Reader DIY Conversion: Toyota Hiace Camper With Pop Up Roof

Reader David England recently emailed me with some photos of his finished Toyota Hiace conversion (sadly, the Hiace is being discontinued this year) – including a genuine self-built pop-up roof. David’s a sculptor and the relaxed, warm ambiance inside the van is a testament to his creative skill – and his woodworking.

Toyota Hiace campervan DIY conversion

Not many self-builders attempt their own pop-up roofs or high tops, so needless to say I was very impressed – all the more so as David reports that it has been in use for a year now without any problems at all. I’ve included the story of the roof below for anyone who is interested in building their own pop-up roof.

David's just cut a hole in the roof of his Hiace
Cutting a hole in the roof of a van is definitely scarier than cutting window holes...

How To Build A DIY Pop-Up Roof

Here’s the story of the roof, in David’s own words.

“The roof gave me a few sleepless nights!

I had to start from scratch here, because I couldn’t find a manufactured pop-up the size I wanted. The Hiace has three roof panel on its interior and the space I thought would be most useful for a pop-up happened to be the exact size of the middle panel.

I left the supporting bars in , which made things neater on the finish and acted as my template for the hole that I would cut in the roof.

Every surface on the Toyota seems to be curved…………………I LIKE curves, but it made the cardboard templates I used for cutting the woodwork a bit of a challenge.

Stiff grey card and masking tape was the only answer for the arc of the roof (across the van) but was worth the effort. Once the curves were cut, from 4×1 tanalised timber (wood that’s been treated to resist rot) the rest was on a flat playing field. I made a frame that sat outside the hole in the roof and this acted as base for the pop-up section, which was a combination of twin-wall polycarbon and double-glazing fascia (to keep down the weight).

Pop-up roof seen from inside, partially fitted
The roof from the inside, before completion

This skylight sat over the frame on the van roof and was held up by four gas struts.
I used awning material ( waterproof and UV proof ) to box in the sides, which folded up when the roof was collapsed.

The underside of the twin-wall has two solid cross pieces with handles that you close/open it with and fasteners to secure it down to the inside of the van….so it doesn’t fly off when you drive away.

After fitting the roof but before upholstery and flooring
The fitted roof, closed down for travel (flooring and upholstery are still to be fitted)

It’s been up and down a fair bit over the last year and doesn’t leak and hasn’t blown off………….yet!”

Find Out More

If you are planning your own pop-up roof and would like more information, I’m sure David wouldn’t mind you contacting him via his website.

I’ve included some more pictures of David’s conversion below – after completing it last year, he spent two months touring France. You can read about David’s travels here.

Inside the conversion - seating and tableAnother view inside David's DIY Toyota Hiace camper conversion

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