hopes that it will help you with the go­time shuf­fle.

I’ve had more vari­a­tions of off-road tool kits, bags, boxes and vaults than I care to ad­mit but it wasn’t un­til I fi­nally bit the bul­let and got a Front Run­ner Cargo Slide from Pe­den 4x4 that I fi­nally felt like I got it right. Ron, how­ever, must have re­ceived a few more cards in his deck than I, be­cause he pretty much went straight to it and got a Smittybilt Se­cu­rity Stor­age Vault slid­ing drawer unit from Four Wheel Parts. He had his gear or­ga­nized while I was still do­ing the shuf­fle.

All said, these two slides have a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties. Both units are com­pa­ra­ble in build quality and ease of in­stal­la­tion. Both have sim­i­lar weight­bear­ing ca­pac­i­ties in the 136 kg (300 lb) plus range, how­ever they achieve the same goal in dif­fer­ent ways. Both are con­structed from 16 and 18-gauge sheet steel and are fin­ished in black pow­der coat. They each have heavy duty slide mech­a­nisms and lock in the closed po­si­tion. They both feel smooth open­ing and clos­ing, with the Smittybilt hav­ing a solid grab han­dle to get a grip.

Nei­ther unit locked in the open po­si­tion, which is an over­sight I plan to do some­thing about with a drill, a pin or two and some stain­less cable. I will up­date this ar­ti­cle when that mi­nor me­chan­i­cal mir­a­cle oc­curs. Other sim­i­lar­i­ties are the over­all sizes, which is not sur­pris­ing given the space they are tasked with max­i­miz­ing. It is un­clear to us whether the late model JKs, with the sub woofer in the floor, are com­pat­i­ble with ei­ther of these prod­ucts, so if that’s you, be sure to ask your re­tailer about clear­ance.

Here is where they dif­fer.

The first is cost. The Front Run­ner slide rings in at $618, while the Smittybilt is only $487, and you’re get­ting a lot more metal for that. The Smittybilt is ba­si­cally a big-ass tool­box on a slide. Pull it out, un­lock the lid, and open it up to gain ac­cess to 110L (3.8 cu ft) of stor­age space that keeps your gear packed and pro­tected from the el­e­ments and the pry bars of the un­in­vited. Ar­range up to 160 kg (350 lb) of your gear with a lit­tle thought and it will even be as quiet as cur­tain call at a red­neck Sa­loon in Texas, that ac­ci­den­tally booked “Cats.” The box isn’t so tall that it doesn’t fit un­der the closed rear win­dow of a hard­top, so you still have room for an up­per shelf unit in there if that’s on your radar. Four flush mount tie down loops are pro­vided to make that flat top use­able too. The stock sub woofer re­mains in place, but you do lose ac­cess to the in-floor cubby hole, so clear that space out and make sure your drain plug is in.

We took Ron’s OEM deck cover and clev­erly sawza­lled the end off so that with the drawer in closed po­si­tion, he could pull just that end piece off to ac­cess the jack stor­age area and the plug ‘n’ play con­nec­tions to a back up cam­era. All in all, the unit is a bit big but that didn’t stop Ron from in­stalling it him­self the first time around. How­ever, we fear one of his bear­ing slides may have suf­fered a bit in the process, but not enough to af­fect its per­for­mance.

Our Jeep got the Front Run­ner ver­sion, which is es­sen­tially a slid­ing deck of sim­i­lar di­men­sions that locks firmly in place and pro­vides plenty of tie-down slots to fix your gear in place. It is load rated for 113 kg (250 lb) worth of gear on a mov­ing plat­form - just lash it down with any num­ber of the tie-down points and be good to go with con­fi­dence. I’m for­tu­nate enough to have a cou­ple of mas­sive Pel­i­can cases that haul my of­froad trin­kets, and the smaller one fits un­der our soft top bar so we don’t have to open the win­dow to pull it out.

Front Run­ner makes an im­pres­sive ar­ray of black stor­age con­tain­ers

that work well with this plat­form, to con­sider as well. I strap the case down and it fits well and opens nicely when the slide is fully ex­tended. Now if I didn’t want that weight, or needed the room to haul a bunch of big-ticket items around in the back of the daily driver, I could re­move the case. I tend to bed down in the back of the JKU on camp­ing out­ings, so this op­tion will be put to good use.

The Front Run­ner Slide has proven to be dead quiet when empty or loaded, so they’ve done a good job with the fit tol­er­ances. Both units rep­re­sent a huge im­prove­ment in get­ting at your gear when you need it, with­out hav­ing to go through the pain of the go-time shuf­fle. Let’s do a lit­tle late night pros and cons run down and leave you with a choice that comes down to per­sonal pref­er­ence, as both of­fer­ings do their job well.

The Front Run­ner slide does not come with a stor­age box, which al­lows for more cus­tomiz­ing op­tions.

The Smittybilt of­fers lock­able stor­age and D-rings on top to lash down ad­di­tional gear.

The Smittybilt doesn’t lock in open po­si­tion, but of­fers 110L of cargo space.

The Front Run­ner is good for 113 kg (250 lb) worth of cargo.

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