And so there came a day when I traded my old Rodeo for a Ford Focus, and though I gained reliability and fuel efficiency, I lost much cargo-carrying ability for bring kayak and outrigger canoes to the water. Exeunt the evil (though not the most evil) SUV and its practical applications for True Sports Utility.
But surely the Ford Accessories department has an answer. 'Hello, yeah, parts department. How can I help you?' 'Do you have a rack for a Focus?' 'Yup, for the wagon model.' 'Not the ZX3 coup?' 'Nope.' Short and sweet, the answer is No in the comfortingly predictable American Automobile Tradition.
Enter now The Grand Thule. Shrouded in swirling northern mists, enhanced by the evocative name of the ancient kingdom whispered about by the Greek traders and Roman invaders of Iron Age Europe, The Grand Thule called its ravens named Adventure and Spirit (in translation), and they croaked, 'Do we have the thing for you! You pay only $400 AND you get the aura of our name besides a 200 pound capacity!' I bowed and replied, 'I have a short roof Ford Focus.' The ravens screamed and flew off, The Grand Thule withdrew into a blast of icy wind peppered with ice shards, and I heard the fading but still grand voice, 'We offer no rack for your model at this time.'
Enter next the fresh, sleek, happy salesperson at Eastern Mountain Sports. 'We have just the thing for you, this Yakima roof rack. Oh, you have a short roof and the rain gutters do not extend past the door (coup model)? No problem, for we have this wondrous accessory.' She rang a bronze cymbal, and cloaked devotees came in from the carven stone grotto that all EMS stores have out back (and you thought it was all steel racks and stacked cardboard boxes, didn't you?), singing a hymn to the Updated Demeter, goddess of the earthy-crunchy sportslife. They bore on their litter the Sacred Short-Roof Adaptor. There followed a poetic explication on its use, chanted in decasyllabic meter. 'And your sacrifice need only be in the amount of $300 (on sale!).' That left me with one solid roof connection at the front on the rain gutters, and a won-drous bracket with a rubber pad resting on the roof top for the rear support, connected by the lon-gitudinal rails. I suppose it would work, but the engineering configuration did not fill me with $300 worth of awe. Now what?
Enter the workshop. It smells slightly of paint and sawed wood. The floor is dotted with drops of cured epoxy. The tools wait in their raw wood racks, saying nothing directly (they seldom speak like that), but insinuating promising possibilities (always!). Towla, a blacksmith character in my novel The Sorcerer's Chain, once made the comment, 'The only certain thing is the hard handle of a tool.' These fictional characters sometimes seem realer to me than many a flesh and blood persona (how sad; that's on me). I took his advice.
I built a hasty and crude roof-rack to fit my focus. I used scrap wood at hand (2x3 studs, 1x2 strapping), scrap rope at hand, Tightbond Glue (get the new Tightbond III waterproof type if you have to buy), some epoxy and graphite power left over from boat building (not needed but I wanted to try the graphite as a tough, slippery bearing surface for the kayak), some screws at hand, and then I bought one piece of 8 foot x 6 inch wide pine board for about 10 dollars, and two ratcheting nylon strap tie-downs for about 12 dollars.
I hastily painted it white to match my car, but would have used white in any case because that's the paint left over from boat building (exterior latex primer and glossy topcoat). I padded the roof-bearing surfaces with pieces cut from an old closed-cell-foam sleeping bag pad (end-lessly useful in projects, and you can sleep on it too).
The rack works great (have driven with my 70 pound kayak on top at highways speeds for about 400 miles so far; I can now also carry long heavy pieces of wood and uncut plywood -- the stuff I can't fit inside the car itself with seats folded down) and saved me a lot of money. How much would it cost if you had to build from all newly bought parts? Well, I don't know, but I'm think-ing not more than 40 dollars (probably less -- everyone has some glue, screws, and scrap wood available), still a deal.
The following steps show vaguely how; they are suggestive instructions since your own car's di-mensions and configuration will differ from mine.
Step 1: How It Works
The cargo straps go through holes in the primary cross-bars (white pine 0.75 x 6 inch, as knot free as possible, and with grain running perpendicular to surface if possible (quarter sawn, which reduces effects of shrinking). I open the doors, run the front strap through the passenger compartment, connect, and tighten.
In my car and for my height, the straps lay just behind the plane of the headrest, and interfere with nothing. But be sure to leave the heavy ratchets on the cross-bars, not inside the cabin: you do not want them bouncing around inside the car, hitting you on the head, though if well thought out, that method might keep you awake on long drives. The wider the straps, less wear on your rubber door seals. I need to sew on pads to reduce wear there, I think.
WARNING: RAIN CAN SOAK THE STRAPS AND DRIP INSIDE THE CAR via interesting physical laws after a while (could be a good high school science class experimental demo). Do not leave the straps on over-night in the rain. You will get in the next day, and wonder why your butt is wet, at a time when wetness if not socially acceptable (meeting mate's parents for first time, shopping, eating out, etc.).
-- close-up photo of front cross bar with strap shown
For the rear attachment, I open the hatchback, run the straps under the hinges but leave straps loose for now so that when you close the hatch, the hinge will NOT scissor the straps (!). The hinges seem heavy enough to bear the load on the rack, which is low in the fore-and-aft direction.
Close the hatch, BUT insure the straps are loose and hanging under the scissoring action of the hinges, and tighten the straps. Again, protective webbing on the straps where the straps go around the hinges is a good idea (no, a Great idea -- much wear here). I have a scavenged piece of heavy and wide nylon tow strap found by the roadside, which I plan to sew over the strap wear-points.
--close-up of open hatch showing strap
Note -- The rack itself has 'soft' attachment points made of heavy nylon rope loops on which a second set of cargo straps hook to tie down your loads. These will not damage loads carelessly plunked down or dragged across them, as might happen if you used eye-bolts.