Archive for May, 2016

Vanagon – making a new roof rack

I get these ideas sometimes and for better or worse I follow through. Even though I have been using a perfectly good Thule rack system ( the type that has pads that sit of the roof top and hold down clamps that grip that black rail thing I installed for the purpose), the airfoil section aluminum spar material that was lying around the shop was too tempting.

Here’s the old Thule rack.

It’s the type of spar material you see used as spreaders on sail boats. This version is pretty stout, 1.5″ at thickest and a chord length of 5.5″.

The idea was to have two racks and not have them wider than the pop top. And the Thule ski box I use would be attached directly to the rack, not using the stock U bolt set up.

I cut the spars to 53″, and cut some shorties to act as pedestals. I coped the short bits to fit the airfoil section and welds them to the cross pieces. I also cut out some 1/8″ aluminum sheet and used that to close up the ends. This pic shows one with end closed, the other still open. You can see the slightly thicker section of the spar in the open end. All my attachments go to that thick section.


I glued some rubber sheet to the bottom of the closed in pedestals/feet later.


That groove running along the lenght of the spar falls pretty well on the middle of the thick section. On one end of the soars I drilled and helicoiled holes for the Thule box attachment. On the other side I used some 5/16″ riv-nuts as anchor points for eye bolts in case I need lash points for some future thing. Blanked those holes off with plain bolts for the time being.

And this is how they sit on the van.


The hold down mechanism took me a while and I ended up with a simple, if a little clunky, solution. For now the stainless brackets hook onto the rail, but when I am happy with the position of the racks I’ll bolt them to the rail and cut off the hook end. It’s a 5/16″ bolt attaching the bracket to the spar (helicoil in spar), I know it looks sort of week, I think it’s strong enough. It certainly pulls the rack down hard to the roof. Later you’ll see that I put in short sections of rubber hose to cover the naked bolts and make that part look less flimsy.

I am planning on painting the rack white, same interlux briteside one part polyurethane I used on the pop top itself. When it’s painted I think the rack will blend in with the roof, take away the raw industrial look.

It’s funny, the box still looks like it tilts towards the centre of the van. The cross spars are level, maybe the box itself is warped.


It’s not that bad looking, try to imagine it painted white. The painting will happen when the weather warms up, maybe this week. Oh and one more thing, the new rack lowers the box an inch or more.

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Vanagon – a ladder, not a tire carrier

Someone I know needs to be able to get to roof top carrier. She’s been humming and hawing about the options available. The RMW ladder that fixes to the jack points wasn’t that appealing. I made this today and if she doesn’t like it I’ll keep it. It actually works.

It folds up, pieces are connected with bungee cords just like tent poles. Fits into luggage rack on Westy.


Unfolded.


Hooks onto gutter.

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Vanagon – still testing the 7 rung tire carrier

I didn’t deliver it to the customer when he wanted, I wanted to test it out in my van for a spell. I’m sure it’s annoying to be told you can’t have something yet, but hey, I’m the boss 🙂

So the experiment of many rungs, what do I think? I think seven are too many. I mean there is nothing wrong with that many apart from maybe it looking a little busy. And the extra rungs are useful for lash points. The wheel carrier unit is remove able and can be shifted a couple of inches to one side of the rungs if so desired.

Here are the pics, I still have a little fussing here and there to do, some radii on sharp corners etc. That lanyard hanging from a rung is some 1/2″ Spectra line, using it as a safety back up to the wheel. It’s not needed, it’s just me being conservative. And of course the carrier is on the wrong side of the van, doesn’t matter for testing purposes.

And I’m thinking, I’m thinking of cutting the bottom rung and verticals to just below the bottom hatch attachment point. 


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