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Author Topic: World's most expensive...  (Read 31568 times)
John Camp
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« on: January 02, 2006, 03:11:27 PM »
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I have a 4x4 SUV which is coming to the end of its useful life, and which I have thoroughly beat around (including a trip to Dead Horse, on the Arctic Ocean in Alaska, from Minnesota), and I'm now starting to think of a new vehicle. One problem that I think most landscape people have is getting just a little bit higher than where you are, to see over local bushes and scrub, especially when the scene you're trying to shoot is flat, or falling away from you. What I'm getting to is this -- In my new vehicle, I'd like to be able to stand on the roof.

The problem with most vans and 4x4s is that you can't stand on the roof. I thought about mounting a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood with U-bolts to the roof rack, which I've been told will take 500 pounds. That would work, but it'd be ugly and, I'm afraid, noisy, and would get me even worse gas mileage. I'll probably do that, though, if a better solution doesn't present itself. I've tried carrying one of those short, multi-extendable ladders, but you can't use a tripod with a ladder.

Does anybody know of a vehicle that has a roof you can stand on? Has anybody else worked out a solution to this problem? I would also like to keep the solution, whatever it is, fairly low, so I can park in a standard home garage and in standard parking structures.

Right now, I'm thinking plywood platform with a sailing life belt to keep me from falling off and killing myself, with maybe some kind of simple apparatus that would keep the the tripod from falling off, as well...

JC
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JJP
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2006, 03:19:10 PM »
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Military hummers are built pretty tough.  However, I'm shure the roof of a full size van could be beefed up at a customizing shop or at a home garage for that matter.
jj
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jdemott
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2006, 03:43:09 PM »
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Outdoor Photographer magazine has been working with Nissan to create some sort of photographer's dream vehicle.  Nissan told them that the Xterra wouldn't hold enough weight on the roof to do anything like you describe so they constructed a movable boom that fits in the trailer hitch and allows the camera (sans photographer) to be hoisted well above the vehicle.  The camera (a DSLR) is tethered to a computer so they can see where it is pointed.  It didn't sound like a great solution to me but they seem to like it.

Standing in the bed of pick-up gets you part of the way up and avoids making any kludgy modifications.

If I were building some sort of roof rack platform, I think I would look at steel grating rather than plywood.  It would allow the platform to drain and wouldn't create an airfoil when driving.  I'd also build about a 4 inch lip around it so I could carry gear and so I could position my feet and the tripod's feet right at the edge without slipping off.

My sense is that many vehicles are not rated for very heavy loads on the roof.  My Jeep Grand Cherokee I think only allows 150 pounds on the roof rack-- not very much.
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John DeMott
jani
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2006, 04:43:10 PM »
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Maybe the Land Rover Defender is worth taking a look at.

The model 90 has a short wheel base, and is excellent for off road.
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Jan
John Camp
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2006, 04:45:50 PM »
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Actually, I can't find a customizing shop that will beef up a roof -- I went to a car show last year and checked the customizing people, and they all acted like I was goofy. I think there may be liability problems, too. One company does have a roof strong enough to stand on -- they're a van-customing company, but the vans they customize are only two-wheel drive. You can get four-wheel drive, but it costs A LOT -- $8,000 extra for the four-wheel drive alone. That's tempting, but the vans also get about 10 miles per gallon, and I do a lot of tripping.

Military hummers are pretty much out of it: they're tough, but they're crude and expensive, and not too pleasant if you're making a 5,000 mile loop out west. The other Hummer lines are basically Chevy Tahoes with extra weight.

Steel mesh isn't a bad idea, but it'd take a steel frame, and I'm wondering about weight. But that's something I'll definitely look into, because I've also thought about getting one of those permanent back-mounted ladders that would get me up to the roof, and a steel frame would give it something to hook into. Also, I'd rather have something that looks industrial, rather than exotic, because I think the truck would be less likely to get broken into.

I've thought about going with a pickup, and then just putting something like a folding scaffolding in it -- you could rig up something from Home Depot. Standing in the truck bed isn;t high enough -- I stand on the seats of my truck now, with my head stuck out the moon roof, and I'd kill for an extra four feet.

I don't know -- getting up on the roof seems like a simple concept, but getting it done has turned out to be pain in the posterior.

JC
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JJP
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2006, 06:22:44 PM »
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Good Day John,
There's another option also.  It's called "UNI-STRUT".   I've been using this stuff for years in the electrical trade.  Very very versatile.  I've built stand alone frames that supports 600 pound transformers.  Also made A frames to hoist 500 pound genset rotors.
I'm suggesting that you purchase the tubes and you do the work yourself ei..lining the inside of your van with it.  Since you cut to fit and bolt to assemble, you can remove or install or remove at your leasure....no welding required.
The channel tubes are available in galvanized steel or aluminum.
I've got a chin up bar in my pad made from it.  Works like a charm.
http://www.unistrut.com/
Just another option for you to consider,
jj
« Last Edit: January 02, 2006, 06:25:40 PM by JJP » Logged

JJ
davaglo
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2006, 06:42:17 PM »
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In Texas 4x4 pickups with raised seats in the bed are used for seeing over brush and scrub while deer hunting. The seats are taken apart when not in use.
Just a thought.
Jerry
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jrg
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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2006, 06:59:09 PM »
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In Texas 4x4 pickups with raised seats in the bed are used for seeing over brush and scrub while deer hunting. The seats are taken apart when not in use.
Just a thought.
Jerry
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Bob Kulon

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Nick Rains
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2006, 11:08:46 PM »
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I have a Toyota Landcruiser with an ARB steel roofrack. I have used it all over Australia for the past 10 years and it makes a great shooting platform. Rated to 200kg so no problems with weight.

There's no point in standing on the roof - just use a decent roofrack.
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Nick Rains
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macgyver
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2006, 11:38:00 PM »
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Have you thought about doing something similar to your first idea, say a piece of plywood or whatnot, but constructing it where it would be detachable?  You could keep in in the rear of you vehicle, but when you need it, pull it out and mount it.  

I thought about something like this after one evening of sitting on top on my honda and feeling it buckle slightly under me.  Oh well, I got the shot and there's no permanent dent....
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John Camp
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2006, 10:12:27 AM »
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After following up on a couple of tips here, and doing some browsing on the web, I think I'm heading toward a Toyota Landcruiser with a full-length roof-rack. Some of the roof-racks shown online have floors made of bars that are tight enough to stand on without any further flooring, or that you could just throw a piece of carpet on. The bars could also be used to secure both myself and a tripod. I currently have a Lexus GX470, which is a version of the Toyota 4Runner, and it has been very reliable (though I have busted both a tire and a windshield, not the vehicle's fault.)

I did find, in browsing, a "photographers" vehicle here:
www.sportsmobile.com/3_photographers.html

That's a little more than I want. I also live in Minnesota, where the winters are tough, and I really want to be able to keep the truck in my own garage.

I did some browsing on Land Rovers, which somebody suggested, and though the LR has great after-market stuff, like roof-racks, there are two problems in the U.S. The first is that the Land Rovers have a bad record for reliability, and are expensive to fix when they do break down; and the second is that most states have only a single LR dealer. That means that if you break down in West Cooter, Arkansas, you might have to truck it a couple of hundred miles to get it fixed. The most recent Land Rovers have a high-performance Jaguar engine; they're supposed to be great for off-road, but I think that would be most practical in off-road L.A. Toyota dealerships,, on the other hand, are everywhere.

I thought about something removable that I could just put on, and take off, the roof. That was my first idea, in fact. But the problem is, most SUV roofs, including mine, are actually curved in several directions, and in differing degrees. If I just threw a few pieces of plywood on top (perhaps joined with hinges, with rubber on the bottom to protect the roof) I'm afraid that I'd still be denting the high spots under the flat plywood...and I think trying to match the curve of the roof with plywood would be impossible. The other thing is, anything removable would probably just get buried under all the other crap I drag around with me, and discourage impulse-shooting, which I don't want to do. I'd like something where I can yank the car off the road and be set up two minutes later.

I'm thinking that if I attach something like a bungee cord to the bottom of the tripod's center column, and then to one of the roof-rack's floor bars, it should be really steady. I plan to tie myself in with safety lines used in sailing; a two-point hitch, one on each side of the truck, would at least keep me from falling off and landing on my head.

If I actually pull this off (maybe this summer?) I'll post a picture.

JC
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jani
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« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2006, 10:23:23 AM »
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I did some browsing on Land Rovers, which somebody suggested, and though the LR has great after-market stuff, like roof-racks, there are two problems in the U.S. The first is that the Land Rovers have a bad record for reliability, and are expensive to fix when they do break down;
I think this is the Range Rover series of cars, and not the Land Rover Defender, which is a real workhorse.

The Range Rover series had a few bad years earlier, I know, but I don't know anything about the reliability of the current versions (all are upgraded within the past years).

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and the second is that most states have only a single LR dealer. That means that if you break down in West Cooter, Arkansas, you might have to truck it a couple of hundred miles to get it fixed.
Ouch.

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The most recent Land Rovers have a high-performance Jaguar engine;
That would definitely be the Range Rover series, not the Defender.

The Defender uses a 2.5l diesel.

http://www.landrover.com/gb/en/Vehicles/De..._technology.htm

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they're supposed to be great for off-road,
The Defender is right there at the top. The typical saying goes that if you get stuck with your 4x4, get someone with a Defender to pull you out. If the Defender gets stuck, get another Defender. If that doesn't work, get something with belts.

If you want to browse the Defenders, check out the UK web site, since the US web site seems to be missing all those models.


Given the general availability of the Toyota Landcruiser, I suspect that this may be a more convenient car to get, though.
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Jan
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2006, 10:26:08 AM »
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IMHO, most SUVs are useless for landscape shooting, they're far too small. Even if you could get up onto the roof, you're probably still not high enough.  There are many other reasons for my dislike of SUV's, if you'll permit me...

Landscape shooting is "F8 and be there", right?  It's the "be there" part that's hard.  Anyone can dial up F8.  To "be there", especially at sunset and dawn you need a ton of money for motels and a lot of dedication to get up hours before dawn and drive to the location.  When it's all over, half an hour after sunset, you still have to drive all the way back to the motel.  If you're really lucky, there's somewhere still open where you can get supper.  Usually, you're not.

The solution is to camp in the vehicle.  SUV's and their ilk fail this test totally.  They're far too small to camp in, especially if you need to pack lots of gear. Like a simple aluminum stepladder.  (What if the best camera location's not on top of the vehicle?)

The solution is a van, and by far the best van available nowadays (at least for landscape shooting    is the Dodge Sprinter.  In a Sprinter, you have stand-up head room in back for six-footers, enough room for stepladders and whatever else you need to take, photo-wise.  Camping for two would be nothing short of luxury and, since it's manufactured by Mercedes Benz, it's well built and its turbo diesel gives you twice the mpg of North American domestic vans. Mine will have a scooter or dirt bike in back for places the van can't go.

American UPS and FedEx have bought thousands of them to replace their domestic fleet. The Sprinter turns on a dime, has ABS and traction control, tons of ground clearnance, parks in a standard stall, goes over 800 kms on a tank and costs about the same as a Stupid, Useless Vehicle.  

www.dodge.com/sprinter

No, I don't work for Dodge.  I'm retired.  Until I get my Sprinter, I'll have to keep driving my 320,000 km GM van.

Peter
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jani
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« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2006, 10:57:10 AM »
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The solution is a van,
No, the solution is the Defender 110 or 130!  

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since it's manufactured by Mercedes Benz, it's well built
*big cough*
Just because Chrysler and Daimler-Benz merged and formed Daimler-Chrysler doesn't mean that Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth are manufactured by Mercedes-Benz.

And that a car is manufactured by Mercedes-Benz doesn't necessarily mean that it's well-built, q.v. the early A-series and the two-three year old Vito.
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Jan
John Camp
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« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2006, 01:53:37 PM »
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The Sprinter would be ideal except for one thing: it's just a hair short of eight feet tall. That means that it won't park in standard residential garages, or in most parking garages. (You'll see that most parking garages have warnings that they'll only accept something up to about six-feet, four inches high; I know, because I've been looking at them. Except for that, The Sprinter would be great.)

The sleep-over thing was the reason I've been considering a van, though I haven't slept in the truck. Motels are fine with me, and since I've spent quite a bit of time camping, I've got a four-man tent and a self-inflating foam pad that works well enough.

Some of the vans on the conversion van sites would really be great for long distance trips with in-van sleeping, though, with microwaves, refrigerators, pop-tops, beds, storage bins, etc. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if they get less than ten miles a gallon. For that price, you could save enough in one-long distance day to stay in a motel...

JC
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Jay Kaplan
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« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2006, 04:02:47 PM »
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Two options -

One go to an RV show, there are some vehicles now that would work for you. I saw one on the Outdoor network RV program that was built on a Ford super duty truck frame that had 4 wheel drive and you could sleep in it. Check the networks website, they might still have info on it.

The second is to start with a truck and use some of the same material that contractors use to build a frame that can hold quite a lot of weight. You could also use steel mesh for the flooring and attach one of those ladders to the back or side so that you could reach the "roof".
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Vihta
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2006, 05:35:11 PM »
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I'd definitely get a Defender. They have plenty of aftermarket parts available for your needs.

 
Pics from the trip here. Article is in Finnish, sorry.
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Jay Kaplan
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2006, 06:09:13 PM »
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Part of the problem with the LR Defender is that it is not imported into the US. I believe it once was, but not now. There maybe some used ones out there and importing a "gray market" model will prove very expensive to modify for both emissions and safety.
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jani
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« Reply #18 on: January 05, 2006, 05:19:16 AM »
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Part of the problem with the LR Defender is that it is not imported into the US. I believe it once was, but not now. There maybe some used ones out there and importing a "gray market" model will prove very expensive to modify for both emissions and safety.
I'm not so sure that it will be so expensive to modify for emissions and safety, unless you import an old model.

The problem might be that it's somewhat expensive, at about 16 000 UKP minimum, which is about the same as USD 32 000.
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Jan
bob mccarthy
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« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2006, 08:38:31 AM »
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I came this close >< to buying a Defender 4 or 5 years back. I'm sure there are plenty in the used market, that could be brought up to spec inexpensively. look around Dallas or LA as there just show vehicles there. No significant offroading miles.

Hell of a vehicle, but noisy and crude, not at all like the GX470.

Bob
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