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Old 03-12-2013, 10:51 PM   #11
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Re: penthouse or not?

yes I am very satisfied with the fit and finish. They did a great job of installing wiring for the lights and panel as well. PS we don't use or take the ladder with us. Rungs are too small for bare feet and we had the cabinets designed with a low spot behind the drivers seat to step up to the counter.

1991 VW Westy (N8IV) aka Vanna, of Ashland, OR
2012 Sprinter RB SMB PT (ALCES2) aka Moose, chill'n in Anchorage, AK
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Old 03-13-2013, 09:13 AM   #12
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Re: penthouse or not?

Thanks for the good report. I'm planning to order a 2014 RB in July for an Austin SMB build.

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Old 03-13-2013, 12:47 PM   #13
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Re: penthouse or not?

If I was to reorder a van the number one priority would be the penthouse; it's the most important feature of my van. More than 4x4, cabinets, water, etc etc.

I've never had anyone be anything but delighted at sleeping up there; you're like a kid(s) in a particularly nice bunkbed with a killer view. And as mentioned, if you have the right layout then people can sleep below and still have some privacy. You can also in that situation sleep with the top down, for stealth or other reasons.

These vans are already tall. Mine's 4x4 now, but even before conversion high winds were a pain if not a hazard. I would not wanna drive it any higher. And there are those low-hanging obstacles.

The penthouse is very cool in hot weather with all that ventilation. But colder in winter; I either lower the top and sleep below if it's down in the low twenties, or use insulation. The light that the penthouse allows in is also great.

My van is 12 years old this month. The top still doesn't leak; I'm putting on some bedliner cuz it has some crazing in the gel coat, but that's really prophylactic. And I once popped it on the fastest highway in BC, going downhill, probably 75 MPH. No problemo, aside from the pucker factor. I also had it blow open in 50 MPH gusts at 65 MPH on Highway 50 at the NV/UT border; it broke the piece that the front latches are attached to in the van (the wind got under the front since the Ford has some little runnels there and it acted like a giant airbag jack. Pretty awesome, so I'd caution folks to make sure that doesn't happen). The top and it's supports were fine; SMB replaced the crossbar free. No problems since.
2001 Ford E250 Sportsmobile with Salem-Kroger 4x4 conversion
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Old 03-13-2013, 02:05 PM   #14
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Re: penthouse or not?

... and on tonight's nightmare menu: Top Popping!
'95 SMB E350 Quigley 7.3
... If you have to ask, you'll never understand...
"... torpedo'd, because we don't generally cotton to bullshit around here." -jage
"... do they ooch apart in the night?" -Dia
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:34 PM   #15
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Re: penthouse or not?

I'm totally comfortable in the Ph with the top down by myself and often don't put it up when traveling alone. When I'm with Kim, we get by with it down for meals between driving, but always prefer it up.

I would say the alternative plus to not having to make that decision (up or down) with the fixed would be all that glorious storage.

The other factor besides looks and height that people seem to find important is sleeping in the Ph, which we don't do anyway, so don't know the pros vs cons.
and then
everything changed
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Old 03-14-2013, 01:57 PM   #16
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Re: penthouse or not?

We also have been extremely happy with the Electric Penthouse , we have camped top down at below zero temperatures and Top up at 110 degree's plus , encountered 65 MPH gusts of wind with SportsMobile facing into the direction of the wind and window's open . My lovely Bride would sleep in the Penthouse every chance that she had if not for city ordinances . with regard to raising and lowering on less than level ground you can lower your Penthouse Top and drive very slowly on level ground with your Latches Unlocked (VERY SLOWLY) and your top will settle into place for secure locking ,you are also able to move your SportsMobile with the Penthouse Up (Very ,Very Slowly) to provide a better position for whatever reason . I learned this from John Kalmbach when I expressed my desire to adjust the direction after setting up at a given site .I never would do this in an area of Extreme Rough Off camber terrain though as I think that would be overtaxing the lifting mechanism.
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Old 03-17-2013, 08:37 PM   #17
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Re: penthouse or not?

You may want to get inside vans with both tops to decide. We considered a penthouse until we actually got inside one. Even with the top up, it is difficult for 2 people to walk past each other because they leave about 10" of roof on each side. Combine that with the loss of overhead storage and we went with the fixed top.

It is true the high top catches the wind more, and it would be really tall with 4x4.
2009 E250 RB 5.4L "SilVan"
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Old 05-07-2018, 09:01 AM   #18
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Regarding your post below, are you still pleased with the penthouse on the SM? I'm looking to buying one. Had a 90 Syncro Westfalia.

Originally Posted by Spenard View Post
We like our 2012 Penthouse Sprinter with power lift + roof solar panel. Only problem is sometimes it comes down a little more to one side or the other if you put it down while parked on sloping ground. You know it from the inside because the latch on wide side is way easier to latch and on the outside cause it looks crooked. If you watch it while lowering, you stop and just reach up and easily shift it. Love the light and ventilation and most places we camp we want to hear the wildlife or water nearby while sleeping, like in a tent. We have also stealth camped in parking lots with the top down because ours looks more like a passenger van with full windows. We have a Westfaiia as well and the manual slant top stays aligned better and is nice inside under the soaring roof (but you can only sleep head forward)but the canvas sides get wet easier than the SMB material. The Westy has a slightly wider bunk too. Another advantage IMO is that you can be up and doing things "downstairs" without as much disturbance of a sleeper above (if they have their head to the back) because its like a separate compartment. The hightop was too conspicuous to me and really does not accommodate an upper bunk space that had enough clearance above or below IMO. PS found out this winter that the top can be frozen to the body in cold snow weather when parked outdoors for a few weeks. Takes turning up the Espar for awhile and some tapping if you want to raise it.
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Old 05-07-2018, 12:42 PM   #19
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I like them both, but I'd prefer the high top, but then I'm soon to be 75 and the wife is on the verge of becoming 77!

Good luck with your decision!

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Old 05-07-2018, 02:59 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by jakenav View Post
Regarding your post below, are you still pleased with the penthouse on the SM? I'm looking to buying one. Had a 90 Syncro Westfalia.
Just FYI, Spenard hasn't logged on in a couple years. You may want to try a PM as well and maybe he'll get a notification.


Currently vanless. Weird.
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