Sunroofs and extending the head space.

Junior Burger
2013/01/12 20:56:32
Hey all, Awesome website and the amount of things I have learned here is massive, I am ever so grateful. I have searched for this and cant find much on what I need so posting in hopes someone can steer me right.
First off, I am pretty handy and am fairly confiodent I can do all my own work on this TRUCK BUILD but in this case, I am having a hard time finding parts.
I essence, I have a '97 Ford e350 short school bus that I am converting to a simple shave ice truck. The height from floor to ceiling is 66" and our local health departments wants it to be 74" with a minimum aisle width of 30". OK, so I need to raise the roof.
I see 3 clear ways to go about this.
  1. get a van "high top". I might even be able to find a used one. Just bolt it on with some RV mastic.
    • pros: easy to install. cheap, the run around $1000 new and I might find a used one.
    • cons: might not look as cool as some other options. I might want a sunroof anyway for venting and natural light.
  2. Build it out like the other trucks. I see these on a lot of trucks, they use alimunum extrusions and plexiglass sides, sometimes blue. They usally have some blue roof vents too.
    • pros: looks like the rest of the trucks out there, I get lots of natural light and roof vents are easy.
    • cons: I cant seem to find parts or plans for this anywhere./ I would be ok to just see some close up detailed pics of assembly. If i knew where to get the roof vents and proper extrusion parts, I bet I could build it. ANY ADVICE HERE WOULD BE AWESOME.
  3. For my third method, you have to imagine in your head these short buses. They are basically a fiberglass panel box put onto a e350 chasis. Just above the side window panels, at the top edges where the sides meet the roof there is a round-over (fillet) that transitions from the wide to roof. My idea is to chop the whole roof off in one piece just above the side winder and below where that round-over begins. The just push it up 12" or so and then put in some box aluminum posts all around and bolt it all in place. The fill the gaps with plexi, do the corners in bent aluminum.
    • pros: would look unique for sure. Keeps my roof flat in acse I want to go with solar panels up there. Also easy to pop in vents. The general look would be pretty cool i think instead of having that weird thingy like we see on so many trucks, see option #1 above.
    • cons: depends heavily on my ability to make the cut clean, I guess I can hide the cut edge with some extruded aluminum, but then the corners get tricky. Might not work? I sure wouldnt want to loose the roof on the highway on a windy day :)
OK folks, heres my problem. Any advice? Anyone have any pics of their roof thats been extended? All advice is greatly appreciated.
Junior Burger
Re:Sunroofs and extending the head space. 2013/01/18 12:59:55
Well, not to be deterred by the lack of response here, I will outline my next thoughts on this one. I totally understand that not many people actually do this sort of work on their trucks, instead shopping it out to a pro fabricator. For me thats just not an option, I called a local shop and he told me $4k minimum to pop the roof up, and I know that materials is only going to be under $500.
I need to post a pic of a local truck that has a similar vehicle, so to see it you will need to do some editing of the link since I cannot post links here. The pics is of a mini school bus thats been converted into a belgian waffle truck. Just replace the bold dot with a real .
static dot wix dot com/media/2dfd4e_45319b7053e5e1e74eedda08b5ea793d.jpg_srz_876_657_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz
Anyway, you can see on the roof that there is an extension to increase interior head space. I intend to do the same, but I may have windows on the side and go with a different shape so that it looks unique.
In a nutshell, there is a welded 1" aluminum frame that is bolted to the roof with a strip of butyl mastic tape in between the frame and the roof. Then a hole is cut inside that frame profile. There is RV siding applied to the entire exterior, again butyl mastic tape is applied to all the frame where the siding touches, and then fasted with self tapping hex screws. When the screws go through the tape, it provides a waterproof seal. Then once the whole thing is skinned, RV edging is applied to all the corners, again with the butyl tape and screws.
For me, I am not about to weld aluminum and sending it out for custom fabrication is too expensive as well. Aluminum tube is cheap and there are several joining systems out there. I am a bit tired of editing these links to post but I can give you some google terms to search yourself if you want to find a good joining systems for aluminum struts that dont require welding. The search terms below are bolded, just paste those into google.
80 20 frame : these guys have a few systems, the t-slot systems and in particular i find the HT Series pretty interesting for simplicity.
faztek : more t-slot aluminum extrusions and joining stuff.
frame-world aluminum : i used this companies materials before on a custom cnc machine i built.
Any of these companies will cut to length your parts and ship them to you. This is very good, you can design the whole thing in SketchUp and get your parts list together. Send them your order and you get the whole kit ready to assemble with no machining required. This is big kid erector set stuff.
You will notice that while the cost of getting these t-slot aluminum extrusions is slightly expensive, it is still way cheaper than custom welding or having a pro shop do the work for you. If you really want to save big, you might consider the HT series from the 80 20 website. Essentially with that one, you just use regular aluminum box tubing and the buy their joining inserts.
I am not affiliated in any way with these comanies, just trying to throw out what I think might be a great way for any food truck DIY folks to get some body modifications done without shelling out big bucks.
post edited by ductape - 2013/01/18 13:03:35
Junior Burger
Re:Sunroofs and extending the head space. 2013/01/18 13:57:49
I hear you Ductape, I had the same issue here in San roof didn't meet the 74" requirement. I looked into how much it would cost me to have one built, and like you said...easily 3-4K! After that, I knew the only way for me was to build my own. Out of 20 gauge stud metal framing, I framed out my skylight enclosure that holds my 2 skylights with the blue plexiglass. I am even including screens to keep bugs out when open. No one showed me the way, you just have to make it work knowing that paying 4k is not an option...I wish you all the luck bro, I cant post pictures because of the whole 30 day newbie waiting period, but if you are interested PM me your email and I can send you pics of mines as a reference?
Dr of BBQ
Filet Mignon
Re:Sunroofs and extending the head space. 2013/01/18 16:37:32
ductape Well, not to be deterred by the lack of response here, I will outline my next thoughts on this one.

Well it's good your not going to be deterred by lack of response. LMAO The problem is anyone with any experience here on RF is working on a project or selling food. That and I'm sure a bunch are really getting tired of answering questions for people that just come out of nowhere and want every bit of experience on their build written out in a step by step  procedure. My best advice is do a search here on RF and you'll find several threads that will answer your questions and supply pictures of their build. It really doesn't matter what your doing it's been done several times and in several different manners. Some worked and some didn't. But it's here I promise you. Good luck in your build. And welcome to roadfood.
Junior Burger
Re:Sunroofs and extending the head space. 2013/01/23 21:05:56
@the Dr.
Ahh, if only the search worked. Seems to be broken though for at least a couple weeks now?
Know any thread in particular that someone extended a roof themselves?
I will update this thread with pics as I go. how many posts do I need to be able to put images?
Dr of BBQ
Filet Mignon
Re:Sunroofs and extending the head space. 2013/01/23 21:11:09
30 post I think then you can do pictures. Read the thread below on broken search engine and follow directions using Google. You'll get there the same maybe better. I don't remember who it was that posted about raising the roof height but two guys ended up using two differant models and both were in the same thread. It may have been Backalleyburgers build thread.
Junior Burger
Re:Sunroofs and extending the head space. 2014/02/06 17:30:39
For anyone who is still looking for it, the thread on raising your roof was between  and  titled "Another P-30 Stepvan Build-Out...the future HOT BUN-mobile."
Super helpful. Looks somewhat adventurous, but can be done.