Nissan NV Stealth Camper: Seeking Roof Rack Advice

My next task on the van is insulating the sides and ceiling. Since I don’t expect to ever spend more than a single night in snow (and that will only be by mistake) I’m not too concerned about super-insulation. While I’m working on that though, I could use some advice for a roof rack to mount my solar panels to (2 each @ 37.5″ x 62″).

The NV has these nice mounting brackets built into the roof. Four per side with the idea of being able to run up to four bars crosswise over the roof to hold ladders.

Roof Rack Mounting Bracket

Roof Rack Mounting Bracket

But, in order to do this, you need these special mounts that raise the bars above the curve of the roof (I’m estimating about 1.5 inches). Even with these special mounts, the placement of the horizontal bars would restrict how and where I can mount my solar panels.

The ideal option would be to create my own rack, custom fit to my panels. I have two (big) 200 watt panels that will overlap the edges of these mounts by about an inch on each side. I’d also like them mounted as far forward as possible, meaning that they will stick past the front-most mounting bracket by about 30 inches, so whatever I use to create the rack with will have to be pretty strong (I want to leave room for a future roof fan and/or a third solar panel) toward the back.

I’m thinking I could find two 2″ square metal… what are they called, tubes (but square), and mount them (one on each side) lengthwise on the four mounting brackets so I’d end up with two, 10′ long metal runners, one on each side of the van roof. This should make the base of the rack high enough that I can run crossbeams (maybe 1″ square tubes) to use to mount the solar panels to. (See my comment below for a clearer picture).

If worse comes to worse, I guess I could use the store bought rack and mount the panels toward the rear, but then the (possible) fan would be toward the front (not as good a cross breeze) and I’d probably not be able to add another (possible) solar panel. Maybe this is the way to go at first, and modify it later if the “possibles” turn out to be needed.

Anyway, if anyone can think of something better, I’m all ears. Please note, I want to avoid drilling holes in my nice new roof.

Thanks!

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6 thoughts on “Nissan NV Stealth Camper: Seeking Roof Rack Advice

  1. Whatever you do, design it like you were taking it to market. You are probably in a design “space” that nobody else has ever visited.

  2. I like your whole approach: do the minimum that it takes to basically live/travel in the van, and worry about perfecting it later.

    I didn’t notice those threaded holes in the roof when I took my test drive of the Nissan NV van. They are great.

    If you can’t find the right square tubing (aluminum would be prettier) at Home Depot or the like, you could go to the commercial/industrial metal supplier that always exists in a small city, usually in the “industrial park”. They usually take cash retail customers.

    If they are hard to find, go to a welder in a rural area. They always have a pretty good stock of metal in the shop, and know where to buy it. You could assign the welder a small part of the project (to be fair) and do the rest yourself.

  3. Note: Basically what I was contemplating was what Bob Well’s did here. Except that in the last image on the page turn the van 90 degrees while keeping the roof rack & panel fixed (the roof rack would run along the sides of the van).

    “Synchronistically” enough, that is the same solar panel as I use (but I have two). They are very hard to find in 12 volt.

  4. You are wise in not putting a vent fan at the front. We had one installed there on a brand new, custom ordered truck camper, and had to replace it, and then cover it with a Maxxair cover in the first month. Something no one thought of is that the air currents over the front create a vacuum over that area, and will suck the cover open when going down the road. Air turbulence will then rip the cover off. After we replaced the vent, and then put a Maxxair cover over it, we had no more problems. In mystical fashion, sometimes the things to fear are those which cannot be seen…like air currents.

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