Vanagon – that clunky airfoil roof rack update

Last year I made a pretty clunky roof rack to hold my old Thule ski box. Seemed like a good idea at the time, using up some airfoil aluminum extrusion. But, and apart from my crappy welds, I think the end result was a bit off. Here is the link to the original post. At that time I was using an aluminum rail attached to the side of the pop top, it worked but I thought it flimsy.

So… I made some new side rails from 1″X2″ aluminum box section. The rear Most section is bent to fit the contour of the roof, and  I put in some slots for visual interest and to access the roof rack mounting system.

That red badge is from a Passat syncro station wagon found at wreckers. Annoying that even though the mounting hole for the badge is cantered on the tube, when the badge snaps on it lies off centre, grrr.

The ends of the box section are filled with section of 2″ aluminum tubing, half circles 1″ thick. Welded and blended.

I came up with a novel method of holding the airfoil rack down onto the roof and side rails. 

5/16″ NC bolts drilled out and holes chamfered, 1/8″ stainless cable with swaged ends (copper). The shorter bolt goes into the underside of the airfoil, stainless threaded inserts in the aluminum. The longer bolt goes through the box section side rail and tightened and locked with nuts.

That works surprisingly well, the cable tension is good, the rack gets pulled down firmly. The ski box is bolted to the airfoils, so that ties the two airfoils together. But even alone, the rack is very secure on the roof. I’ll paint the whole lot black some day.

  1. #1 by edbee on July 5, 2017 - 2:03 pm

    wow, nice work… you having a milling machine now?

    • #2 by albell on July 5, 2017 - 2:23 pm

      Old machine at work.

      Glad you like the rack, please agree with me that it would be better painted black, right?



      • #3 by Simon on July 5, 2017 - 3:43 pm

        Yes , definitely go black. It looks fine as is but will look better when not so bright and “stick-out”-y.

        More eye catching when not so obvious if that makes sense.

      • #4 by albell on July 5, 2017 - 4:30 pm

        Yeah, you’re right.

        Need a day of painting a lot of things 🙂



  2. #5 by Pz on July 6, 2017 - 9:05 am

    Elegant design Alistair. The cable hold-downs, excellent use of materials which allows the assembly to move with the glass fiber roof. A real WOWZER! I agree, black paint is our friend.

  3. #6 by edbee on July 22, 2017 - 7:31 pm

    Ya, black would likely look good although I always like the look of nice aluminum welds and those won’t be so obvious once painted (thinking about the airfoil)

    • #7 by albell on July 22, 2017 - 9:11 pm


      I call them clunky as I think the foil section is 50% ( at least) too large. But it’s wählt I had, the next size was way too small. I wish I had more energy, I’d have painted them by now. 🙂



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