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Old 07-05-2016, 03:49 PM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Newton, Kansas
Default Custom Volvo 740/940 wagon heavy duty roof rack

My friend and I are both carpenters, and we like Volvos. He uses a '91 745 as his work vehicle, and I recently picked up a '93 945 Turbo. He has been using a cheap roof rack to haul small loads, but it wasn't doing the job. I wanted to find a heavy duty roof rack that could haul ladders, sheets of plywood, drywall, etc. This design would also work for a 245, but I assume the dimensions would be different.

After spending some time looking at good off the shelf options and thinking about the features we both wanted, I decided to build my own. I was most interested in the Ford/Chevy van racks from Tuff Racks. Unfortunately, their racks are too wide to work out of the box. Shortening the cross pieces would have been an option, but I decided to do things the hard way.

I designed my rack based on the Tuff Racks design, with some changes. We wanted no vertical uprights to extend above the cross piece. One of the great things about loading a Volvo wagon roof rack is being able to slide things on and off at chest height. I also want to be able to occasionally haul things wider than 48" (stretch drywall is 52"). The rack is only about 50" wide. The 4" wide upright means I can easily lay a 2x4 on top of each rail to haul wider things. I decided to weld my rack instead of bolting it like they did. In one of their videos, you can see that they use pressed in star nuts in each end of the cross pieces. The strength of their racks depends completely on the star nut and bolt at each crosspiece/upright connection. Welding added a lot of strength, but it also meant a lot more work.

My rack has three rails; my friend's has two. Adding a third rail added a lot of complexity, but I wanted to be able to haul and strap short items. The gutters on the 940 are not level or parallel. The gutters are farther apart at the front of the car than at the rear, and higher in the middle than at the front or back. I wanted all three rails to be in the same plane, so a ladder would rest evenly on all three. That meant figuring out the exact lengths of the rails for each location and figuring out the heights of each so that they ended up in the same plane. Each rail is built specifically for its location on the car.

I used my laser level to plot the six points and Sketchup to locate those points relative to a plane. In the end, my rails are dead even and I'm very happy with how everything turned out. In case anyone else has the urge to build a custom roof rack for their 745/945, my work might make their job a little easier.

Feel free to ask any questions.


Pipe: 1-5/16" OD 3/16" wall (aluminum 6061 alloy)

Front: 50-1/8"
Middle: 49-13/16"
Rear: 49-9/16"

Source: local metal supplier


Flat bar: 1/4" x 4" (aluminum 6061 alloy)

Front: 6"
Middle: 5-5/8"
Rear: 6"

Source: local metal supplier


Flat bar: 1/8" x 2-1/2" (stainless steel T-304 alloy)

bent: 3/4" x 2" x 3/4"
(bottom at ~95 degrees overbend)

Source: OnlineMetals.com

J-Bolt (hook style)

5/16"-18 x 2-1/16" (stainless steel)

Source: FarmTek.com

Lock bolts

6mm x 20mm with locking nut (stainless steel)

Source: local hardware


$44.92 OnlineMetals.com (SS flat bar)
$68.48 metal supplier (aluminum)
$26.35 FarmTek.com (J-bolts)
$43.35 hardware store (cutting/drilling supplies)
$30.00 machine shop (bracket bending)
$24.52 hardware store (SS bolts)

$237.62 Total (5 rails)

$95.05 2 Rails
$142.57 3 Rails


I cut the uprights to length with a 10" cutting wheel in an old miter saw. I put a bevel on the bottom of each upright (approximately 30 degrees) to match the angle of the roof gutters). I cleaned everything up with my bench belt sander.

I cut the 3/4" and 1-1/8" holes with standard bi-metal hole saws and a drill press. I cleaned them up with a handheld deburring tool.

I paid a local machine shop to cut the brackets to length and bend them. I drilled the 5/16" J-bolt holes and 1/4" locking bolt holes in the brackets on a drill press. I don't have a diagram for those, but it should be pretty straight forward. I drilled the corresponding locking holes in the uprights after the rails were placed on the car and the J-bolts in the brackets were partially tightened. Because the brackets are at an angle relative to the uprights, it takes a bit of finessing to get the holes to light up. I used 6 mm bolts for locking because they fit better through the angled 1/4" holes.

I designed the rack to allow for regular use of the sunroof with no interference.


Thanks for reading!
1996 855 R (red) 218k miles
1993 945 T (white) 207k miles
1993 244 (black) 264k miles
1992 244 (blue) 260k miles
1958 444 (jalopy)
1988 245 DL (tan) 221k (sold)
1978 245 (white) 200k (sold)
1990 244 (red) 241k (parted and sold)
1991 944 GLE (black) 194k (parted and crushed)
1988 745 (green) 260k (parted and crushed)
1975 245 (white) 75k (parted and crushed)

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Old 07-05-2016, 10:20 PM   #2
Old Iron
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Dela-Where?

Interesting design, first thing I thought was "what about the racks on work vans" but you answered that. I honestly having been holding out on finding the nicest set of rails at the junkyard. Have been wanting to mod a set of those for a while now, but have never pulled the trigger on buying a set. Love to see that you took the less traveled path!

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No sarcastic replies from Redwood Chair necessary
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Old 07-06-2016, 10:22 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Örebro, Sweden

Nice fabrication
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