×

Do-it-Yourself High Top Van Conversions

by Zach Lazzari
High tops convert standard vans into large space campers.

High tops convert standard vans into large space campers.

The high-top van increases the interior vertical space and provides standing room. The conversion is common on camping vans and is surprisingly easy to implement. You will need a donor van to provide the high top. You also may purchase a custom high top from a fiberglass manufacturer. Although the installation process is simple, you must make accurate measurements and cuts when replacing the old roof with the high top. The roof is also heavy and a helper is ideal for maneuvering the large pieces.

1.

Locate a donor van with a high top. High-top vans are available through classifieds and junk yards. Look for a donor with a fiberglass top that does not have any holes.

2.

Park the donor van next to the conversion van. Use a knife to remove the trim from the outside of the high top. This exposes a metal track with screws.

3.

Use a drill to remove the screws from the track. Use a putty knife to scrape the caulking and sealant from the area where the high-top base meets the donor van body. This separates the top from the van.

4.

Slide a 2-by-4 under the front and back section of the high top. This makes it easy to maneuver and take measurements.

5.

Locate the lip on the base of the high top. Measure the width and length dimensions using the gap in the lip as a guide. The gap sits on edge of the roof metal on the new van and must be properly measured for a snug fit.

6.

Trace the measurements on the roof of the conversion van. Use a sawzall with a metal blade to cut and remove the roof from the new van. Use the saw to remove the metal ribs and framework from the roof area as well.

7.

Cover the edge of the freshly-cut metal with soft trimming. The sticky trim is available through most hardware stores and it covers the sharp metal edge.

8.

Use a caulking gun to apply waterproof caulking to the edge of the open roof. Have a friend help you slide the high top off the donor van and onto the new van. Adjust the position until the edges align with the new van and the top lip is seated on the new van.

9.

Use a drill to replace the screws in the metal track. This seals and permanently connects the new roof to the van.

10.

Cover the metal track with a new piece of adhesive trim. Pull off the adhesive strip and push the trim against the track for a clean finish.

Items you will need

  • High top
  • Drill
  • Knife
  • Putty knife
  • 2-by-4 lumber
  • Tape measure
  • Sawzall with metal blade
  • Waterproof caulking
  • New trim

Tip

  • Test the weight of the high top before committing to lifting it off the donor van. Recruit several extra people to help with the lifting if necessary.

About the Author

Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer specializing in hunting, fly fishing and the general outdoors. He guided fly fishing trips for 10 years in Colorado, Alaska, Montana and Patagonia-Chile. Zach lives in Montana and splits time between the river and keyboard.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images