Rough Road Raindrop

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Rough Road Raindrop

Postby Louisd75 » Sun May 21, 2017 9:00 pm

This is a little bit of a late start to a writeup, but better late than never, right? I've mostly been lurking through my build but I'm grateful to Dave Nathanson, Tony Latham, Halfdome Danny and Coleman Cooler for their help with specific questions. Thanks to everyone who's posted a thread so far as well. Lots of days I think I spent more time on the site than I did on the trailer.

My wife and I decided to head the direction of a teardrop not long after starting our family. Most of our travels up to that point had been by bicycle, VW bus, or camping in the back of a pickup truck. We decided that a teardrop was the best compromise for being able to go on a moment's notice without having to worry as much about getting packed up or unpacking afterwards. We toyed around with the idea of a truck bed camper or a roof top tent but decided that it could become more trouble than it was worth trying to get a tent dried out certain times of year in the lovely Pacific Northwet. Err, Northwest.

We knew our family was going to be expanding, so we looked at some of the larger designs and originally settled on the Camp Inn 560. After some back and forth via email with Camp Inn, I quickly realized that Camp Inn wasn't set up to provide what I wanted. My wife and I really liked the design but not all the bells and whistles. Even a stripped down version was more than we wanted. The tipping point was that I wanted to match the wheels and track width to that of the tow vehicle (2015 Toyota Tacoma). So, after hashing it around for a few minutes, my wife told me to buy the tools that i needed to get the job done. Sorry guys, she doesn't have any sisters. The trailer grew a couple of inches on the body from the 560. We're just over 10' long and the body is 5' wide. The whole trailer overall is just over 14'.

First step was figuring out the curve radii for the trailer. I eyeballed it from a profile picture I found from a 560 owner's travel blog and came up with a reasonable copy:

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After that, it was off to the snail races.

I made a masking tape mockup on the garage floor:

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Made the mockup of the side profile which later became the template:

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The tires are 235 85 R16, which work out to just shy of 32" tall and just over 9" wide

Bought some steel and built a frame:

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I mocked up things a lot as I was sorting out what ideas I wanted to stick with and what I would discard:

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The blue tape was used to mark the location of shelves, counters and cabinets. Most of it wound up getting the axe but can be added later as we figure out just exactly what we need.

Sweet shocks dude:

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Got the tongue box going. If I were doing this again, the tongue box would have been much, much later. I probably would have waited til I was ready to start skinning to build it.

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Also made the deck. The floor is 1/2" plywood, 1" rigid foam, 1/4" plywood from bottom to top. Storage cubby is 6" deep. Helper is helping by constantly turning the dust collector on and off with the remote. She was pretty good with organizing the insulation scraps too.

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Full size mattress mockup. We're still going back and forth over using a full size with foam filler pieces for the gaps or a queen size with cut outs for the wheel wells. We already have the full size...

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Walls!
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So, got the walls all up and installed, then left the country for a couple of months of work. Came back and the walls had warped at the top forward corner. I fought with straightening them out and finally decided to cut my losses and go a different direction.

Walls v 2.0!
Skeletonized template
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New walls are a sandwich of 1/2" ply, 3/4" ply and 1/8" ply. The 1/8" is the inner panel. The 3/4" ply is routed completely through using my now skeletonized template. The 1/2" ply is the outer ply and is routed 1/4' deep using the same template. This gives me a cutout 1" deep, which works perfectly for the 1" rigid foam insulation. I also used the template to mark out the rigid foam and cut it to fit. The foam fits very snugly and helped lock the panels into position for gluing up.

The weather turned nice, so I took advantage and painted the frame:

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And then back into the garage for roof work:

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Once I was happy with the roof mockup, it was time to start actually putting stuff together for real. Gluing the walls together:

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Foreman is not impressed.

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Walls are on, roof is on:
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Interior is simple. A couple of shelves for our duffel bags, couple smaller shelves for miscellaneous, and a grab handle for scooching around.
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Flexible plywood is flexible. Started on the front, it's a sandwich. Two layers of 1/8" flexible plywood, 1" of kerfed rigid foam, one layer of 1/8" flexible ply to cover up the foam inside.

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Holes for the windows, checked out the doors, started routing out grooves in the body for wire runs. The template was invaluable in locating the insulation within the wall.

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Galley hatch, more flexible plywood to try and minimize spring back. It's a sandwich (hungry yet?) of 1/8" flexible ply, 1" kerfed rigid foam and 1/8" flexible ply

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Galley. At this point, the plan is the three storage cubbies. We'll add in shelves and such as we use the camper and figure out what we need and don't. The left most hatch will house the battery and battery isolation switch.

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The electrical center. I'll have USB and cigarette outlets, a CO/Propane monitor, a battery monitor, the switch for the master relay, and a momentary switch for the battery monitor. The panel is hinged so that it can flip down. Behind I'll have the fuse block for all of the accessories. Also got the wheel wells covered with rigid foam and, you guessed it, flexible plywood. Right now I have one layer of flexible plywood, but I think I'll add another for rigidity.

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Rear end is all closed up. The fenders have a solid back which will cover the rigid foam visible in the picture. I also used roof sealant to cover the foam and any gaps where water might collect.

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I changed my mind about forward storage cubbie access from the outside. It would have been two more hatches to make and, quite frankly, I was done with hatches at that point. So I filled them in and will use one side for mounting a jerry can rack. The opposite side will have a tall ammo can mounted. I'll keep wheel chocks and the like in the ammo can. I cut two more access holes into the back of the tongue box for access inside. My original idea was to mount the fuel cans on the side of the trailer a-la Dave Nathanson's trailer, but after hefting the can around I realized that I'd be able to mount it closer to the ground on the side of the tongue box. I don't know what my tongue weight is, but I can still lift the front end of the trailer up without grunting too loudly.

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Varnish! Got three coats onto the body. It's not cosmetic, just to protect from any water that manages to work under the skin. I used thickened epoxy to fill in any oopsies on the seams of the body prior to varnishing

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The aluminum arrives! It came on a pallet 12' long. Three sheets of .050 4'x8' and two sheets of .050 5'x12'. They put it on the top of my truck. It was interesting unloading by myself.

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I wound up using a couple of boards to slide the individual sheets right onto the roof or the trailer.

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Didn't have enough vacation time to start skinning, so I went back to work on the inside. Bunk bed mockup. She's going to have the best view in the house.

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Aaaaaaand finally. Back from work, the aluminum starts to go on:

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Another batch of good weather and I decided to blind all of my neighbors. It was like a beacon and they all came staggering over to see like moths to the flame :D

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I got another boss somewhere along the way

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Shiny

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Galley hatch mostly works. I need to trim a little off the forward edge where the hinge attaches, along with putting a shim under the dome light to change the angle. I've also decided on a different latch mechanism, so I'll need to remove plan A and make some covers for the openings inside and out. I'll be picking up some gas struts in the next few days as well.

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Which brings us up to today. Door production progresses:

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Fender undercoating and painting with Rustoleum Stainless Steel followed by some layers of clear coat:

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Fenders back on, door and hatch jambs painted with semigloss black:

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Now I work on little things while waiting for some trim and other parts to show up in the mail :)

- Louis (Edited due to Photobucket's change of rules)
Last edited by Louisd75 on Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby tony.latham » Sun May 21, 2017 9:35 pm

Super build! :thumbsup:

Tony
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby KTM_Guy » Sun May 21, 2017 10:24 pm

So looking at your build I think you were set at the start with tools. :lol: My wife is the greatest but I never will hear her say "Buy the tools you need." :worship:

One thing you can't buy is the talent you have to use those tools. Nice work!

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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Louisd75 » Mon May 22, 2017 10:04 am

KTM_Guy wrote:So looking at your build I think you were set at the start with tools. :lol: My wife is the greatest but I never will hear her say "Buy the tools you need." :worship:

One thing you can't buy is the talent you have to use those tools. Nice work!

Todd


Thanks, but the flip side of the tool freedom is that there is no reason for anything in the house to not work. We bought our house as liveable but in need of work, so the trailer frequently takes the back burner. It's been just over two years since the first masking tape went down to layout the trailer frame and I think she's ready to have some of her garage space back. Up until I started working with the skins and trim pieces the rules were that I had to be able to park her car in the garage at the end of the day. That's why in a lot of pictures there's stuff piled on/around the trailer. Now I have an inspection date (June 7th!) so the trailer has to be roadworthy by then. I don't think I'm too far off and I've got some good momentum, but there are still plenty of things that could crop up to miss the deadline.

- Louis
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby KCStudly » Mon May 22, 2017 2:21 pm

tony.latham wrote:Super build! :thumbsup:


Amen. Fabulous. I have planned all along to use the gloss black jamb treatment on side doors and hatch seal area (in fact I already trimmed my inner door seal flange and 'toe kick' spacer with it), but haven't gotten all the way to that stage yet, so am glad to see that looks good on yours.

And, hey, if you don't need anymore tools, you could always buy more clamps (witness pile-o-clamps in above pic^). :D
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby S. Heisley » Mon May 22, 2017 5:58 pm

:o Beautiful! Thanks for sharing! :applause:
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Louisd75 » Mon May 22, 2017 6:55 pm

KCStudly wrote:
tony.latham wrote:Super build! :thumbsup:


Amen. Fabulous. I have planned all along to use the gloss black jamb treatment on side doors and hatch seal area (in fact I already trimmed my inner door seal flange and 'toe kick' spacer with it), but haven't gotten all the way to that stage yet, so am glad to see that looks good on yours.

And, hey, if you don't need anymore tools, you could always buy more clamps (witness pile-o-clamps in above pic^). :D


I've found the equation for the perfect number of clamps: Perfect number of clamps = Present number of clamps + 5. :) Lowes puts the Irwin Quick Grip clamps on sale every November. You can usually find the four or six packs for the regular price of the two pack. And Home Depot does the spring clamps at a buck a piece. I just buy a few here and there and before you know it you've got enough clamps for anything :D

I used Rustoleum semigloss black enamel out of a can for the jambs. I brushed it on but it self leveled somewhat and came out much smoother than I expected. I got another package of trim strips today but the weather today has been too nice to work on the trailer so I went canoeing. Tomorrow I should be back to the grindstone, I think I'm caught up on vitamin D for a while.

- Louis
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby dmdc411 » Wed May 31, 2017 12:32 pm

Looks great! I too took quite a while to build my Tear. Work, home projects, the summer sun heating the garage up along high humidity, all worked into the delays here! It'll get done, and you'll appreciate all the hard work. My wife to said buy the tools you need to do it! I also know it can be a catch 22! She will buy something she wants!! Looks great, can't wait to see the finished product!

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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Dirtclod » Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:52 pm

WOW ... just WOW !!!. I love that.

I am not even 1/2 way finished with my first but my next will be a rain drop

Great Job so far !!!!
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Gunguy05 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 6:53 am

Man!

How did I miss this?

Oh yeah, I haven't been on the tnttt in a while :thumbdown:

That's looking great. Glad to see another raindrop(ish) brother in the mix of things. It's looking fantastic. You are making that front curves look easy!

Good work and keep the pics coming... I'm following now!
Brian


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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Louisd75 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:40 am

Gunguy05 wrote:Man!

How did I miss this?

Oh yeah, I haven't been on the tnttt in a while :thumbdown:

That's looking great. Glad to see another raindrop(ish) brother in the mix of things. It's looking fantastic. You are making that front curves look easy!

Good work and keep the pics coming... I'm following now!


The front curves weren't too bad using the flexible plywood. Here's what you can do with a 4x8 sheet that flexes on the long side (you can get it so that it flexes on the short side as well)

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The only real snags I ran into when making the front were that the tongue box made it more difficult to make the cuts and measurements. You think that you have everything square until the next step doesn't line up. Oh well. The big snag I had was that I built the roof off of the trailer and when I installed it I didn't catch that it was 1/4" too far forward, which really didn't help with squaring up the front vertically. I wound up using the router with a circle cutting attachment to trim it back to the right shape, but I don't think I got it perfect. I did get it close enough that I was able to use thickened epoxy to fill in the gaps.

The flexible plywood was a bit thin at 1/8", but I found that by gluing the second layer onto the first layer that it really stiffened things up. Adding the aluminum skin made everything rock solid. I would definitely do it this way again if I build another trailer. The only downside that I found with the flexible stuff is the price. It ran about $40 a sheet and I needed five sheets; two for the front, two for the hatch and one for the radius underneath. I was able to use leftovers for the tongue box and inside over the wheel wells and lower bunk area. I played around with a couple of scraps and found that it would follow the 3" radius curve that I used for the front window corners without any trouble, which is pretty neat if you need to curve around a tight radius but don't want to deal with kerfing or trying to steam bend plywood.

-Louis
Last edited by Louisd75 on Sun Sep 17, 2017 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Louisd75 » Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:40 pm

So, I'm in the process of updating/fixing my original post since I previously had all my images on Photobucket. Not the end of the world, it'll just take a little bit of free time to get it all squared away again. In the meantime, here are some more recent progress pics.

Got my taillights installed. I went back and forth over the oval/grommet style but I was hesitant because I'd need to cut four perfectly positioned and matched holes in the back of the trailer (two for stop/turn, two for backup). Then I ran across these guys on eTrailer. They're surface mount with one small hole in the middle for the wire to pass through. The chrome trim ring covers the hardware.

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Did some more work on the doors. I'm still working on the trim that will cover the corners and edge. I've gotta do the cutouts to allow the latch to work. The trim won't touch the hinges, so I'm trying to hide some of my seams behind the hinges

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I had a couple of holidays with the black Sikaflex I've been using to hold this thing together. I had some squeeze out that got smeared on the inside. I wound up ripping some thin pieces of cherry and some strips of flexible plywood and rigging up a mask:

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Wound up doing that above all the front windows and I have plans of doing something similar below the windows as well.

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I tried out the bunk in couch configuration. I'll do a couple small lips on the floor to hold it in position. I also need to fill in the two holes, the piece of plywood was originally for something else.

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I had another sunny day, so out into the driveway it went:

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I'm currently removing each piece of trim, sealing the screw holes and then putting it back on. It's slow and not very glamorous especially since the kiddos seem to know the least convenient time to ask for help. Fortunately, I haven't gotten any glue into anybody's hair. Yet.

Up Next: A whole bunch of more work.

- Louis
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby S. Heisley » Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:58 pm

It's looking mighty fine, Louis. :SG
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby tony.latham » Sun Sep 17, 2017 10:25 am

What a fantastic example of a home-built 'drop.

Looking forward to seeing it parked in the woods.

Tony
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Re: Rough Road Raindrop (lotsa pics)

Postby Louisd75 » Sat Mar 17, 2018 1:23 am

Ok, so I'm still going on this, albeit in bursts of productivity instead of daily progress. But now things are different. I've got all sorts of reservations. I've got another inspection appointment scheduled (had to cancel the previous one), and, more importantly, I've got a camping trip planned and the trailer would make things much easier. So, back at it.

Lots of the work has been little things. I've got the wiring pretty much squared away from the tow vehicle connection back. I've still got to run the wiring from the brakes to the lead coming from the brake controller, but that won't be too difficult. All of the other lights are working for both driving and living. Well, except the dome light in the galley. I'm not sure I'll have that wired in time for the trip, but we can make do.

One problem that I ran into and that I'm not real thrilled about is the different wiring schemes used between the marine electrical lighting and the trailer specific lighting. One uses black and white, one uses red and black. One black is ground, the other black is positive. The other issue I ran into is that somewhere along the way I wound up with a trailer wiring diagram that just flat out didn't work for my harness. I wound up having to test every pin coming off the truck to figure out what it was doing. That's all squared away and it wasn't really a big deal except now the wiring colors I used don't jive with any sort of industry standard. Oh well.

In other news, I've made great progress on the front windows. My original plan was to buy Camp Inn's windows and build the front of the trailer around them. Except Camp Inn wasn't interested in selling them. And so began the window saga. Plan B was to make my own out of Polycarbonate and rubber trim-lok gasket material, similar to how they do windows on buses. Ordered the trim-lok, cut out my windows, got the trim-lock on and then the first hurdle. I could not glue the ends of the gasket together. I've made probably thousands of o-rings at work, but nothing was working. I looked into it a bit further and realized that Trim-Lok is EPDM and all of my experience has been with viton or buna. Ugh. Have no fear, 3m sells a special superglue specifically for EPDM. And it works really, really well. It's also great at gluing skin. In fact, I'd even bet it's better than regular superglue.

The second hurdle came when I tried to actually install the window. While Polycarbonate can be heat formed, the big window is 36" long, which is a tad too big for my oven. It will readily bend to the curve of the the trailer, so I figured no biggie, I'll just do the old string trick like with older style car windows. Nope. Round and round I went but couldn't get the string trick to work. I made up some tools similar to the "official" trim-lok install tools but no joy there either. Then I thought maybe I could trim a little off the window to make them smaller, recut and glue the gasket and try again. I did a couple of iterations of this plan until I removed too much material. I was a wee bit frustrated at this point, but fortunately my time at home ran out and I had to go back to work for a few months.

Once home I looked at it with fresh eyes and said to heck with it. I downloaded a trial version of AutoCad, drew up some trim rings and dropped the drawings into an email to my local CNC laser/router shop. They came back with a quote that was negligible compared to the amount of time I've already spent on the windows. I dropped the check off Monday morning and had my new trim rings Tuesday morning. Tonight, I got the front corner windows installed. I've got to take a few days off due to house guests, but I'm hoping the big front window goes as smoothly.

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There's a trim ring on the inside and outside. I measured and drilled the holes on the outside ring first, then clamped it and the inside ring together in place around the window opening. I used the same drill bit to mark where the holes needed to be drilled on the inside ring. I sanded the rings to knock the burs down and installed with SS torx head bolts on the outside and SS cap nuts on the inside. I was originally going to use Sika 221 to seal it all together, but I quickly realized that any kind of silicone or construction adhesive would be a tremendous mess. I wound up using Butyl tape instead, putting it between the outside flange and polycarbonate. In order to install the whole sandwich I used two long bolts through the middle holes to suck the inner ring and outer ring together. I then used the short bolts to finish drawing things together and tighten it up. There were a couple of spots that were a bit of work, particularly the aft corners of the window since there wasn't a lot of leverage to work with. All in all though I think this is going to work. I was debating whether I wanted to paint the trim rings, but I figure I can always come back and paint later (Ha! like that ever happens).

For what it's worth, I'm using 1/4" tinted polycarbonate that I ordered through TAP Plastics. Their prices are reasonable and if you live near a store they can cut on site. I went that route for my first set of windows and then ordered from them for my second set after I cut the first ones too short. I cut the radii in the corners and the triangular shaped windows using a jigsaw with a blade for plastic. They come with protective film, but I added a layer of masking tape before cutting. I went with polycarbonate over acrylic for impact resistance. Acrylic is more scratch resistant, but it's more likely to shatter if a rock gets kicked up into it. I can deal with scratches a lot easier than broken windows while on the road.
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