We and ELS are working with LabRak to design our roof storage and lighting needs. Both companies have been extremely giving, professional, and outgoing. They are as excited to help as we are to go. I had a conference call with them on Saturday so they could ask about our needs, and assist us in designing a setup that will exceed them. The rack system will be a modular setup with full roof coverage. Not only is it strong, proved by the owner driving his 100-series Land Cruiser onto it while it was leaned against a wall, but light in weight due to its aluminum construction. It will hold a rooftop tent, can fit seven jerry cans across its width, with a carrier design that places the platform lower under the rack with padding and a securing system. The rack system is also capable of mounting the Hi-lift Jack, a shovel, fishing pole, axe, and pelican cases. Not that we’ll have all of those things, but it is sure nice to have the options. The rack is also designed to house the ELS lighting system in a variety of configurations, so the two products complement each other. We are looking forward to sharing what they design for us and then beating it all up a bit to let you know just how good they are. Updates forthcoming!
February 22, 2013
Shane from LabRak, after an hour and a half at FedEx, was finally able to ship the Custom Designed 80-series Modular Roof Rack in 13 separate boxes. A few weeks ago I had a conversation on the phone with Shane, and with George and Nick from Expedition Lighting Systems (ELS). The two companies needed to work together as Shane would need to design custom mounts for the lights that would allow them to attach to his rack. The conference call went well, ELS shipped most of the lights to me in Germany, and then sent a few to Shane so he could design the mounts and any necessary spacers to ensure proper fit. The lights and rack will be wired and assembled by Taubenreuther GmbH.
To give you an understanding of the task facing Shane I will do my nest to describe the process. LabRak did not have a stock of racks for the 80-Series Land Cruiser (our model). So Shane, in just a few weeks (2 to be precise), needed to design a full sized roof rack, custom mounts (gutter variation), with trays for water and fuel, as well as the ability to mount a roof top tent. The design needed to be field/bush repairable (if necessary), and versatile enough to configure it and then reconfigure it for different purposes (overland travel – recovery vehicle – safaris). After designing the rack, he then had to outsource the manufacture of some of the parts that weren’t in stock due to their specific fit to the 80-Series.
Not only did Shane complete the design, he was also able to arrange the manufacture of new custom parts, and drive the timeline of the manufacturer to meet our schedule. Upon receipt of the parts, he didn’t just throw them in a box and ship them as quickly as possible; he remained cool, and kept me informed. Shane spent a number of late nights assembling and reassembling the rack, removing rivets and replacing them with bolts and thread lock nuts, and putting reinforced joints where he thought necessary. He also configured the rack in a variety of ways, took pictures of the different options and sent them to me via email to review and select the best for our needs. At the end of these time consuming builds he had created a very strong, very rigid, and spacious rack that met all of our requirements.
The rack can be mounted with the can carriers on the front or the back, and can have a roof top tent mounted to either end. Sounds like no big deal considering most other rack companies can do the same thing. The difference I am seeing thus far is that the design is completely different from any other rack on the market. Rather than being a fabricated rack that is mass produced and then later adapted by the end user, LabRak creates custom racks up front to ensure all that is necessary is mounting. The rack is of a modular design, which means that it can be modified in size, attachment points and types, and has the ability to integrate (not just attach) different, very robust mounts for other tools.
An example is the jerry can holders integrated into the rack design. Rather than having holders that attach to the surface of the rack planks, this design places the mounts a as part of the rack, and they are attached lower in the rack frame to reduce drag and lower the weight that is placed on the roof. An individual mount is solid, low profile, and secured by a large latch that swings over the can and locks into place with a cotter pin tethered to the mount. A second pin is tethered to the can and holds the cap in place. Our rack has seven jerry can mounts across its entire width. Between the fourth and fifth mount is a bar that increases support and the rigidity of the rack. It also has tie down eyes that allow us to stack other items, such as firewood, in place of the cans, and then tie them down with straps. It is quite a versatile system.
In addition to the can holders there is also a mount for a shovel, and a very nicely designed Hi-Lift jack mount. Shane also designed and included a fishing rod holder, and added a rod sleeve designed and sewn together by his mother. I thought that was a very nice personal touch.
LabRak didn’t stop there, in addition to the mounting hardware and rack, they included a variety of extra parts, differing sizes of light mounts, and spacers and adapters. Over all, their attention to detail, and quality of service and support has been outstanding. Shane had this to say, “I want you to know that I am committed to you, the cause and everything you represent. So over the year I’ll keep you in the loop on new products and do what I can to make sure you have the newest gear.”
We appreciate the tireless effort Shane put into designing, manufacturing, and shipping of our rack. He did this with a charitable heart and we hope to see his business succeed over the coming years. When the rack arrives and Taubenreuther mounts it, we will provide more pictures as well as photos of the completed truck build. In addition, we will gives future updates on rack quality, mount quality, service quality, and detailed reports on the use of each item.