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Raising A Step Van Roof
#1
I'm contemplating converting a step van for full timing but am a little bummed out with the limited headroom.

I want to put my bed on a lift similar to a happijac but by the time I consider insulation for the roof, insulation for the floor, and the bed itself it's starting to look like less than 6 feet of headroom left.

I've read about people converting step vans into food trucks and being told by their local health department that they needed more headroom so they had to raise the roof. I've even seen a video of where a guy is starting the process.

But I haven't found any more detailed information.

Has anyone on here seen the roof on a step van raised before?
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#2
I watched a video a few weeks ago about a schoolie with a raised roof where they cut and added, looked like a ton of work. Why not just build on top or add to like a high top van then cut a hole maybe creating a shelf?
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#3
(01-03-2018, 12:14 PM)bullfrog Wrote: I watched a video a few weeks ago about a schoolie with a raised roof where they cut and added, looked like a ton of work.  Why not just build on top or add to like a high top van then cut a hole maybe creating a shelf?

Adding another roof or a shelf wouldn't really fit into my plans.

Watching the video in my original post it looks like they have the right idea in mind. Just don't know how it turned out.
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#4
It's just metal. Saws and grinders can cut appropriately, and smart design and engineering can take it to the next step, a safe and secure raised roof line. I can not imagine it would necessarily be inexpensive, nor quick to do, but I would not be afraid of it. I do however have an awful lot of experience and the tools to accomplish such, and also do it so that it does not look like a bad night of drinking when I was done.

So it comes down to what you have to work with... do you have a facility or a method to pull this off if the weather turns ugly ? How is your tool assortment ? Do you have access to various aluminum extrusion and plate so that the new expansion can be filled properly and finally, do you have the engineering skill set necessary or some really good friends that do and will lend you a hand ?

By the way, do you already have a Step van ? If so, I assume only a 6' 2" interior height model ? My advise would be to purchase a truck that already came with one of the added height options from the factory if at all possible. My truck had the 8" height extension which put it at 84" inside and NO roll-up door to add problems. I could easily put a powered rise-able bed in the back and still have 6' under it when up. I would not buy some expensive pre-made mechanism to do so... I would simply locate a 1" diameter shaft along the rear upper edge, then use 1 leg of 1.5" webbing in the middle of the back and 2 legs of 1.5" webbing, one on each side in the front that would unroll from that shaft to lower the bed onto a fixed set of platforms or side rails. Putting a gear motor on the shaft would provide the automation we all admire.

If your interested, my truck is actually for sale (less the bed you desire): https://sheboygan.craigslist.org/cto/d/1...58463.html

But, it's not exactly the best time of year to run up to Wisconsin to have a look. Price however likely goes up when warm weather arrives and I again get the itch to do more to it. I too have often thought about putting that bed system in, so I could just set it down onto the dinette after getting up. Might happen !

Good luck !
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The following 3 users say Thank You to grummy for this post:
GaRay (01-03-2018), bullfrog (01-03-2018), Netter (01-03-2018)
#5
That's a good looking rig.  What engine does it have and how many miles.  I didn't notice what transmission it had.
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#6
(01-03-2018, 02:47 PM)closeanuf Wrote: That's a good looking rig.  What engine does it have and how many miles.  I didn't notice what transmission it had.

Thanks ! I love it... still have a million things I would like to do to it if I win the lottery and end up being able to keep it.

Drive line ? The tried and true 350 small block Chev with a quadrajet carb. Sure, injection or diesel will get one a mile or few more mpg's, but nothing is as inexpensive to keep on the road in comparison. Failure of just a few "sensors" these days can run up bills in amounts higher than a whole new replacement 350. Long live the older vehicles !

Transmission is the equally reliable GM TH400, made a few generations back, prior to the more recent "we forgot how to make a decent automatic" generation. When these break, you are looking at a few hundred dollars to repair or replace, unlike practically everything else. And, in a Grumman Step Van, it almost removes and replaces itself because of the removable floor section. I get the jitters when I hear of people stuck with transmissions that have failed but can be "fixed" for low amount of $2K-$4k.

One dirty little secret known by educated Step Van owners is that the newer Gas models with injection and overdrive gained NOTHING regards mpgs. The only diesel that actually had potential in these carcasses was the Cummins 4BT. They posted almost unbelievable MPG numbers.... but you would eventually end up in an insane assylum because the NOISE and RATTLE affected your brain. Seriously... we have one at the shop. My longest trip in it has been 80 miles and I have refused anything but the shortest run, with OSHA regulated hearing protection. There is a REASON all of the FedEx and UPS trucks have returned to Gas engines. Cheap, twice as reliable, and easier/faster to fix.

So, why am I whining ? Because I have had to answer Craigslist enquiries about fuel economy.... People generally fail to do the real math. So what if this truck "only" gets 10mpg. The savings involved over the typical repair of a more modern vehicle...with even ONE single breakdown event could buy hundreds.. even thousands of gallons of fuel. Do the math. Be honest about what modern vehicles cost when you do have to take them in. Seems every time my wife's late model car went to the garage, their answer was a $800 to $1000 repair. AND, repairs that take special tools and equipment. Not so with my old truck.

Miles ? No clue. Never cared. There are no rare parts for the P30 chassis, and I have replaced literally everything that matters. If and when the engine or transmission would let go... you just jump in and replace it. What's great about the small block, is that on any given day, you can find a replacement on Craigslist for a bargain price, even quite often, a steal from the "the ole lady divorced me and I need cash" type sellers. Lol......

I'm sure it has well over the displayed number of 134,000 as it was a route truck for a vending machine company, and it to my knowledge was out in the wild between 1981 and 2009ish. Simple guesses could reveal the following:.. Say 1000 miles per week x 52 weeks a year, x 30 years.... 1 million 560 thousand miles... Well, its certainly possible for a maintained commercial truck that gets decent care. This one obviously got a lot of respect because of the shape it is in. Though, I have a lot of respect for Grumman's design and build quality as they really proved their longevity. The company that owned this one has the sister truck to this one still on the road daily, delivering to my city. Ponder on that when you see the next 8-10 year old Sprinter Van that costed twice as much to just change oil than it may have costed to field this truck in the fleet for an entire week.

Well, there I go, on and on again about one of the greatest delivery (and conversion) vehicles ever made. I love these things.. this is actually the third Grumman I have owned in my life, and I have had some other less than attractive brands. Now I am getting old. Will I ever have another ? I know I will sure as well damn try !

I've owned this one for about 7 years now. It's always been more of a hobby than a need. I really hate to part with it, but my employer has essentially eliminated my position of 18 years (SURPRISE!!!). Been off since October burning up savings while looking for anything that would pay enough for me to live on. Wife has said my "truck hobby" will not be funded after this event.

It's not likely that I will ever find another one this old (which I like), or in this good of shape for its age. But, things change... life changes, and Crying about that doesn't seem to solve much.
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#7
closeanuf: Chevy 340 and a TH400 auto. It's a very nice truck.

OnTheMoveOut: most of the food truck roofs that I've seen don't extend the entire roof. They leave the walls completely intact and cut out a rectangle of roof and build a raised shell there. The ones I can think of specifically all used clear lexan or plexiglass for added light.
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#8
(01-03-2018, 06:05 PM)grummy Wrote: Wife has said my "truck hobby" will not be funded after this event.

I think I'd be more tempted to get rid of the wife and keep the truck.
If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet. My little place on the interweb - Cyberian Radio 

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#9
(01-03-2018, 01:29 PM)grummy Wrote: It's just metal. Saws and grinders can cut appropriately, and smart design and engineering can take it to the next step, a safe and secure raised roof line. I can not imagine it would necessarily be inexpensive, nor quick to do, but I would not be afraid of it. I do however have an awful lot of experience and the tools to accomplish such, and also do it so that it does not look like a bad night of drinking when I was done.

So it comes down to what you have to work with... do you have a facility or a method to pull this off if the weather turns ugly ? How is your tool assortment ? Do you have access to various aluminum extrusion and plate so that the new expansion can be filled properly and finally, do you have the engineering skill set necessary or some really good friends that do and will lend you a hand ?

By the way, do you already have a Step van ? If so, I assume only a 6' 2" interior height model ? My advise would be to purchase a truck that already came with one of the added height options from the factory if at all possible. My truck had the 8" height extension which put it at 84" inside and NO roll-up door to add problems. I could easily put a powered rise-able bed in the back and still have 6' under it when up. I would not buy some expensive pre-made mechanism to do so... I would simply locate a 1" diameter shaft along the rear upper edge, then use 1 leg of 1.5" webbing in the middle of the back and 2 legs of 1.5" webbing, one on each side in the front that would unroll from that shaft to lower the bed onto a fixed set of platforms or side rails. Putting a gear motor on the shaft would provide the automation we all admire.

If your interested, my truck is actually for sale (less the bed you desire): https://sheboygan.craigslist.org/cto/d/1...58463.html

But, it's not exactly the best time of year to run up to Wisconsin to have a look. Price however likely goes up when warm weather arrives and I again get the itch to do more to it. I too have often thought about putting that bed system in, so I could just set it down onto the dinette after getting up. Might happen !

Good luck !

Grummy

Thanks for your post. Your rig is pretty awesome but not quite what I had in mind.

What I've seen as I've been looking around is that most of the larger step vans that are Class 4 - 6 like the Freightliner MT45 are already 84", it's the smaller ones (Class 3) are 73."

The video that I had put in my initial post was on YouTube and entitled "Part ll Raising the roof of the Food Truck."

At 00:40 they show that they're cutting out rivets that hold each roof cross member to an angle at the top of the wall.

At 01:29 they show the wall section framing that they've fabricated presumably to stick on top of the existing wall framing and then re-attach the roof cross members to the new wall section the same way they were to the original.

Ii would seem if you're careful to brace/tie off the walls to maintain the shape of the van before you begin removing the roof (which these guys don't appear to be doing) and maybe add some additional bracing you can keep the van square between removing and re-installing the roof.

The beauty of this is that it seems that they don't cut or alter the roof itself or its structure in any way. The challenge is manhandling the roof in one piece. Once the roof is on top of the new structure in this scheme it looks like the only thing you need to do is fill in the walls with the same gauge aluminum and replace the rivets in the sides/edges of the roof to tie it into the new wall material. There's no complex fabrication. Most of the work is drilling out/replacing rivets.

Raising only part of the roof actually seems like it might be harder because you'd have to fabricate/shape new transitions between the levels of the roof as well as fabricate new roof structure for the affected area. I also think that a step van with a partially raised roof would stick out and not be as stealthy (granted step vans are not the most stealthy in the first place).

In regard to headroom, I anticipate:
 - 2" for insulation/flooring at the floor
 - 4" for insulation/ceiling material at the roof
 - 10" for the bed

That leaves 68" which isn't enough.

I've already done a bit of research on the system I'd use to raise/lower the bed. It's actually based on the cabling system for a four post car lift.

Mike
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#10
Use threaded rod tack welded so you can make the perfect adjustments for all 4 corners. Over on the Skoolies forum there are several roof raise builds that go into more detail on how this is done. http://www.skoolie.net/forums/ I don't know where they are exactly but if you join up over there you can ask and someone will point you in the right directions.
If we were meant to stay in one place, we'd have roots instead of feet. My little place on the interweb - Cyberian Radio 

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The following 1 user says Thank You to Motrukdriver for this post:
bullfrog (01-03-2018)


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