[Build] Rebuilding a fiberglass high top

Ironhead

Observer
Like I said I loved my top like the one your now doing. Are you planning on putting the windows in this one?
 

DAV!D

Adventurer
Like I said I loved my top like the one your now doing. Are you planning on putting the windows in this one?
Yea I'm going to put the windows from the other one in this one.. Honestly, I think the other one will not get finished.. I don't have another Ford van for it so it's kinda pointless to finish it unless I want to make a boat..

I think the biggest mistake I made with the other top was cutting out the window area too early in the process. I got ahead of my self and figured if I cut the window area out, I'd save my self a bit of work not filling in area's the windows would be. What ended up happening was I make the top too flimsy in he early stages by doing that. Once everything was back together it would of been fine, but moving it around and trying to test fit it, put too much stress on the side and they buckled under on me.

If I did this sort of thing again, I think I'd make a real jig out of plywood so I could add runners down the side on the outside to keep the shape while working inside it. This was my 1st time trying anything like this or even doing much at all with fiberglass, so it was an experiment and a learning process. I actually had this idea in my head for a while, as I wanted to increase the height of my vanagon pop-top roof. I'm sure at some point I'll be giving the raise roof idea another go on something else.. lol
 

Corneilius

Adventurer
I think you made the right choice. A mantra I try to live by is "Don't defend a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it" A better solution came along and you made the right choice. Plus you gained valuable fiberglass experience. Looking forward to seeing it mounted.
 

DAV!D

Adventurer
Too bad you couldn't just get the doors from the donor van too It's nice not hitting your head.
It would be a nice option, specially in the back because it gives you better access, but you have to add the whole door enclosure into the van. It's a lot of extra metal framing and you have to cut into the door jams and so on.. Not worth it IMO.

The other issue, is with both of these vans I've pulled the roofs off, on both those extended door were allowing water into the vans. Seems to be a leaky area on them and both had water damage and rust in the sections around the door extensions.
 

DAV!D

Adventurer
The top is fiberglassed back together now and I'm sorting out how I will fill in the rear area..





I had the idea to use the 3M foam board as my mold, because it's easy to bend and can be sanded..




I had the dumb idea of trying to use "great stuff" to fill in the area where I need to make the beveled body line.. The stuff says it can be sanded and painted on the can label... Well if you can "sand" a sponge I guess that's what I'd call it.. It didn't work so well. Tomorrow I'll flip my blue boards around and I'll just use some more of that to fill in the area with the body line. The blue foam sands down pretty good and holds it's shape.
 

Vandit

Observer
Sorry to hear that your first idea didn't work out, but kudos on not giving up and just moving right onto idea #2. Looks like you found another good top and you certainly can't beat the price. It looks like you're off to a pretty good start on the new top. Keep up the good work, looking forward to seeing the progress.
 

Johny5

Adventurer
If you want to make a perfect match for the back make a mold on one of the sides with the same profile .

Wax a bunch of times the area you will use about 10 times over a day will be good , any mold release wax will work.
You can also get release agent that will help a lot too (it's cheap )

Then gel coat the first coat with gel coat( with out wax ) let cure for a few hours or a day then lay up you fiber glass using waxed resin , let cure and remove you now have a mold.

Repeat the wax and mold release . Gel coat and then glass resin and you have your filler piece for the back with a matching profile. With a smooth gel coat topcoat
 

DAV!D

Adventurer
If you want to make a perfect match for the back make a mold on one of the sides with the same profile .

Wax a bunch of times the area you will use about 10 times over a day will be good , any mold release wax will work.
You can also get release agent that will help a lot too (it's cheap )

Then gel coat the first coat with gel coat( with out wax ) let cure for a few hours or a day then lay up you fiber glass using waxed resin , let cure and remove you now have a mold.

Repeat the wax and mold release . Gel coat and then glass resin and you have your filler piece for the back with a matching profile. With a smooth gel coat topcoat

My original intention was to use the areas I cut out to help rebuild the back, but there is difference between the size of the rear and the side. Seems the rear is a bit taller than the sides are. I'm still using the cut out for the shape of the raised lip, but the two sides aren't wide enough to fill in the gap anyway so it's easier to just build a mold for the entire thing rather than piece in those sections.
 

DAV!D

Adventurer
Ok time for a progress update. It's taking longer than I wanted to get this done, but it getting much closer now. I spent a day or two trying to make the mold for the back. Took a bit of figuring out but eventually I came up with this.



It's the 3M foam insulation board, I cut then pieced it together to make the right angles. I Then hand sanded everything to get the shape a bit better and finally use some silicone caulking to fill in the seams and act as a filler to better round things off a bit. I then covered it all with some wood glue to try and seal up the foam.. (non epoxy resin melts this stuff) I also uses the car polish for the release agent as I've been using all along.



I read somewhere online the wood glue will stop the foam from melting, but it appears either I didn't get good enough coverage. The foam did melt but it took long enough to do it that it didn't cause any issues.



Here is the patched in panel right after removed the foam mold. I didn't bother using a gel coat because I know it wasn't going to be perfect and would require some fixes on the outside.




I did decided to add a bit more support to thicken it up on the inside where it will be cut and rest on the van roof. When fiberglassing it all in I used a mix of angel hair and heavy mat. Seems to have worked pretty good the area seems just as strong as the rest of the top.



Last a up close profile picture because it's pretty hard to get a good picture that shows the actual beveled lip. It's not perfect but I'm pretty happy with it. I ended up doing a bit of grinding on the outside then ran a few strips of fiberglass around the edges to glass everything together real well.

I will wait till tomorrow to trim the edges then I will do a test fit. Once the test fit is good, I'll start on cleaning up the outside and cutting out the windows. Hoping to get some paint on it in the next few days so I can be done with this and finally move on to mounting it and building the van camper interior.
 
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DAV!D

Adventurer
Ok I did the test fit today. Everything seems ok, but I need to trim a few spots for a better fit. I will now clean up the body work to an acceptable level (not going crazy just as long as it looks ok). After that I'm planning to epoxy/glue in some wood strips (so I can have something to mount the interior too) cut the holes for the windows and finally paint it..







It's gonna be big and tall, a bit taller than I wanted but it will give me lots of room.
 

Vandit

Observer
Nice work. That looks like it's going to work out great. Please share photos of how you attach the wood to the inside when you get to that part. I would be interested to know what you choose to attach the wood and how much wood you choose to add.
 

Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
For glueing in plywood reinforcement, I'd coat it in resin and then lay mat over it and apply more resin.
 
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