what method should i use to build out a camper top?

i'm putting a 'penthouse' sleeping shell on the top of my chevy astro van. i got a truck canopy, cut it in half, and i'll be joining the two halves to make a room to sit up there. i have to build out the front of the room, and i'm going round and round about how to do it. i could use wood, plywood and stringers, but that presents problems with joining the wood, weight, and the funky look. i've thought about making a frame out of 1/2 conduit, and filling in the space with 2 in plastic foam they use to insulate houses- it would be easy to cut to fill in curvy/complex shapes. but how do i 'glue' them together? the build out will extend a little over the windshield of the van, to give me more room and make something artsy... it IS an art car. if i used foam pieces, i could skin it over with fiberglass to make it a little rigid and watertight. but i've never seen it done.

any other ideas???? imagine that big boxy open space at the front becomes a kind of "nose" shape. how to do that? and maybe include some windows so i'm not all claustrophic'd in there...?? needs to be cheap materials, water-proofable and sturdy enough to not fly away. TIA!

of course, i'll be documenting the build for an instructrable. see: http://picasaweb.google.com/thaikarl/PuttingAPenthouseOnTheRocketVan#

Picture of what method should i use to build out a camper top?
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do you have any more updates on this project and or pictures , as i may try something like this with my ford areostar . please post or write if you have done more on the project .it is very interesting . by the way i would have made on the front of the camper shell after it is set on the van make a pattern on triangle shape down to the van top (this would make the front more aerodynamic . make a lip on the inside bottom edge and then fiberglass it all (making it water proof etc . paint it to match the other fiberglass . inside on the lip of the camper shell and new front made extension i would insulate it then bolt it down through the van . drill new holes in the new front lip area and bolt it down to . anyway just some suggestions on the rear area i would do like what was done on the from make a flat pattern and fiberglass it shut etc.
caitlinsdad9 years ago
If you had access to someone who could weld, you would probably be better off with a tubular metal frame of some sort that you could skin over with sheet metal or fiberglass/resin and insulated with spray-on foam carved to shape. If not, a riveted tubular metal or angle iron frame may work out. Do you have an idea for the top shape? You could make it like some sort of animal (turtle, shark, cow...) or weinermobile to incorporate the shape of the snout or nose. You should try to see some of those car shows on TV like "overhauling" or "pimp my ride" to see how they customize a car. Probably lots of bondo or auto body filler. Make sure when you cut a hole in the roof you do not compromise the safety of your van by slicing a roof beam. Good luck.
Thaikarl (author)  caitlinsdad9 years ago
a shark head/face! duh, whi didn't i think of that? i can build that out pretty easy i think... or something like it that i can paint a sharktooth mouth on. you comment got me to thinking that i could use 1/2 inch conduit to make the framing, and weld the bits together. duh, forgot about welding also. that's my dads shop behind the van, i can build in there, and he has a welder. it would be really cool if i made the bottom part of the sharks mouth hinged so i could open close... maybe powered by the wind as i drove down the road... but i think that will be a little bit much in terms of build time. thanks for the reply.
Don't forget the big popup sail that looks like a dorsal fin...that be intimidating on the road when someone sees it goes up in their rear view mirror and the eyes light up...