Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Artificial Roof Gutters to Mount Roof Rack

One thing that the van is missing was a good roof rack system. I have had Thule(r) Racks since the mid 1980's. They are very strong and obviously hold up well. The racks that I currently have were probably bought about five years ago as replacements for the originals that never came back from the shop that pulled the plug on an old taurus station wagon. Those racks were a little bent from loading about 15 sheets of drywall onto them. That load actually pulled the wagon's factory roof rack base off the roof (no gutters on the taurus). I remember reattaching that track with one 10" bolt with a hole drilled straight through the track, roof and headliner. But I digress.

The van has gutters but they are too far below the pop top for the standard bases. The high bases are not a good option because they would prevent the pop top from going up. So I fabricated some gutter pieces out of 1/8" steel. The pieces are about 5"x8". I just put the piece in a mechanics vice with about 2" above the vice. I used a large hammer, also called a BF hammer, to put a 90 deg. bend in the plate. Then I raised the plate about an inch and put a cold chisel under the bend. Then I hammered with the BF hammer to bend the plate down around the round handle of the chisel. That way I made channel for clamping the rack base. I drilled holes (5/16") in the corbner of the gutter plate and in the pop top. I raised the pop top up slightly so that I could see in behind the top and to make sure that I was not drilling into the tent fabric. Remember that the fiberglass dust is itchy so wear long sleaves if this bothers you.
I am planning to use the rack to load boats, a canoe, windsurfers and possibly a sunfish. My old sunfish probably weighs about 150lbs which is probably too much to load on the pop top. In order to help distribute the load, I used some backing plates made of the same steal behind the gutters. It feels pretty strong, but I still will probably rig something up to transfer some of the dowun pressure to the actual gutters below the pop top to get the wight off the fiberglass pop top.
Next up is a way to get the sunfish up on the roof single handed. Strength and ingenuity - hopefully more ingenuity that strength.

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