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Old 01-15-2010, 10:29 PM   #1
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Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Hello All-
I've been looking around for ideas on how best to install a heavy duty roof rack, or safari rack, on my shorty.
I've got the dimensions nailed down. Where I'd like input is on the actual attaching it to the roof.
The rack itself will be fabbed from 2" square tubing for the main weight carrying frame, with 1/4" plate for the feet that will be resting on the roof members.
Here's where I am wondering how best to attach... should I weld directly to the bus? Should I do a combination, and weld after replacing 4 rivets under each 'foot' with appropriate metal screws, or should I attempt some sort of bolt-through design?
My main concern after the structural strength is any type of leakage. I want this to be able to hold as much weight as I care to put on it, so I have designed it to attach at 8 points- 4 on each side, each foot where a roof member lies.
From a structural integrity standpoint, is there a place to center them that would lend more strength to the whole design, like more on the flat of the roof, or closer to the outer, more curved edge of the roof? I don't want the weight to bow my roof in, duh. Any ideas? Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-16-2010, 09:11 AM   #2
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

2" square tubing? Wow-thats gonna be heavy on its own. If you use 1/8" wall, thats 3 lbs per ft. Figure how many feet you would need to do what you want + do some math. The mounts + bus are gonna have to support the weight of the cargo AND the rack-if the total it can handle is (just saying) 1500 lbs, I'd rather have a 500 lb rack with a 1000lb capacity than a 1000 lb rack that i could only put 500 on. I'm betting you could make a a real sturdy rack out of 1" sq. Also you have to figure how handling will be affected. The weight you have up there is far away from the center of gravity of your bus, swaying + handling should be taken into account. And you will be hauling the heft of the rack all the time-even when not loaded. I'd shoot to make it as light as possible.
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Old 01-16-2010, 09:34 AM   #3
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Bolted thru would be better than welding due body flex. I also think 2" is overkill for the rack. 1" would be more than enough for a roof rack.
I would say your rack legs need to come down on the sides close to, if not, parallel to the side of the bus. you dont have to mess with the curve that way and water leakage is less of an issue.
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Old 01-16-2010, 11:28 AM   #4
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Thanks you guys. I agree with you about the 2" tubing, unfortunately that's what is available(free) for me to use. On the plus side is the fact that it's just under a tenth of an inch thick, and the weight is just under 2 1/2 lbs/ft. This is what I'll be using unless I can somehow trade for 1 1/4"- which would be my preference. I've figured the total weight to be just under 600 lbs, including the expanded metal floor. I tend to agree with you, Smitty, that I don't want the weight resting on the verts alone. I like the design of the Team Reckless bus, at least as far as it's attached. It seems like it would distribute the weight a good bit w/o adding too much weight in the process. These charts you mentioned for figuring weight would be nice to look at. I realize that putting a ton of weight up top will have drastic effects on handling. I'll be using it for storage mainly, but I like the idea of sleeping up there on cool, clear nights. The main weight that will be a relative constant up there will be the nearly 600 lbs. of water. Granted this will only be when I'm planning on being stationary for a fortnight- I wont necessarily be putting highway miles on w/ a full load of water. I'll have teepee poles and canvas, and other misc. sundries up on top, as well. All in all, I'll pretty much always be maxing out my G.V.W.R., so that's a given.
I'm glad I found this site- you guys are great! Have a fun-filled and productive weekend.
Cheers!
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Old 01-16-2010, 07:34 PM   #5
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

yeah smitty you are right, I should have mentioned the shear factor of the fasteners used needs to be high if you plan on hauling alot of weight up there. you could do your post at the outer edges with a foot plate bolted thru if it was sealed good, it would be ok. I figured a verticle attachment would leave the water any time to seep thru any cracks while running past and that a foot plate would cause a small amount of water to sit at the connection and maybe find a way thru??? just a thought?? you could attach to the sides and let the rack rest in the center of the the roof in the middle of the bow, not bolted thru but just a foot sitting on a rubber pad. no holes means no leaks. that way gives 3 support points per bow.
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Old 01-16-2010, 07:43 PM   #6
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

I kind of like the idea of having support feet on the curved part and on the sides, all bolted down. But use the rubber under the feet both as a way to keep water out, and to add vibration protection to the parts of the roof where the feet are bolted down. It would mean having 4 feet instead of 2 or 3, but then you could raise up the deck/rack an inch or two and be able to paint under it as needed.
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Old 01-16-2010, 08:58 PM   #7
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Well, I've been shopping around for Ideas, and still don't have any definites.
A few observations, and one more question:
one, is I thought of something that doesn't relate to attaching the rack, but does pertain to the handling once installed and loaded, and It's probably well known fact to most already, and that's having the ballast weight of stuff you'll likely be carrying down low anyway, like grey, black, and/or fresh water, battery banks if doable, as much understorage of anything you feel safe carrying down there- tools, generators, the like- you get the picture, situated under the main top heavy zone, and preferably between wheels on either side.
That brings me to balance, which I'd given at least some good thought to already, but now my minds running wild. I'm thinking now that I'll be taking detailed account of every bit of weight, and mapping the location where it sets, and on which side, even to the degree of anticipated body weight of passengers. It's starting to sound like science, which is fine with me.
My next question is to all: does any one know of any roof racks that have ever failed? Miserably or mildly- I'd like to here about it. From a few tiny drops leaking in at the seam(s) while driving through gail force monsoon rainstorms on the rocky, mountain Rocky Mtn. backroads of New Mexico, to the time when the bus you were in had it's roof rack fall off w/ all of the people's stuff while doing 75+ on the freeway, or even of any instances where a wreck occurred, and the roof rack was sheared off from impact, or fell off when the bus flipped!
Pictures would be the best, but accurate memories would be appreciated. Please, no severed heads and entrails smeared across the roadway, though.

Gracias!
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Old 01-17-2010, 10:56 AM   #8
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Yeah Smitty, an air-dam is in the works, too. I'd like to think that it will not only help maintain the integrity of the rack and keep the bugs off any 'stuff', but will improve gas mileage -yeah right, lol.
Thanks, everyone, for putting your heads into gear on my account.
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Old 01-17-2010, 12:30 PM   #9
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

I can vaguly remember as a youngster seeing the carrier rack on the hood and it's contents on the road in front of the car after a panic stop on the pennsylvania turnpike, you know the kind with suction cups and clamps in the rain gutters. long story short, I was raised being taught that it was better to drill a few holes in stratiegic locations and permanently install bracket to turnbuckle the carrier bars to.

My advice would be to make your feet to sit on the roof near the sides, in the high curve section and then drill and attach the actual fasteners in the verticle part of the roof bows so you minimize the chance or water entry into the bus. 2 or 4 1/4'' bolts in each upright will support all of the weight nthat you should/can safely carry on the roof. the most important thing is to remember that uf something can move an inch, it will keep moving, and will only stop when it finds something solid like the ground. also if you carry water on top use baffled tanks and or fill your rigid containers to the top to minimize sloshing momentum.
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Old 01-17-2010, 08:51 PM   #10
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Paul- you bring up a couple good points. As far as your suggestion on attachment point(s), I agree, and have decided to run with that idea.
Regarding storage of water, I'd never given the "slosh" effect the attention it deserves. Supposing I've got just under 300 lbs. of water in a tank made to carry twice that in weight, constantly shifting and slamming in there- it paints a picture of failure occurring eventually, especially if it's so far from center of gravity.
What's "baffling" to me (aren't I the wit), is that all of the water storage units that I've seen that came stock in trailers/r.v.'s- which isn't a large amount mind you, have been made of plastic, and I've never noticed them to contain baffles, either. Most are the opaque white plastic kind, and most seem to go at least a little brittle with extreme age (of say 30+ years).
I have witnessed failure of water holding tanks (fresh,grey, and black), mainly due to the material (plastic) imo, and now I'm thinking it had to've been at least partly due to lack of a baffled construction. It's got me pondering.
I'll have to give plastic welding a shot- though I really don't care for plastic to begin with. Unfortunately, it's the most suitable product for this job, with a fancy metal storage coming in second. Then glass, though I can't quite see it, and imagine having a concrete cistern below decks! Now that would be a sight. Can't see that, either, though. I think I'm starting to ramble... long day.

Gute nacht
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Old 01-17-2010, 10:32 PM   #11
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Heres a thought to stop slosh--fuel cell foam. Its basiclly a coarse sponge. It works well with (lighter) gas in fuel cells.
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Old 01-18-2010, 03:05 PM   #12
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

A 55 gal drum of water is about 400 lbs, if its full while your moving, their will be minimal sloshing, so of you use 2 55 gal drums to transport extra water and then gravity transfer it into your regular water tank the slosh effect will be moved closer to the center of gravity, just make sure that your topside reserve tanks are either full to the top or empty. another option is to use 15 or 20 gallon drums, they are available but not as cheap or easy to find.

IIRC the earlry plastic tanks/products had issues with UV deterioration, that has either been solved with the modern chemestry of plastics and or limiting warranties to a suitable timeframe that assures that the containers are out of warranty before degradation to failure is an issue.

If you want to fabricate your own tanks, I'd lean towards plywood boxes lined with fiberglass or a production poly tank with a tight fitting plywood box around it to support the flat surfaces.

I would also suggest that u install a 1/2'' pipe ''tie rail'' down low around the outside of your safari rack to make securing things easier.
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Old 01-26-2010, 10:45 PM   #13
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Hi Bus-Ted-
It seems we share some common interests- I too am going to be hauling tipi poles and my bus is about the same size as yours.
I originally was going to get a large bus but found more versatility in a shorty plus a trailer, and then found even more versatility in two shorties that can tow each other if need be
I would second the thought that the best situation for a load rack would be to create the load bearing Z-axis portion of the rack on the curved structural members as gravity-mated while having the the X and Y-axis attachments just bolted on the sides.
For serious upper loads a crosstie made of aircraft cable could be used right under the curve to prevent any bowing. (like in unreinforced brick buildings)
I also want some gravity-fed water tanks, but my current best thought is to have them inside on shelves as high as they can be versus outside.
Others have talked about the impact of having weight up that high, but I'm wondering how much have actual experience with that?
We're talking about vehicles that weigh 15k-25k lbs, and while careful driving is always advised even 2000lbs (250gal of water) 10' up is not going to turn the vehicle in to some massive rollover danger.
That said, the slosh issue is real- and like you I've found that "RV tanks" seem to not even acknowledge such things.
Racing fuel cells acknowledge slosh bot don't come in large enough sizes- I'm thinking the best solution might be a standard RV tank with the above-mentioned foam in place.

What you thinking re solar?
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:00 AM   #14
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Hey scosol-
So far, the only solar powered project on the drawing board is a hot water heater. That's something I can make myself. As far as pv's go, I don't know yet. $ is always the biggest deciding factor regarding stuff like that. I'd like to have a nice quality generator, for instance, and don't see the point in getting a piece of junk. So, I've got to prioritize and save for the big items.
Regarding the fuel cell foam, I've considered it, but something doesn't set quite right. Really it boils down to drinking water that's sifted through a plastic sponge just doesn't sound like it would ever taste very good. The water already has one strike against it in that it's going to be stored in plastic, so I'm just kind of leery of the foam on top of it. I've been reading a bit about phthalates, and I've never cared for the taste of water stored long term in plastic. I'll be insulating the container(s), and that will help, but I'm seriously considering the possibility of expensive, stainless tanks. A plus is that an acquaintance will fabricate them for a considerable savings, but the price of metals is skyrocketing. All in all, I'm just trying to get by with as little plastic as possible. I prefer glass, but it's not feasible.
Glad to know of another who enjoys the teepee life. After living in a teepee, it's hard to go back to anything remotely boxed- even ol' busbus. My bus is my mule team, though, and I try to treat it as such. I really am considering the transition to a late 60's military Kaiser, bobbed to a 2 axle, instead of a 3- axle drive. I've seen them for years, but the major drawback to me is that they're diesel (though a multi-fuel engine sure sounds good), and I have no experience working on them. I hate being at a mechanic's mercy. I'm only a half-assed mech. as it is- I can't do much to anything computer aged.

So, tell me about the two bus system. Do you caravan w/ others? On my end, it's just me and my son, who's not driving age just yet. Lone wolf and cub. We're gearing up for a move back to N.M. in the late Spring- the land of his birth.
Seeing as how I've got the gypsy blood, though, chances are good that we'll not be making it permanent. We just haven't found our village, so to speak. Maybe it's not even in America. I've touched all of the lower 48, and haven't been impressed with any of them enough to say to myself "Ahh... home at last!" I'm curious about Alaska, but I'm pretty sure it would be a similar story- the magic would be relatively short lived. The older I get, the more I sound myself to be total pessimist, which isn't the case. I love real, raw life- just not this canned crap being pushed off as 'the real thing'. Signing off.
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:19 PM   #15
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

I'm thinking about having a 5 gallon water dispenser on the kitchen counter (strapped to the wall) for drinking water. That way I can see what's going on in the water and it is regularly rinsed and refreshed. I'm very leary of drinking from a water tank that I cannot easily monitor. It's too easy for mold or something to grow inside a plastic tank without me seeing it. The water in my main 50 gallon tank will just be for washing hands, toilet, etc.
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Old 02-11-2010, 08:39 AM   #16
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Re the two busses, this is all in theory until I pick the second bus up next week in Oregon and drive it back down to SF
Here's my thinking- I'm a computer/Internet guy and can make a lot of money when I'm working but really get burnt out quick so I need the housing flexibility that can let me just goof around for 6 months if I want to- spend the winter in Tahoe snowboarding etc-
I'm coming out of a house I've owned for 10 years so I've accumulated a lot of "stuff"- so one bus I will live in, the other will be storage/workshop. Then as I go through all the stuff and sell what I don't need the storage bus can transform in to an "adventure" bus that I can take camping etc. It's a diesel and sits high, where the one I'm picking up is a low transit style and runs on CNG which means it's useless for any touring or off-roading.

Re the tanks, it's too bad none of them are absolutely clear as that would UV purify the water, but I'm not concerned about that too much anyway. Any cooking/drinking water would just come from purchased 3-gallon things from the store- I don't use much. The mass-stored water would be for showers and washing only.

Re PV, I'm shooting for 500w per bus eventually, with just 500w on the live-in bus initially. It's a good chunk of money for sure but not more than any major engine/tranny problem which could happen at any time. I'd rather not run a generator at all ever and simply plug in when/if I need to and also recharge everything slowly when I'm driving. I don't use heaters or AC so my electrical needs are pretty low.
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Old 02-12-2010, 10:54 AM   #17
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Well right, I would have a wood stove in that case
My point was specific to electrical usage-
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Old 02-24-2010, 10:21 AM   #18
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Re: Advice Wanted on Safari Rack Installation

Ok, we finally picked up two shorties and we're beginning the planning stages. Does anyone have any detailed pictures of supports, where to bolt etc etc that would give me more of an idea what to do where? I've read this a few times but think the photos would help a ton. Thanks much. Scott
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