1 2 3
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/29/21 5:43 p.m.

In reply to SVreX (Forum Supporter) :

I'm trying to do it right so I don't get pulled over for looking like a dirty hippie living in a van! cheeky

maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
3/29/21 6:06 p.m.

Please don't make it less safe.  The roof and supports are structural.  A fiberglass dome isn't.  In a crash, your topless van would be structurally compromised.  Let's not even discuss rollover.

You are potentially changing the roll over characteristics of the van, also it's susceptibility to cross winds.

FMB42
FMB42 Reader
3/29/21 6:22 p.m.

maj75 is 100% correct.

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/29/21 7:21 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

So, you're saying you're NOT a dirty hippie??

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/29/21 9:50 p.m.

In reply to maj75 (Forum Supporter) :

That's one of the reasons I really want to do this with 80/20 extrusions. If I tie it into the van's existing vertical ribs I don't think I'll lose any structural integrity. It'll be lighter than a fiberglass top too(at least a good one).

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/29/21 9:52 p.m.

In reply to SVreX (Forum Supporter) :

Well I have let my hair grow out over the past year, and since I rarely leave the house there's not much incentive to bathe as frequently, but I don't smell like patchouli and/or weed either. So...maybe?

03Panther
03Panther SuperDork
3/29/21 10:41 p.m.

In reply to maj75 (Forum Supporter) :

So the conversion companies that sold brand new vans through the dealerships were selling death traps? Did the factories insurance know that? Pretty unethical of the dealers to be killing so many folks. 'Course Ralph Nader prolly agrees!smiley

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/30/21 9:43 a.m.

In reply to 03Panther :

From what I'm finding there are 3 types of raised fiberglass van roofs:

  1. The type I described on the previous page for wheelchair van conversions, where they cut off everything on the van down to the doors & windshield glass, then weld on a steel perimeter frame that the fiberglass is bonded to, along with extensions to the top of the doors. These seem probably about as substantial as the factory roof, but obviously heavier & about 24" taller.
  2. The standard conversion van roof. Most of these are usually only around an 8"-10" increase in height, which in a Ford only gives you around 5' of interior height once finished. These are usually reinforced fiberglass with wood. They seem pretty strong, but probably not quite as strong as OE, while also being heavier.
  3. Cheap fiberglass shells. These are like the ones in the Marketplace ad on the 1st page. They're light, but don't offer much structural rigidity as delivered. So by the time you finish them out & add some wood/metal for attaching insulation & finishing the interior, you pretty much end up with #2 above.
DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
3/30/21 9:46 a.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

Unrelated question.....what's with the purple 2x4?

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/30/21 12:27 p.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk (Warren) :

It's leftover from our shower leak a couple months ago. I don't really know the specifics, but they sell them down here for use in bathrooms & other high humidity/moisture situations. They're not pressure-treated, or for outdoor use though. 

8valve
8valve Reader
3/30/21 1:29 p.m.

+1 camp fiberglass. 

The reasons you gave for rejecting fiberglass don't seem legit to me.  Weather to harsh?  Too high for your garage?  Those reasons would also apply to metal.

If the real reason for not going fiberglass is cost, then that is valid.  Get on with the cheap thing.. I think for DIY if you could find something like the previous post mentioned about an upside down boat.. that would be a neat way to go. Hopefully you could find a free donor part that does what you need it to do. And fits well.

 

http://fiberine.com/GVMR/Home.html

 

On the commercial truck vs RV topic, some states have a pretty low hurdle to clear to qualify as an RV.  I think its been covered here on the forum before.  Obviously that varies by location.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
3/30/21 1:53 p.m.

If I'm reading correct, Sportmobile will install a folding Penthouse for $9,960.  No, not cheap but probably done really well and then still fits in the garage. Probably less affected by side winds while driving.   Installed in just one day in either Northern Indiana or Austin, TX

Cooter
Cooter UberDork
3/30/21 2:09 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Just need to find one in the junkyard with a popup, even if the fabric is bad.   Pete may not be nearly as cheap as me (I'm not sure if anyone is), but $10K is a lotta moolah.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
3/30/21 2:35 p.m.

The van I bought recently was a wheelchair van and has a fiberglass top. Mobility Works did the conversion.

It looks like they cut it above the drain rail. It has a metal brace running front to back and at least one running side to side (a lot of the ceiling is covered by insulation so I can’t see everything). Towards the front the old roof remains above to front seats, so there’s a little shelf there now.

My wife is 5’3” and can stand in it. I’d guess it’s 5’5”.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/30/21 2:51 p.m.

In reply to 8valve :

I contacted Fiberine a few weeks ago. Their 20" Aero Bubble top is $3825, there's a $575 crating fee, and shipping would be $1k - but they only ship to body shops for installation, so I'm guessing I'd be looking at another grand there unless I can find a place who's sympathetic. 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/30/21 2:53 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh & Cooter:

Those Sportmobile conversions are cool, but the general consensus is it's much more like tent camping than an RV. It would still be too tall to fit in the garage anyway, as the van currently scraps the rubber seal on the bottom of the door when it's fully raised.

 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/30/21 3:07 p.m.

So in my original post I mentioned that one of my challenges would be attaching a rectangular box built with 80/20 to a van that has no straight lines. I did some more measuring/pondering & figured out a solution.

First of all, I've been using this installation vid from Mory for their fiberglass top as a basis for my ideas.


It was definitely informative & worth the time to watch, but since I'm not buying their roof(they're in BC) nor using fiberglass, it's somewhat irrelevant.

However, after crawling around inside the van, and staring at/measuring things, I realized a pretty easy solution. There's a ledge that runs around the perimeter of the roof. It's slightly higher than the drip rails on the outside, but follows its curvature in both axis. 
 

 

After I cut off the roof, I'll weld L-brackets to the top of that ledge on both sides every 2-feel, which will line up with the 80/20 uprights & cross braces. Then I can cut spacers the correct(varying) width to fit between the L-brackets & the inside of the 80/20 roof box. 

8valve
8valve Reader
3/30/21 6:02 p.m.

Maybe an old livestock trough would be a better starting point than from scratch?  If you're going 2k challenge style.

I think a boat hull would be more aero than a trough based cap. 

Have had that thought when I looked at the fiberglass roof caps, "thats a boat."

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/30/21 6:27 p.m.

In reply to 8valve :

Oh I've casually looked for those, but ultimately I'm going for more of an "expedition vehicle" vs. "living in a van" final result. 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/5/21 4:15 p.m.

After a week of measuring, pondering & googling, I'm leaning back toward building a steel frame vs. aluminum for the roof. Here's my current thoughts:

  • While I can use 1/4-round 1.5" radius aluminum extrusion for all the edges of the box, I'll still end up with a rectangle - just one with curved edges & corners. However, if I used round steel tubing instead, I can bend it to make the front more rounded, which will hopefully provide better aero. 
  • With aluminum I'd need to weld steel brackets to the van & bolt the roof extension to it. With steel I can just weld it on.
  • While using steel will be about 50 pounds heavier(200lbs vs. 150lbs for just the skeletal box), it will also be about $600 cheaper.

Any comments/thoughts?

03Panther
03Panther SuperDork
4/5/21 5:35 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

I'm no help with the current thoughts, except that that van will never notice the 50 lb difference!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/5/21 5:53 p.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to John Welsh & Cooter:

Those Sportmobile conversions are cool, but the general consensus is it's much more like tent camping than an RV. It would still be too tall to fit in the garage anyway, as the van currently scraps the rubber seal on the bottom of the door when it's fully raised.

 

As someone who has spent a lot of time camping in tents and has a pop-top van, I'm going to say it's a big step from tent camping :)

Personally, I'd be looking to do something like that. A pop top is really convenient and subtle. Ours only pops up at the front (name starts with V, ends with W) but it's enough to sleep "upstairs" and the hole in the roof is not as large as you'd expect so there's still decent structural integrity. You could probably find one of those without too much trouble and some 'glass work would reshape the roof to fit your van.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/5/21 6:31 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Your camping is way more primative than what we're aiming for :) 

Seriously though, a lot of this centers around enabling us to travel with our critters - 5 sugar gliders, a sulcata tortoise & a box turtle - without causing them much stress or variation from their usual routine. My wife also has Reynaud's, so between the 7 critters & her we need to make sure everything is as insulated & weather-tight as possible so we can keep the interior in the 72-78 degree range. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/5/21 6:34 p.m.

There is definitely some heat loss when the top is popped in cold weather. I forgot about the menagerie. 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/5/21 6:34 p.m.
03Panther said:

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

I'm no help with the current thoughts, except that that van will never notice the 50 lb difference!

Except it's weight up high & I drive it(and pretty much everything else) like I stole it.

Of course once I finish the build & add cabinets up top that'll add even more weigh - though I'll use techniques to minimize it as much as possible. 

1 2 3
Our Preferred Partners
g177O85QIs7Fsgjf4cQXiRSBgvlH41rHIVSR8ggzzAV8omO8eQSK663TjTtdTch0