The 79 Series Dual Cab build (Part II) – The Canopy
So what was I looking for in a canopy? Versatility and ease of use, I guess. Along with a reasonable carrying capacity, extra battery and camp lights, a fridge, drinking water and extra fuel. I also wanted the convenience of being able to carry two spare wheels on the back and solar panels on the roof. The beers must never get hot after all.
I had retained a REDARC Battery Management System from the Patrol when I sold it and wanted to base the canopy electrics around this unit and fixed solar panels on the roof. I was aware the new 30 Amp version had recently been released, but I wasn’t prepared to fork out the extra dollars for the extra Amps. In reality, the 15 Amp version worked fine.
Shane from Decked Out Fabrications also brought in Aaron Cobavie from Cobavie’s Auto Electrics early in the job. All wiring would be run through frames and neatly concealed wherever possible. Aaron also happened to have the same vehicle and an excellent understanding of what I was trying to do with it.
I also opted to have Shane build in the toolboxes behind both rear wheels. Mostly because I liked the look, but also for strength and storage volume. The plan was for one toolbox to house a 12V water pump and the air compressor, with associated hoses, while the other one held tent pegs, ropes and various straps.
Shane builds in the battery compartments beneath the floor of his canopies, which suited me fine. I had seen setups where batteries were in boxes on the floor up against the front wall, mounted in the toolboxes and even up on top of drawers, raising the vehicle’s centre of gravity needlessly. So under the floor made a lot of sense to me.
The water tank came in at roughly 60 litres and was made of stainless steel. This water tank ran to a standard tap at the back of the vehicle and also to a ball valve arrangement that would allow a selection of water source to feed the 12V pump. This meant I could pump water from either the stainless-steel tank or from a bucket of water for showers etc. Worked a treat too.
An aux diesel tank of the same volume was also fabricated (aluminium) and slotted in beneath the canopy, keeping weight nice and low. I agreed with Shane’s suggestion of a simple ball valve gravity feed arrangement to the main tank, which has proven very effective to date. If I really wanted to, I could also add in the 110-litre Long Ranger tank in front of the rear axle, but at this point, I doubt I would ever need to. Breathers for both tanks were fixed halfway up the front wall of the canopy.
Boat racks were also included, not really because I planned to carry a tinnie up top, but because they kept carrying options open. I hoped the racks would also protect the solar panels to a degree. Plus I could load long items like ladders or rod tubes. Once completed, it was off to the paint shop for colour coding. Then it was fitted up to the truck and the internal framework bolted in.
The framework was built out of a 50-millimetre aluminium mesh to keep weight down, but retain a degree of strength. It was also designed so that I could pack a total of four 55-litre Nally bins across the back from one side to the other. The bins, which I bought in differing colours for ease of identifying which one I needed, would house all the food and cooking gear and could be accessed from both sides of the vehicle. The framework was also able to be unbolted and removed from the canopy altogether if needed, leaving space to take a load of rubbish to the tip or other such activities.
My fridge, a 40-litre National Luna, was mounted up on one of the Clear View drop-slides, with an aluminium mesh shelf up above for light items and to maximise use of space.
Across the back, above the Nally bins, was left open for stacking in the bags, swags, tents, chairs or whatever. Everything can now be neatly secured by attaching ratchet straps to the mesh.
I left the area of space behind the fridge on the driver’s side open from floor to ceiling. After testing the vehicle on a 10-day trip, I decided that in the future I would install a matching overhead shelf to mirror the one above the fridge. That shelf was great for pillows and sleeping bags, as they could easily be kept separate from potentially wet or dirty gear yet remain dust-free in the sealed canopy.
Across the back end of the canopy, Shane welded in a low divider that held the horizontal framework rear edge and provided a narrow space for miscellaneous bits and pieces; spare garbage bags, the camping table etc. There was also a horizontal bar as a tie-down point for securing items and also to store ropes that could hang out of the way on the back wall. Very convenient.