Mother's Car Top Carrier

Build a car top carrier with these diagrams and instructions.

| November/December 1983

Unwieldy objects can be just about impossible to carry in cars . . . and, should you try to cram such items in, your efforts will more than likely be rewarded with ripped upholstery or damaged hardware. Granted, modern hatchbacks do provide a fair bit of hauling capacity, but their limited size often seems to preclude the portage of anything longer than a yardstick.

Well, if you've had problems transporting things during your building projects, camping trips, and so forth, you might want to think about constructing our basic car top carrier. For an investment of about $10, you can have a piece of equipment that's custom-fitted to your auto and that will allow you to handle those occasional hauling jobs you'd never have considered undertaking before. The unit is, of course, removable, and though it's not as pretty as the fancy tubular kind that can buy in many stores, it's every bit as functional.

Actually, this project started out to be a budget ski rack . . . but after some preliminary fitting, we realized that the device had a lot of unexplored potential, so we decided to make it a universal carrier. Before you start breaking out your building tools, though, do take a good look at your car's roof: It must have a permanent rain trough running along each edge if it's to support the carrier's stanchions and clamps.

Once you're certain that your vehicle will accept the stands, you can go out and gather the necessary materials: four 3" X 5" rigid shelf brackets . . . an equal number of hook and-eye turnbuckles (ours had 12-24 threads and were adjustable between 5 3/8" and 7 1/2"), a piece of 1/2" plywood measuring at least 8" X 12" or 6" X 16", a section of 18- or 20-gauge sheet metal with 6 1/2" X 6 1/2" dimensions, two 6'-long 2 X 4's . . . enough carpet scrap to pad those boards (a 7" X 60" piece will do), and four 2" X 5" samples of felt cloth. The required fastening hardware includes a dozen No. 10 X 5/8" flathead machine screws with nuts, twelve more No. 10 X 1" roundhead wood screws, four 1/4" body washers, and a handful of staples or carpet tacks.

Begin the assembly process by measuring the exact distance between the two rain troughs on your car, first at a spot toward the front of the roof, and then at one to the rear. (The spans at these two stanchion-mounting points will vary, depending on the size of your vehicle.) Once you've determined the breadth at each of the two locations — it's possible that the two measurements might be different — you can cut your 2 X 4's to the necessary lengths (leaving 12" on each board to allow for about a 6" overhang at the ends), and mark one face of each rail to indicate where the stanchions will be attached.

With that done, cut the four 3" X 5" X 6" stanchions out of your 1/2" plywood blank. If you need additional roof clearance, you can increase the length of these stands a bit, but in any case, you should leave each one's shortest edge flat, smooth the two sides, and shape the broad edge (the one that rests in the gutter) into a point with two bevels, using a rasp and some sandpaper.

Now, position each of these stanchions on the lines you previously marked on the 2 X 4's, and lay the shelf brackets — legs inward — against both the plywood and the 2 X 4 it's resting upon. Use a pencil to indicate the mounting holes, drill them, and countersink the holes at the points where they exit the stands' outward faces. (The wood screws will require 1/8" holes, and the machine fasteners need 7/32" openings.)

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