DIY Aluminium canopy build




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  1. #1
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    Default DIY Aluminium canopy build

    I've recently started a project which I think is pretty cool and thought I'd share it here for others to either be jealous or use as part of their own ideal ideas.


    I bought myself a new Hilux and wanted to put a "canopy" on the back, also known as a "workbody" or "camper". It goes by a couple of names here... (Here is Australia, but let's leave that for another discussion)


    To do this, I had a loading tray installed by Toyota with drop down sides (another cool feature in Aus).
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    I was shocked when I got the quotes and they ranged from AUD5000 to AUD15000 for a canopy So I decided to use a few ideas from different manufacturers and build my own. (I will post total cost after completion)



    1. First, I needed a welder to weld Aluminium. After a few weeks research, I realised the best way to do this is with TIG welding. I looked around at a couple of welders and it came down to two options.
    1. WIA 200i AC/DC (Welding Industries Australia) (Around AUD2200 with all the extra bits and pieces. Welder, filler rods, gas bottle, new helmet etc.)
    2. Cigweld Weldskill 200A AC/DC Tig welder (Around the same price, AUD50 difference)

    Since the WIA was all they had in stock, and aparently sold way more of, I took this. I bought some offcuts and my first few attempts to weld ALU went terrible.
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    After struggling for two weeks, I decided to get an expert in to come show me how it is supposed to be done. (Not cheap at AUD70 per hour 8-0)


    Luckily, or unlucky, not sure which, the welder was stuffed. He also couldn't do any better. I returned the piece of rubbish and exchanged it for the Cigweld. (Cigweld is in bed with ESAB and Thermal Dynamics, Thermadyne in South Africa so I should've probably just gone with them in the first place)
    They had 4 other WIA in their repairs are when I took mine back.


    After trying this out for a few more days, my welds started looking way better and I was ready to weld on the canopy. (Ignore the crack)
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    2. To start off, I wanted the canopy to have 4 x jack-off points so I could lift it off the tray when not used. I don't like losing all functionality of a tub. This required a proper floor frame to support the full canopy weight when lifted off.
    I asked some of the guys I first got quotes from if they could box the frame with sheets top and bottom, so that I could use the cavities for water storage, but they weren't interested in customizing. I used 40 x 40 x 3mm sqr tubing for most of the frame.
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    I will eventually place plates over the top and bottom to be able to use it for water storage. I calculated around 100 - 110L of space in there.

    I will be moving my roof top tent to the canopy once done, so I needed a proper roofrack to support around 200 - 250 kg (static weight)
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    The lift-off legs seemed to complex to make myself, so I bought 4 brand new ones off a guy who never used his. ($350)



    3. After completing the frame, It is ready for skinning. I am a faithful believer of sika products, so I will be using sika and rivets for most of the frame. With the end of year rush, the sheet folding places are less keen to squeeze in my few sheets in between their other more profitable work, so now I am still waiting for the first sheet to arrive. I am buying and folding the sheets one by one (Don't want to mess something up and have repeated the mistake on all the sheets. It will take a little longer and cost a little more, but better that than making silly mistakes on round one).

    I will be posting more photos as I go along...
    I'll try catch you if I can on the road...
    You try catch me if you can off the road...

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    I need to treat the aluminium before closing up my water tank.
    Any ideas on the best way to treat it apart from anodizing? It's pretty expensive so I'm hoping there is some alternative treatment like painting with rubber based paint of primer?
    I'll try catch you if I can on the road...
    You try catch me if you can off the road...

  4. #3
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    Default Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    Some updates:
    I've added in the bottom sheets of the floor/water tank. I used SIKAFLEX 252 which SIKA recomended for strong aluminium bonding.
    Since I want to use the tank for drinking water, I sealed it afterwards on the inside with another sika product chich is drink water safe.
    I will putting the upper sheet on with only the drinkwater safe product since I won't be able to seal it inside after putting that sheet. And since there won't me much mechanical force on the upper sheet I don't need such a strong joint.
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    I don't want just a square canopy. Want it to follow the shape of the cab. I had a sheet folding place fold the 4 corners and welded them in after cutting out the holes where the jack-points come out.

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    I'll try catch you if I can on the road...
    You try catch me if you can off the road...

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    Looking good. I have allways wondered why these type of conopys never caught on is SA

  7. #5
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    Default Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    Quote Originally Posted by Gee S View Post
    Looking good. I have allways wondered why these type of conopys never caught on is SA
    if the welding machines were as cheap as the inverters ,it would changed the game compleaty then you will see how the d.i.y'ers do these builds,but just to kit it out like normal welding is not that easy for a once off project ,

    i am watching in envy on your build RHYNO CJ2, and i know there are guys here building these canopy's ,

    Colt clubcab 2.8tdi 4x4 2005
    Ford Fiesta 1.4i (SWAMBO]
    jurgens off road trailor xt 140
    opel corsa 1.7 dti 2006

  8. #6
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    Default Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    When I was still in South Africa I also always wondered why no-one was making these. It is so cool!!! I love having the two side entries and larger space. When the canopy is eventually done, I will start making a trundle drawer to slide our underneath the tray to utilize the space I lost by fitting the wider tray over the wheels.

    I spent some time on the canopy again today. I fixed the front sheet to the frame with sikaflex and grinded all of the welds a little flatter where sheets are to be attached.
    After welding in the corners, I fit it on the back of the bakkie to see how it looks and how well the corners follow the cab/roll bar profile. must say I'm pretty chuffed so far...
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    I had some hick-ups when welding in the upper corner supports (the horizontal corner joint where the roof meets the sides). I had to do quite some welding on these and they warped a little more than I would have liked.
    So hopefully the roof sheets will fit nicely and even more important, hopefully the doors will seal properly when I fit them.
    I'll try catch you if I can on the road...
    You try catch me if you can off the road...

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  10. #7
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    Default Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    Lyk goed so ver Rhyno

  11. #8
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    Angry Re: DIY Aluminium canopy build

    Hi All,
    Eventually, the canopy continues...
    So much has happened in the meantime. Where I left off last, the frame and outer bodywork was done. Next, I had to put down the floor, and make a plan to get the water out of the tank.
    To fix and seal the floor, I used sikaflex.
    Floor plate suspended above frame:
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    Floor plate fixed on frame:
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    To get the water out, I couldn't just put a tap on the frame, because the surface are of the tank is too big. There will always be 5 or 10 mm of water on the bottom that woun't come out. And if the tank is only 40 mm high, that leaves a problem.
    I attached a square tube to the bottom of frame. All the water can then run into that tube, and I can get it out with a tap. I made the canopy frame with a 100 mm overhang off the back of the tray especially for this purpose.
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    Problem was, I was in way too much of a hurry when doing the floor sheet and screwed it up. I didn't clean the alu properly before fixing the floor plate to the frame.
    When I filled it up with water, it leaked on at least 4 spots

    So back to the drawing board I went. I had to remove the floor sheet but with it being fixed with sikaflex, it wat NOT easy. I eventually got it off (I had to cut it in pieces and take it off piece by piece) and bought new floor sheets.
    This time round, I took a flapper disc and sanded the frame and the parts of the sheet where it will stick to the frame and cleaned it multiple times with meth spirits. I also decided to use poprivets to pull the sheets onto the frame to get a good seal with the sikaflex.
    I haven't tested it after fixing the floor plates on again, but I'm pretty confident this time round.

    Next was the doors. Most canopies here in Aus use a single door that opens to the top. I think this is a waste. When open, you have so much aluminium door hanging in the air. Then you buy some other additional platform to use a table, which takes up extra space and weight.
    I split the doors in two; like a normal bakkie tub and canopy door. Then when the lower halve it open, at least you can use it as a work bench.
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    This poses a new problem however.
    The fridge that will eventually go in, will need to be on one of those newish drop down slides which won't work if the door flap doesn't open completely. So for now I'll only do the doors on the one side until the fridge slide is done.
    Next I need to close off the door frames with sheets and put handles in.
    I'll try catch you if I can on the road...
    You try catch me if you can off the road...

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