Pop Top Refurbishment - RUST

This is an interesting story and I will try and keep it short. First the background.
My Syncro Deluxe was converted to a camper by Suncamper in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney in January 1989. I am the third owner. The first owner had it in Melbourne for many years and it was then owned for a short time by another guy in Melbourne before I bought it in 2010.
Lately I have noticed water getting into the van on the passenger side. A leak in the front was getting dangerously near the fuse box and water would sit in the door hinge cavity. Exterior rust at the front below the A pillar. Water under the floor next to the B pillar and when parked with the nose slightly up on a recent camp where we had a downpour, water dripping from the end of a curtain rail right above my head where I was sleeping.
I had been tearing my hair out looking until I had an idea and took off the lining above the passenger door and checked through the hole that is there for a passenger door light.
There was a large rust hole. Water had been coming in rather than going down the rain channel. For some reason the previous owner had put rivets in all along the passenger side. None on the drivers side.
I found a very good young guy that does caravan repairs near me at Ross Glen and we agreed the only option was to take off the pop top. It needed repainting anyway.
I removed the whole interior lining and the old canvas as it is now over 30 years old.
I gave him the van last week and he took off the pop top yesterday. What a shock. Rust everywhere where rivets had been used. No rust at all on the drivers side. I went down today to have a look and took photos. Some included below.
He is going to fill all the holes in the fibreglass, repair all the rust by cutting it out and replacing a large section with new steel. All interior steel will be treated. Then he will cut back and paint the whole pop top with a good two pack product. It will be reinstalled using modern glues and sealant so there will be no chance of water getting in ever again. No rivets will be used other than some at the back that were part of the factory install. I am getting a new hard roof inside like a caravan with a lightweight material, rather than vinyl. Then a new canvas and new modern looking interior lining.
Will keep posting progress reports. Have plenty more photos if anyone would like to see them.
Bottom line is that with our vans, rust is the No.1. enemy.
Peter (Port Macquarie)

Very informative, thanks for sharing, Peter.

Following this closely @portmacpeter

How hard was it to get the poptop off in the the first place?


Thanks for sharing Peter! I’m curious about the interior hard roof as I want to do something for the driver/front seat passenger roof of my Trakka - likely to also have a shelf/space for UHF radio and some reading lights…

Hi Martin. Unlike the trakka conversion my pop top stops at the B pillar. It preserves the roof cross member as a result. Better strength. So the hard top will only be the roof of the pop top. My interior above the driver and passenger was original vinyl. I am going to replace that with a better material like a modern car. I guess you could do a hard top there with some clever design.

Cheers, Peter

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Thanks Peter I am also interested in your project and how you progress. please keep posting.

looking at the pics I wonder if the rivets were to fasten a track for an awning to the passenger side. My trakka has this set up. and just started noticing rust bubbling under the paint below a rivet in one spot.

Time for an update. The pop top is off and in pieces. Photos show the work to date. I have had mat put in two more ribs on the top so he can do a hard roof like a caravan rather than vinyl. It will also include insulation. He is gluing on so there will be know sign of screws or rivets. We are running wires in there as welll for LED lights on the roof. The metal drain tubes for the luggage cavity at the front will be replaced with integrated fibreglass tubes.
The rust is a bigger problem as you will see in the photos. Extensive damage to the rain channel. Ideally we would like some channel off a donor van but instead he is going to take off a section, rebuild it and weld back on. The water has been running down the A pillar. Below the window there is a structural bracket that it has been sitting on. Hence the rust spot that I had to get fixed on the front. (See photo) Mat is going to get an inspection camera and see what the rust is like inside the pillar. This has explained all the water that I have been getting into the van on the LH side at the front.
Will inspect the work next week and update.

Cheers, Peter

Wow Peter a big job just got huge.

Worth getting all the rot out now though - otherwise it will just come back to haunt you…

Agreed Scott. I am lucky to have found such a fabulous tradesman. Mat is so good to deal with. He knows his stuff. Worked for 10 years here at Birdon Marine refurbishing Sydney ferries. His work was the wheelhouses. He is a real guru with fibreglass, can weld and do bodywork and a bit of autoelectrics.
I hope to get it back before Valla but probably won’t have the new canvas or interior done. Be ok to camp in though.

Looking forward to seeing your syncro back in action at Valla or if that doesnt work maybe Old Bar!

Well done Peter and so fortunate to find locally such a skilled tradesman.
Once completed, I expect Annie will be only too pleased to dispense with wearing her raincoat while in the passenger seat? :smiley: :grin: :laughing:

I really hope to get the van to Valla. Might not have any canvas or interior but top may well be finished and back on.

Jon. Apologies as I missed your question. The top was held down by a series of rivets along the top. Mat drilled these out as the top then lifted off. I wasn’t there but Mat and his father got it off pretty easily I believe, It was not glued, just silicon around the rivets. These rivets were sealed off and there was no rust where they went through the original roof. See photo of the drivers side.
Cheers, Peter

Looks like some of the interior is still there Peter.

Hopefully enough to sleep on!

Yes Scott. I will still have a bed and more importantly a fridge for the beer!!!
Cheers, Peter

Hi Peter, any more happy photo’s :smile:

Peter said it wasnt finished for Valla unfortunately.

So he took another non-syncro option to get there on Saturday.

Great to see you again Peter - next time - with the syncro!

Yes, hopefully it will be back good as every soon :slight_smile: