Poptops     

  1. Overview
  2. Sportsmobile
  3. GTRV
  4. Colorado Camper Van
  5. Ursa Minor ECamper
  6. Ursa Minor Jeep Camper
  7. GR Travel Tops
  8. Other conversions
  9. Cool, but unavailable
  10. Build your own

Overview

Pop-tops are the ultimate camper accessory. Sitting low to the roof of your vehicle when not in use, they don't affect fuel consumption or access to low areas like a high-top does; when parked, simply turn the latches, push up, and you have instant headroom and natural light. Most, if not all, pop-tops can also include a bed.

As far as I know, there are a few ways to get a pop-top installed onto your van. This page covers commercial installers; for do-it-yourself ideas, check out the Poptops: Build Your Own page.

Sportsmobile

Sportsmobile are a well-known Ford and Chevy converter, making customized vans for overland adventure. They'll also install just a pop-top into your existing van, for $6000 to $7000. Ford vans can be regular body or extended, 1992 and newer; Chevrolet vans must be 1994 and up.

2007+ RB low-roof Sprinters can also be fitted with pop-tops.

The optional bed in the pop-top (or 'Penthouse Top') is relatively small - 41" wide by 76" long. There's an extra six inches all around for 'elbow and leg room' but it's not part of the padded mattress. Still, two can sleep comfortably up top. The top itself is strong, and the conversion (according to Sportsmobile) actually strengthens the roof!

Electric lift is an available option, as is solar prewire (the wires are built into the top and fed into a body pillar inside). Electric lift tops can carry up to 150lbs of gear on the top, and still be raised and lowered; Sportsmobile recommends no more than 40lbs on manual lift tops.

With the top popped, there's 6' 10" of headroom (8' in the Sprinter).

http://www.sportsmobile.com/1_penthouse-top.html

GTRV

GTRV (aka Coast Outfitters) do full conversions as well as partial - including installing poptops on a range of vans. I've seen Ford and Chevy fullsize vans, as well as Astro/Safari vans, Toyota Siennas, and Ford Aerostars. They tell me that they're considering tops for Sprinters.

About their fullsize van tops, GTRV tells me: We actually use 2 tops, one we call the shell which goes from under the windshield gasket to the rear rain gutter and from rain gutter to rain gutter on the sides.  This is permanently fastened to the original roof of the van and forms the foundation and depression for the pop top to set in so you get a smooth silhouette and therefore no wind noise or leaks. Both parts are hand laid fiberglass, which we do ourselves using a special process and internal bracing to keep everything light and strong, you can walk on our roof even though it's only 1/2" thick. We only add 3/4" to the height of the van for the full size.

Their minivan tops are one-piece, and add about 5".

The optional upper bunk is up to 6'7" long, and about 42" wide, with some extra, non-padded space around it. Tent material can be customized, for something other than the regular tan canvas.

They have two locations: a Canadian shop outside of Vancouver, in Richmond, British Columbia; and a US shop in Sebastopol, CA.

Tops come in angle-rise versions (V-tops) or straight-up pops (T-tops) and are low-profile - hence the GTRV label: Garageable Top RV.

(Left: from gtrv.com; Right: vwteleman on sportsmobileforum.com)

Prices are about $8000+, the last I heard. Their rep wouldn't give me an exact number over email. Their customers speak highly about the quality of work, and the pictures that I've seen of recent conversions back that up.

http://www.gtrv.com/

Colorado Camper Van

Colorado Camper Van is starting to build momentum with the 4x4 van crowd, who love the custom approach to poptops and the giant spaces that they create.

The owner started with his own poptop build, shown below and documented on expeditionportal.com, and from there created his own company doing van conversions. He's located about an hour and a half north of Denver, CO.

Another build (above right), this time for a customer, was documented on sportsmobileforum.com. The finished product looks nice, with a larger cutout than the Sportsmobile top, and electric lift.

The most recent news includes a new, lower-profile top:

Colorado Campervan Ford Van Poptop

The website says that they can convert any type of van. Pictures on the site show Ford vans, a Chevy Astrovan, and a Ford Excursion SUV with a poptop. The low profile top is $6200 and includes electric lift, flip-up bed, LED lighting, and a white gelcoat finish.

CCV also offer a top bunk solution for $2400:

This picture is from the Colorado Camper Van site.

http://www.coloradocampervan.com

Ursa Minor ECamper

Ursa Minor have developed a very nice poptop for the Honda Element, turning this clever little vehicle into a compact camper. The ECamper conversion consists of a fiberglass and carbon fiber topper, that is permanently attached to the vehicle. It uses gas struts for lift, and access to the top is either through the sunroof, if your Element has one, or through an access hatch that Ursa Minor will install for you. There's also access to the tent from the outside.

The mattress is an inch or two over 7 feet by 4 feet. Standing height through the entranceway is 6'6".

The top fits all years of Elements, and starts at $5250. Add-ons like color matching, access hatch installation, roof rack mounts, etc are additional.

http://www.ursaminorvehicles.com/camper.htm

Ursa Minor Jeep Camper

When the Honda Element on which the ECamper was designed was discontinued, Ursa Minor went looking for other vehicles onto which to graft their cool little poptop. Out of this search comes the Jeep Camper J180 Habitat and the Jeep Camper J30 - two poptop solutions for the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.

The J180 Habitat hard top is a fold-over tent, that sleeps up to four adults. It's not to be confused with a roof-top tent, since it's still accessed from inside the vehicle. Not much info is available yet for the J180; there's no price, and only one picture on the site. There's more information about early prototypes on this thread at expeditionportal.com.

Their other option is the J30, a more traditional poptop. It pops up on an angle, similar to the classic VW poptops we're used to, and sleeps two.

The listed price for the J30 Jeep poptop is $5250 before options.

Both tops take the place of the factory hard or soft top, and can be removed when not wanted.

http://www.ursaminorvehicles.com/jeep.htm

GR Travel Tops

(Located in South Africa)

More akin to a roof-top tent than what we typically imagine a pop-top to be, the GR Travel Top opens up and folds out to the side. This gives maximum headroom at all times, since the bed sets up in the fold-out section to the side.

Apparently, the travel top can be modified to fit most vehicles. There are pictures of completed installations on Jeep Cherokees, Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, and various single and double cab pickups. In some of these applications, the 'top' includes a build-out of the pickup bed, creating amazing space, with built-in cabinets, and apparently the possibility of additional bunkbeds. These latter applications are more like camper shells, and not truly pop-tops. But the Jeep Cherokee install below at least looks like a proper pop-top.

No info on price at this time, or whether these can be shipped and installed outside of the factory.

http://www.grtraveltops.com/index.html

More pics of the top on a Toyota pickup here:

http://www.cruisers4sale.co.za/Images.aspx

Other conversions

Those listed above are the only companies I know of that will fit pop-tops to your own van/jeep. There are other conversion outfits that will include a pop-top in a new conversion out of the factory - Pleasureway in Canada has the Traverse on the Ford van chassis, for example, and Safari Condo has a number of different tops available. There are also pop-top camper inserts for pickups, which I don't cover here.

Cool, but unavailable

American Expedition Vehicles has a sweet looking pop-top concept for a Jeep Wrangler:

Build Your Own

I've started listing DIY poptop installation projects on their own page: Poptops: Build your own. So far, these all use old VW / Westfalia poptops, on a variety of van platforms.