The best dumb thing we've done...
3,300 miles, 60-ish hours of driving plus 18 hours of working on our truck later we’d driven from Arizona to Canada and back to Arizona ...and we’d cut the roof off our Land Cruiser.
Right then, where do I start. Let’s go way back for just a second. I’d always wanted a pop-top truck (FORESHADOWING) . When I had my 4runner in the early 2000's I would scheme and compare sizes of Westfalia pop-tops to see if an old VW Bus top would work. I considered buying one of the, rare in those days, Maggiolina Roof Top Tents to graft onto the truck. In the end the roof area never fit and I never had the cahones or cash to take the project on.
Fast forward to a year ago. I decided that for a longer trip, anything over a couple weeks, I really wanted the ability to stand inside the truck, change etc. You can’t always camp in remote spots with no one else around and sometimes the weather isn’t perfect. I decided that no matter how small the odds I wanted to find the 1 Pop-top conversion for my truck that exists in the US for the 80 Series Land Cruiser. The problem was that the creator, Eric, only built a handful of them. 8 or 9 I think. Then he moved on with his life and the market has been clamoring for more since.
What the hell, I’ll make a thread on Expedition Portal just for shits and giggles. At least that way, I can move on in a new direction knowing full well that I tried and a pop-top is not in my future. A couple days after I made my post someone replied “If you’re serious about buying a Campteq (The brand name of the poptop) reach out to me on Mud.” So, I went over to IH8MUD.com and found the same screen name. Sure enough he was thinking of selling his pop-top that he’d grafted onto his truck and was going back to a normal 80 series now that his trip through Central America was done.
It all seemed too good to be true. We agreed on a price and time to meet up right away. In the meantime I told a couple people about the big changes to come. There were messages on the sellers profile page with people inquiring about the pop-top. I was pissed, but I’d learned my lesson. From here on out, I tell no one. I deleted the original “wanted” thread. We were on lock down. I had to hope that a person I’d never met and never talked to outside of a few messages on a forum was going to stick to our deal, despite higher offers.
Back to the seller and his decision... He let me know he was NOT going to sell it... Damn... I’d gotten excited, but the chances of this all working out were slim and logic told me this was bound to happen... With that, we moved on after a couple weeks. I bought a roof rack and a big Alu-Cab awning that I could attach walls to. This would be my stand up space for the long trip. This would work, well enough. We moved on with planning for the next several months and the new setup was just fine.
Then, all of a sudden I got a message from the seller.
- “Our situation changed and I’ll sell the pop-top....”
- What? You sure!? ....WE’LL HEAD UP THERE WEEK AFTER NEXT!
I committed to an epic trip before I’d even thought about it. I wanted to strike while the iron was hot. No waiting this time! The price was more than right at $2,500.
Sure, it was 3,300 miles of driving. Sure, we only had a 3 day weekend and 1 extra vacation day to make it 4 days to get this done. Yes... since the Campteq had been modified it had to be installed with Sikaflex directly to the truck and not with the temporary rain gutter mounts like stock ones... These were merely details. Kelsey was in, I was in. We’re going to get this done no matter what.
(We had blinders on from here forward. I’ve learned that doing this can help you accomplish very difficult things and it can help keep you from backing out of scary things, but it can also let you walk down a bad path that your conscious mind would never allow...) So, whether it was a good or bad idea, we were committed.
It was easy to think this, it was even easy to decide this, but it’s a whole other thing to do it.
Okay so within this weekend we also needed to cut the roof off of my truck and install the pop-top, in Canada, in winter? (The reason for cramming this into only 4 days was that we had no more Vacation days and work was putting the pressure on big time. Sales sales sales, do more do more!! So, we felt it was a push to even take 1 day off at this time... Everything had to go perfectly to pull this off)
3:30PM Thursday, Phoenix. I rush home from work and we get into the truck. Kelsey had removed the headliner from Goose in preparation for the work to be done. She’d topped off both fuel tanks as well.
4:30PM Thursday: We hit the road.
1:30AM Friday: We arrive in Salt Lake City, Utah. Check into our hotel room near the freeway. Try not to stare at the map and think about how little distance we’ve covered and how far we have to go...
5:30AM Friday: We check out of our room, too early for the free breakfast so we get coffee and a banana. We drive all day. Each stop we plan what we’ll do before pulling off the freeway. “You clean the window while I go to the bathroom. I’ll get more coffee while you go then finish pumping gas. Go!”
PM Friday, Lethbridge, Canada: We do not arrive at the sellers house, but we are in Canada. The roads have been icy and the temp is well under 0F. The oil pressure on Goose is low and the intake temp is below zero. We shut him down in a parking lot where each space has it’s own plug to keep the block and oil warm... We don’t have one of those plugs, so we cross our fingers that Goose will start in the morning.
4AM Saturday: We check out of the hotel before breakfast, but the manager loads us up with free coffee and fruit. Amazingly the temp is in the positive numbers and Goose starts up. (30F which is more than 30f warmer than last night.) We lock the hubs and start driving on icy/snowy roads for a while before going back to 2wd.
6AM Saturday: The sun isn’t up... When the hell will it come up? The steering on Goose is loose so it’s a constant fight to go straight(Part needed to fix arrived after we left), the headlights are covered up so much we have to pull over and clean them constantly to see. The window washer fluid has frozen so we stop to get Canadian spec non-freezing stuff and clean the window manually. We are exhausted. My back hurts like hell from white knuckling the wheel. This feels dangerous. I can’t see the road very well and no one else is out driving except for a few truckers.
8AM Saturday: After a lot of slow driving we arrive in Canmore, Canada. Knock on the door and go inside for coffee.
Not a bad place to call home.
9AM Saturday: We start stripping the paint and adhesive off of the pop-top in his garage. Thank god there is a garage with heater.
1pm Saturday: Sometime about now we get the jigsaw and sawzall out. We drill a pilot hole and I make the first long cut down the roof. It cuts like butter and is oddly easy to do. At this point I’m so tired that I don’t hesitate, I just do. Trying to cut a straight line and not think about what a stupid thing I’m doing.
6Pm Saturday: we’re still cutting and test fitting the top to try and get it to seal properly. We lift the Campteq with chains and prepare all of the mating surfaces with Sikaflex primer and then once dry a lot of Sikaflex.
9PM Saturday: we have the top on and we’re adding sikaflex here and there to spots without enough. We keep working on the many small steps to get this thing properly installed. We ratchet strap the top in place so it will dry where we want it. The garage heaters are cranking heat onto the top to help it dry.
12:30AM Sunday: We have cracked open the bottle of nice Whiskey we brought as a thank you. We drink some shots together and tell stories for a break. I’m not entirely sure life is real at this point. I think it may be a dream or a nightmare, too early to tell. Our new buddy M (The seller) tells us that we should crash out, we have a lot of driving ahead of us. We happily take a shower and pass out. Oddly little sleep. Too stressed and nerves are too frayed. We are a long way from home, the truck is not done and work is less than 2 days away.
7AM Sunday: We wake up and go down to the garage to find M still working. He hasn’t slept. He’s got the tent installed and has been putting in the interior parts that go with the Campteq. We make coffee and get back to work.
10AM Sunday: We’re done, or as done as it gets for today. We worry about the Sikaflex dry time in this cold temp. It is probably, no, it IS a stupid idea to drive a couple thousand miles. We have a couple ratchet straps in the truck to hold the top on if needed. It’s time to get going. We leave behind our entire roof and sunroof. I can’t find the words to thank him enough, but we need to make miles.
We’d aired the tires down to 15psi to get into the garage. Now let’s see how low we have to go to get out... Kelsey and M get on the bumper to weight it down and we make it out with millimeters to spare at 3psi. We air up and hit the road.
You start to feel like this person you met 24 hours ago is an old buddy. You’ve already been through a lot together. See ya down the road M.
11PM Sunday. Idaho: We stop at a hotel in Idaho Falls. The drive is actually very pretty, but it’s killing us to see how far we’ve come and can’t stop to check out even one side road. We’re sick and tired of fast food. After 5 or 10 years of no McDonalds, it’s what is quickest and open late so we’ve had our fill for at least another decade.
4AM Monday: We fuel up and hit the road. The weather is much better and K is able to help me drive more now. I pass out until it’s my turn again.
5:45PM Monday: We see Saguaros, we feel warmth. Goose is happy. We feel exhausted. We park the truck in the backyard. Unload and try to fall asleep. It’s like we’ve been running a marathon so it’s not so easy to come down off of that high.
5:30AM Tuesday: Wake up, head into work. (I do not get a lot of work done this day, but I made it...)
Well, we did it. It was dangerous and stupid. It also may have been the best modification I’ve ever done. We got it despite there being so few in existence. We got it despite people trying to snake it out from under us. We made a new friend who’s a hard working son of a bitch.
We also just took on a giant project. The mosquito netting is shot, the rear canvas leaks, the interior is beat up from years of travel, the bed mattress needs replacing and so many other things need to be figured out and sorted, 1 gas strut is broken, the hinge is in need of fixing... This trip ended on Monday January 15th. It’s February 27th now and we have spent almost every night after work or weekend working on the truck or selling off things we own. We’re not entirely sure we’ve caught up on sleep from this trip, but after finally camping in the truck for the first time last weekend we both agree. It’s the best modification we’ve ever done.