Chevy Suburban pop top adventure build

parkonufer

New member
Hello Expedition Portal!

I am new to the form and wanted to share a project I have been working on. I built a few suburbans out and realized there are a lot of benefits to this rig, especially for my style of travel. There was always a dream to do a pop top one day and finally that day came when I found a great deal on a 2009 Chevy Suburban LS on craigslist.

I am always looking for ways to improve and hope to share my enthusiasm as I get this project wrapped up. Here are some of the benefits I like about this rig let me know if you have any ideas for finishing touches.
  • Cheap and easy to maintain 4x4 platform.
  • Excellent daily driver capabilities.
  • Ability to pop the top from the inside of the vehicle only, and the ability to sleep with the top closed in cold stormy environments.
  • Much more spacious than a truck bed the interior dimensions are: 8' 9" long x 6' 9" tall x 60" wide.
  • Much more low profile for stealth camping applications.
  • Extremely comfortable sleeping for two on a queen width mattress.
  • Easy access to the kitchen galley from the inside and the outside.
  • Accommodates a gasoline powered Webasto heater, water pump, Dometic fridge and extra battery.
I have a ton of photos and would be happy to upload more as I move along!

Cheers - Parker
 

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parkonufer

New member
Here are some more of the fiberglass construction.. does anybody know how to add a cardboard honeycomb layer into fiberglass? That's what Sportsmobile uses for their top and I would like to do that next time around
 

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bknudtsen

Expedition Leader
Good call I missed the mark there, I'll see if I can move this to "other"
If you move it anywhere, go to the Full-size Domestics subforum. There are a couple Suburban pop top threads there, as well as, a lot of Suburban in general.
 

RVflyfish

Observer
If you're going to move it, please keep a copy here. Super interesting thread.

When I looked at your first set of pics I was asking myself, "Where did he get that top? Is it a Vanagon top?"

Then I saw your second set and the only thought I had was, "Holy s***!"

Dude you made that thing yourself?! Amazing. How did you glue the pink insulation together? How did you cut the profiles? How did you keep the lines straight and avoid undulations? Is the lift mechanism homemade too? Did the wood frame stay inside the top?

I have an Astro I would love to build a top for...
 

parkonufer

New member
Hi thanks for t
If you're going to move it, please keep a copy here. Super interesting thread.

When I looked at your first set of pics I was asking myself, "Where did he get that top? Is it a Vanagon top?"

Then I saw your second set and the only thought I had was, "Holy s***!"

Dude you made that thing yourself?! Amazing. How did you glue the pink insulation together? How did you cut the profiles? How did you keep the lines straight and avoid undulations? Is the lift mechanism homemade too? Did the wood frame stay inside the top?

I have an Astro I would love to build a top for...
thanks for your excitement! The insulation is really easy to work with you can spray glue it and even screw it together. Then you sand just like a surfboard shaper to get all of your contours perfect. The wood frame did stay in there I fiberglassed it to the shell. The lift mechanism and frame is all home made too. How can we get you started on your Astro?
 

45Kevin

Adventurer
^^^^
x100

I'd love to see more pics of the fiberglass form and work.

I rocked a 6.5T diesel 'burb for years when I mostly traveled by myself.
It was an awesome tow vehicle and had plenty of room for me to camp in.

We got the van when the wife got back into camping and traveling with me.

I'd love to build a low profile pop top like yours. Did you start with the gel coat and then work inwards, or did you make the foam mold and work outwards and finish with sanding and paint?
 

parkonufer

New member
^^^^
x100

I'd love to see more pics of the fiberglass form and work.

I rocked a 6.5T diesel 'burb for years when I mostly traveled by myself.
It was an awesome tow vehicle and had plenty of room for me to camp in.

We got the van when the wife got back into camping and traveling with me.

I'd love to build a low profile pop top like yours. Did you start with the gel coat and then work inwards, or did you make the foam mold and work outwards and finish with sanding and paint?
I made the foam and worked out much like surf board construction. The difficult part about that is once I had a few layers on the foam I realized I needed to add the stiffness of a wood frame. To do that I excavated all the pink foam and started fiberglassing the wood in from the bottom. It was a mega pain but saved a lot of time and material as opposed to making a 1) plug 2) mold and 3) part. Once I finished the wood I sanded a bunch of epoxy only layers to get the outside surface smooth and painted it with a marine paint. Then there was a lot of wet sanding and polishing until it shined!
 

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Scotty D

Active member
This is definitely in the spirit of the vanlife board. Lets not move this thread anywhere.
I wonder if a torsion box made out of 1/8 inch ply would add the needed rigidity and make this top sturdy enough for all the solar panels and kayaks I desperately want to bolt onto it.
 

jakegrovephoto

Active member
Solid work on this! Can’t say I’ve seen one yet on a newer model suburban, watched a few older generations run a similar setup on the forums.

My shell was “recycled” from a westy and cut to fit, all for the custom fab on yours. Keep it up!
 
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