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Old 03-30-2016, 09:59 PM   #1
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Penthouse vs High Roof and PH feedback

I am about to commit to a 144 low roof 4x4 and the plan is to add the PH top. I've had that thought since I saw a friend's setup and I really liked the idea of a low roof for practical driving purposes. This will be a daily driver for me. But just a bit ago I saw a new high roof van and the ability to stand up anytime is certainly attractive. I am 6'2" so height is nice. But i just feel like a high roof will not be great as a daily driver. I'm also suddenly concerned about cutting a huge hole in a very expensive van as I just read a few threads describing serious quality issues with SMB. Overall it seems like these might be unlucky customers but I have to wonder.

In addition to the always standing vs raising the top argument I am curious if anyone with a PH top can give me some feedback on other things from a user standpoint that would be hard to know about until you have used it a lot. For example: the structure of the ph top requires framing around the inside of the van at the roof level. Does it get in the way when you are using your galley? I seem to remember it being right at my head when I was standing over my buddy's galley and thought it might be annoying when cooking or using the surface. You wouldn't have this issue in the high roof.

I am not doing a SMB build, just PH top. My interior will be far more utilitarian and eventually I plan to have a simple galley. I dont want all the cabinetry of the typical SMB builds, I want to keep it simple as possible.

Any other things to think about? Thanks for any advice and feedback.
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Old 03-31-2016, 10:07 AM   #2
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I like the ph top on my ford just so I can have a bed when the van is loaded. The top does give more head room when up so it gives a more open feeling.


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Old 03-31-2016, 11:55 AM   #3
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I've had the low-roof penthouse top Sprinter for almost 4 years now. I'm a little over 6'2" tall. Obviously I'm always crouching when the top is down, but there's a couple of feet over my head when it's up. The top is essentially the full width of the van, so I never find it in the way when I'm working at the galley. I don't know what's involved in installing the infrastructure since SMB put it all together, but I do know there are two I-beams that run the length of the roof. Don't know if those are for the penthouse top or part of the van as rollover protection.

A friend has a Sprinter high-roof camper (not a SMB) but I can't stand up fully in it without banging my head. His ceiling is padded, so it's more like rubbing my head.

One really nice thing about sleeping upstairs is that there's good privacy when using the porta-potty downstairs in the middle of the night. That's in addition to feeling like you're in a tent and being able to easily look out at the scenery in the middle of the night.
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Old 03-31-2016, 01:26 PM   #4
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Thanks Goose and SteveT! Great feedback so far.
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Old 03-31-2016, 01:35 PM   #5
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......CCV top
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Old 03-31-2016, 04:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
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......CCV top
x2
Our reference is in a Chevy Express, but we really like our CCV top!
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Old 03-31-2016, 06:15 PM   #7
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We've got a high roof Sportsmobile Sprinter now and previously owned a classic VW Westfalia pop-top.

Two of the big advantages for our high fixed roof unit are full stand-up shower/toilet enclosure and plenty of upper cabinet storage around the high roof perimeter. But for your basic build-out those benefits may not apply. So it probably boils down to the simplicity and structural integrity of the factory high roof versus the lower height clearance and roof-top sleeping of the penthouse.

We do miss the lovely tree-house like sleeping views and cross ventilation of our old pop-top. There's really no right or wrong answer - it just boils down to personal preference and usage. And those CCV tops look great, we might need to consider one for our next unit!

BTW, we were in Moab last week and the place was lousy with DIY and transformer style conversion Sprinters. All high roof, often with a galley/fridge 'pod' behind the drivers seat, raised platform bed, roof fans and CRL windows, sometimes with the rock-and-roll convertible rear seat/bed. Simpler than most Sportsmobiles but quite functional. A few were the new 4x4s, mostly 144 wheelbase, but no PH roofs except for one red Ford E-350 SMB.

The Pro conversions we spotted were from Van Specialties in Oregon and VanWorks in Colorado.
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Old 03-31-2016, 10:34 PM   #8
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I have a 08 Ford e350 with Penthouse roof. I love the fresh air and
also the privacy blinds that roll down in the Sportsmobile Penthouse.
The standing height with Penthouse top up is almost 7ft when open.
You can put a roofrack on the Penthouse popup, but with the fixed roof,
roof rack would be extremely high and ventilation would be restrictive
in summer but warmer in winter.
I have a 50 plan sofa that is very quick to make a bed & sleeping bag for
stealth camping.
Some 4x4 trails could be less accessable with high top roof?
I love my Penthouse popup.
Your idea of module kitchen sounds good. Positioned well you could have 50 plan,
sofa bed, wardrobe, sink cupboard modules later.
It all come down to your preferences.
I wanted a V8 diesel for towing trailer with Quads & other toys.
What van & engine do you have or thinking about?
Good Luck.
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Old 03-31-2016, 11:49 PM   #9
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......CCV top
x3 on the CCV top.

Also, if just two of you 90% of the time, strongly consider a walk through layout. With swivel seats up front, the lounging area is very nice and very efficient in use of space/accessibility to storage.
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Old 04-01-2016, 12:29 AM   #10
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x3 on the CCV top.

Also, if just two of you 90% of the time, strongly consider a walk through layout. With swivel seats up front, the lounging area is very nice and very efficient in use of space/accessibility to storage.

I think the walk through plan is very narrow and leaves no rear storage. Yes,
have front seats that can swivel to rear facing. The 50 plan sofa also has
seat belts and passengers face forwards not sitting sideon in a crash. There is an
image on Google, typing in Sportsmobile 4x4 Images that has two men sitting
facing each other with thier legs strechted out on a foot stool indicating the enormous
space available in the 50 plan, coincidently in a yellow ford smb!
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