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Author Topic: Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!  (Read 422 times)

Zeeb

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Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!
« on: June 22, 2019, 08:32:47 PM »
Hi everyone; I recently got an old ford conversion van, and am turning it into living space.
I was planning to install a fiberglass high top, to have standup space.
After many unsuccessful attempts to find a high top, I resorted to an unorthodox plan. Im repurposing an old pickup truck topper as a van high roof!

The current plan is to get some angle iron welded together to reinforce the area cut out of the van roof. A set of 2x6 wood joists will be bolted to the side irons, making a surface to bolt the topper to (drawings soon to follow).
It seems feasible, but Im hoping for a sanity check. Ive done various diy projects both household and automotive, but nothing like this.
Am I missing something crucial? 
I dont want to make an expensive, frustrating mistake.

Also, I made a few sketches of the mount frame. I want to upload them here but there doesn't seem to be an option for this. Sorry folks, I realize a picture's worth a thousand words.  :(
« Last Edit: June 22, 2019, 10:54:32 PM by Zeeb »

Camper_Dan

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Re: Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2019, 02:11:25 AM »
Greetings!

By my estimation, building your own from scratch would be an easier task, and produce better results.  I've built and installed them in a single afternoon.

Unlike the factory high tops, I built them out of 1/4 inch marine plywood, and attached them to the gutters just like you do roof racks.  With a butyl rubber seal all the way around the bottom, they never leaked.

I used metal flashing on all the seams and corners to virtually remove the possibility of it ever leaking, and I installed slider windows in each side, but absolutely no roof vents or holes in the tops of the roof.

I recreated the interior wall and roof ribs using metal wall studs from home depot, doubled to basically form a hollow metal 2x4.  The gutter anchors attached to these from the outside.

I then insulated between the ribs, and boxed the interior in using lightweight luan.  The end result was lighter weight but stronger top than those made of fiberglass.

In the back, above the rear doors, I mounted a home made 12v indirect type swamp cooler, with just a grill visible from the outside for a neat and clean look.  My 7 gallon water tank for it was strapped to the wall, resting on the floor just inside the rear door for easy filling.

You couldn't tell by looking that it wasn't a factory high top.

The only tricky part is following the roof contour in the front, the bottoms of the other 3 sides are all flat.  I followed the slope of the windshield going up in the front, but the sides and back were flat. 

If you're adding windows into the sides, or a swampy or A/C into the back, finish the top inside and out first, and make sure your windows fit between the ribs.

With the exception of the front bottom contour, which I cut with a jigsaw, home depot made all my cuts to my specifications.

For me, it was a quick and easy project, even with very limited tools.  Since then I have built several for friends as well, all the exact same way, just with custom dimensions to fit their rigs.

I have also built several different styles of pop up tops, if those are of interest.

All that being well and good, most people wait for a donor high top from a wrecking yard, which can frequently be found for under $100.  Just be sure to get one off an exact match to your van so you don't have to adapt it.

Cheers!
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Zeeb

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Re: Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2019, 02:58:43 PM »
Wow, i appreciate the detailed response!
By gutter anchor, I assume were looking at the same type used to mount roof racks?

Also, Im rather curious how you manage to condense something this involved into a single afternoon!
Some sort of streamlined manufacturing strategy?

Camper_Dan

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Re: Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2019, 09:30:24 PM »
Greetings!

I had seen  other high tops from both the inside and the outside, as well as various pop-up tops, so I had a good idea of what I wanted in my head.  My van already had a huge crank open sun roof, which appeared to be close to identical to opening in top of the VW Westfalia pop top camper van.  So I didn't need to cut the roof on  my first one.

So it was just a matter of measurements, and Home Depot ( It wasn't actually a Home Depot, but that's today's equivalent. )  did all the cuts for me, and much quicker and easier than I could have done them myself.  Everything was off the shelf parts, and the assembly instructions were in my head.  I was familiar with gutter mount roof racks and how they attached, so that seemed to be the easiest and quickest way to attach a high top securely.

I envisioned a leak proof joint connection system, which proved to work as expected.  Unbelievably simple but foolproof in my mind, and later proved in practice.  With the picture in my mind, assembly was pretty easy and straight forward.

The side windows and the swamp cooler came later, not the first afternoon, not because it couldn't have been completed in a day originally, but because those improvements weren't in my original plan.

Some people need blueprints, or directions, and I think that may slow the process.  All I need is a vision of the finished product, and to work out the details in my head.  If I can envision it, I can build it, even though I don't consider myself especially skilled or a craftsman.  Maybe it's a problem solving skill, that just comes naturally to me, I don't know.  My whole life, I have entertained myself by finding simple solutions to complicated problems.

Cheers!
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Zeeb

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Re: Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2019, 05:22:05 PM »
Wow, inspirational!
In my case though, the truck topper leaves a rear portion of the roof unconverted; a good place to mount luggage if need be. Call me lazy, but i also like the premise of not having to build an entire high top from scratch.
Id wonder then what might be the best bet to adapt a flat topper to a slightly curved roof. Do i need reinforcement for the roof ribs ill cut out? They only appear tack welded in, and id only remove 2 of the 6 ribs in the ceiling.
Id think i could get away with an all-wood adaptation frame, but am not sure.

Camper_Dan

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Re: Roof lift on a Ford E150 sanity!?!
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2019, 06:09:10 PM »
Greetings!

Be careful about too much weight up high, it can really mess up your handling.

Yes, you can make an adapter frame fairly easily...  Take the boards front and back, and temporarily mount them at securely to roof, as level as possible.  Then you take a compass, and open it up to 45°.  With the pencil on the board, trace the outline of the roof with the pointed end of the compass, and you will have the exact contour drawn onto your board.  Then you cut it with a jigsaw.

Cheers!


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