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Defender 110 Pop top


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We have used our 110 CSW on some reasonably long roadtrips now, with probably 80% of the nights spent in a tent on the ground and the rest sleeping in the back on a platform above all our gear.

To make these trips out of summer season means we need to sleep inside but it's difficult as there's no space to get changed etc. So we are thinking about some sort of elevated roof. I wonder what advice you may have about the pop top from Alu-cab (http://www.alu-cab.co.za/index.php/standard-products/icarus-for-defender). This is a replacement roof with a double bed frame ready made inside which can be left up in the roof to give some height and pulled down for the night.

It's very pricey but still I wonder what people think. Have you see one of these or is there anything comparable (in terms of look, finish and ease of use)?



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Saw three 110s with the Alu-Cab roof which is what we wanted to see. Had good chats with the owners who highly recommend them. They all had "camper" conversions in the back and that's the decision for us to make really. If you put a camper type roof on then you would want to be able to cook and wash etc. inside too with the doors shut and the bad weather left outside.

The roof seems very well made and amazingly easy to lift and lower. Plus the sleeping space is enormous.

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Before I built my own (you can see the build thread in they forum somewhere if you've not already come across it) I looked at EVERYTHING on the market. Ex-Tec, RR-Concept, Alu-Cab, Mulgo, and a load more. 

There's two types basically - Type A, the ones where they take your roof off, insert a section with gaskets and fabric fastenings, gas struts etc, shorten your roof by taking a piece of the rear (you can see this being done in the RR-Concept video here) which is required because of the fact you're raising the roof (it makes sense when you see it being done!), then bolting your re-worked roof back on. This version retains the distinctive LR slope on the roof above the windscreen.

The second Type B, leaves the original roof intact, building up out of the gutter and then removing some of the original LR roof inside and bolting the newly fabricated roof to the curves of the sides, with a new custom-made alloy lifting section on top. This one typically has a completely flat roof (no slope down to windscreen). (The link Arjan gave you is a combination of both A and B - looks like the whole roof is removed and new raised section is added with flat top.)

Type A has slightly less internal headroom when the roof is closed than Type B. Not much less, only a few inches, but it might affect you depending on your height. When I built mine I wanted it to be usable up or down so my height dictated the internal dimensions. Its not a deal breaker but worth considering. I also made mine up out of the gutter as it meant not having to take the roof off (working outside on the drive!).

Type A is by far the neater, probably also the lighter, and certainly the most aerodynamic (depending on what you put on top).

Space- there's an unbelievable amount whichever type you choose. It's fully 9 feet from the top of the windscreen to the back door, so a 6'6'' bed still leaves a couple of feet to be able to climb up onto the sleeping platform. Its possible to sit on the end of the bed with feet dangling and not be anywhere near hitting your head on the ceiling. You can walk to about 2 feet from the bulkhead behind the seats without banging your head. 

One thing I'll say is a MUST is a roof hatch - I got a yacht deck hatch, solid alloy, 11mm perspex, and its great - don't underestimate the pleasure of being able to lie in bed looking at the stars, watching the rain or snow drift by, or simply sitting up at night to take a look outside to see whats about. As a safety exit in case of fire its worth having (mine is 500mm square and is plenty big enough.) The ventilation it gives is vital when its really warm too (or when cooking). And the really clever thing is that you can put a roof box on and get access to it by standing inside the LR head and shoulders out of the roof hatch and easily reach into the roof box to get stuff out. That alone is brilliant! 

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Hi JJ, many thanks for your very detailed advice; it's really useful. Yes I have read your thread and that too has been very interesting. The very attractive thing about Alu-cab is that it is a complete roof in that they no longer modify your own but instead they ship a complete roof that's just ready to fit once your own has been removed. It comes with a separate 'upstand' that holds the windscreen, A/B pillars and the sides all together and then their roof assembly sits on that.

I think that we still have a should we / shouldn't we (have a roof) decision to make. This might sound stupid but so far we have a 110 CSW that is a SW when we refit the seats but it can be a good truck in which to sleep etc. when we are travelling like this (below) or with a tent on the ground (when we are at a suitable place). We have now had dozens of nights in both sorts of set-up. The first pic is miles up a mountain track in southern Greece (Peloponnese) typical of where we would sleep in the back, the second was a quick stop at a damp Austrian site.

Wild camp.png



My point is that as soon as I put a roof on then it's being transformed into a camper van. The roof would solve the problem of moving around inside, warmth and much more self containment. then though if you are inside and have such great and easy access to the bed up top, you really need the rest of your facilities inside too. So I'd need to do some sort of camper conversion and there's the dilemma. Do we want to permanently transform our SW into a camper?


Maybe I should sell it and get a hardtop - can I get one with a second row of seats? That would be less outlay on which to base the camper. Would we be better off with a 130 Ambulance (but they seem to start at £17K ex MOD).

So really we need to get our heads switched on to what we really want!! The Alu-cab roof however is amazing though!!




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21 minutes ago, bluehaze said:

I believe Overlander also sell alu-cab. I too saw the ones at Stratford and they looked great it's just the price that puts me off.

From the people I spoke to at the show there seems to be a load of questions about who sells / who thinks they are going to be able to sell!! Very confusing right now and some posturing.

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"My point is that as soon as I put a roof on then it's being transformed into a camper van. The roof would solve the problem of moving around inside, warmth and much more self containment. then though if you are inside and have such great and easy access to the bed up top, you really need the rest of your facilities inside too. So I'd need to do some sort of camper conversion and there's the dilemma. Do we want to permanently transform our SW into a camper?"

Well that dilemma might be resolved by a bespoke interior that can be lifted in/out to suit.

One thing I've noticed in MANY builds (especially on the North American sites) is the engineering overkill. People welding up sleeping platforms out of steel tubing then putting 3/4 inch ply on top. A perfectly serviceable lightweight (1/4 and 1/2 inch ply) storage setup with sleeping platform can be fabricated that can easily be lifted in/out and securely fastened to the interior yet still be incredibly strong.

When I don't need or want to put the roof up I sleep down below. I was away working in the 110 last week and sleeping on a piece of featherweight 4mm ply. I pull out some storage boxes and lay the ply on top - stick the thermarest on top of them and its plenty strong enough.

Careful design, and multipurpose features can give you a very flexible setup that allows the best of both worlds - camper when you need it, CSW when you don't. And the CSW rear doors give you options to install kit into it through the doors - e.g. - you put a cupboard frame inside (with no back), and load it from the outside through the door. Straps, tie-downs etc can all be utilised to make it work however you want. 

*I've been a carpenter in a past life so I have some fabrication skills, but basically what I'm saying is that in my opinion, and with my understanding of the materials, what you'd find useful and flexible for putting in/out is doable. It can also be done well so it looks nice - not a bodge up, rather is a pleasing piece of wood engineering & design.


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On 02/10/2016 at 10:55 PM, Jocklandjohn said:

Well that dilemma might be resolved by a bespoke interior that can be lifted in/out to suit.

That would certainly assist with the "keep the CSW or go for a hardtop" decision. I'd never thought of an interior that could be lifted out. Our sleeping platform can be so why not the rest?  It's full width and runs from behind the front seats to the rear door and level with the bottom of the windows. It is all wood, two square frames sitting on the rear wheel arches and a another construction behind the front seats. The top is 9mm ply and It all fastens in without any bolts, screws or anything and as I said, we've travelled on two trips, for about thirteen weeks in total, with it in place ready to sleep on if we wish, otherwise it just sits there and we sleep in the tent.

Extending this idea to an interior to act as a camper is interesting. It's never going to be spacious in a 110 and extended wet weather would be tricky to deal with (dripping clothes, dirty footwear etc.) but possible nonetheless. I'll have to look at lots of pics to get ideas and see if the effort would be worthwhile and more to the point, whether I could make a decent job. My father was a shopfitter and those who know what that meant in the 1950s, will appreciate that it was a very high level of woodcraft. I haven't had that training though!

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IMAG0707_zpsz2wsuuj8.jpg We met a French couple on holiday this year.

They have it kitted out for camping and simply remove the boxes and refit second row seats for family use.

110 Station wagon...poor phone pics but you get the idea.




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If it were me I'd make lift-in cupboards for both sides and make the gap between them the height of the cupboard doors. The doors would be in a sliding track (deeper at the top). The doors could then be lifted up into the deep bit and quickly removed and used to form the sleeping platform across the width, with suitable bracing underneath. I've done this with my sleeping platform - its thin light ply, but braced below with two clip in alloy tubes and can easily support three adults. Minimal weight maximum versatility. 

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