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Old 08-15-2018, 10:36 PM   #1
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DIY High-Top

I've put in probably a dozen hours looking for a fiberglass high-top. I have a 2001 e350 EB passenger. I'm currently working at Trail Kitchens https://trailkitchens.com/ and therefore have lots of access to aluminum paneling, square extruded tubing, rivets and hardware. I would probably use butyl tape at each seam, and then rhino-line the whole thing to seal it properly. Would it just be too ugly to put on top of my van? Would the gentle contour of the roof not allow for it to seal properly?

I want to play with this idea before I shell out ~$3-5k for a fiberglass topper. Additionally, the fiberglass topper I want from Tufport in B.C. does not have full standing height in front where I want my kitchen which would mess up my build plans for a raised bed in the back with a sliding bike/ski drawer that comes out the back underneath.

Pros:
-Could probably do this for $750.
-Vertical walls and horizontal roof would be very easy to build cabinetry, insulate and finish!
-Might be able to do it lighter than similarly sized fiberglass roofs from Tufport or Fiberine.
-I get to choose the height/consistent standing height throughout van! I'm almost 6'2" and so I am limited in my options for a fixed roof with standing height. The only roof I can stand in throughout is the 30" super camper from fiberine for $4250 w/o installation or tax. (Ouch).

Cons:
Potentially ugly and obvious with vertical walls and flat roof. I spent a lot of money on a really nice Econoline, and don't want my quality, but limited craftsmanship to ruin the van. I want to remain relatively inconspicuous for occasional stealth camping.

I want to make this happen, but I also don't want my van to look trashy or makeshift. Attached are photos of a truck camper that a coworker is building out right now to give you an idea of the general style and framing that I would build this with. Send me your thoughts and ideas!

Thanks y'all!!
Max
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Old 08-15-2018, 10:39 PM   #2
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This is what the construction style would be. I could either curve the front, or just have a straight angle. Keep in mind that this would be entirely covered in white truck-bed liner to match my white van.
Attached Thumbnails
IMG_2038-1.jpg   IMG_2040-1.jpg  
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Old 08-16-2018, 05:32 AM   #3
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Me personally I can't see this coming out aesthetically pleasing since you're limited to square-ish angles. The upside to DIY is it'd be built to your needs and wants without too much compromise.

I see an issue if you'll be removing the upper roof structure especially altering or removing the B- & C-pillars or cutting too deeply into the gutter rails that form the length-wise roof support---those are extremely important to the body integrity in terms of rigidity and potential crash protection.

Removing the roof ribs isn't the best idea but that's not as important as the other body areas I mention. FWIW I have a fiberglass raised roof E350 EB with raised rear doors that has the DOT-required "cage" and C-pillar reinforcement all welded together. Photos of that structure uncovered are available if interested.

As an alternative to multi-riveted panels look into adhesive products like 3M's VHB tape as used for utility trailers. In reality though nothing really beats a mechanical fastener along with a good weather-proofing system.

Again just me personally I'd assess my needs/wants, compare them to my real concern of aesthetics over function/utility then proceed without hesitation.
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Old 08-16-2018, 06:26 AM   #4
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Seems aesthetics is influencing your hesitation...Functional and Pretty dont always go hand-in-hand. Can understand your frustration with the shortcomings of available options (and/or costs), but if you're not pleased with the end result I think you'll lose respect for your project.....then interest.
IMO the fact that you are already raising concern with a vision that will not compliment your current investment should guide your decision.
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Old 08-16-2018, 07:39 AM   #5
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I should preface this by saying I love DIY, and very much appreciate builds that are out of the box thinking. But there is value in 'fitting in', especially if you plan on ever boondocking in your van, parking it out front of a friends house for a week, heck, parking out in front of your own place for 40 week/yr.



A vw bus top third grafted on, plywood and tech screwed ASB slathered with polyester resin and fiberglass cloth. Usually some guy parked near the Emeryville Marina, living out of it, and the rig looks like it doesn't run. That what goes through my mind. I've lived too close to Berkeley and San Fransisco most of my life, I've seen too many home built tops that stand out like a d*ck in a fish and scream "Homeless Sterno Bum", to ever want to build one for my own van. Maybe that's just me. Using aluminum square tube and per-powder coated aluminum would look better, but still, too boxy, out of place, and still a lot of work IMO.



On the flip side, I've followed one thread where a guy built his own removable fiberglass hardtop for his roadster, and did a phenomenal job. Only took him 2 years of weekends to complete, and I think his wife left him for 'lack of attention' in the process! A buddy of mine built his own enclosed race trailer, welded together the frame and cover structure, riveted on the aluminum panels, edge moldings, etc. It only sounded like a good idea, took him 4x longer than planned, he finished it out of shear stubbornness. It came out nice, but he swore he'd never, ever do that again. I'm repairing a nicely done homebuilt teardrop trailer right now, it's a lot of work.



My point is by the time you do it right, to the quality your van deserves, you could have gotten a second job and purchased a factory top, bonded it on yourself, and have it look professional. My 2cents
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Old 08-16-2018, 08:12 AM   #6
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This thread is definitely worth a look. A few years back this guy did pretty much exactly what you're thinking of doing. Aluminum top from scratch with bedliner after it was all done.


https://www.expeditionportal.com/for.../#post-1745662
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Old 08-16-2018, 08:23 AM   #7
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I suggest calling CCV and see if you can buy a high top and just use it as a fixed top. I think it will give you the interior height you want, it is about 18 tall from the gutter. You might need to add a fastening strip around the lower edge. Its looks have grown on me over the years and when inside it is spacious even when down. I would like to think you could get one for $2.5k or less?? Just a thought .
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Old 08-16-2018, 09:05 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by 1der View Post
I suggest calling CCV and see if you can buy a high top and just use it as a fixed top. I think it will give you the interior height you want, it is about 18 tall from the gutter. You might need to add a fastening strip around the lower edge. Its looks have grown on me over the years and when inside it is spacious even when down. I would like to think you could get one for $2.5k or less?? Just a thought .
I think need I need at least a 24" top to get 6'2" (52"+24" =74") with an insulated floor and ceiling. I am having a hard time figuring that out because of conflicting reports from manufacturers - I think people are measuring the height of tops from different places on the van. Thanks for your suggestion!
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Old 08-16-2018, 10:09 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxswasser View Post
I think need I need at least a 24" top to get 6'2" (52"+24" =74") with an insulated floor and ceiling. I am having a hard time figuring that out because of conflicting reports from manufacturers - I think people are measuring the height of tops from different places on the van. Thanks for your suggestion!

I think you are right on actually after checking our van. I just measured our CCV medium height with top down and it is 59" inside with insulated ceiling and floor. You would get another 7" to 8" with the High top at 18"/19" vs medium top 11". To achieve the 74" you would need to go at least 24" above gutter.
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Old 08-16-2018, 10:51 AM   #10
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Check out forum member Abitibi's build. He adapted a movable top from something else, and it came out great. Starting at post 31. From what he told me, it was pretty reasonably priced too.


http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...ance-9789.html
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