Home » This Old Land Rover Has A Fascinating Roof: Cold Start

This Old Land Rover Has A Fascinating Roof: Cold Start

Cs Lr Tropicroof 1
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One of the nice things abut having gearhead friends all over the place is that when they spot some sort of interesting car wherever they happen to be, you can be assured you’ll get a picture of it so you can geek out too, even when you’re thousands of miles away. This is an important service. Our own contributor Emily Velasco frequently does this for me, and recently sent a picture of a wonderfully crusty old Land Rover, which has a fascinating type of roof I’ve never really noticed before. So let’s notice it together!

As you can see above there, that’s a pretty old Land Rover there. While I’m not a Land Rover expert, I think that’s a Series I Station Wagon body; I think it’s a Series I and not a II because of that extra panel below the window on the front doors and the simple rectangular shape of the rear door. I love how crude this whole body design looks, crude and rugged with lots of reinforcement plates on seams and corners – it’s just such a look that evokes adventure and exploration and exciting trouble and throwing idols into bags in the back and hauling ass away from giant rolling boulders. You know, the first few minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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But we’re here to talk about that roof, so let’s look at it closer:

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See what’s going on there? It’s a sort of strange kind of double-skinned roof, with an upper panel and a gap, then the lower, main roof panel. What’s going on here?

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As you likely guessed, this is for ventilation; it’s called the Tropical Roof, or sometimes the Safari Roof, and you can see it mentioned, briefly, here:

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That mention of a “roof fitted with a ventilator” seems to be this same thing. Here’s some better brochure pictures of it, from a Series II brochure:

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You could get it fitted to the short-wheelbase Landies, too:

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Basically, what’s going on is the roof has four large vents in it, and over top of those vents is that upper roof skin, which helps draw in air when in motion, and, I suspect, helps hot air escape a bit when not. There’s no way this could be considered a replacement for actual air conditioning, of course, but I’m sure it was better than nothing, certainly better than sitting in an un-ventilated metal-and-glass box out in the desert heat, or some similar tropical place.

I bet these tended to get dented up a lot, as that upper skin is sort of thin, especially if a roof rack was involved as well. I also wonder what this must have sounded like in the rain? I’m imagining it being kind of loud and booming, but perhaps not all that unpleasant?

Also, Emily took a picture of this amazing old CalTech sticker on the Land Rover:

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That beaver is kind of unhinged looking. I’m not sure I trust him.

I’m surprised I never really noticed these before! The world is still full of wonders, pals! You just need to either keep your eyes or, better, have friends keeping their eyes open.

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Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
29 days ago

The “Tropical Roof” has nothing to do with ventilation, think of it as providing shade. The outer roof gets pretty hot sk you really don’t want any of that hot air in between inner and outer roof coming inside.
It also makes a sound. A very particular sound.

David Radich
David Radich
29 days ago

I’ve always known these as safari tops. To the best of my understanding all 109” station wagons (not including the troopie) were equipped with it. But that could be something just in our market. They are so rare these days cos the chassis rust in our salty humid climate

Greg R
Greg R
29 days ago

In Queensland in the 70’s, the majority of taxis were XA, XB or XC Falcons. Some enterprising organisation made fibreglass tropical roofs for these, that bolted on to the gutter rails. They also extended out over the front and rear windscreens to act as sunvisors, most of these cars probably didn’t have air con back then. We are classed as having a sub-tropical climate, probably similar to Florida, so they would have helped a lot. Tropical roofs are still a thing here, most commonly on caravans and some motorhomes. I have tried to find a photo of a Falcon with one fitted, with no luck.

SLM
SLM
29 days ago

It’s a design you can see on houses with metal roofs in tropical countries.
I guess it’s quite useful when you have to enter a car sitting in the sun.
The noise must be awful when it’s raining, but anyway during a tropical rain you can’t hear anything except the rain…

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
29 days ago

Ah; “Tropical Roof”. This is what I was suggesting for the USPS LLV retrofit.

Last edited 29 days ago by Hotdoughnutsnow
Misplaced Aussie
Misplaced Aussie
29 days ago

the tropical roof was common on LR when I was growing up in Oz. Probably the default option in those days

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
29 days ago

How does the tropical roof work when upside down? Does heat fall instead? Is the roof inverted?

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
29 days ago

Those double roofs work really well for keeping the interior a little cooler. Air is a heck of a great insulator.

As an aside, an added bonus of roof mounted solar panels is that they shade the roof underneath. Usually on the side facing the sun most of the day. First, they’re directly using 20%ish of the sun’s energy to make electricity. The shaded roof is then cooler both between less solar energy reaching it and the convection drawing air under the panels. This translates into less energy the insulation has to work against and thus an overall cooler structure.

Lardo
Lardo
29 days ago

wait till you read about bifacial panels… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bifacial_solar_cells

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
29 days ago

I love roofline windows! I love them on old VW busses, I love them on Land Rovers and Discovery’ies, I love them on strange hardtops for roadsters, I even love them on silly Zagato bodied Lancias!

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
29 days ago

Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser FTW

Thebloody_shitposter
Thebloody_shitposter
29 days ago

It’s a Land Rover Series I 107″ (107 inch wheel base), I would hazard a guess that it’s a 1957 or 1958, but that colour was only offered starting in 1959 so probably not the original colour. That colour is officially called “Limestone” and I think I have the colour code saved somewhere.

Safari roofs are fantastic, growing up in Durban South Africa my dad had a 67 Series IIa 109 with Safari roof. Even on the hottest days you could touch the metal roof and not scorch your hand because the air gap does a huge job keeping the majority of the suns heat off the inner roof.

Edit: Although could that colour be Ivory? Idk, looks too yellow to be Ivory.

Last edited 29 days ago by Thebloody_shitposter
Ixcaneco
Ixcaneco
29 days ago

I saw and experienced these now and then in my wayward youth in Latin America. It is pretty much like you say, but it does keep it cooler in the sun. I know we have modern air conditioning, but I still prefer vehicles with a light colored roof. I live in the desert!

Phuzz
Phuzz
29 days ago

I bet these tended to get dented up a lot, as that upper skin is sort of thin

I’ve not measured it, but AFAIK they were made out of the same thickness of aluminium as the roof.
I’m not sure if you could still fold down the front windscreen with one of these roofs attached.

John Patson
John Patson
29 days ago

Funny, I always thought Californian beaver was a triangle shape… For a while Landrover made roofs with a little plug in the front which could be taken out for a search light, and there were also conduits to wire the search light into the dashboard.
Don’t see anything like that here so maybe it was only for combined civilian/police/military markets.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
29 days ago
Reply to  John Patson

Aren’t they all?

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
29 days ago
Reply to  John Patson

Sadly the Californian beaver is on the razor’s edge of extinction.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
29 days ago

Apropos of that old Land Rover, would anyone be able to identify the vehicle in this photograph from 1961 of the Tree of Ténéré? https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/Arbre-du-tenere-1961.jpg/440px-Arbre-du-tenere-1961.jpg
The Tree of Ténéré, an acacia tree in the Sahara Desert, was once the loneliest tree known in the world, with the nearest tree being some 31 miles away, and was held sacred by the locals. Old editions of the Guinness Book of World Records had the British editors, the McWhirters, cheekily referencing an incident in 1959 or ’60 where the tree survived being struck by “a truck driven by a Frenchman.” (Bill Mauldin had a cartoon in his WWII book Up Front showing a quartermaster sergeant advising his drivers on an Italian mountain road “Some of you may not come back. A French convoy has been reported on the road.”)
Sadly the tree was knocked down in 1973 by a drunk driver, the damn jerk, and the remains are now at the Niger National Museum in the capital city Naimey. Where the tree stood is now a monument with a metal sculpture representing the tree.

Last edited 29 days ago by Collegiate Autodidact
Emily Velasco
Emily Velasco
29 days ago

I’ve seen this thing parked dozens of times and I’ve still never spotted the driver. One of these days I’ll get to ask them about them about it.

Jimmy7
Jimmy7
29 days ago
Reply to  Emily Velasco

I have a friend with one like this, a brilliant British bloke long transplanted to Southern California. Where do you see it parked?

Emily Velasco
Emily Velasco
29 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy7

It is always parked behind one of the buildings at Caltech

Jimmy7
Jimmy7
29 days ago
Reply to  Emily Velasco

Heard that Malibu area is more likely. Love car-spotting in Southern California, a car show every day!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
29 days ago

A Land River with a topee. How imperial.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
29 days ago

Would be interesting to take temperature readings inside of identical Land Rovers, one with a plain roof and one with the Tropical/Safari Roof, both while sitting and while in motion and see how they compare. Seems like something the Autopian staff could undertake given all their access to the various automotive communities around the country (& abroad!! Heck, the Autopian has writers based in Australia; surely there are a few Land Rovers down under?) Reminiscient of how black robes actually work in the desert: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/aug/19/most-improbable-scientific-research-abrahams

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago

That beaver looks almost offensive, like Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
29 days ago

Or like MTG?

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 month ago

There’s an old car feature I knew about but you didn’t? Now that is surprising.

Car Guy
Car Guy
1 month ago

“and hauling ass away from giant rolling boulders”

As the driver of an old Land Rover, I can guarantee you won’t be hauling ass away from anything, even more traditional stationary boulders….

MtnCamantalope
MtnCamantalope
1 month ago
Reply to  Car Guy

Second

Spectre6000
Spectre6000
1 month ago

In addition to ventilation, it also acts as an insulative barrier. The sun beats down on it, then air gap, then the actual roof. Significant reduction in heat inside. If you’ve ever felt the oven effect on your scalp in an older car without insulated headliners, you know what you’re avoiding.

Tbird
Tbird
1 month ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

I thought the exact same thing as soon as I saw it. Brilliant actually.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

So it is always parked in the shade. Clever.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
29 days ago
Reply to  Spectre6000

And when in motion (admittedly not a common LR trait) the roof panel cools a bit like a heat sink.

Lardo
Lardo
1 month ago

some g-wagon’s also had this feature

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 month ago

Does this thing (the roof) move at all? Or is it always open? Because in the rain, never mind the noise, I can imagine it delivering a fine mist to everyone inside.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 month ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

It’’s two features in one – ventilation and humidifier

Thebloody_shitposter
Thebloody_shitposter
29 days ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

This thing can barely do 55mph down hill with a tail wind, wind noise is drowned out by the engine and gearbox whine. There are little lips around the vent hatches that do a pretty good job keeping the water out when it’s raining, but don’t worry the door seals don’t so you still get good and wet.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
29 days ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

The concern is more about keeping the lions out.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

I safaried (verb like summered) in Tanzania in a Land Rover with a pop-up roof. This provided some metal protection as I peered down at a large lion snacking on a zebra only 5 feet away.

Last edited 1 month ago by Chronometric
Art of the Bodge
Art of the Bodge
1 month ago

It’s an old Land Rover, the sound of the rain will be drowned out by everything else.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 month ago

You mean the loud swearing coming from under the hood?

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
1 month ago

These can be a bastard to start.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
29 days ago
Reply to  FuzzyPlushroom

“These can be a bastard to start”

Nulon’s got ya covered!

https://www.nulon.com.au/products/aerosols/start-ya-bastard-instant-engine-starter

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