Monday, May 4, 2015

The Pop Top Story Part III

I removed the headliner, which was installed in three pieces. Removing the first piece was interesting. A rodent had stored juniper berries up in there, and as I began to let the piece down, they started to fall. I yelled to my girlfriend to grab a trash can, and filled it up with hundreds of those berries. Glad I had the dust mask on, who needs a hantivirus. I took a bunch of measurements off the donor roof. I measured the mounting holes, and all the openings. I marked on the outside of the roof the measurements. Next what I did was remove the inner roof bows. I heated up the structural foam and used a thick scraper to separate the bow from the roof of the van. They then came off with two bolts on either end. I then began to cut a smaller hole from the inside. This way I could make the final cut standing in the hole.
Used the Sawzall... No going back now! Woot Woot!
Okay now there's a big hole!
Guess I better cover it up.
It's on there! I drilled holes and bolted the top down based off my measurements from the donor roof. Sweet. It pops up and down no problem.
Except there's a problem.... It's just bolted to one piece of sheet metal. It flops around, and puts a lot of torque on the metal when it's open. There's no way to put the bed back up there. I don't remember reading anywhere about this issue. Time to get out the thinking cap. :b3: I tried every way I could think of to use the old VW bed reinforcements, but they were way too narrow. I used some blanks and bent them to diagonally bridge the roof to the van side panel. I then used another piece to make a z channel. The idea here is to layer the inner reinforcement, the roof panel and the z channel. The inner reinforcement will provide stiffness up to down, and the z channel front to back. I then had a steel fabricator place I work with cut and bend the stock to the exact angles from my mock up made from the blanks.
One of the most important components to this project was going to be the front reinforcement. This was salvaged from the donor van, and housed the latch assembly. It also had welded nuts to bolt the front lifting bracket. Here's where all the measurements I took from the donor van roof come into play. I bolted it up, got the top working then welded it all up together. Here you can see the reinforcement, and the bed panels installed.
Here we have the top on, and the canvas secured. It's tight, but there are no wind or water leaks!
Wooo Hoo!
Price rundown. $850 for the top, $300 for gas, hotel and meals to drive to Denver to get it, $100 for the metal, $500 for the canvas, $400 for the paint (est.). $2150. Not bad. A couple of important things I failed to mention on the top installation. Firstly I used the VW rear roof reinforcement. It's a galvanized z bracket of sorts that holds the bed panel at the rear. It's curved on the top, which matches the curve of the pop top. Installing this beneath the roof metal raised the curvature to match the VW top at the rear. This helped close the gap that was back there. Another issue I came up with was: what to do about the roof ribs at the front. I had seen some people trim out the top to match the convoluted metal. I chose to install 2" body side moldings in the channels to fill it level. That way the pop top gasket could be used and create a seal. Okay, now lets put the cart back behind the horse. Time to gut the interior and find out what were really looking at. I knew there would be some rust, just not how much.
Yikes I can see the ground. Two huge rust spots and holes, just inboard of the rear wheels. The rear body mounts are detached on the reinforcement too.
Time to grind and cut it out
I had to cut the body bolts, because they were in the way and rusted in the mount. I then had to weld an inner piece on to the reinforcement. This also held a sleeve between the plate and the reinforcement. The sleeve allows the body bolt to be tightened without crushing the floor down when tightening. Instead of trying to replace the body mount, which has a threaded sleeve, and is installed with the body off (no going to do it). I cut the threaded sleeve, got a grade 8 bolt and washer and nylon stop nut, and slipped it back through the hole and tightened it down a the end. The photo above shows weld through primer on the area to be welded. I then had to find a donor part to fill the floor with. It happened that there was an old pick up bed out back with no rust in the floor. The convolutions matched up pretty well and made short work of patching the floor.
Fun with a welder! A little primer and some under coat, and we're done. I checked the front under the front seats, and there was a little rust there. It had very few perforations, and they stopped before the inner floor reinforcements. Some seam sealer, rust stopper, and a coat of paint took care of that. Up next was to remove the driver's side window and weld in a whole new piece. Most body techs would opt to replace the whole quarter panel, but I figured welding in metal would save more money. I was lucky to find an old Subaru hood that had roughly the same contours. I just had to pound the metal on a piece of strapping to fabricate the body line. I then used panel adhesive and spot welds to permanently affix the hood in the opening.
I installed self adhesive sound deadening pads from 3M to stiffen the metal and keep it from oil canning. Some bondo, and lots of elbow action.
Here we are in primer
I left the drivers front window in, and as it turned out was a mistake. At this point I hadn't made a decision on what refrigerator I was going to install. Not having the fridge, I had little idea what was necessary for it to work correctly. We'll get to that, and how I corrected it later. Also as you can see in the following photos, I installed some used running boards from a Crew Cab pick up. I cut and welded the brackets directly to the inner rocker panels.
Here we are getting ready for paint.
My Girlfriend helping masking... Damn I love that woman!
Ta da!

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