June 6, 2007 From plumbers to mobile mechanics and ambulance services, specific industries rely on suitably equipped vehicles to cater to their particular needs, but why build these vehicles from the ground-up when a more efficient way forward can be found through utilizing a common platform and modifying it to meet any objective. This is the premise behind the Transformer Top, a system developed with the aid of boat building skills that turns a four wheel drive pickup into a dedicated vehicle for almost any application.

Based at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Special Vehicle Projects (SVP) started with the creation of a Transformer Top for a recovery vehicle based around a Vauxhall Brava pick-up for the AA in Britain. The enterprise has since expanded to cater for vehicles destined for use by fire and ambulance authorities as well as Special Forces. Production has now exceeded 3,500 units bringing significant benefits to the Island's economy estimated at £30 million over the last 10 years.

The light-weight glass fibre moulds are produced in-house by SVP and then fitted-out customer requirements. The tops are designed to be permanent, with lockable water resistant doors and side accessing gull wing doors. Options are provided for rear doors, ladder racks and emergency lighting with the internals specifically tailored to customer requirement.

The Tops have been fitted to the Mitsubishi L200 and Ford Ranger with Transformer recently gaining approval from Nissan for its Navara model. All have tops matched perfectly in gel coat to their base colour and special shades can also be supplied.

“Fitting a Transformer can actually enhance resale values of trucks,” says SVP managing director Brian Bailey. “While other tops are a low value, frequently disposable item the Transformer is seen as a valuable add-on and is often the reason for buying the truck in the first place.”

Although designed to be permanently fitted to the vehicles, the success of this approach might encourage some lateral thinking in regard to interchangeable units - why switch vehicles to go camping on the weekend when you can just remove your tool unit and slot in the ready to go camping top.

The Transformer Top is also an example of the successful transfer of skills between the boat building and automotive industries. “Transferring the boat building skills readily found on the Island to the automotive sector has given SVP a far more durable and attractive product than rivals developed purely in the automotive sector,” according to Brain Bailey.