Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lest you thought I was dead and stopped working on the Jeep......don't you worry quite the opposite is true actually! I started the week by building a roof rack to hold the roof top tent. (simply refered to as a RTT in the overland world) The major issue with mounting the tent in the Jeep itself. Wranglers have a fiberglass top is not strong enough to carry the weight of the tent and would probably buckle under the combined weight of the tent and two people sleeping on top. There are already lots of companies that already build what I welded up, but they cost well over the $450 that bought the Jeep. Besides saving money there is the primal satisfaction of building something with ones own hands.

I started by making a bracket that attaches to the windshield frame:
I only used 3 of the 4 bolts that hold the windshield frame to the Jeep. My thoughts were that leaving one bolt intact on both sides would keep the windshield in the factory location throughout the course of the build. The cowl section to which the windshield mounts is the strongest portion of the body so this makes an ideal place to attach a roof rack.

For the main structure of the rack I decided to use 1.75" diameter tubing with a wall thickness of .120". (I could have something with a thinner wall but it ended up a rock solid platform for the tent) I bought a tubing bender from and used Bend-Tech Pro software to help me eliminate wasting expensive tube Basically all you have to do is draft up what you want and the program figures out the rest. This includes the location of the bend, how many degrees to bend and which direction to rotate the component to bend onto multiple planes. The software is a huge advantage to an inexperienced backyard fabricator like me. Without a doubt I would have wasted many feet of steel trying to figure it out manually! One nice feature is to play around with different designs/ shapes on the computer....... since digital tubing is free. After using Bend-Tech coupled with my bender I am convinced the software will pay for itself ($280) by eliminating wasted steel after just a few uses!

I started off by calibrating the software to work with the bender, bent up a tube and found out that I had goofed up the math. A quick recalculation and the part turned out like it should have in the first place........SHIT! The top part was what I was shooting for:

Once the softwares ebkbac error was sorted out (error between keyboard and chair) I proceeded to bend and weld tube and watch my ideas take shape in a physical form. 

The bender in action:
All in all I am fairly pleased with the bender. Its not the fastest or nicest bender but it produces consistant and wrinkle free bends for about half the cost of other benders I was considering. If you only occasional bend tubing and can deal with the hassles of this style bender it may be for you.

Proof every once and a while I can put down tolerable looking beads with a cheapy Home Depot welder. Not nearly as beautiful as the welds my buddy Kyle can bust out but they should hold:

The windshield hoop, front bumper and the rear section of the rack after a quick shot of Rustoleum spray paint:

Long story short I bolted it to the rear bumper I pirated from my other Jeep. A few lights, bolts, four letter words, smashed fingers, blood blisters and a dropped can of paint that exploded emptying its contents absolutely everywhere later............success!

To anyone who has been sitting the fence trying to justify the cost of purchasing a roof top tent: JUST DO IT ALREADY! Seriously these things make camping so much simpler and comfortable. Its so nice to have the tent open, bed (complete with a mattress) made up, lights on (more of that in a bit), campfire going and beer in hand while your friends are STILL fighting to get their tent haphazardly set up in the dark..........

For bedding I just use two sleeping bags zipped together and two old pillows from the house. Anyways on to the pictures, inside the tent:

For lighting I use some self adhesive LED lights from the ricer section of the local Autozone:

The wires run down a a pole inside the tent......

 ......and end up at the control box. One switch for the tent, the other for the changing room down below:

Inside the changing room with my make shift shower that runs off of a small RV water pump in the Jeep.

Anyways folks typing this has made me bit tired and I am headed off to bed. Tomorrow I will post up a bit about the construction and design of the slide out kitchen/ storage unit you may have noticed in some of the pictures. Take care and god bless!