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Old 12-05-2010, 07:28 PM   #1
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Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

About time for this lurker to post a thread!

I'm starting with a Gladiator conversion based on a Chevy Express G1500. Being an old VW Bus driver, I can't help but notice the similarities between the layout of my Gladiator and the layout in my old Westfalia bus. Watching some of the home-built penthouse installations in this forum convinced me that I can manage the job of installing a Westfalia pop-top in my Chevy.

Today, I took the first step, and salvaged an old Westie pop-top from a 1970 VW bus. This thread will follow the project as it develops. For now,here are some pics of the new top as it came home, mounted temporarily in the position it will eventually assume permanently.









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Old 12-05-2010, 07:50 PM   #2
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

Looking forward to the PICTURES brother !!
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:55 PM   #3
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

I'm really curious what you do to get the pop top to contour the roof of your van - i guess you have to cut it. Please share that information.... and any other tips/hints you come across

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Old 12-26-2010, 08:47 PM   #4
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

I love all these Chevys hopping on board. MY Eurovan Top install should be done tomorrow.

Ron
2006 Chevy Express 2500 Dura Max
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Old 12-26-2010, 09:40 PM   #5
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

just pull the rubber seal off and grind/sand to fit the contour. When good reinstall the rubber and start cutting metal. I would get the contour down first so that the hole cutting process takes less time. I like the onepiece Eurovan top more than the two piece Westy tops. I just spotted a older Chevy with a "Turttle Top" pop-up that looks like it would adapt to just about anything.
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Old 01-02-2011, 02:25 AM   #6
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

Quote:
Originally Posted by dimension4
I'm really curious what you do to get the pop top to contour the roof of your van - i guess you have to cut it. Please share that information.... and any other tips/hints you come across

I decided it would be easier to add material to fill the gap in the front rather than cut the Westfalia top. That gap in the front is nearly four inches, as you can see in the photos, so I'd need to cut a whole lot off the sides before the front would drop down enough to make the front edge seal. I built some templates from cardboard as a guide, and built a masonite "backer" to help me retain the correct contour in the front curve. I lined the backer with aluminum foil, and started building the first layer of fiberglass on that backer board, overlapping the inside edge by and inch or so. I laid up fiberglass from the back side first, because it was easiest to attach the masonite to the front side and smoothly mimic the curve of the westie top. After that first layer of fiberglass cured, I removed the masonite and the foil, and laid up several additional layers from the front. That way, my new fiberglass overlaps both the front and the back for a stronger bond.

Sadly, I took no photos of the process of adding the fiberglass. The final layer on the front side is curing tonight, and I'll start final grinding to fit the bottom edge tomorrow, so I'll try to get some photos of the fitting process before I paint the top and attach the hinges.
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Old 01-02-2011, 02:34 AM   #7
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bones_GSXR
just pull the rubber seal off and grind/sand to fit the contour. When good reinstall the rubber and start cutting metal. I would get the contour down first so that the hole cutting process takes less time. I like the onepiece Eurovan top more than the two piece Westy tops. I just spotted a older Chevy with a "Turttle Top" pop-up that looks like it would adapt to just about anything.
I was afraid that cutting the westie top to fit would leave it too shallow, and result in a poor fit of the canvas. (Look back at the photo to see the four inch gap I would have to adjust for, and imagine how shallow the top would be with four inches cut off each side.) One of the benefits of using the westie top is that all the parts are readily available, including seals, latches and canvas in numerous colors and materials. It would be a shame to alter the top so much that standard canvas would no longer fit.

I agree that it makes most sense to fit the fiberglass first, before mounting the hinges and props and cutting the hole. I would love to have found a one-piece top that would work, but I found that they did not fit the contours of the Chevy van roof very well. The old bay window buses have nearly identical contours to the Chevy, so I settled on the early-style westie top that hinges from the front. It will wind up looking like it was made for this van, the contours match so well.
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Old 01-02-2011, 02:56 AM   #8
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

Quote:
Originally Posted by bettyford
I love all these Chevys hopping on board. MY Eurovan Top install should be done tomorrow.

Ron
2006 Chevy Express 2500 Dura Max
Odd that two of the Chevys on the forum, both with Volkswagen tops, are located in Wyoming, though in opposite corners of the state. If I'd known you were installing your top this month, I would have been tempted to drive across the state to help you, and gain some experience before I tackle the job!!
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Old 01-02-2011, 11:26 AM   #9
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cowboy
Quote:
Originally Posted by bettyford
I love all these Chevys hopping on board. MY Eurovan Top install should be done tomorrow.

Ron
2006 Chevy Express 2500 Dura Max
Odd that two of the Chevys on the forum, both with Volkswagen tops, are located in Wyoming, though in opposite corners of the state. If I'd known you were installing your top this month, I would have been tempted to drive across the state to help you, and gain some experience before I tackle the job!!
I finished mine last Monday did you see the pictures? I all so think that shaping the VW top to fit the Van top is the way to go, the part you will be shaping has nothing to do with how tight the canvas will be. its just the edge of the fiberglass, I shaped my first about 3in to fit my old Ford. this one was only about 1.5in for the Chevy. Please let me know if I could be of any help. This picture was before i screwed the tent down more of the install on my threat "Betty White Pop Top install".
Ron
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Old 01-02-2011, 08:51 PM   #10
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Re: Installing Westfalia Pop-top in a Chevy Express

Quote:
Originally Posted by bettyford
I finished mine last Monday did you see the pictures? I all so think that shaping the VW top to fit the Van top is the way to go, the part you will be shaping has nothing to do with how tight the canvas will be. its just the edge of the fiberglass, I shaped my first about 3in to fit my old Ford. this one was only about 1.5in for the Chevy. Please let me know if I could be of any help. This picture was before i screwed the tent down more of the install on my threat "Betty White Pop Top install".
Ron
Yes, I looked through your thread last night. I'm sure I'll have questions as I go, and I appreciate having a resource to ask! It looks like you have a much roomier, better lit workspace. Mine is a bit cramped, as you'll see in my photographs below. I can't complain too much, though, as it's nice to have a warm(ish) place to work inside, even if it is not roomy. I converted one door of my garage into a solar collector. Yesterday it was 2 degrees outside, and 40 degrees inside, with the solar collector as the only heat source in the garage. I love the thing!

I have no photos from phase one of the fiberglass work. In that phase, I clamped a piece of foil-lined masonite onto the front of the pop-top to form a backer-board that would mimic the existing curve of the front of the top, where I did the filling. The first layer of fiberglass then went on the inside of the top, laid onto the backer board. After the first layer of fiberglass cured, I pulled off the form, flipped the top over, and laid up another layer of fiberglass from the outside. This way, the fiberglass "filler" I added is bonded to both the inside and the outside of the old fiberglass, for added strength. Here's a photo of the work after I laid on the second layer on the outside:


[

And the view from the inside:



And after trimming off the excess:



Now it's time to test-fit the top and do the final trimming. I apologize for the glare. It's the result of that solar panel that provides the heat, and also brings natural light into the garage during daylight hours:



The fit was pretty good. I had to trim off about a quarter inch in a few spots, to get the gap just right all around:





Once the gap was even, I fit the old rubber seal onto the new filler panel and it fits well. With fresh, pliable rubber, it will seal perfectly, I expect:





After some sanding, the new filler panel was ready for a skim coat of bondo to even out the imperfections.



Next up, sanding and priming in preparation for a coat of fresh paint. I'll probably hold off on the priming, though, until I've managed to get the hinges attached.
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