Campervan pop top roofs – the difference between the European style and Vertical lifter

A question we get asked very often about campervan pop top roofs: why do you use the ‘European style’ pop top roof and what are the advantages of this type of roof compared to the vertical lifter style roof which is still commonly used in Australia.

There are two main reasons why we believe the European style roof is a much superior product:

  1. It is not ‘spring loaded’ (like the vertical lifter), but fitted with gas struts. This means we can tailor the difficulty of pulling down and up the roof to each client’s strength by letting in or out some gas to adjust the pressure.
  2. The gas struts do not make a sound when you are driving, as opposed to the springs on a vertical lifter which clang while driving.

Need more proof? Look around…the leaders in Campervan manufacturing and the big campervan markets are in the United Kingdom and Europe. They stopped using the vertical lifters 20 years ago. Volkswagen and Mercedes also have their own brand of campervan (not yet availbale in Australia but possibly soon!), the ‘California’ and ‘Marco Polo’ respectively, both also use the European style pop top roofs, and are at the forefront of auto innovation.

European pop top roof

European pop top roof

2 replies
  1. Simon Glen
    Simon Glen says:

    I have owned two T2 Sopru conversions with the Australian-style vertical lifting roof (1973 and 1976 models). They were spring loaded and never clanged, squeaked or rattled. And, I did 650,000km in one of these T2 vertical lifters including twice across the Birdsville Track, Strezelecki Track, twice around Australia, twice across the Sahara Desert and overland back to Australia across Asia – no clanging, rattles or squeaks. I also owned a 1982 Trakka T3 with a vertical lifter roof. It was fitted with gas struts and was a treat to use. But, I have also owned two T2 Westfalia campervans with front (1969) and rear hinged (1978) European-style roofs – no gas struts and they were hard to raise – lots of muscle need. And, with these German Westfalias, if it was raining I could not have vent in the canvas sleeve open without rain coming in.
    One of the advantages of an Australian-style vertical lifting roof is that even in pouring rain you can have the roof up and the sleeve vents open and rain needn’t come in. I remember camping in the bush near Darwin in 40 degree heat and heavy rain bucketing down vertically. It was lovely to have the roof up and the sleeve vents open but no rain coming in (no mozzies either with the insect mesh). One of the problems is that Europeans associate rain with cold and rain drops being blown sideways. They can’t imagine 40 degree heat with rain bucketing down vertically all night non-stop.
    Unfortunately, many campervan makers here in Australia who now use the European-style elevating roof tend to remove too many of the van’s steel roof bows, thus compromising the vehicle’s rigidity in rough conditions (which is not a problem usually encountered in Europe). Some remove all the bows! One well-known north Sydney quality campervan maker which uses the European style roof refuses to remove the bow at the A-pillar – they don’t want to compromise vehicle strength. And, they go to great lengths the strengthen the roof with additional steel beams. Their’s is a very sound roof. However, I would still worry about rain coming in through the sleeve vents.
    Some might say: “What about the Volkswagen California? It has the European-style roof.”
    Need more proof?
    Well, the beautiful California’s body (it is SWB only) is built in the VW factory at Hanover with a hole designed and engineered to be in the roof. No hole is CUT in the roof and no bows are removed. So, the California is already strong before the pop-top is fitted. (A month ago a California was for sale in Perth. I would love to have bought it.)
    Realistically, here in Australia, my current preference would be for a traditional Australian-style vertical lifting roof well-strengthened and with gas struts (like the T3 Trakka).
    These are the reasons why when Achtung converted my 2016 T6, I decided to leave it as a ‘tin top’.

    • Simon Glen
      Simon Glen says:

      I have now had my Achtung VW T6 “tin top” fitted with a vertical rising Reimo roof imported from Germany. Now, I can camp in hot climate/hot weather rain with the roof up and no rain comes in (and no mozzies either).


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