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Old 06-20-2012, 04:28 PM   #1
dorkpunch OP
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Pop top Suburban- removeable roof top camper.

Yeah. I know. Another project...

I've had this idea kicking around in the back of my head for a couple of years now. I want a "Poptop" that I can mount to the roof rack of my Suburban. I had a few basic design requirements-

1. Has to be TALL. At least 6 feet on one end. I'll still have to slouch majorly, but I can handle 6 feet.

2. Room for two people.

3. Simple construction, easy to build, no large time commitment.

4. CHEAP.

5. Was hoping that one person would be able to mount / dismount from the roof, but I don't think thats going to be possible unless I have a "hoist" of some sort in my garage... Also a possiblity.

After monkeyin around with this idea forever, Here's what I came up with. Got LOTS of other drawings with a ton more ideas, but here are a few basics to show you the idea.

Havent decided WHERE on the roof its going, but I am planning on putting it as far towards the front for two reasons- I can have a "door" in the floor where the sunroof is, allowing me to get in and out through the sunroof, and it will also leave the back end of the roof rack free for tying other stuff on.



Here you can see a little on how I plan to hold the lid UP. 4 pieces of conduit near the corners- once side much longer than the other. Not 100% on how I'm going to attach them to the lid, but current thinking is I will flatten the upper end of the conduit enough to put the skinny end of a T hinge in it, then weld the two together and bolt the whole thing to the roof.



Sides of the camper will be coming from a ginormous canvas cabin tent I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago. The floor is likely going to be 3/4 CDX, but open to suggestions? Canvas will be stapled to the underside of the floor on the bottom, then a pocket will be sewn all the way around the top of the canvas. Inside of that pocket will be conduit to keep the shape, which will be bolted to the roof.



Lower end of the conduit will have something like pictured, but just a piece of angle iron or aluminum with slots cut in it for the conduit support pole to rest in- several of them to allow for adjusting tension.

Questions...

Do I need to worry about cross bracing side-to-side? I think if the support poles are angled forward and backward, it should be pretty stable front to back but I'm worried that the whole thing will just want to flop over sideways.

Any ideas on what I can use for the roof? I've come up with what I feel is the best solution- a truck topper... I'm open to other suggestions as long as its darn cheap and easy to work with.

CDX the route to go on the floor? Something better to use?

Am I missing anything?

Alright y'all... shoot my dream down.
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:36 PM   #2
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Looks like the setup you can buy for the Honda Element (which is a copy of the Westfalia like I once owned). You really don't need that much room at your foot area so you can copy the scissor type hinge that the Westys used.
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:39 PM   #3
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Here's a link:
http://www.ursaminorvehicles.com/camper.htm

I'll tell you that from owning a Westy for a number of years that the roof pop top is great. Make sure to put big screens with covers on both sides (or 3 sides) for ventilation.
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:50 PM   #4
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The tent I'm cutting up has several large windows and a large door which I'm going to keep in case I want to put a ladder access off to one side. Thought about a hinge at the foot... Still might go that route. We'll see how my roof ends up- the rest of it is going to have to be made to match that.

I also plan on putting in one of those ceiling vents with an electric fan- maybe a solar panel or two to run that and charge a battery for lights as well. Time will tell...
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Old 06-20-2012, 06:18 PM   #5
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You have zero side to side stability. You'd be relying on whatever pins go through your conduit, which just won't work. Add cross bracing, yes.

Why do you want to stand up in there? Doesn't seem entirely necessary.

And you do know you can buy rooftop tents, right? Like ones made for this very thing? I know they aren't cheap, but I think there are a few that aren't hella-expensive, anyway.


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Old 06-20-2012, 06:32 PM   #6
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I've seen the commercial ones and I have a few problems with them. They seem to fall into two categories- roof top tents or "pop tops" with a hard shell. Not interested in a rooftop tent- I wanted something with a hard shelled roof that I could leave on indefinitely if I want and not worry about water etc. The "pop tops" I've seen seem really small... I'm a tall guy. I like to stand up when I put my pants on. The MAIN issue with ALL of them is the price. I can buy 2 or three CARS for the price of one of them tents! Goal on this build is to keep it under $100. Most expensive part looks like it will be the CDX sheet at about $25.

Kinda what I figured with the cross bracing. Have a few ideas on the drawing board, have to go back to them and see what looks like it'll work best.
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Old 06-20-2012, 06:38 PM   #7
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+1 on adding cross bracing. Think of wind loading against the side of the raised top - that's a big sail!

Otherwise, the plan looks pretty viable IMHO.
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Old 06-20-2012, 07:03 PM   #8
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Rather than two individual poles front & rear you might use two one piece X braces that hinge in the same fashion, that should give necessary stability.

A question about the length of the topper you're planing on using, is it an 8' or 6'?

One other observation regarding your standing up to put on your pants, get over it!
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Old 06-20-2012, 07:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dorkpunch View Post
Goal on this build is to keep it under $100.
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Old 06-20-2012, 07:09 PM   #10
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Old 06-20-2012, 07:41 PM   #11
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thats awesome!

I always wanted to do the same to a suburban but with a full size camper van fiberglass top instead, I went to a scrapyard and checked one out, the guy there told me if you can remove it without cutting the body panels you can have it for $20 that was a blinged up one that tappered from 3' to 1'

Not sure if you'd need to seperate it so you can lift a section up, (like a tent) some of them have pretty decent beds build in and quite a bit of space to spare

good luck with it man, following this one closely
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Old 06-20-2012, 08:16 PM   #12
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This - they have several styles and sizes that will do what you want except for the access through the sunroof:

http://www.autohomeus.com/rooftop/maggiolina.php

Its very comfortable and sets up in a minute - down in three...

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Old 06-20-2012, 08:49 PM   #13
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DP...you're as bad as I am about modifying and building your own stuff!!
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Old 06-20-2012, 09:09 PM   #14
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The MaggigiianobaiayannamaN?! (some of you might even make sense of that..) pop top is what first inspired me... I was considering becoming a casket salesman for a while- turns out they do a lot of traveling. Thought I could mount one of them to the roof of a car and save on hotel costs. Think they run about $2k??????!

So anyways, little more explanation as to the why NOW. Heres why now.



It was free. Came off of a '70's Ford long box, ironically.. Measurements are a little off for what I want but we'll get there in a bit.

I should also note that this will most likely be ANYTHING BUT a fast build... I still have a build thread from last year that isn't hardly progressing at all, and I've started 2 or three, or 4... maybe 5? others since then.

Anyways. Got it unloaded last night and popped the windows out.



This morning I got up and started hacking. After that, I got the saw out and started hacking. Jig saw- Not so much.



Skill saw with the blade on backwards- much better!



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Old 06-20-2012, 10:00 PM   #15
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Using the roof of the camper shell is a cool idea. I was going to suggest a tonneau cover from an import truck/6.5 ft bed as a roof, but your route is free. :)
The one thing you might want to look in to is the load capacity of the roof/roof rack that's going to support your tent. I think those factory racks are only rated to about 100-150 lbs. You're going to have at least 50 lbs in to your camper structure, which doesn't leave much for the inhabitants.
That aside, I'd also think that while 3/4 CDX would be adequate, you'd probably want to make sure it's fully supported by at least 3 crossbars, to prevent any noticeable sag in the middle of the span.

I really like the idea tho- makes me want to put a lumber rack on my pickup and build something similar for when we go camping.

G
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