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So a few years ago I did up the rack on my high roof Transit using track rails, Thule Tracker II / Thule Bars, and the existing Ford bolt holes on the roof. We have about 5-6 bars on the roof, 3-4 of which are used to carry whitewater kayaks, and the other 2 used to carry our two solar panels. They work fine for the solar panels, but the Thule bars are a bit more difficult for the loading and unloading of the whitewater kayaks. Mostly, it is difficult to load them as I can't stand on the Thule bars (they bend); obviously I cannot stand on the roof, so mostly I carefully walk along the support ribs when I need to. Trying to handle 9ft long 50lb kayaks and strap them on there is quite dangerous. We want a safer solution for standing and moving around on the roof, and a full rack system looks to be the solution. Hence the need for a redesign.

Here is our basic setup:

These are the tracks I used:




I secured them to the roof using the existing Ford bolt holes, Grade 8 bolts, and a hefty amount of 3M 5200 in the bolt holes, around the bolts, and along the tracks (to prevent leaks). Long story short: I don't think the tracks are coming off.



The Thule Tracker II feet look like this:





They are attached to the rack with little metal tabs that look like this:





You can see them in this picture:





The tabs spin and lock in the track rails, and a small bolt tightens them against the rail. I think they're pretty secure, but how secure I don't know.

I have 3-4 sets of Thule backs to the rear of the van - 1 behind the Maxxair fan, and 2-3 in front (depending on how I set it up). I also have another 2 Thule bars holding 2 solar panels near the front of my van.

So for the redesign options:

We initially looked at the Aluminess rack, but it was too expensive. The Prime Design Alurack was another option, but we decided against in favor of the Thule bars. Now we have found a used Alurack on Craigslist that is affordable, but I don't think I can secure it to the roof using the track rail system. I think it needs to bolt directly to the roof, and remember, I can't get the track rails off the roof (not without a lot of razor blade work, scraping, and other chemical approaches).

Rhino Racks makes a rack system that attaches to Thule bars that could work - it looks to be around $800 bucks, which is at the high range of what we want to pay for this redesign.

Another idea I had was to make my own rack out of aluminum bars (similar to a raft frame), and them cam strap the rack to the roof with a ton of cam straps - I think it would be just as secure as any sort of bolt or metal fastener option, to be honest, and I don't think the rack would come free from the Thule bars... ever.

However, the other point of structural integrity is more of a question, and one that I would like to discuss. That is to say, if we think a rack setup should be, in fact, bolted directly to the roof, rather than secure via the Thule Tracker II system and a (light) metal track rail system. I would hate to have the rail fail, and the whole rack system come flying off the roof while cruising 75mph down the interstate. That would be a calamity.

Any thoughts or points of discussion I would appreciate, or any other ideas on the best rack options (and how to safely secure to the roof). Thanks!
 

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I could actually use those in place of the Thule bars, and therefore have a more customizable rack system. Nice idea!
Lots of choices. I can visualize making some rollers bolted to the 80/20. If you use 15 series the slots take 5/16-18NC carriage bolts. There are other vendors that make interchangeable extrusions. Mine are "T-Slots".

More info:

http://www.ortontransit.info/testeighty4.php
 

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These are the tracks I used:
Can you chime in on what tracks these are? And did they just bolt right in or did you have to drill through them for the correct anchor points? Also, did you use a spacer pad or just have a small gap in between where they mount and where they sit flush on the roof?
 
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