Trying to decide on a top for my 2003 E350 EB - Soliciting Opinions

LukeD

Observer
I don't know why this is such a difficult decision to make. I've been planning for the day to come when I'll be ready for a top and that day is almost here, but I continue to find myself running round and round in my head with which style top to got with. I purchased the van in Oct 2009, slowly did the ujoint conversion and made it into what it is today, so you'd think after 6 years I would know what I wanted!! I know, I know, "what am I going to use it for" or "what are your needs" questions should point me in the right direction, I wish it was that simple. I basically have 6 more years until the last son is 18 and the ultimate plan (at least for me) is to travel up and down the west coast for a few weeks at a time with the misses.

Just in the last week I was convinced I wanted an SMB top ($9,000!), then a high top from SMB, then I said "hey I can buy the top and install it myself and save 5 grand", now it's the 30" inch top with a "bigger is better" attitude. I even found myself reading pros/cons hi-top vs. pop-top posts over at the samba, watching youtube videos of those living in vans, etc. Dear lord, grant me the strength to overcome this first world problem...

Would also love to hear any feedback from those "I've got a pop-top, wish I had a high-top" or "I've got a high-top, wish I had a pop-top"

Current options on the table are;

1. Fiberine 24" Bubble Top ("Voyager" Style), Fiberine 4 hours south, would install myself (estimate $3,000)
2. Fiberine 30" Super Camper, same as #1
3. Pop-Top - CCV, more expensive than Fiberine and furthest away
4. Pop-Top - SMB West, Most expensive but only 2 hours away

going on top of this!
IMG_1008.jpg

P.S. Anyone on the central coast with any of these options want to give me a tour? I've only seen the SMB Penthouse in person
 
Last edited:

24HOURSOFNEVADA

Expedition Leader
My advice is to wait and see what MG Metal Works has to offer. That's what I'm planning on doing, I figure I have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain. And he's in OR.
 

drsmonkey

Observer
I've been trying to make the same decision, and have been doing a pros and cons list.

I think that have landed on a 24" bubble top.

It came down to a couple of key factors for me, but what it boiled down to was how we planned to use the van. The high top is more convenient and less expensive than the pop-top. The pop-top creates more space while camping, less height while moving, but requires more set up and take down time.

Since we don't require the space downstairs, and mostly travel in the SW where low hanging branches are rarely a problem, the high top is the best option for us. We like to mostly be outside and have a trailer for our kitchen etc. that we leave as a basecamp, so only require a minimal setup in the van. All we really want is the space to stand up and move around comfortably.

f we wanted to cook inside, have a toilet and shower, needed to have beds for 4, or overhead clearance: then the high cost, having to raise and lower the top, and climbing up into bed would be worth it.
 

GNTY

Adventurer
Certainly if your leaning towards a pop top wait a little longer to see MG's offering. No doubt he'll knock it out of the park.
I've been fighting myself on the same question as you but not for the same reasons. I've owned a smb with pop top and it never did suit my needs, especially where I lived and climate I was in for year round use, hey some people do it but it wasn't for me. So on this go around it was more the pier pressure and knowing the overwhelming popularity of the pop top that was pulling me that way vs. what I really wanted and needed. There are many pros and cons lists here and on the smb forum on pop vs. fixed so I won't get into that. I felt like I read all of them, but really I didn't need to, I knew what I wanted but just was fighting myself. I just ordered the 30" super camper for my smb eb50 4x4! And am relieved the decision is over. I'm so excited!
No question the pop top is the most popular by a long shot and for many good reason, but there is a place for a fixed top and those that have them love them as well.
Good luck! Feed back is great to have, up to a point. I went against the majority but was lucky to have experienced both tops to eventually end up knowing what will serve our family best.
 

Frosty_1

Adventurer
You might also try calling Van Specialties in Portland to see what they charge for a fixed high-top. Save on taxes and I believe they would be cheaper than SMB...
 

hurstjd

Adventurer
Ours is a fixed top (1997 E350 Airstream B190). We love it. Tons of room to walk around. Upper cabinets make for a lot of storage. Plus we have the bed above the driving area. When we went to Expo East last October, it was awesome. Three days of solid rain and we stayed warm and dry without feeling cramped.
 

Bbasso

Expedition Leader
My fixed hightop is about 15 inches and is great for me, sure two inches more would be better but I found my van with it.
I'd vote for a fixed hightop.
Storage space is incredible along with comfort.
 

boardrider247

Weekend warrior anarchist
FYI I installed a 24" Fiberine top myself last summer.
All said and done after buying adhesives and insulation supplies I think I'm into it for about $5000. Though I did add a window and have to pay shipping.
 

86scotty

Explorer
I'd go for the fixed hightop. I've had a CCV and an SMB pop top and my next van will probably be a fixed top. Simpler climate control, more storage, more storage, 6'+ walking around space with no set up, stealth camping, more storage, no moving parts and more storage. Also, you can pretty easily find a fixed top at a junk yard for a couple hundred bucks. If the fiberglass is good the rest is irrelevant.

Good luck!
 

Acheateaux

Adventurer
I'd go for the fixed hightop. I've had a CCV and an SMB pop top and my next van will probably be a fixed top. Simpler climate control, more storage, more storage, 6'+ walking around space with no set up, stealth camping, more storage, no moving parts and more storage. Also, you can pretty easily find a fixed top at a junk yard for a couple hundred bucks. If the fiberglass is good the rest is irrelevant.

Good luck!
This. My 24" Fiberine bubble top was the best money Ive spent so far on the GnaRV. That said, my buddy was patient and found one with windows that fit his rig for $100.
 

Luinil

Adventurer
Have had a 1972 VW a 1989 Sportsmobile and now have a 2002 CCV all with pop tops. The CCV is the only one that is powered. Setup is fast and simple, about a minute. The thing we like most is being able to stand in the van and look out the windows in the top. There are two of us so storage space is not as big an issue as it is with a larger family. Get what you are most comfortable with. You can always change it later or get a different rig.
 

ChuckB

Expedition Leader
Great insight. I'm just lurking and like reading about the different van setups.

I didn't know MG is making a top, that is probably worth waiting to see!!
 
Pop Top for me. With a family of 4, and wanting to keep it configurable with plenty of seating, pop top seems like the best way to add living space. Though, to be fair, I haven't spent much time checking out the sleeping possibilities of fixed high tops.

I'm going with CCV.
General consensus seems to be that they have the best pop top (currently) on the market, and they're relatively local to me. That last bit was a huge factor for me. I don't have time for cross country travel these days. By the same calculus, if I was the OP I'd might go with SMB West.

I thought about waiting to see what MG comes out with. I'm sure it will be awesome, and elegantly engineered, but I doubt it will be significantly cheaper than the competition, if at all. And, as much as I love Oregon, it's pretty far away from me. And I couldn't wait.
My van goes in on Monday!
 

Coachtone

New member
Cant wait to see some pics when they are finished. Thinking of upgrading to a newer van and doing the same thing.
 
Top