So I bought a used Sportsmobile Penthouse top. This is my winter project and I plan to document the rebuild here specifically as well as add to my build thread over here: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/t...ersion.147902/
This top was removed for installation of a new CCV top and was advertised by MSD here: http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...ing-22849.html
I responded within 2 hours...
I had considered different top options in the past, all of the new ones are super expensive, and most require drop offs, flights, hotel rooms, etc. (if being installed) which costs even more. Additionally some reports regarding their experiences with some of the tops have left me not wanting to take the risk/$.
I have strongly considered building my own poptop but without much experience with any of the tops and their mechanical aspects I found little motivation to start.
I also looked at a few whole vans with decent pop tops for removal and van resell but that seemed like a riskier "investment".
Being a DIY'er I thought buying a used one and refurbishing it was the cheapest way to add value to my van, add another separate sleeping area, and learn about how a Sportsmobile top works and ultimately benefit (and improve) their mistakes.
Being cheap, not wanting to pay MSD to crate the thing, and thinking I could beat the V10 mpg odds (and a snowstorm) I decided to spend my Thanksgiving days off driving to Loveland Co. to actually pick it up.
First, as I was leaving Rock Springs WY. on the way there I blew a spark plug. Knowing that this is a known problem I immediately knew what happened (or did I?). I pulled off at the last Rock Springs exit which was only a mile or so ahead. The exit is desolate, mostly abandoned gas stations. As I pulled over and looked around I saw "Pats Automotive" (which looked nearly abandoned as well), and there were two guys milling around out front. I approached one of them and asked, "what are the chances of getting service on Thanksgiving day?", he laughed.
After telling him what I had he said he has done it, it would be around $500 cash, I considered my lack of options then agreed. Turns out Oreillys was open (for another hour) and had the heli-coil kit.
When Pat returned with the parts we pulled the van into the nice warm shop as it started to snow outside. I already had the cover off, and Pats 22 year old son dove in with a flashlight. He returned with a coilpack and a spark plug stuck in the boot, the coil pack had a broken flange. The spark plug was broken, one piece, the ceramic could spin separately from the metal. Something else, a bit unusual, there were no threads on the plug!
Tyler grabbed a scope and stuck it in the hole, sure enough, the threads were good, top of the piston looks good.
The spark plug literally unscrewed then blew out! Even the threads right at the top were good, not even a hint of threads on the plug.
I had heard that the later V10's had changed the design and this was no longer a problem, I never would have guessed that it unscrewed but to not blow out the threads at 1/2 or 1/4 insertion is a real testament to thread strength. It was likely caused by not tightening, it was the middle plug on the driver side. After that I decided to check them all, Pats son took the front and I took the rear pulling coilpacks and checking plug torque. Most were good to a half turn from tight. Pat paced around talking on the phone and smoking cigarettes the whole time.
After buttoning things up and clearing a coilpack code with their Snap-on diagnostics tool, Pat asked if we could settle up with the $500 bill, "I wont charge you for the parts" as he smiled, a coilpack and a sparkplug. I reluctantly gave him the money and was back on the road in less than 3 hours. I'm grateful it didn't happen 20 miles later in the blowing snowstorm I hit on Elk Mountain. In reflection, I could have done this in the Oreillys parking lot, they might have even had the scope to borrow to check the threads, but I didn't know it would be so easy when I agreed to Pats help.
I met Mark at CCV around 9:30a the next morning. Mark seems like a great guy, he stayed in communication with me and was very hospitable. He gave me a quick tour of CCV, although I admit, my head was literally in the clouds, I had a head cold and couldn't think about much of anything other than, "what kind of adventures await on the drive home?, how much is it going to cost over and above the regular expenses?". I wish I could have had more time to hang out/have a beer with Mark under different circumstances, maybe another time.
It was a very windy day in Fort Collins, I pulled over for gas and as I opened the door it got ripped out of my hand by a wind gust and bent backwards. I was able to shut the door but now it wont open more than 2" before binding between the door and fender occurs. I have been using the cargo side door for ingress/egress but need to stop driving it or fix it because its really hard to remember I cant go that way, especially going out, every time I open it I do more damage. I hope I don't have to buy a new/used door as finding a black one might be rather difficult causing me to do a full door repaint.
To top it off, I don't advise the V10, 3.73 gears, and 33" tires for pulling a 2500lb or heavier trailer unless you like 7-8MPG. The van is fine without the trailer or pulling the trailer in town but that combo with winds, hills, and trying to stay at speed means it "hunts" for gear. Kinda blew my 10mpg estimates.
Its hard to say if this top is "worth it" at this point. I really shouldn't pin the incident costs on the top as those things could have happened anywhere at anytime but its hard not to at this point. Knowing what I know now I would have paid the $750-$1000 for crating and shipping.
This is a full length RB top, in other words it goes all the way to the windshield and has latches above the front doors to keep the leading edge down. The canvas stops behind the cab as all other SMB tops. As Mark told me it is from the Indiana Sportsmobile shop and that is identified by being a smooth top rather than "ribbed". The ribbed tops came from Fiberine for SMB Texas, West. Indiana tops came from somewhere else.
My rough plans at this point is to fill the holes in the top, install a Maxxair fan, solar panel, maybe a rear basket/rack, and Raptor line the top before installing.