Custom Pop-Top Design Ideas – 3rd Gen Ford Econline

Since there are no commercial sources for new camper pop-tops for the 1975-1991 Ford E-series vans we’ll need to design and fabricate our own. There are fiberglass tops available that can be modified to work but the cost to get one to me in the woods of rural Maine is prohibitive. I’ve been fine-tuning the plan for the third generation Ford Econoline pop-top camper van conversion and this is our latest concept worked up in Photoshop.

My previous pop-top planning post indicated we were looking towards a more Sportsmobile-like mezzanine pop top. As I was working on planning and sketching the mezzanine style top I realized we don’t need the full height for the entire area behind the front seats to the back doors. I think a tilt-up top with a good hinge system should be much more stable in wind when deployed. Other benefits are that the lid portion will be lighter, more rigid and won’t require a motorized assist system.

At the moment I’m planning to fabricate the lower portion of the top with 1″ x 1.5″ .063 wall mild steel for the structural part and use 18 or 20 gauge steel for the skin. The operable lid will be fabricated from aluminum. I’m not sure yet if there will be a piano-style hinge for the pivot or if we’ll do a scissor lift hinge that’s poorly sketched in the image above.

When closed the aluminum top will be the same height as the front portion of the roof. This should help with road/wind noise. These images aren’t drawn to scale but they are close. Need to keep the total height below 105 inches.

The window placement will likely change a bit. We plan to have an awning on the passenger side of the van mounted right above the drip rail.

Have you done a top like this? Any comments or suggestions about this design? What material do you recommend for the fabric portion of the top?

Here’s a version of the van without a top in case you want to mock up your own roof.

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