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Discussion Starter #1
Looking into putting an "escape hatch" in the roof of a Transit camper van I'm considering making.

The purpose of the hatch is not for emergency escape, rather, because I'm a photographer and can see many situations where I'd like to stand on a table or step ladder inside and take photographs from the height advantage offered from shooting at 3-4 feet above the roof. Also, I can see making panos from an indexed rack-mounted head. The van will mostly be used for photo road trips, i.e., making photos and prints, interviews, etc.

I suspect there are a lot of gotchas in installing a hatch. Roof ribs, non-flat roof, sealing, etc. Also, the hatches I've seen so far don't look that robust for long-term use.

Any insight from people who have put large roof hatches into Sprinters or other vans?

Thanks again...
 

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People have put large sunroofs in Sprinters.
Ridges in roof just have to be leveled with a material before installing it.
Even the 14" square standard cut-out for roof fans requires leveling of the surface.
The only limitation will be the max space available w/o cutting major structural components. And nobody really knows what that is for the mysterious Transit.
 

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Sounds doable, though not without some good research first. Another advantage to having an opening on the top of the Transit would be an extra air vent for the really hot summer months. You could always attach a ladder to the back of the Transit and then just climb on top of the Transit to take pictures. I don't think that you were planning on taking pictures out the top while you are moving anyway.
 

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Coming from a photography background I can see where you're going with this, it definitely helps to create a great vantage point, you can even do some epic 360 degree photo's from their!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Coming from a photography background I can see where you're going with this, it definitely helps to create a great vantage point, you can even do some epic 360 degree photo's from their!
For sure, Ted!

Above other nearby cars, people, etc. Could pull up next to a fence and easily shoot over it as well. Thinking about night long time exposures, too...

Though I mostly photograph people, I also like infrastructure, stuff like this:

 

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Yeah but none of the top was probably structural. Easy back in those days!
 

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Notice the Promaster steering wheel position. I put many miles on a 65 and never complained about the steering wheel angle. Did complain about the defroster getting dirty. For those who did not drive one the defroster was a towel. Sprinter engineers should note the passenger grab handle.
 

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I drove a mid-60's era one cross country on a trip and thought the truck like wheel position was kind a cool. But of course back then my cervical & lumbar discs were filled with youth.
Today I wouldn't dream of going more than a few hours per day in that position.
 

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High quality hatches are installed into the decks and cabin tops of yachts all the time.

There are several good boat yards in the Bay area that could handle that along with the structural mods needed to make it work.

Good idea really. With the benefit of a sky lite and extra ventilation added also.

Won't be cheap though . . .
 

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Looking into putting an "escape hatch" in the roof of a Transit camper van I'm considering making.

The purpose of the hatch is not for emergency escape, rather, because I'm a photographer and can see many situations where I'd like to stand on a table or step ladder inside and take photographs from the height advantage offered from shooting at 3-4 feet above the roof. Also, I can see making panos from an indexed rack-mounted head. The van will mostly be used for photo road trips, i.e., making photos and prints, interviews, etc.

I suspect there are a lot of gotchas in installing a hatch. Roof ribs, non-flat roof, sealing, etc. Also, the hatches I've seen so far don't look that robust for long-term use.

Any insight from people who have put large roof hatches into Sprinters or other vans?

Thanks again...
Hatch would limit size of solar panel that could be used.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Had a feeling about that, Dave. One of the reason's I'm enjoying thinking the van project through is managing conflicting requirements and trades, and coming up with an optimal (or at least decent) solution.

Still haven't sussed out my max electrical needs and battery capacity.

Really appreciate everyone's input here and on other threads!

More infrastructure:
 

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Brad, nice photos. I did check out all kinds of school bus manufacturer sites, but no info. on plans to use the 2015 Transit's larger wagons (with the roof we have been discussing). From previous years' models, it seems as if they mostly have used the cut-away chassis and have built their own coach bodies from the frame up and their own escape hatches. Plus it seems like a lot of General Motors products have formed the basis for their buses.

Thus, no real leads on finding an escape hatch already designed for the Transit 2015 roof. Good luck.

In general the Bomar hatches look like possibilities, if a little pricey, as do the school bus makers Parts listings, for instance:

http://www.pompanette.com/pomp.nsf/Marketing/bomar_catalog

Roof Hatches/Parts

Using any of the above options of course re-opens the "custom fabricated curb" discussion, which Ford or the bus mfg. could handle for us.

Good luck.

Peter
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanx Peter for the link to Bomar hatches. It's a good start. I'd have much more confidence in a hatch designed for marine use. And as you mentioned elsewhere, ultimate success is driven by the installation and accommodating the non flat roof.
 

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Most boats don't go 70-80 mph. Some thing to think about. But if you want to take a saw to the roof.... you don't live in the snow belt?
I am not trying to stop you, just give you other "point of view"
 

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VanMan's point is well taken as to the curb and seals at roof and hatch/skylight, which must be perfectly waterproof under those wind loads.

As to hatch itself, the Bomar marine units (hinge on forward edge) were probably designed for horizontal wind-driven water up to 80-100 knots (think hurricane), and even solid "green water" at 40-50 knots combined boat speed and wave breaking water speed coming toward the boat. I imagine that their cast expensive units are designed to be waterproof when submerged near the surface anyway. Curious whether the line includes hull portholes (perhaps fixed, yes) intended to be submerged when a sail boat is heeled over, often for days at a time. If so probably safe to assume Bomar knows waterproofing . . .
 

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Thanx Peter for the link to Bomar hatches. It's a good start. I'd have much more confidence in a hatch designed for marine use. And as you mentioned elsewhere, ultimate success is driven by the installation and accommodating the non flat roof.
Brad, I just noticed an article posted by Rico, which says the new Transits are certified by the federal DOT as buses, so maybe the roof panels we had discussed will accommodate emergency escape hatches eventually?

http://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/ford-transit-general-discussion/3394-theres-dealer-doing-series-q-videos.html

Vehicle Dealer Helps Educate Operators On Ford Transit Van - Vehicles - LCT Magazine
 
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