Options for Raising the Roof?

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Joe1098

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Jul 27, 2012
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I'm saving up for a van conversion - something to take me and two large dogs cross country in. I'm looking for a decent cargo van to start with and was planning on putting on a penthouse roof but I don't need something that can pop up - just something to give me a few more inches of headroom and maybe some storage space. It's been a slow search because:
1. I'm dust poor (that's one step below dirt poor.)
2. I live halfway between Nowheresville and the End-Of-The-Earth.

So, as far as raised roofs go -
1. Do such things exist?
2. If so, can I see them somewhere on the web?
3. DIY installation for a somewhat experienced person?
4. Fairly affordable?
5. Any junkyard workarounds (something I can salvage with an afternoon and a cutting torch)?

thanks
Joe
 

Molaker

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Here's a link that might interest you in "raising the roof".  I didn't delve into as far a cost, but I might give you some ideas.  Similar tops have been around for years, so I would expect to be able to find one in a salvage yard somewhere.  You might even get a salvage yard to track one down for you withing their "network".

Good luck.  It's a project I once considered years ago, but never was able to follow through.
 

Joe1098

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Jul 27, 2012
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Thanks for the link! It does give me more ideas. One of the inside views makes it look like it's plastic or fiberglass, which I'm kind of leery of but maybe I can find a way to cut the roof, raise it with reinforcing ribs and weld new metal on the sides.
 

SeilerBird

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St Cloud Florida USA
When I was living in a van without a raised roof I checked into the costs of raising the roof. It turned out it was cheaper to buy a van with a raised roof than to raise the one I had. The cheapest roof I could find was $5000. And then there was the labor...
 

Molaker

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Most all raised roofs I've seen are one piece fiberglass.  I'm not sure what your reluctance might be to using fiberglass.  It is strong and relatively easy to work with.  Basically, you cut out the opening and the roof is set on with a gasket and attached with screws.  I would thing it would be a heck of a lot easier than trying to weld up some kind of frame to elevate the roof and then covering the sides, too.

zzyzx said:
When I was living in a van without a raised roof I checked into the costs of raising the roof. It turned out it was cheaper to buy a van with a raised roof than to raise the one I had. The cheapest roof I could find was $5000. And then there was the labor...
This might be true it one is buying a new top.  However, there are a lot of commercial vans around with raised fiberglass roofs so I would imagine there are also a lot in salvage yards as well.  As for labor, I have the impression it would be a DIY project.
 

Joe1098

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I searched for hi-tops and there is some place in CA selling and shipping for under 2K, diy installation. I'm checking out all their pages now.
http://www.discountvantruck.com/vantopsraisedroofs/vantops.htm

As for my distrust of fiberglass -
25+ years ago I had a big-mac style storage pod on top of an old Ford Torino. (Remember the Torino? Remember when big macs came in styrofoam containers?) Maybe it was the age of the container, maybe it was because it was stuffed to twice capacity, but somewhere in northern Indianna the pod decided it had had enough and just disintegrated while I was driving down the highway.  And while I'm sure the material has been improved upon immensely since then, it would always be in the back of my mind and every time I bumped it I'd be searching for stress cracks, and every time a gust of wind hit the van I'd be looking for the top to blow away.
 

Molaker

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My memory of those typical "Big Mac" storage pods was that they were relatively thin plastic - if they were fiberglass they were still very thin because they had to be light enough for one person to lift and install on the roof of a car (even a Torino).  Go find a van with a fiberglass raised roof at a car lot somewhere and check it out.  I think you will find it a much heavier and tougher construction than that of those cheapie pods.
 

Lou Schneider

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Mar 14, 2005
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If you decide to raise the roof, leave the front couple of feet of the original roof in place, even if the raised roof extends all the way to the front.  It's needed to provide rigidity to the front end.

If you cut out the roof all the way to the windshield, you'll have to add extra reinforcement to the front end of the new roof - otherwise the front of the body can flex enough to crack or pop out the windshield.
 

patjanet

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Sep 24, 2012
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This possibly won't be too relevant, but years ago my Dad gave me an old Volkswagen sedan.  It was a white hardtop.  I wanted a sunroof, so I went to a junkyard with an air chisel and $50.  I found a red VW with a sliding sunroof, which I removed halfway down the window posts.  I then calculated a million different ways, and cut out my roof above the windows.

I riveted it the old roof on, and bondo'ed the seam.  It worked great and, when painted with white spray paint, you couldn't tell from the outside.  From the inside, as there was no headliner, it was red if you looked up.

All this being said, I would consider buying an old junked VW Westphalia camper, if such exists, and perhaps the roof unit can be added to yours like an enormous sunroof.
 

Len and Jo

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See this thread:  http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php?topic=19491.0

Also this YouTube show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V5tgW8blWw

 

Karsty

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Niagara Falls, Ontario
Len and Jo said:
See this thread:  http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php?topic=19491.0

Also this YouTube show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V5tgW8blWw

I just marvel at what a wonderful job you have done with your van conversion. Wish I was half as talented or skillful. I could've saved a bundle on a conversion instead of spending a future on a new RV.  ;D
 

davencjkan

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Oct 23, 2009
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Where we park it!!
As for fiberglass - We have a Thule Cargo carrier on top of our toad and it has been on constantly for 3 years now.  No sign of weakness, cracks or any failure.
 

lisabrokenstone

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Sep 27, 2013
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31
Location
california or az, I can't decide
Hi-Top conversions are on my wish list.
A Westfalia from a boneyard might be cool, but a little large for my application.
I have considered a roof clip from a similar vehicle as mine and trimming it inboard of the drip rails.
I am strongly leaning towards a custom built (diy) composite/fiberglass/integrated/ conglomeration with solar panels and possibly a moon roof (I love it out west!).

Happy Trails,
Lisa
 
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