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Old 10-02-2018, 08:08 PM   #1
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SMB Pop-Top Install - 2014 E350

Hey everybody, long time lurker here!

So, we are finally taking the plunge and getting the SMB penthouse top installed on our 2014 E350, passenger van (window van). We had the 4x4 installed a few years ago, so I guess this is just the natural progression. I am on the schedule at SMB West for mid-October, so it is coming up soon!

SMB is just doing the pop-top as we have 3 kids and are using this as a weekend get-away-mobile. We’re basically making a pseudo-“Transformer” and have the platform bed and insulation installed, but now want the extra penthouse room. (We have a travel trailer if we want to be more “comfortable”)

I would love to hear about people’s good experiences with the tops, or with SMBW service. Unfortunately I have seen some recent bad experiences in addition to viewing older posts with quality control concerns. To be candid I have some reservations based on my 4x4 conversion experience as well, buuuuuuut, I know there are only a handful of outfitters capable of the install.

I don’t need this to be a comparison between SMB and CCV...that has been very well hashed out here. I am comfortable with the trade-offs as I prefer the pop-top to be lower profile than CCV will allow.

Thanks so much for any insights, tips, or things I should be considering. I have appreciated all the insights shared across the forum since before we even owned our own van!
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Old 10-02-2018, 08:43 PM   #2
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Any chance you could go to SMBTX? Might not be such a crapshoot over there. Much bigger hassle, I know.
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Old 10-02-2018, 09:47 PM   #3
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Yeah, way too far. Would actually reconsider CCV if I was going to drive 2 full days from SoCal. I did think about it though.
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Old 10-03-2018, 08:28 AM   #4
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I would read this thread:http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...top-21080.html and maybe reach out to the OP. I would not go to SMBW to have an E-series Poptop installed without knowing they have some resolution their apparent issues with the suppliers of the top.

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Old 10-03-2018, 09:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Scalf77 View Post
I would read this thread:http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...top-21080.html and maybe reach out to the OP. I would not go to SMBW to have an E-series Poptop installed without knowing they have some resolution their apparent issues with the suppliers of the top.



-greg


I actually saw this poster’s top in person. He lives in San Diego and had to go to Fresno on 3 occasions to get things right. It still wasn’t perfect but it was ok. Looking at his top made me decide that I wouldn’t get one from West. I’d drive to CCV or Texas and leave the van for 2 weeks then pick it up before I’d do it in Fresno. Fresno is 5 hours each way, so three trips up there is far more inconvenient than a single drive to Austin and a flight home.

Just my opinion, but do it right the first time. Austin is a 2 day drive if you don’t push it. I did it in May and July.
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Old 10-03-2018, 10:46 AM   #6
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Yeah it seems like SMBW is not very well spoken for when doing penthouse only builds. On full build outs their reputation is better, but sounds like you have read around enough and know what you could be getting in to.

If it were me, I would do a CCV top or try and find a used penthouse top to put on.
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Old 10-03-2018, 12:02 PM   #7
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I've had both a manual SMB top and a fancy new CCV top. I think a manual is "better" from a longevity/simplicity perspective. And a pain-in-the-butt/back from a use perspective.

Which is the truth about any complex system -- our vans at the top of the list. The more complex the more issues and the more possibilities of issues. Its a bit of a crap-shoot. There is the possibility that the install could be bad (see recent threads). Or you might just mess up and bend your mechanism out of wack with an ill-timed distraction and a "oops, forgot to release the latch" moment. Or you could lift it into a tree and mess everything up that way.

I think the complexity and risks are worth it because I *love* having a pop-top tent thats part of my van living space. Even so I can *totally* understand why some folks go with a hightop van and just build everything into one space. Having made your decision the best is to minimize risks. My suggestions:

* have a detailed checklist of things to verify when picking up the van.
* do not accept a vehicle that is less than perfect from the shop. once you pay it'll be much harder to get something fixed. (This means being prepared to go home without your van if they need to work on it more).

* once you do have your van use a checklist and use the "pointing and calling" method of checking it. My wife makes fun of me but we'll park in an open meadow and I will *still* go outside and call out that there isn't anything above the van before lifting the top.
* do regular inspections to ensure problems are noticed before they are major issues. I recently noticed a welded insert nut thingy was bending (bad weld) and was able to get back to CCV and have them fix it before it snapped and broke something really expensive. (They turned it around very quickly and all under warranty)
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Old 10-03-2018, 01:28 PM   #8
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We have a 2014 Eseries in the shop now with a freshly installed SMBW top (the top has been opened maybe 8 times...). We took the trim out so we could do our own upholstery and then took a bunch of pictures of the top installation they did. This is typical of the SMB tops I've seen.











More pics in my gallery.
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Old 10-03-2018, 01:33 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pritikin View Post
...Which is the truth about any complex system -- our vans at the top of the list. The more complex the more issues and the more possibilities of issues. Its a bit of a crap-shoot...
Agree 100%. Complex mechanical and electrical systems, coupled with off pavement driving for a lot of these vans, is a challenging combination. Your house, on a concrete foundation, even with routine maintenance, requires repair and replacement of components. A vehicle will require much more maintenance and more repairs. Don't expect any less.

As for which company? Both have had issues, both will continue to have issues, but for both companies my subjective opinion is that the majority of owners are satisfied and therefore you will probably never hear from those owners because of that.

There was some great advice earlier about planning for some extra days after picking up your rig to sort through everything, make sure it all works as designed, and to bring it back for tweaks as needed before heading home. This is even more important if you live any distance away from whichever conversion company you choose.


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Old 10-03-2018, 01:35 PM   #10
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wow... Makes me feel much better about the hole I cut in my roof
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