Found an original Ford Four Seasons topper...for free!

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PostPosted: 29 Aug 2011 22:15
I've been keeping my eyes on Craigslist for several months now, looking for an original Ford Four-Seasons topper (a.k.a. camper shell, canopy). These were Leer toppers which were constructed specifically for the '73-'79 trucks, to match the more-angular rear cab wall. I occasionally do run across them, but they're usually too far away to be feasible for pick-up. I did find one listed last week in a city about 250 miles away and was just about ready to call the seller and discuss purchasing it from him, when last Friday night I ran across a Craigslist posting by a local salvage yard about 80 miles away. In this ad, they stated they had a bunch of toppers that they simply wanted to give away. These four pictures were posted in the ad:

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Looking at these small pictures, I could tell immediately that the white one was indeed a Four Seasons topper! I was excited, until I read in the ad that this yard was only open Monday-Friday...and I was reading this on Friday night...which meant I had to wait until Monday to go get it. I was excited, so it was a long weekend hoping nobody would get to it first!

It was going to be a slow day at work today, I called into work first thing this morning and told them I wouldn't be in until after lunch. I then hopped in the truck and headed out to the local car/truck accessories shop to get some hold-down clamps, and then I hit the road. (And I have to admit I did push the speed limit a bit getting there!) ;)

Upon arrival, I ran out to where the toppers were stored and was excited to still see the white one sitting there. I was allowed to drive my truck into the yard, and four employees helped me lift it up onto my truck....and I left with my new treasure.

After work this evening, I pumped close to $10 into the high-pressure washer at the car wash and got it pretty cleaned up. There's still a little dirt on top that I couldn't seem to reach, so I'm going to have to head back to the car wash with my step ladder. :lol: And there's still a bunch of inside clean-up that needs to be done, as well as a few battle scar repairs that will be needed...but hey, for free, it ain't half bad!

Anyway, here's a bunch of pics of the topper. You can click on all these thumbnails to enlarge. I purposely left the linked images as high-resolution shots to show the most detail.



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Fig. 01
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Fig. 02
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Fig. 03
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Fig. 04 - This is a close-up of the Four Seasons medallion on the right side. Unfortunately, the left-side emblem is damaged, so I'll be looking for one of those. A couple NOS emblems would be great!
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Fig. 05 - Here's a shot of the inside. You can see the roof vent towards the front.
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Fig. 06 - The left-side strut. Both struts work great and hold the lid up just fine, and collapse as required.
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Fig. 07 - All four corners have reinforced corners for the factory-style J-hooks which hold the topper down. I'll also be looking for a set of those. In the meantime, the cheap universal-fit aluminum clamps will have to suffice.
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Fig. 08 - I spotted this label on the inner roof just above the rear door.
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Fig. 09 - Here's a close-up shot of the outside to show the factory texture.
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Fig. 10 - A close-up of the closed roof vent.
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Fig. 11 - The open roof vent.
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Fig. 12 - Talk about luck! The date code on the glass (1975) matches the truck!

Sometime over the next week or so, I'm going to put together a webpage which shows the exploded-view schematic of this topper as printed in the Master Parts Catalog (MPC) along with a complete listing of all the Ford part numbers. This will enable me (and others) to start searching for any NOS parts that might be still at the obsolete parts dealer's warehouse. Things I'll be looking for include the emblems on each side, the window gaskets and the rubber seal which goes between the topper and the bed.

However...while all of this is good and everything, there could be a change of plans. A friend of mine also has a factory Four Seasons topper on his project truck but says he doesn't want it. He said he'd sell it to me, since he'll never use it...we just need to sit down and discuss price. It's been sitting on the back of a truck that's been sitting in a grove of trees for years, and it's covered with tree sap and lichens. I'm pretty sure it'll clean up...which will be good for one many reason. My topper does have a few battle scars that will need to be repaired with fiberglass, while his is (I believe) in good structural shape, although very dirty. Anyway, it's entirely possible that today's freebie topper will become a parts donor for his shell. I'm not sure yet, but it's possible. Here's a shot of his:
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As you can see, it's pretty dirty, but I've tried rubbing some of those lichens off and they're not attached too firmly, so I believe this will power-wash up very nicely. I'll probably talk to him over the next few days to get a sense of what kind of dent in the pocketbook his will cost me and then make a decision whether to fix/detail this one or combine the two into a single good topper.
Keith

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PostPosted: 30 Aug 2011 08:19
Keith, that is a great find. I am a fan of toppers. Comes in handy on those overnight fishing trips, and purchases stay dry when it is raining. :thup:
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PostPosted: 30 Aug 2011 10:01
Nice score! I can't believe they were giving away those tops. My 73 f-250 just happened to have the factory camper top on it when I purchased it and it's still in pretty good shape. Glad you got pictures up, thanks!
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PostPosted: 30 Aug 2011 20:10
One thing that does confuse me about this topper....and that is that it kinda seems to be in-between the 'Regular' and 'Deluxe' versions. :hmm: ...so I decided to do some research. I browsed back through the Ford truck Accessories catalogs in the Factory Literature Library, but they're not even mentioned in them. I did find this mention made in the '73 Facts and Features brochure:

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According to this, the Regular version had solid (one-piece) side/rear windows that were tinted, and would look like this:

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however, note that this one DOES have a roof vent. :?

The Deluxe versions had sliding side windows with bright trim and screens, along with a roof vent and an dome light, and would look like this:

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CLICK HERE to view a full-page description of the available toppers as described in the '73 Recreation Vehicles brochure:

And here's a blurb found in the '74 Explorer brochure:

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Notice that it says the '74 Standard version DOES have a roof vent. So at this time, it appears that the '73 Standard version had no roof vent, while the '74-up did.

Mine has a roof vent, no dome light....and untinted split side windows. Each side window is actually made up of two panes of glass, with a hard plastic divider between them. However, as shown in the pics in the first post above, the Carlite glass does have a '75 date code. I was thinking that maybe a previous owner replaced the side glass with a non-factory style of dual panes, but I've got a couple pictures of other toppers with the exact same dual-pane and divider setup.

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So I guess what I have to figure out is when the solid window was used, and when Ford started using split side windows. The picture in my first post of my friend's truck shows a solid side window on that '79, and that topper has always been on that truck, right from the factory...and it's not tinted.

I'm going to have to do a little more research on this.

deedeehetch wrote:...My 73 f-250 just happened to have the factory camper top on it when I purchased it and it's still in pretty good shape....

Can you post some pics of yours? Take a look at the glass and see if you can find the date code on them. Also, see if you can find this number molded inside the shell, upside-down just above each side window. I'm curious if the D3TB-99280C28-AA number remains the same for all years. I'd imagine it is, since it's essentially the same shell, but you never know with Ford! ;)

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Keith

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PostPosted: 31 Aug 2011 18:23
You must live in salvage yard heaven!!!! What an awesome find and you can't beat that price! It cleaned up very nicely and Id be proud to leave it as is for quite some time.

Thanks for researching this and posting all the cool pics, you do a great job with the site. :thup:
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PostPosted: 31 Aug 2011 19:20
heres some pics of my ford topper. the raised numbers match up with yours, except one side ends in 28 and the other in 29. mine looks pretty much the same as yours. sliding side window (no screen or tint) vented roof, light with a switch near the door, and the chrome trim around the glass.

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PostPosted: 31 Aug 2011 21:44
Hey, thanks for those photos! They actually helped me out quite a bit on this research project, especially the number decal above the rear door. I took a quick trip out to my friend's house this evening (the one with the topper pictured in my first post) so I could snap a few detail pics and take a few notes. By comparing the numbers on yours, mine and his decals, I think I can safely say that the number in that decal is the Leer serial number for the topper assembly...and the first two digits of the serial number indicates the year of manufacture.

I'm going to be contacting the Leer factory directly and see if they can verify this, and maybe see if they have any info on these toppers (like production numbers).

Here's the serial number decal of my friends topper:
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You can see his number starts off with "78", which would identify this as being manufactured in '78, or at least for the '78 model year. The thing that adds credence to this theory is the safety decal located in the lower right-rear corner of the shell:

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I honestly have NO idea what the parts referred to in the decal are...I'll definitely have to dig out the Master Parts Catalog (MPC) and do some research on the "Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 219 - Windshield Zone Intrusion" referenced in the decal to give me some hints.

His appears to be Regular topper, as it has solid side glass and no dome light. However, the mount for the domelight is there. So it appears as if sometime in the later years of manufacture, all topper shells got the dome light mounting provision. Interesting!

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I mentioned in an earlier post in this thread that I'd found a Deluxe topper on Craigslist which is in a city about 250 miles away. At this point, I'm really leaning towards just hopping in my truck and deadheading it there and picking it up. The price is right ($50), it'll give me the Deluxe-style sliding windows (and possibly the dome light) for mine, and it'll be another step forward in this research project.

Now for a little back-tracking, regarding the glass date codes. I was mistakenly thinking that the "DOT 75" meant it was a 1975 date code. However, the date code for Carlite glass is actually the two-digit group (a number and a letter) just above that. The first digit is the year of manufacture, the second letter is the month. I just whipped up this graphic to illustrate:

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(Ford skipped the letter "I", so September would be "J".)

Therefore, my date code of "3K" would indicate October 1973, which coincides with the first two digits of the serial number....so it's now apparent that my topper is a 1973 version.

deedeehetch: Your Carlite glass date code of "4E" indicates manufacture of May 1974....which ALSO coincides with the first two digits of the serial number on your topper. At this point, I'm thinking that the toppers were manufactured on a calendar-year basis, while our trucks were manufactured on a model year basis. So a truck manufactured later in the '73 model year (but during the '74 calendar year) could very well have received a topper with a '74 date code....so yours definitely appears to have the correct date codes for your truck, and is likely the original topper for your truck.

One thing I neglected to do when I was at my friend's house was to check the glass date codes on his topper. :doh: I'll definitely be going back to do that though. I'm guessing his glass date code is going to start off with a "7" or "8".
Keith

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PostPosted: 31 Aug 2011 22:50
Wow that's alot of good info. Thanks so much for all your investigative work, Sherlock!
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PostPosted: 31 Aug 2011 23:38
Some more Carlite glass codes information:

Carlite is Ford's glass-making division. (LOF and PPG has made parts for Carlite). Carlite was sold in 2008 to Zeledyne Glass Products, a company specifically formed to take over all of the former glass operations of ACH and run them as an independent company.

AS-1 is laminated glass which as passed American Standards Association tests for both impact resistance and lack of optical deviation and visibility distortion. (windshield quality)
AS-2 is found on vent and side windows and can mean that you either have: 1. Tempered glass which as passed the ASA fracture, ball and shot bag impact tests required for tempered glass, or 2. Laminated glass which has passed the ball and dart impact tests required for AS-1 laminated glass, but it is not required to pass windshield glass optical tests.

SUN-X = tinted (not used if glass isn't tinted)

FM-M61 - has to do with where the glass was manufactured (?) (still researching)

Looking at the stamps provided, look at the "F" in the circle above the date code (which is below and to the left of the Carlite logo)
"N" = Nashville
"D" = Dearborn
"T" = Tulsa
"F" = ?
Later models with a "V" in that location means Vidriocar, Mexico.
Keith

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PostPosted: 01 Sep 2011 00:03
FORDification wrote:...I'll definitely have to...do some research on the "Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 219 - Windshield Zone Intrusion" referenced in the decal to give me some hints.


From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) site:
Part 571 - Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
CRASHWORTHINESS
Standard No. 219 - Windshield Zone Intrusion - Passenger Cars (Effective 9-1-76), Multipurpose Passenger Vehicles, Trailers, Buses with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 4,556 kg (10,000 lbs.) or less (Effective 9-1-77), 2,495 kg (5,500 lbs.) Unloaded Weight (Effective 4-3-80)
This standard specifies limits for the displacement into the windshield area of motor vehicle components during a crash. Its purpose is to reduce crash injuries and fatalities that result from occupants contacting vehicle components displaced near or through the windshield.

That doesn't say a whole lot, does it? :hmm:

Here's a link to the detailed explanation:
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulati ... eg=571.219

However, I fail to see how this would apply to an installed topper. :hmm: The parts indicated in the safety decal are components for strengthening of the vehicle's frontal structure. The basic purpose of the Standard was to "decrease the likelihood of injury resulting from the intrusion of a part of the vehicle, such as the hood, into the occupant compartment through the windshield opening, or into the zone slightly forward of the windshield aperture."

Another description:
"FMVSS 219 regulates the intrusion of vehicle parts (usually the hood) from the outside of the occupant compartment into the windshield or a protected zone in front of it. As the Institute pointed out in a previous Advisory, this is the only standard where compliance could possibly be affected by cosmetic parts. The key question is whether competitive hoods will buckle, as new-car hoods are designed to do. Are the sections of competitive hoods welded together strongly enough to prevent separation while buckling? Or might a competitive hood be pushed back through a car's windshield and endanger front-seat occupants in crashes? In the Institute's test, the hood buckled and didn't intrude into the protected zone. It easily met the requirements of FMVSS 219. Other competitive hoods examined by Institute engineers have built-in buckle points, too, indicating they will buckle in frontal crashes, just like they are supposed to." [source]

http://www.federalregister.gov/articles ... -intrusion

My guess is this:

That the possibility existed of injury being caused by the extra weight of the topper coming loose in a crash and contacting the back of the cab, pushing it forward and INTO front-end components that had also come loose because of the crash, like the hood. By installing the extra sheetmetal supports and stops, in case of a frontal collision the front-end sheetmetal would be less likely to get close enough to the windshield to be of concern when/if the heavy topper rammed into the back of the cab, pushing it forward.
Keith

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