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Old 07-22-2014, 11:59 AM   #1
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Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Hi guys, hope I'm putting this post in the right section.

I've just purchased a '95 E250 RB with the Penthouse roof, and while the van has "great bones" throughout, the Penthouse canvas and its associated gaskets (where it meets the roof) have some problems.

A little history:
I flew up to Ukiah (Mendocino County, CA) and bought the van a week ago, and spent the next week driving down the coast and camping out with it. (GREAT trip, btw!!!! I love this thing already.)

The second night that I camped with it, my girlfriend (happily along for the journey with me) noticed some black "goo" along the driver's side, on the outside of the penthouse where the canvas meets the sheet-metal of the roof of the van. It extended along nearly the entire length of the driver's side of the penthouse. We initially thought it was black mold, pretty gross....but then realized (after several days of it NOT drying out in the sun) that it appears to be some sort of gooey "roof sealer tar/putty" that someone applied along the base of the penthouse, in order to try to seal it better to the roof.

I've looked closer at it, now that I'm back home with the van in Orange County, CA, and I can see that the rubber factory gasket that seals the penthouse roof canvas to the sheetmetal roof of the van appears to be collapsed beneath the surface of the van's roof. It looks to be happily in place at the front and rear of the penthouse, and along most of the passenger side, but on the driver side it has very clearly "submerged" below the place it appears it should be....thus creating the need to seal it somehow (OR FIX IT PROPERLY.....)

So it's got this disgusting black goo along the canvas. And it sure isn't put together properly.

Can these things be fixed by anyone other than Sportsmobile?
Or am I looking at a trip to Fresno to get this thing properly repaired?

Thanks guys!!!!

(PS: The canvas of the penthouse roof has a number of small holes, here and there, as well as a major tear (4 inches by 6 inches!) in one of the window screens.....so I'm considering an entirely new penthouse roof canvas for this thing, anyway, who can do that kind of work, if anyone? Thanks again!!!!)

Cheers/Best Regards,
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:41 PM   #2
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

The black goo is butyl sealant. Waterproofs the connection. Why it's exposed is another question entirely. It works well but is a nightmare to work with. Alcohol will clean it up. Sounds like it leaked, so PO smeared a bunch of that on.. but got me. Pictures might help us get a better idea of what's going on as well.

As for replacing the whole canvas, SMB does it for about $2500.

You can also fix small holes with iron on patches.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:48 PM   #3
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

rallypanam, thanks for the reply.

I'll definitely take some pictures today and see if I can't get 'em posted before too long.

In the meantime --- good to know that alcohol will clean it up.....I'm going to have at it and start stripping that goo out of there to see what's really going on below it. Girlfriend and I had been kicking around various approaches to removing the "goo," but without knowing what the goo itself was, we were left a bit at odds to make a conclusive decision on what might cut it.

Should I be extra-careful to avoid getting alcohol on the canvas? Or rather, could the alcohol damage the waterproofing treatment that the canvas itself is impregnated with?

Thanks again.

Also --- is that canvas-to-sheetmetal gasket a replaceable item?
Curious if I'm going to be looking at fabbing up a new, better gasket or seal approach. Want to do it right, and make it last.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:58 PM   #4
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

The penthouse to van body gasket is listed here, as is the protective tape that goes on the van body roof, but that's all I see on the Sportsmobile store website.

http://www.sportsmobilestore.com/parts/ ... red&page=3


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Old 07-22-2014, 01:02 PM   #5
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainBikeRoamer
Should I be extra-careful to avoid getting alcohol on the canvas? Or rather, could the alcohol damage the waterproofing treatment that the canvas itself is impregnated with?
Good question. I forget what exactly I used, but I didn't have any issues. You might google butyl remover and see what the internet recommends as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainBikeRoamer
Also --- is that canvas-to-sheetmetal gasket a replaceable item?
Curious if I'm going to be looking at fabbing up a new, better gasket or seal approach. Want to do it right, and make it last.
Sure. The lower canvas is screwed into the sheet metal through wood strips inside the penthouse. You can remove the upholstery on the inside and see the wooden strips and screws. I found a very good match for the rubber gasket at McMaster Carr and used that on my old van. That and some butyl sealed it well.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:33 PM   #6
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Replacement seals at McMaster Carr --- good to know.

Not to inundate you with a ton of questions, sorry -- but does the interior trim fabric covering the area of the canvas-to-roof gasket remove readily? Or is that glued down?

I'm honestly just getting started with this, and learning about how these Sportsmobiles are put together. A buddy is currently re-doing the canvas roof on his 1980's VW Westfalia, and those are SO easily replaced it isn't funny. Those things (being German.....) are totally designed to come back apart and be serviced/updated with new parts and canvas....pretty sweet.

Anyhow -- I'm ready to dig into it. Curious what I'm going to find when it starts cleaning up / coming apart.
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:38 PM   #7
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainBikeRoamer
Not to inundate you with a ton of questions, sorry -- but does the interior trim fabric covering the area of the canvas-to-roof gasket remove readily? Or is that glued down?
It's all hardware.. Some fabric screwed directly to wooden strips, some fabric glued to boards which are then screwed/bolted. If I recall correctly the front and rear latches have to be removed as they are bolted through the wooden pieces that have to be removed.
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Old 07-22-2014, 02:17 PM   #8
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Cheers! Great info, thanks.
Will post back again here with an update on this, just as soon as I can get some pictures of the gasket area to post.

Best and most appreciative regards you guys.
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Old 07-24-2014, 09:13 AM   #9
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Hi,

I just finished screwing down the canvas top I transplanted onto my 30 year old 4x4 van.

My notes here are therefore based on a top from a 32 year old Sporty.

How the factory did it:

1- cut hole in roof and installed steel reinforcing frame at hole perimeter

2- hung the pop top over the van and attached the spring loaded uprights

3- placed two strips of 1/2 inch wide strips of 1/8 inch thick butyl tape around the perimeter directly on the sheet metal roof where the canvas was to attach

4- placed larger quantities of butyl (3/8 inch round or out of a caulking tube) at the front of the roof for better sealing at speed

5- cut 2 inch wide strips of Douglas fir plywood the same dimensions as the landing area of the canvas (runs longer than 8 feet were made by duct taping a butt connection between strips and that joint was placed towards the back of the van)

6- stapled the wood strips to the canvas from below so the wood strip ends up on top of the canvas at installation (staples shorter than 1/4 inch plywood thickness)

7- stapled a 1/2 inch wide rubber type spline to the underside of the canvas so that it will sit at the outer edge of the canvas with the round exclamation point part facing out. (hard to describe but the spline in section resembles an exclamation point with the straight part 1/2 inch tall. I used a spline 1-1/2 inches wide. This is the same stuff used in old cars to separate fenders from adjoining panels. I bought mine at a vintage car parts store. I chose the wider one for more of the rubber sealing effect.)

8- the factory build up is this: sheet metal, butyl, spline, canvas, plywood

9- the whole thing is then screwed down with sheet metal screws directly through the roof; screw every inch or two- no real pattern except they seem to avoid the outer edge and therefore the spline- note the factory used cabinet washers to increase the clamping load on the plywood

10- this is the tricky part!- as you screw the plywood strips down only peel a few feet feet of the backing paper off the butyl tape or you'll have the black mess on the canvas that the author mentions above

All of this connection is hidden on top of the roof outboard of the support rods underneath the vinyl trim.

The seal listed on the SMB website is for the lower edge of the pop top itself not the canvas to body connection. The tape listed there is to protect the sheet metal and paint from that same gasket.

Good luck!

Regards,

Gavin
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Old 07-24-2014, 01:34 PM   #10
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Re: Penthouse Issue: canvas-to-van-roof gasket

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainBikeRoamer
Replacement seals at McMaster Carr --- good to know.
This is what I used.. It's not an exact match to what SMB uses (or at least used in 1997) but it's very very close.

http://www.mcmaster.com/#1142a76/=sz967s
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