Modifying Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform to work with Bestop Sunrider

TheMAnderson

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So, first, I bought a gutter mount rack that turned out to be noisy and heavy, and it interfered with the rear doors and damaged them when I opened them. The one positive was that it worked flawlessly with our Sunrider, which my wife particularly likes for when we take drives and trips together. Nonetheless, I returned the offending rack in favor of a 72" x 56" Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform with RCL legs (this is the only size I'm aware of for the JLUR)

While I was reticent about drilling into the hardtop of a very expensive Jeep, I did like the load rating, especially as I can see myself perhaps owning a rooftop tent, one day. I also thought, from what I read, that it was supposed to work with the Sunrider, and, on that point, I was dead wrong - at least if it is mounted exactly according to the instructions. You can certainly take off and put on the freedom panels [carefully] - but it completely interfered with the Sunrider. Thus began my adventure in figuring out how to make it all work...

So, through several rounds of trial and error (and much frustration from my wife, who kept helping me hoist on and then remove the rack after testing the Sunrider's ability to fully open), I realized that it would work if the Pioneer Platform was mounted 22cm rearward of its normal position (since it's all bolted together, and conveniently has metric measurements marked in millimeter increments where the crossbars mount, this was pretty easy to figure out). Unfortunately, this also meant that the rear of the rack was hanging about 5 1/2" past the back of the hard top, which, to my delicate sensibilities, looked absolutely hideous.

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So, realizing that the rack was just made of bolted-together aluminum extrusions, I surmised that I could cut it down a bit to bring the rear flush to the rear of the hardtop, and, after thinking to myself that I had drilled several holes in my hardtop to mount this sucker in the first place, so why not chop up a brand new $1500 roof rack!?!

So, I started by completely disassembling the Pioneer Platform...

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Picked up a non-ferrous blade at Home Depot for the cheap old miter saw that my mom had purchased for some DIY project and then gave to me after it had collected dust in her garage for several years (I will say that it's come in very handy on many projects, since I became a homeowner a few years ago)...

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I used a c-clamp to secure a 2x4 off-cut, that was lying around, as a stop-block to ensure that I would be cutting the exact same 5 1/2" length from all of the lengthwise rack pieces. I also put masking tape over the section of each extrusion that was being cut, which also came in handy later, as you'll see. I also used another off-cut piece of wood and my bodyweight to hold the extrusion in place as I cut it - and the non-ferrous blade cut through it like butter. NOTE: while you should always wear eye protection when using a miter saw, it's absolutely critical here, as the aluminum shavings fly everywhere. I had to vacuum as much up from the saw and the extrusion as I could, after each cut.

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I also had to do two cuts on each of the 5 middle extrusions, as this miter saw is, unfortunately, not one of the sliding variety, so it couldn't cut all the way across. Fortunately, my stop-block worked like a champ!

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I also had to drill holes on the end pieces to match the holes in the original ends. This was simple enough after a bit of measuring and marking...

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And here is where that masking tape also came in handy... I used some satin black Rustoleum to paint the ends, so no shiny bits would show (I know that I don't need to worry about the aluminum rusting).

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It all seemed to come out great, with the exception of a bit of one of the end pieces that had a sharp ridge. I filed it off and then, not wanting to chance spray paint without it being taped off, especially on a very visible section, I brushed on a bit of Mopar black hard top touch-up paint on the bit that I filed.

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Then I just had to go through the semi-painful process of reassembling the Pioneer Platform...

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And mounted it to the Jeep...

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So with that, you can get a Rhino Rack Pioneer Platform to work well with a Bestop Sunrider, but it certainly involves some extra warranty-voiding work on the Pioneer Platform.

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toblerthedog

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Nice write-up. I thought about doing this as well...however, I have a small light bar mounted to the front of my RR Platform that would have required a few more inches to be removed/set back to accommodate a Sunrider. In the end, didn't think it was worth it.

Glad to see this worked out for you.
 

Star404

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Thanks for sharing, OP. I'm looking to achieve the same sunrider + pioneer platform results

I would be cutting the exact same 5 1/2" length from all of the lengthwise rack pieces.
From your experience, would you say that a 60 x 56 platform would fit the backbone mounts? It would be as if you cut another 6 1/2 on other end of your rack...
 
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TheMAnderson

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Thanks for sharing, OP. I'm looking to achieve the same sunrider + pioneer platform results



From your experience, would you say that a 60 x 56 platform would fit the backbone mounts? It would be as if you cut another 6 1/2 on other end of your rack...

It might - but it will probably be very tight. I can measure on mine tomorrow and let you know
 

rohdawg

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TheMAnderson

TheMAnderson

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Thanks for sharing, OP. I'm looking to achieve the same sunrider + pioneer platform results



From your experience, would you say that a 60 x 56 platform would fit the backbone mounts? It would be as if you cut another 6 1/2 on other end of your rack...
I measured, and it looks like the 60x56 should just fit - so this would probably be the best option to fit with the sunrider.
 
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TheMAnderson

TheMAnderson

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Great write up and I admire your willingness to experiment.
Anyone reading this and on the fence about getting the Rhino Rack could save themselves the trouble you went through and pick up the Frontrunner Extreme Slimline II Half rack. It does exactly what you’ve accomplished with your modifications.

https://www.frontrunneroutfitters.com/en/us/jeep-wrangler-jl-2017-curr-1-2-extreme-rr-kit.html

Just another option
That looks like a good option, and I like that it ties into the roll bar, but looks like it makes it harder to remove the hardtop. One thing I like about Rhino Rack's backbone system is that it still allows you to easily remove the hardtop.
 

rohdawg

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That looks like a good option, and I like that it ties into the roll bar, but looks like it makes it harder to remove the hardtop. One thing I like about Rhino Rack's backbone system is that it still allows you to easily remove the hardtop.
It’s a little more involved than the RR, but definitely do-able.
It’s a solid set-up and extremely versatile. I’m really happy with it. Like I said, just another option for anyone looking.
 

arabicsmith

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I measured, and it looks like the 60x56 should just fit - so this would probably be the best option to fit with the sunrider.
I would like to install a Sunrider as well as a Pioneer rack, and qould like to maximize the rack size without interfering with the Sunrider in the open position. Am wondering if I should go with a 60x56", a 60x54", or if another measurement is going to work best. Opinions?
 
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TheMAnderson

TheMAnderson

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I would like to install a Sunrider as well as a Pioneer rack, and qould like to maximize the rack size without interfering with the Sunrider in the open position. Am wondering if I should go with a 60x56", a 60x54", or if another measurement is going to work best. Opinions?
To get the absolute largest Pioneer Rack possible, you'd have to do what I did, as mine now measures 66.5 x 56" - so the largest off-the-shelf Pioneer Rack you could fit would be 60 x 56"
 
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