Had a few down days in the shop (that have now turned into a few down weeks in the shop) so I decided to dive into the roof rack. Started with elevator bolts ground down on two side to slide into the factory tracks. I found that these gripped and would snug up against the track better if I used 1/8" thick washers between the bolt and the top of the track.
Then I welded up some brackets to bolt onto the track for everything else to rest on/connect to. The rack's primary purpose will be awning mounting, but we will also mount at least one solar panel up there, possibly a tool box and long-term it would be great to have a rooftop deck for happy hour and sunrise/sunset viewing. Not yet having an awning (not totally thrilled with the RV awnings on the market) I wanted the rack to be as flexible as possible so the front and back portions are totally separate entities from one another for now.
I had a rough idea of what we wanted from the beginning... but didn't realize how difficult it would be to dial in all the pieces since everything is curved in various different directions.
Basically, this became a tedious process of welding up a few pieces, climbing up a ladder on all four corners of the van to attach. Measure what I liked/didn't like, climb up/down the ladder on all four side to remove. Cut it all apart, remeasure, re-weld and then start all over. Last week i even thought i had everything dialed in enough that i painted everything in preparation of a final install. Great plan until i spent a half day installing everything and realizing i had messed the thing up. Argh!
Oh well, one more time (hopefully!) taking the whole thing down, cutting the entire rack apart and recutting/re-welding. I got a bit frustrated and had t take a few days off, and may have even started shopping for decent off the shelf roof racks online. In reality though I dislike how most stock racks look on the sprinter because they don't conform to the shape at all and wouldn't allow the flexibility of our future awning and solar panel etc... thus the pursuit continues.
Our rack is getting pretty close to where I want to be for now, or should be after the next round...at least enough that we'll be comfortable using it for a few months to shake down any changes before making a truly final version out of aluminum.
To be continued...