It’s almost 7 years since we started sketching out the original HiLo from a clean sheet – developing it into the highest lifting, lowest profile elevating roof on the market. Fitment to this point has been purely VW T5, T5.1 & most recently T6 – a ‘HiLo Scenic’ being modelled here by the beach..

To stay right at the leading edge, and to cater for the increasing demand, earlier this year we decided the time was right to launch a HiLo for the shapely Transit Custom – sourcing this low mileage, high spec LWB Tourneo to make into one of our factory demo’s. The following pictures show the progress to date…

The first cut is the deepest.. No way back now as the cutting disc goes in!

That is one big sunroof! Hole fully cut out and one of our well proven, super-strong, M1 crash test certified steel safety frames lowered in & jacked up into position..

View of same stage from the front – note extra width of the Custom vs a T5/6 (the outermost edges of the frame sides would on a Transporter require cuts into the single-skinned section of the factory metalwork to fit, but not so here)…

View from the rear – safety frame bonded, riveted and clamped in place…

Slightly blurry, but this shot shows the  frame in, stainless scissor hinges fitted and aluminium box section that will take the light but strong GRP ‘lid’ going up & down – exciting times..

This close up shows the side profile being created – due to the extra internal height of the Ford vs. VW, we were able to sit the frame lower, enabling the finished roof to add even less mm to a standard van than with one of our T5’s (ie under 15mm), while tapering down to almost nothing at the front..

It’s starting to come together – one of our unpainted, black gel roofs dropped on..

The roof edge will be made to return down from the original gutter line, the black felt tip line across the back is where the new, longer roof will finish, allowing for a rear spoiler option when the tailgate is raised or barn doors opened…

This side yet to be built up, with shape of front lip to butt up snug with one of our one-piece extruded wind deflectors about to be drawn onto the masking…

The underside (2-berth elevating bed, stowed canvas, removable sliding hatch, folded gas struts, 5-point lock-down system etc) will be exactly same as our current, tried & tested VW HiLo roof – but with extra-wide soffits for added potential units/ storage space…

Very neat – ‘custom’ headliner for either a panel van or Tourneo mocked up, ready for pre-mould paint prep. This will be made in 2 pieces – to go straight back in and pick up the original mounting points for that ‘factory’ look..

Same plug painted & ready for part A moulding..

Black line above the arrow deemed the optimum finish for the front of the roof..

First skim of filler in, and manual rubbing underway to start forming the required shape – same as we did with the low profile Transporter…

Showing foam infill at the back, our existing LWB roof has to be extended – the ribs will run out right to the back on the Custom…

The Transit is not only taller & longer than a T5/T6, it’s also wider – this gap is to be filled into the gutter on the offside…

With rear spoiler masking taped into position..

Front drivers side corner cut out, foam packed & ready for double curve filling…

It’s coming together – again! This is rear view looking down…

And another…

The devil is in the detail – 45 years experience has gone into getting the shape right…

Headliner mould braced up…

Rib detail nearing completion – looking good!

First headlining moulded. To pull out and trim tomorrow, ready for test fitting…

A little more fine hand finishing required, then into the spray booth.. Note the convex lateral (as opposed to flat) shape, for extra strength and so rain water can’t collect or roof sag…

Finished shape, wet primed & drying in the spray bake oven. Ready for black 2-pak paint, then preparation for primary moulding..

Roof now painted, baked off & polished – we couldn’t resist flopping it on the van and having a drive round the block, even black on silver you can’t spot it on top..

Back indoors – now 6 coats of wax then release agent been applied, it’s on with the black tooling gel..

Strengthening frame/ jig being added, before being left for 48 hours..

Primary mould being lifted off by unconventional means..

Hey presto…

Back in the booth…

Same mould, on trestles – ready to start making the first production white gel roof..

White gel’ing the mould up..

Nearly done…

Then 12 layers of mat tissue laid up for the GRP version..

Production roof taped in place, with frame, bed & hinges sat underneath – check that looooooooow profile!

This first roof shell destined for a white LWB M Sport lookalike – subject of our first dedicated before-during-after Custom installation blog. Meanwhile, we’re on with the SWB version… 😉