Thursday, 9 July 2015

Of Canopies and Things

Ute & canopy Adelaide bound (Hay plain)

Since moving to the dark side, and buying a ute, I've been intrigued with the idea that owners of these useful appliances have something to learn from those who disport themselves in two-seater roadsters.

As I've pointed out before, my Commodore ute has much in common with my dearly departed Mazda MX-5 roadster.

Let me count the ways -

They are both 2 seaters.
They both have removable covers installed as standard (on the roadster, it's the hood, on the ute, the tonneau).
They both have front engine/rear drive configuration.

Where they differed is/was in detachable hard covers.

I bought a detachable hardtop for the MX-5, and after getting it painted and installing the locking points, ended up with a stylish and secure enhancement to its functionality.

Remembering that, I began to think about enhancing the same security and functionality for the ute. There is no doubt about it, the ute was a handy device when it came to shifting house. Ever tried to move a fridge in an MX-5?

But problems remained, particularly security. On a number of occasions I'd parked the ute at a shopping centre, only to return to find that someone had lifted the corner of the tonneau to have a peek to determine if there was anything worth nicking in the tray.

The family Blue Heeler wouldn't get in the ute for love nor money - she's funny like that - so using her as a guard dog would not work.

Then I began to think about a detachable canopy. One of the advantages of the hardtop on the MX-5 was that it was held on by over-centre catches and could be removed by two people in 10 seconds flat.

Problem was, nobody makes detachable canopies. Hours spent researching on-line through all the usual suspects proved that nobody actually made them so that they could be removed quickly. All were bolt-ons.

I had owned a ute with a fibreglass canopy back in the BC* days, and remembered my bride and I struggling with it when we wanted to remove it. I needed 20 minutes with a spanner to unbolt it. It wasn't all that heavy, but was hard to remove without trapping fingers. There was nothing to grab it with. This lack of grabbing points was a major issue.

The solution was obviously to take a lesson from the engineers at Mazda, and use over-centre catches, and the installation of handles would also make the whole thing more practical. The "whole thing" being the removal and replacement when large items needed shifting.

It took about two weeks of phone calls and visits to find a canopy manufacturer who was prepared to make something to these specifications.

Basically, they took the regular Commodore canopy, and attached handles. Then they riveted over-centre catches to the existing fixing attachments (6 in all) in the ute tray. The tricky bit was getting everything to fit so it would be water and dust proof, but there is plenty of adjustment in the catches, and it wasn't difficult to set it up properly.

By way of a shake down trial, I did a brief trip to Adelaide and back (only 3798 kms) to help No 2 son move house. The canopy performed exactly to specifications. We took it off twice to shift beds etc, and put it back on to carry smaller stuff securely.
Over-centre catches - six in all.

It's pretty light, and the vehicle behaves much the same as it did bareback. There's a light inside, and it's wired for 240 if I ever have the need to camp in it.

That setup has to be certified by an electrician.

240 wiring

And strangely the Heeler (and her little Koolie mate) are very happy to travel in it. There's no accounting for dogs.    

I reckon I should patent the concept. I'd call it Kliponkanopy..........

*Before children

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