Barn Door for JK factory hardtops

jscherb

Expedition Leader
The other day someone asked me if I'd make him a set of the fiberglass barn door parts. He said he could take the parts as they come out of the molds and finish assembling the barn door himself, all he needed was the fiberglass parts. I've been thinking about his request, although I'm wondering if going from rough parts to a finished barn door is really a project for the average DIY-er.

There are 2 fiberglass parts for the barn door (3 if you're installing a wiper) - an inner skin and an outer skin (and optionally a wiper cavity cover). Here's a set of skins, just out of the molds but with the rough edges of the fiberglas trimmed off:



They need to be bonded together, I do that by sandwiching a layer of resin-soaked fiberglass mat between the halves and clamping them, although it could be done with epoxy.



This photo shows two bonded shells, the one on the left has been trimmed for the early model hardtop and the one on the right has been trimmed for the late model hardtop.



Once the two halves are bonded together, here's what has to happen:

- The shell needs to be trimmed around the outside to fit properly in the hardtop opening.

- The window opening needs to be cut to the proper size for whatever window is chosen, and the window needs to be installed (final installation of the window should wait until the shell is painted). For a DIY assembly, the best way to do the window would be to have a local auto glass place cut a piece of laminated safety glass to size and it can be installed with a standard window gasket.

- The "stakes" to secure the barn door to the tailgate need to be made (3/4" x 1 1/2" rectangular steel tubing), and they need to be bolted to the tailgate. Holes need to be drilled in the stakes and the shell to attach the shell to the stakes.

- If a wiper is to be installed, a hole needs to be cut in the shell for the wiper motor, wiring needs to be run out of the bottom of the shell, and the wiper cavity cover (the third fiberglass part) needs to be installed. A wiper arm needs to be installed, this can be made by shortening a CJ-7 wiper arm. The wiper motor is an marine aftermarket part and is available.



- If the washer is to be used, a nozzle needs to be installed in the barn door and the feed hose needs to be routed out of the bottom of the shell.

- If a defroster grid is to be installed, an aftermarket defroster grid kit and be applied to the window glass.

- The shell needs to be painted, either hardtop black, body color, or whatever color the builder wants.

- For installation in the Jeep, if a wiper/washer and/or defroster grid were installed in the barn door, the factory hardtop wiring harness and the washer hose need to be extended to the passenger side to reach the wires and hose coming out of the barn door shell. Hardtop plugs will need to be sourced (u-pull junkyard) in order to connect to the factory hardtop wiring in the Jeep without splicing.

- The weatherstrip on the hardtop needs to be swapped out with weatherstrip that will seal a barn door properly vs. the factory weatherstrip that's designed for the hatch.

- If the barn door is for a late model wide-hatch hardtop, wide-swing tailgate hinges will need to be installed. Since these aren't commercially available, they'd need to be fabricated. (BTW I'm considering pitching the idea of the wide swing hinges to the company that currently makes/markets my HD tailgate hinge design - there are more used for them than just the barn door.)

I'm thinking the above list is more than the average DIY-er would want to tackle (and more support effort than I want on my part to help people be successful with their assembly). I know a fiberglass company that would be willing to take my molds and make a limited quantity of the shells at a reasonable price so they could be done without too much trouble, but I don't know how many people could be successful with a project like this.

What do you guys think?
 
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jgaz

Adventurer
"What do you guys think?"

Obviously, it is difficult to know the extent of the skills the end user of the parts processes. That being said, I believe your concerns are very valid. I think that a number of the steps would be difficult for most people without a comprehensive set of instructions and/or blueprints to guide them. Fabricating the wide swing hinges with out a print would be a deal breaker for most.

If you go down that road, I think you would be wise to write up a "how to" manual and SELL it to interested party.. Make it worth your time. If the added cost of the instructions scares off the prospective customer then they weren't that serious to begin with.
 

thechadwick

New member
My two cents, as someone who has had poor luck throwing cash at my laptop screen trying to buy your barndoor, it would be very interesting to gauge the market with a funding goal similar to teespring's model. There are several webapps available now that would simplify the process a well! Essentially the problem of finding out if there's a market for the door (in any of a number of configurations) could be addressed by setting up a funding target with your fiberglass manufacturer. The kit in its many forms is selected from a drop down menu and once an agreed upon number of sales is reached, the purchaser's accounts are debited. If the target doesn't hit, funds are never drawn after an agreed on date passes. The process for setting up the target/funding backend is much simpler now with pre-built webapps and if your manufacturer is interested in these kind of limited run production efforts his web admin could set it up in a couple hours.

Alternatively, a simpler if less elegant method would be to setup a gofundme page and use the proceeds to pay the manufacturer for the run. It would solve the question of who would really be interested enough to put down the cash and remove much of the hassle forum group buys generally entail with money handling.

The first technique removes all money handling entirely going straight to the manufacturer, while the kickstarter method reduces it to one step really of taking a funded goal and the paying the manufacturer.

My concern would be handling packaging and shipping. Do you know if your fiberglass guys are equipped for handling distribution? Maybe they're focused on delivering a run to a retailer vice individual packaging and delivery?

Given that facilitating the logistics of production is not one of your mentioned interests would you be open to letting someone setup a group buy gofundme page and working with your fiberglass guys? Even that limited role I suspect would be a significant time investment though.

Food for thought..

Best wishes,
- Chad
 
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jscherb

Expedition Leader
"What do you guys think?"

Obviously, it is difficult to know the extent of the skills the end user of the parts processes. That being said, I believe your concerns are very valid. I think that a number of the steps would be difficult for most people without a comprehensive set of instructions and/or blueprints to guide them. Fabricating the wide swing hinges with out a print would be a deal breaker for most.

If you go down that road, I think you would be wise to write up a "how to" manual and SELL it to interested party.. Make it worth your time. If the added cost of the instructions scares off the prospective customer then they weren't that serious to begin with.
What about the people who would say "I don't need no stinkin' expensive instructions" :)

About the wide-swing hinges, if I did one set of fiberglass parts for this guy that asked he would have to fabricate his own hinges, but if it went further than that I can get them manufactured in small quantities (probably 10 pairs minimum), and they'd retail at $150 per pair, so they could be made available (I wouldn't sell the hinges though, I don't sell anything - the company that manufactured them would sell them direct).
 

jgaz

Adventurer
What about the people who would say "I don't need no stinkin' expensive instructions"

I considered that question. I was thinking that the instructions could be an optional purchase but given the activity on any number of Jeep Forums that might be a bad idea. Once the instruction were "out there" they could, and probably would, be shared among the barn door customers.
 

JDaPP

Adventurer
Just out of curiosity how did you make the molds for the barn door? I assume you used the Window in some way? I ask as I would be interested in replacing the glass with just a fiberglass slab/panel as I can't see out of it any ways and I would like to be able to fabricate a shower room to attach to it.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Just out of curiosity how did you make the molds for the barn door? I assume you used the Window in some way? I ask as I would be interested in replacing the glass with just a fiberglass slab/panel as I can't see out of it any ways and I would like to be able to fabricate a shower room to attach to it.
No, I didn't use the window except as a curve template to make sure I got the curves right - the mold masters for both the inner and outer skins of the barn door were built from scratch. I think I started posting about the masters on the third page of this thread, so if you go back there and read forward you can see both mold masters. Once I made the mold masters, which are exact replicas of the parts I plan to mold, I made molds from those masters, and those molds were used to make the final parts.

For your application I'd be concerned about a "fiberglass slab" holding the compound curved shape well enough to press hard enough all around the weatherstrip to provide for a weathertight seal. The inner and outer skins of the barn door bond together to provide an extremely stiff structure which will press against the weatherstrip with equal pressure all the way around - a "slab" without any structure to give it stiffness may be prone to leakage.
 

JDaPP

Adventurer
No, I didn't use the window except as a curve template to make sure I got the curves right - the mold masters for both the inner and outer skins of the barn door were built from scratch. I think I started posting about the masters on the third page of this thread, so if you go back there and read forward you can see both mold masters. Once I made the mold masters, which are exact replicas of the parts I plan to mold, I made molds from those masters, and those molds were used to make the final parts.

For your application I'd be concerned about a "fiberglass slab" holding the compound curved shape well enough to press hard enough all around the weatherstrip to provide for a weathertight seal. The inner and outer skins of the barn door bond together to provide an extremely stiff structure which will press against the weatherstrip with equal pressure all the way around - a "slab" without any structure to give it stiffness may be prone to leakage.
Could a metal frame or metal inserts (would need to be bent to match curvature) be used to help with the structure? if not, what would be the way you would tackle the problem? Thanks.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Could a metal frame or metal inserts (would need to be bent to match curvature) be used to help with the structure? if not, what would be the way you would tackle the problem? Thanks.
The best way to approach this depends on what you want the inside of the hatch to look like and if you plan to add any functionality to it.

Option 1: If the inside of the hatch performs no function, and you don't care that it's not a smooth gelcoat finish, then you can do one mold that makes the outside surface of the hatch smooth, and the hatch will have rough fiberglass on the inside. While it's still in the mold you can add reinforcements to the inside surface so the hatch holds it's compound curved shape after it's removed from the mold. The inside surface will be rough fiberglass, which looks reasonably nice when shot with color-matched bedliner. Check photos of the inside of the Safari Cab side panels, they're rough fiberglass shot with white bedliner.

One detail that would need attention is the area that mates with the weatherstrip - rough fiberglass won't seal well against the rubber weatherstrip, so you'll need to smooth that area with a skim of body filler.

What adds stiffness to the fiberglass isn't actually what you embed in it - you don't need steel for this application. The stiffness comes from the fiberglass structure itself. Sometimes I form structure like this by laying fiberglass over wood, sometimes over foam (it must be urethane foam though, resin will dissolve polystyrene foam), and sometimes I lay fiberglass over cardboard tubes cut in half longitudinally (like the core from a roll of Christmas wrapping paper). The structure will come from the shape of the fiberglass laid over whatever the core in this case any of these cores would work fine. BTW I almost never embed steel in fiberglass because polyester resin doesn't bond to it and when I do I use special techniques. For this application I'd probably use wood, it's easy to cut it to match the curve of the window.


Option 2: If you want the inside to have a nice finished look, then you'd do two molds - an inner skin and an outer skin. That's how I did the barn door, it's finished fiberglass on both sides. The inner skin mold would have structure on it to prevent flex, the same as I've done with the barn door inner mold, although I made the barn door structure almost 2" deep and you'd be fine with a much less deep structure because you're not also supporting the weight of a glass window.

If you wanted the inner part of the hatch to perform some function as part of the shower, you could add whatever was necessary to the inner skin mold for those functions. I don't know what those functions would be because I don't know what you really plan with the shower you mentioned.


If it were me - I'd use my current barn door outer skin mold (the compound curves already match the curves of the factory glass hatch), and if rough fiberglass was ok I'd add reinforcements to the inside of it when it was still in the mold, and then shoot it with white bedliner after it was trimmed and fitted. If I wanted a finished fiberglass look on the inside or I was going to add some support for the shower function, I'd still start with my current outer skin mold but I'd make a new inner skin mold that would be appropriate for the shower functions I planned to integrate into the hatch.

If any of this is unclear, ask questions, and I can also post photos with some examples - I didn't put any photos in this post because the post was getting pretty long.
 

JDaPP

Adventurer
That is great info, thanks! What I am envisioning would be very light weight, mostly just canvas walls that are attached to the fiberglass "window". Pop up window, drop canvas = instant privacy tent.
I realize I could probably rig something like that with the current glass, I just like making things more complicated (at least according to my wife)
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
My two cents, as someone who has had poor luck throwing cash at my laptop screen trying to buy your barndoor, it would be very interesting to gauge the market with a funding goal similar to teespring's model. There are several webapps available now that would simplify the process a well! Essentially the problem of finding out if there's a market for the door (in any of a number of configurations) could be addressed by setting up a funding target with your fiberglass manufacturer. The kit in its many forms is selected from a drop down menu and once an agreed upon number of sales is reached, the purchaser's accounts are debited. If the target doesn't hit, funds are never drawn after an agreed on date passes. The process for setting up the target/funding backend is much simpler now with pre-built webapps and if your manufacturer is interested in these kind of limited run production efforts his web admin could set it up in a couple hours.

Alternatively, a simpler if less elegant method would be to setup a gofundme page and use the proceeds to pay the manufacturer for the run. It would solve the question of who would really be interested enough to put down the cash and remove much of the hassle forum group buys generally entail with money handling.

The first technique removes all money handling entirely going straight to the manufacturer, while the kickstarter method reduces it to one step really of taking a funded goal and the paying the manufacturer.

My concern would be handling packaging and shipping. Do you know if your fiberglass guys are equipped for handling distribution? Maybe they're focused on delivering a run to a retailer vice individual packaging and delivery?

Given that facilitating the logistics of production is not one of your mentioned interests would you be open to letting someone setup a group buy gofundme page and working with your fiberglass guys? Even that limited role I suspect would be a significant time investment though.

Food for thought..

Best wishes,
- Chad
Packaging and shipping: Yes, the fiberglass company is equipped to ship direct. BTW they're the company that molds the parts for the fiberglass Jeep-tub and military replica trailer kits I designed and are sold by Compact Camping, so they also do work for other companies that do the marketing/selling. They'd be glad to mold the barn door parts for any company that wants to market them.

I'm open to someone trying to get the barn door to market using any of the ideas in your post (or any other means), but based on the response to my "guy who wants me to make him the fiberglass parts" post, I doesn't seem that there's enough interest in the barn door (at least in kit form) to make it worth anyone's time.
 

jgaz

Adventurer
"It doesn't seem that there's enough interest in the barn door (at least in kit form) to make it worth anyone's time."

Now, your trail topper components.....that might be a different story.??
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
"It doesn't seem that there's enough interest in the barn door (at least in kit form) to make it worth anyone's time."

Now, your trail topper components.....that might be a different story.??
I really don't know if the TrailTop system would have enough interest to make it a worthwhile production product. I suppose it depends on how many people are building trailers and camper tops and what style and design they're interested in building. Personally I love the system and think it's a great way to DIY-build a camp trailer (being the designer of the TrailTop system, you would expect me to say that :)).

(For those who don't know what we're talking about, here's the thread on the TrailTop system: http://www.expeditionportal.com/for...ot-modular-trailer-topper-building-components)

As with all of my other fiberglass designs, I've kept all the molds so if there's ever a reason for me to make more TrailTop parts or for the TrailTop system or any of the other fiberglass designs to become production products, it will be possible.
 
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