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110 lifting roof (has begun in earnest)

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I mentioned this before on the forum.

Well I gave it some thought and the £6k for a german or french one is out of my league. So after some deliberation I decided to build one myself. Apologies that its a mix of metric and imperial sizes but I'm sure you'll understand.


Pic above is not quite to scale but shows roughly what it will be like (have not drawn roof rack on this yet but it will only add 50 or 60mm height)

I didn't want to have the vehicle off the road whilst I built this, as I need to use it regularly, so it needed to be 'easy' and not involve taking the van apart. Some of these lifting roofs use the existing LR roof and raise it on a hinged plinth which is fitted between the old roof section and the van sides to allow the lifting/opening. However this means forming a curved piece for both above the windscreen and the shape of the back door, which is complicated and labour intensive (as well as needing to take the roof off.)

To get round these 'problems' I thought I'd use the existing roof as a base, working up out of the existing gutter to form the sides and back from 3mm alloy sat in the gutter, with a front piece bolted on, and put a hinged lid on it and then once its fitted, sealed and I'm satisfied it works, I can lift it up, get inside on top with the jigsaw and cut out as much of the 'old' roof as I want, retaining enough around the vehicle to bolt the new one on to. Various other mods across the vehicle width to support the bed platfrom in the roof area will help to retain structural integrity and I reckon the finished item will be stronger than original. A roof rack made of simple alloy flat bar welded to the top on its edge with alloy tube across, will also help to make this even stronger (and I can carry my canoes on it).

I searched the alloy extrusion folks catalogues and found two sections that are perfect - an unequal z section which works for the 'base' giving a good sized upstand to prevent weather ingress, and onto which I can fasten the lower part of the fabric sides, and which also has enough 'width' to allow a gas strut to fit in between. Above that, the 'closing' section is L alloy, inverted, which has bags of overlap up into which the fabric can be fastened and allows sufficient space for the loose material to pull inside when the roof is lowered and closed.


Pic above shows sectional mockup with unequal Z section at bottom, with inverted L section on top, with 19mm box which will be basis for sheet on the roof. The black line is where the rubber gasket will go to seal the lid when closed. Note sufficient space for fabric to pull inside.

To retain the front slope (windscreen angle) and give some wind shedding ability I've had the front section above the windscreen bent by my local alloy fabricators (who will do the difficult welding for me). This is because the stock extrusions are all right angles and wont work with the slope backwards.


Above diagram shows section above windscreen to be folded by local alloy fabricators after I've fitted it perfectly (!) to windscreen. And a possible gasket solution (I have several solutions all of which should be fine.)

Weight. A conventional roof tent is between 100 and 200 lbs, depending on make and size, and that's without a roof rack to support it. Add a rack which will be at least 50lbs and the overall weight on top is between 150 and 250lbs.

My existing roof rack weighs about 50lbs and the roof section I'll remove is probably another 20-30lbs. So I'm 'losing' about 70lbs or so.

The new lifting alloy roof will come in about 140lbs max with internal bits and bobs, so deducting the weight of the current roof rack and old roof thats being removed I'm only adding around 70lbs and at the very most 100lbs to the vehicle(and that is including roof rack). That's not anywhere near compromising vehicle stability.

Sides and alloy Z and L sections are 3mm and roof is 1.2mm sheet on 19x19x 1.6mm box subframe.

Height. Keeping it to less than 2.2m shipping container height. The new roof will end up only about 5 inches higher than the current rooftop (plus 2 inches for roof rack), so somewhere around 7 inches in total, but still less than a normal roof with roof rack (never mind adding a roof tent). There will be no sloping top on the roof above windscreen (like on the original roof) as it will be flat all the way through, so it looks a bit 'top-hatty' but I can live with that to have room for my feet when lying in bed!

Speaking of which: the length from windscreen top to back door is 9 feet. Deduct a bed length of 6' 6'' (fitted in two sections) and that leaves a 2' 6'' gap at rear end which gives anything up to 10 feet of standing head room with the roof up and allows me to climb up and get onto the bed, and I'm fitting a small sink on the passenger side and a cooker on the driver side. The bed base in the roof area will be in two sections with the front piece bolted firmly in place to the sides and braced to be a structural member, and the second section towards the rear will be lift-up and remove and during the day will 'nest' on top of the front section, and can be pulled to the rear and popped in place for sleeping. That two part method allows a good amount of standing room for about 6 feet from the back door when the bed base is 'nested' and will make moving about inside easier. Ladder access to bed will either be rungs built into kitchen sink base unit and cooker base unit opposite (so two bed access points) OR a small alloy ladder fixed externally for roof access which can be unclipped from the outside and pulled inside at night and used to climb up on either side as required.

Anyway some rough plans should accompany this, as well as pics. Plans not to scale, just for guidance. Although the extrusion code numbers are there in case you want to have a go.

3mm might seem overkill but when I added up the weight of using thinner stuff, but needing a stronger subframe to support it, and then the complexity of fabricating that, well.... 3mm sheet was an easy winner, cheaper and lighter.

I'll try and keep photos coming so you can see it evolve. I should be in the welders in the next few weeks all things going to plan to have it all stitched together.


Above diagram shows section of roof with extrusion ID codes and dimensions and a rough idea of construction method (not to scale).



Above diagram shows gas strut fitting and fabric sides.


Ply template for windscreen cut to fit then dimensions and shape transferred to ally.


Ready to cut.


Once its cut with jigsaw the local ally fabricator boys fold the front for me..........(with their years of experience)...........


......and do a lovely accurate job - and that's the front almost ready. The front gives the dimensions from which I can work backwards and establish all the other dimensions. Did it this way to allow leeway in the folding process, then use the final folded dimensions of the front as the 'gospel'. Working from back forwards makes getting front dimensions super-critical and more stressful for folders than necessary. Using the gutter as a working surface gives a 'fixed point' from which everything can be established when combined with the accurate front fold.


Sides cut, offered up, and 'bodged' to get the right angles and length. Lots of wooden wedges and a shedload of swearing. Doing this on your own is not recommended. 3m long wobbly alloy is a pig to control. Especially if its windy! And you have one on each side!



Back cut and fitted too.


Sides then able to be cut to length.


Lots of length allowed in case of errors.


Rear aligned and finally cut, wooden wedges to hold it all in place.

Everything level and perfectly aligned and ready for fitting the unequal Z section to the top of these pieces (left and right side and rear.) front has no Z section because it's folded.


Above all is aligned and wedged, measured, and checked by eye for level all round.



Unequal Z fitted and cut. Bit rough but within the tolerances of the welding. Front detail above windscreen ready for pop riveting the z section permanently to the vertical sides/rear. Small bolts to hold in place temporarily whilst I cut the 45 deg mitre at rear, and the effing awful multi-angle mitre at the front which has both a 90 degree angle and the 'whatever the hell the front slope is' angle. Front angle cut is a nightmare. All long cuts were done with a jigsaw, short right-angle mitres with a chop saw, and the multi-angle ones done with a jigsaw, hacksaw, oscillating tool and my teeth.

I've just finished pop-riveting the Z section to sides and sealed the joint with Tiger Seal, so its ready for welding. Once thats done I can get the width for the lifting top and get that cut.

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The roof hatch (boat deck hatch) I'm fitting protrudes 43mm above the roof surface so that needs some clearance. Also my sea canoe set up requires a set of J bars for the two boats and I use a long ski box for paddles and wet gear so that requires a bar-across system to fasten the stuff to. The rack will have some polypipe around the front and rear bars to allow me to easily 'roll' a canadian canoe up onto the top.

I did consider the stronger roof method but I need the versatility and practicality of some minimal bars. I have some ideas for making them removable, so all that's 'permanent' are two welded on pieces of flat bar one on each side with bolt holes for fixing the cross pieces and cut outs in the flat bar for tie down straps.

I can plug the pipe ends for the cross pieces of rack and tap them, then drill and countersink the sides and fit nice stainless c/sunk bolts to hold it all together.

It's always a trade-off!

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Another interesting project to follow!

If you were to use electric linear actuators (gate / window openers or Satellite dish movers are all low cost) then you could leave whatever is on your roof-rack attached when you want to raise the roof! And it would look cool!


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I'm hoping that roof will be strong enough to be lifted with some stuff on it. I'll see when I get it all on and built and have a sense of how 'wobbly' it is - it needs a bit of flex as the whole van flexes so I'm taking that into account with some locating pins for the roof where it comes down and joins the rear. What do these actuators do? Actually lift stuff or what?

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These are probably at the top end of the scale, but give you an idea:


Less than £100 by the looks of things though, so second hand or a cheaper alternative could keep your budget down.

I do like this project very much too :)

*edit* Here's a Chinese one, for solar panels, rated to 150Kg, and up to 18" stroke:


What sort of lift were you going for?

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How much will the lifting part weigh, and then what weight could you have on that? Why struggle :)

A pair would likely be better of course, or you could engineer some sort of cable and pulley system if you fancied a challenge, to lift both sides with one actuator, just to give an even lift ;)

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So it could be 90+Kg, say half is supported by the front hinge, that is 45Kg, I think the gas struts for that would be getting on for the size of a linear actuator anyways, plus actuators lock in position, so no fear of the roof collapsing on you if a strut fails...

Not trying to persuade you of course ;)

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It sounds interesting! I'd intended to have a couple of thin struts that would pop in place inside at the two rear corners to provide absolute integrity and form a 'corner' around which the fabric could go giving good tension and a couple of little nylon ties sewn into the corners inside would allow me to tie the fabric round the struts.

These struts might also form part of an internal locking mechanism when in the closed position. I either have some clasps on the outside or some method inside, but I have to bear in mind that the fabric will be coming inside and needs to be considered and worked around so its not pinched or snagged.

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Another low cost option are the actuators from electrically moveable car seats. These are all 12v and on the whole are plenty strong enough. I once made a car jack (to lift my 110) out of an actuator from a Ford Granada. Just pluged in to the trailer socket for power. If it will lift 1/4 of a 110, it was obviously specified for the more generously proportioned driver!

I've used linear actuators in so many applications! Even adjustible height suspension using Linak actuators:

http://www.linak.co.uk/products/Linear-Actuators.aspx?product=LA30 Don't worry too much if they are 12v or 24v, just a 24v one running on 12v will be half the load and half the speed (ish).

The chinese ones on eBay are surprisingly OK - particularly the satellite dish movers as they try to waterproof them a bit.

A good solution I saw for keeping the fabric in check on a similar roof was just a loop of elastic around the middle of the fabric. As the roof collapses, it pulls the elastic towards the middle. When the roof is up, it tensions the fabric so it won't flap in the wind.

Because the space you've allowed for struts is limited, what about replacing the struts with two bars pivoted in the middle (so the ends, attached to the top & bottom can move apart as the bars straighten) then use the actuator to push/pull the hinge. That means the actuators could live at the foot end of the bed where space will be less of an issue.


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Thanks Simon - yes the elasticated fabric is the way to go - several loops of nylon sewn into sides and back and a loop of elastic through so when its closing the fabric is pulled inwards. These actuators might be a useful addition - giving that some thought!

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Hi - will be watching this with interest as I'd like to do something similar to my 109. Have you seen this product?


They essentially re-use the normal roof and have filler panels in between to give the extra space for the canvas etc. That's the kind of thing I'd ideally like to base mine on, but not sure how feasible it will be! Picking up an old shoddy roof to experiment with next month! :)

What I really like is that the pop top still gives the feel and ventilation of being up in a rooftent, but is a little more secure due to the access being inside the vehicle (IMO) - which I would feel happier with when camping at some of the slightly less secure town centre aires etc in Europe!

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Like it!

Was always my intention to do something similar with the 110 station wagon when I had it to replace the old VW Westy....

The Westfalia pop tops work in a similar fashion, front hinged with a fancy elevating hinge, but a bit further back to cater for the shape of the roof - easier on a defender tbh. Canvas was all the way round to eliminate drafts. Used two spring loaded folding arms at the back that locked in position at full elevation / over-centre fashion i.e 95 degrees.

Canvas was stapled over a wooden batten rectangle at the top / bonded / to the underside of the roof section (fiberglass). Was simply attached under a alu extruded section screwed straight onto the original vehicle roof.


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Hi A Twig - yes have seen all of them - the germans. swiss, australian and even the norwegian versions.

The 'problem' I could foresee doing the 'lift-the-existing-roof' route is that you have to do some fancy metalwork over the windscreen and where the back door closes 'up' into the gutter line.

The way I tackled it means I simply use the existing gutter to build up out of and retain sufficient of the old roof to provide integrity. That also retains the waterproofing of the original vehicle (ho! ho! ho! I wish!) but it also means its mostly doable on the drive without major tooling. And once its fitted I can mess around with various gasket and sealing methods and do lots of hose tests before I commit to getting the jigsaw to the old roof and actually whack a huge piece out of it.

In fact the sloping front roof above the front seats can be retained complete with the strengthening rib that lies beneath the joint between sloping front and flat top, making the front very strong when its all bolted to the sleeping frame at front - I'm aiming for the sleeping area being pretty much on top of the existing roof within the new structure. I can even fabricate in a little concealed hatch in that area accessible from the bed area down into the void created between the bed base and the roof top above drivers head to store stuff.

Might need to go lower with the bed but until I actually get the lid on it and try lying down and see how far towards the front I can go before my feet get snagged I wont know for sure. Basically the outside is pretty much sorted size-wise but how I do the inside will be more organic.

Ps and watched the above Youtube vid too - but that gives several major leak points not the least of which is the transverse one at front - mind you whether its any more leaky than original is debatable!

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Fair enough I can definitely follow your reasoning although why would you need fancy metal work for the back? Looking at the one in the linked pdf, the only metal work is the hinge at the front, then a sort of capping with a lip all the way around on the top? (I guess to improve rigidity and provide support for the flooring).

Obviously its kind of the opposite approach to yours, so I'm intrigued to see how yours will come out, so will watch with interest.

My worry with mine with retaining the original roof would be whether it was strong enough to run around on, put roof bars on etc, or would need reinforcing.

Yeah the youtube link was included more for comedy value, not as a real suggestion!... :)

EDIT: Just want to make clear, this post is in no way intended as criticism, just interested discussion from someone who wants to do something similar!

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No criticism detected! Just genuine curiosity, which is great. Questioning what I'm doing is good because it makes me think about whats going on too!

The fancy metalwork at the back is necessary where the door goes up into the gutter line. This requires any method of using and lifting the original roof take that into account and whatever is fabricated would need to be made to have that door shape created, with rubber seals etc.

The way I'm doing it is to simply use the existing roof guttering and raise the roof a few inches and provide both rigidity and as best as I can ensure its all watertight - I dont want to be lying in bed with my feet in a puddle!

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Managed to get into the welders today. Sat the four panels for the 'base' on the floor and we tacked the corners to get started.



Tried it on the roof of the 110 - it's not heavy, so easy to do and it fitted perfectly, absolutely spot on with no slack anywhere and front joint was tight.

So the full welds applied.

Then the bits for the lifting top section sides and rear were fitted, cut to size and mitered on the chop saw, and tacked to hold.

I cut the stainless hinge so we'd got an accurate height and drilled and self-tapped it in place temporarily, and put a few pieces of the rubber U section gasket that seals the lid to base on as well so we have an accurate width/height, and then the front sloping bit was folded to the right height and to suit the windscreen slope. ]

Next I cut the angles for the front corners with the grinder as they were weird multi-angles cuts so could not use the chop saw. When I had it all propped together we measured it and I was .5mm out in the width. Not bad, and easy to weld-fill. So that was tacked to hold, and then whilst I got the subframe box section for the lifting top prepared Stevie welded up all the seams. Or rather some of them. The effing welder packed in and we couldn't fix it to be able to do the last two rear corner seams. However we got it to the point where I could sit it on the roof and drive it home, and Stevie had other stuff that needed doing anyway.






Got it home with no drama. You can see the shape in the view from above (below). I'll get a wooden jig cut to hold the 19m box section for the roof which will mean I can turn the lid over, drop the wood inside (2 strips of 50x25mm) with slots for the box section and then Stevie can simply tack them without having to mess about measuring. I've got some brackets I made for the front to hold the sloping bit above windscreen to the roof and they need welding in and that'll be the front fixed tight. Back end is just bolted through the existing rear above the 1/4 light. Simple.

Still undecided on the method fixing the sides of the lower section where they join with the curve of the old roof - maybe a combination of a few small brackets welded on and some pop-rivets with a squish of builders foam all round.

It looks 'big' because its coming up from the gutter line, but in reality the final roof has ended up only 5 1/2 inches (140 mm) higher than the original roof, which is still 1 inch (25mm) less than the height of my old roof rack.


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Re hinge. It's stainless steel, 25mm closed, 50mm open. 2.5mm thick material with 7mm pin and 1.8m long. It is a work of art.

I phoned a few places and got silly quotes. How about £65 for the hinge, add £30 for the holes (!) and then £45 delivery to Scotland PLUS vat. Nah.

Tried a few more, some didn't even reply, and finally called Cooke Brothers and joy of joys - sensible people!

Yes sir stainless hinge to suit your needs - how about £35, oh with holes? er £39. And delivery - £12, anywhere in UK. Total with VAT £61. And it was made to suit, for me by the craftsmen at Cookes in-house one day, posted the next, arrived the next.

It is a work of art, literally lovely workmanship. Smooth action, perfect finish, countersunk perfectly and just 'class'. I can recommend heartily.

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Looks great! :i-m_so_happy:

I have to admit, I really couldn't get my head around how and why you were doing it that way but makes a lot more sense now! Once its painted it won;t look as "big" either! Some quality workmanship there!

So next steps are to fit the new roof then cut out the old one (I guess you have to to keep the gutters)? The left behind bits will then become the supports for the bed?

Top stuff so far - keep it coming! :)

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Aye next step is 19mm box at 350mm centres on the lifting bit (which is 100mm deep) onto which there will be 1.2mm alloy sheet stuck to form the roof. The 19mm box will go under the edge of the 3mm thick L section that makes the lifting top, with a 3mm packer on top of the box to bring up to flush on top for the sheet to be fitted (If that makes sense) and the combined depth of 19mm box and 3mm packer gives me just over 20mm for insulation - all the poly sheet stuff is a minimum of 20mm so that solves that problem. So the roof will be top>bottom

1.2mm alloy sheet

3mm packer

19mm box with lightweight expanded foam insulation beside it in the gap

4mm ply (flooring ply).

Thin inner fabric

So about 25mm overall of insulation and strength, but light.

I wont cut all the old roof out. I'll only go as far as the joint where it slopes down to the windscreen. There's a big strengthening rib under there which I'll keep, and cut out all the rest right back to about 50mm from the rear above the quarter lights. The existing roof 'curves' on each side will be retained, and cut where they hit the flat of the existing roof. That 'cup' will be lined and will be able to store the rolled fabric sides when they come in as the roof closes, along with two corner rods that lock the roof open on the gas struts, and which will give a hard and rigid 'corner' around which the fabric will be formed and kept taut.

That sloping bit above the windscreen will have a fixed board over it, bolted in and structural. I can put a small hatch in that to get access underneath for concealed storage. And it will also mean that from below in the seating area I can put overhead sunk-in radio binnacle or whatever above my head.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Today, despite the rain I got the subframe box sections for the roof cut and made a wooden jig to fit inside to accurately space them so that when I take it to the welder he can just zip zip zip and not have to measure anything, then we remove the wood and he can tidy up the joints whilst I cut the longitudinal (short) box pieces to go in between.


Wood cut, sloping end will ensure I get them the right way round at the welders!


Cutting slots for the 19mm box at the required spacing, leaving a specific gap for the 500mm roof hatch.


Wooden pieces for jig to hold 19mm box section, cut as a pair for accuracy.


Detail of roof edge with space to pop in the weld.


Ply square at far end is a template for the roof hatch cutting dimensions used to align 19mm box in the jig.


Roof hatch laid in upside down to check size and location.


Different angle.


Roof sheet I got guillotined yesterday laid on just to check if the roof is square using the sheet as a guide - its not, it's out by 1/2" but I knew that already after doing a corner to corner measure so will need to attend to that when welding, which will not be too problematic - its only stitched at present so can be tweaked to remedy.

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