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Old 09-02-2019, 10:26 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Location: Mt Vernon, WA
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Year: 1996
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: G30 Bluebird Microbird
Engine: 1995 Chevrolet 350
Freaky Frankenbus Pop Up Roof Raise Double Decker

Howdy folks. My shortie plans are going through another permutation. Well, this is more van than skoolie bus so maybe I should post in the Vandweller.com forum. Its a cute little 4 window Bluebird Microbird Chevy Van buses. I almost refrain to cut the roof as it drives so easy and is so cute. This 4 window bus might actually be about the same length as my Express 2500 cargo van.
Im pretty tall at 66 so heres my idea for a low budget roof raise. I picked up a Coleman Laramie pop up camping trailer yesterday for $300. Im considering placing it up on the roof. It would add about 3 maybe 36 when lowered in the down position. So the total height when down would be about 116. Is that ok for this little bus? It is a dually.
The slide out end tents are missing but I dont want those anyway. I just want vertical walls with windows for wildlife photography. Essentially Im wanting a pop up blind on the roof. The side walls fabric are there and so Ill just need to improvise end wall fabric.
What Im most concerned about is how to reinforce the hole I cut in the bus roof? I want to be able to walk around on the lower floor without rubbing my head so I hope to cutout a 64x84 hole then reinforce the hole so its strong. Then set the trailer frame on this reinforced hole. Then join the two vehicle frames together and seal it. The lower floor ceiling in the bus roof will be about 6 higher than original so my head will clear. The upper floor ceiling is tall enough for me when its popped all the way up.
Im wondering about adding some posts or bulkhead walls inside the bus to strengthen the modification and handle the weight of the trailer. And for rigidity. The trailer will be empty so not all that heavy. Im guessing about 400-500lbs. Most of the cabinets, sink, stove, tanks, battery, etc will be reused on the lower floor. I just need a lightweight bench daybed and chair on the second floor. The axle, springs, tires, tongue will all be removed of course. And the trailer door will not be needed. I was thinking about cutting a hatch in the floor to enter from the underneath. The ladder would need to be carefully designed not to take up a lot of space.
Well, its interesting design challenge. I know a guy with a forklift who will lift it up. But then it needs to slid off the forks. Or I can hoist it up into the rafters of a barn and lower it down. That method might be better?
Am I nuts for considering this. What am I not thinking of?? Insurance? Dang insurance. I better not forget to lower the pop top before driving away lol. My brothers best friend zipped into his garage with two bikes on the roof rack of his car. Insurance came through. But I wont have full coverage like that.
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Old 09-02-2019, 11:04 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
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I was considering doing exactly this, but, making my own canvas rather than starting with a trailer. Problem was, I couldn't find anything to use as the hard top without a lot of work to widen whatever I used. Time became an issue and I finally broke out thre saw and the welder. For what it's worth, this is all very doable, given that you already have the trailer. You're really only limited by your imagination and skill or will.

Have you seen the Sportsmobile Penthouses? You might try to find one (or a Vanagon) and check out how they did it.

https://sportsmobile.com/penthouse-top/
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Old 09-03-2019, 11:01 AM   #3
Skoolie
 
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Chassis: G30 Bluebird Microbird
Engine: 1995 Chevrolet 350
Quote:
Originally Posted by DawgBs View Post
I was considering doing exactly this, but, making my own canvas rather than starting with a trailer. Problem was, I couldn't find anything to use as the hard top without a lot of work to widen whatever I used. Time became an issue and I finally broke out thre saw and the welder. For what it's worth, this is all very doable, given that you already have the trailer. You're really only limited by your imagination and skill or will.

Have you seen the Sportsmobile Penthouses? You might try to find one (or a Vanagon) and check out how they did it.

https://sportsmobile.com/penthouse-top/
Thanks for the link. Those are nice big pop tops on those Sportsman. Ive not been able to find anything like it after looking for months. So I had considered making one from aluminum. But then I found this trailer which basically is a entire second floor. Im still wondering if its going to be too heavy with that trailer frame up there. The crank up mechanism works good. But eventually the cables and stuff would need maintenance and looks complicated. A simple pop up only needs minimum maintenance.
So you made your own. That was enterprising. Simple is better. I always make things complicated.
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Old 09-03-2019, 12:20 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Haha. Ya, actually I ended up just doing the "standard" type raise. I cut the supports, jacked up the roof, welded in place. I had considered using ANYTHING for a pop-top, including truck canopies, trailer roofs, even Jon boats! Nothing was doable in the amount of time I set for myself, unfortunately. The standard raise will suffice, although, I'd much prefer a lower profile of a pop-top than what I've got. Oh well, at least I can stand up inside my mini bus now!

I didn't realise you meant, you want to basically set the whole trailer atop your bus and strap it down, so to speak! You might want to consider dissecting that trailer a bit first. You def won't need the frame if it's going up top. You could build your own, much lighter support system to hold it. I think you're right about the weight. That'd be one top heavy sucker if you just set the entire trailer up there.
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Old 09-03-2019, 03:52 PM   #5
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Neat ideas.


on the side line....

I have read that some buses have the wall studs stick thru the floor. My van base Collins bus has that also.

If you remove the rivets where the studs connect to the transverse floor beams then you can raise the whole shell. Still a lot of work.


Johan
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Old 09-03-2019, 06:32 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
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Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
Neat ideas.


on the side line....

I have read that some buses have the wall studs stick thru the floor. My van base Collins bus has that also.

If you remove the rivets where the studs connect to the transverse floor beams then you can raise the whole shell. Still a lot of work.


Johan
Interesting idea Joe!!. I had not thought of raising the entire roof and walls as a unit by adding to the bottom off the wall rather than the top of the wall. This would solve one of the other problems for tall people with these buses: the windows would be raised also and then the counters could all be raised to the bottom of the windows. This deserves some research.
Dawgbus: It was a fun idea to put the entire frame up there and have a whole other room. Basically a covered bug proof deck upstairs. But Im starting to lean away from the idea. As you mention it would be topheavy and would look weird.
I thought about just using the lid to the pop top if I turn the pop top into a small utility trailer. The lid could simply tilt up on a hinge somewhat like a Westphalia camper lid. Id need to improvise some kind of sitting platform to use it for photography and sound recording. Not nearly as comfortable as having a big covered deck.
Your welded roof raise sounds practical.
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Old 09-03-2019, 07:02 PM   #7
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Man, yours sure was built a lot sturdier than mine! I haven't posted to my build thread in a while (I'll update that soon), but, not only are the welds in my bus terrible, but the ribs aren't even welded to anything structural!! In fact, the ribs aren't even a single piece design!

Here's how they're designed: floor of bus is actually a standard Ford Econoline floor. Small, approx. 2" tall pieces of 1"x1" are welded directly to said floor, in a vertical layout. So you have a whopping 1/16th inch wall of metal as your base. From these short pieces stem the first section of "rib" (hat channel). 6ft tall. At the top, where it meets the radius of the roof edge, is another piece of rib bent 90-degrees, about 8" long. Then the next piece of rib, spanning the roofs length.

So basically, every rib is seven pieces. That's including the stems on the floor (5pcs without). They're weak and not attached to anything strong. I went into this project without much welding experience and I can VERY safely say, my welds are far, FAR stronger than anything from the factory that supports the walls/roof. It's scary that this thing once hauled children at speed.


EDIT: I quoted @joeblack5 for this reply but it's not showing as such. I mis-clicked something.
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Old 09-03-2019, 07:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doktari View Post
Dawgbus: It was a fun idea to put the entire frame up there and have a whole other room. Basically a covered bug proof deck upstairs. But Im starting to lean away from the idea. As you mention it would be topheavy and would look weird.
I thought about just using the lid to the pop top if I turn the pop top into a small utility trailer. The lid could simply tilt up on a hinge somewhat like a Westphalia camper lid. Id need to improvise some kind of sitting platform to use it for photography and sound recording. Not nearly as comfortable as having a big covered deck.
The only reason I'd want a deck is to sleep on it, so I'm just going to rig some kind of screened tent thing that will rest on my roof above the escape hatch big enough for a small air mattress, and then a ladder inside to get up.
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Old 09-03-2019, 08:29 PM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
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Year: 1996
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Chassis: G30 Bluebird Microbird
Engine: 1995 Chevrolet 350
Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
The only reason I'd want a deck is to sleep on it, so I'm just going to rig some kind of screened tent thing that will rest on my roof above the escape hatch big enough for a small air mattress, and then a ladder inside to get up.
Musigenisis:
Cool! That sounds simple and inexpensive solution for you. My bus is tiny, only 10 feet long behind the drivers seat so Id like a second floor. Im extra tall and rub my head and told myself I wasnt going to do that anymore. And I have the pop up trailer sitting here. Its might barely be worth replacing the end tents and fixing it up as a pop up trailer. But the tents are $1150. And I dont want a pop up trailer. I could sell the parts and build a small utility trailer.
I talk myself into things as you can tell. This would be my fourth major roof modification. I think maybe Ill cut the 64x84 hole as thats the size hole I was going to cut originally anyway. Then Ill fiddle with the pop up trailer and see if it can be made to work up on top of the hole. Then if decide it cannot work I have my backup plan of fabricating a aluminum top to fit the hole.
I just realized Ive been writing pop top when I should have been writing pop up.
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Old 09-03-2019, 08:39 PM   #10
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Location: Mt Vernon, WA
Posts: 152
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: G30 Bluebird Microbird
Engine: 1995 Chevrolet 350
Quote:
Originally Posted by DawgBs View Post
Man, yours sure was built a lot sturdier than mine! I haven't posted to my build thread in a while (I'll update that soon), but, not only are the welds in my bus terrible, but the ribs aren't even welded to anything structural!! In fact, the ribs aren't even a single piece design!

Here's how they're designed: floor of bus is actually a standard Ford Econoline floor. Small, approx. 2" tall pieces of 1"x1" are welded directly to said floor, in a vertical layout. So you have a whopping 1/16th inch wall of metal as your base. From these short pieces stem the first section of "rib" (hat channel). 6ft tall. At the top, where it meets the radius of the roof edge, is another piece of rib bent 90-degrees, about 8" long. Then the next piece of rib, spanning the roofs length.

So basically, every rib is seven pieces. That's including the stems on the floor (5pcs without). They're weak and not attached to anything strong. I went into this project without much welding experience and I can VERY safely say, my welds are far, FAR stronger than anything from the factory that supports the walls/roof. It's scary that this thing once hauled children at speed.


EDIT: I quoted @joeblack5 for this reply but it's not showing as such. I mis-clicked something.
Dawgbus: that original bus rib framing does not sound strong but you fixed that. Nice work! . Im not sure how they engineer these but would assume they are engineered. I think the curved steel roof gives it some strength.
I definitely plan on adding some strategically placed bulkheads like in a boat to reinforce mine. The bulkheads would also be bolted to steel posts.
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