I wanted a rack that was quality, economical, easily removable/storable, and versatile. That's a tall order and I think I found all this plus a hoist point.
Thanks to 20% off at ORS Racks Direct, I only have $250 into the rack using the "extra10" coupon code!
I've read many threads regarding installing tracks on the top of the roof and a few about the artificial gutters. I chose the Thule artificial gutter approach as the hard top sides are going to be more load bearing, less impervious to water, less holes required, backing plate adding more structure, and a wider stance for longer bars.
Thule 387 8" High Gutter Foot Pack
Thule 542 Artificial Gutters
Thule LB65 Load Bars
A picture(s) is worth 1000 words...
I slid the artificial gutter backing plate up as high and as far back as it would go without being on-top raised "doubled up" section. Mounting here allows me to gain over 3 more inches of spread.
On the forward section of the hard top, I aligned the bracket up against the raised section again, but not all the way forward as it would have interfered with the freedom panel and I wanted to keep back from the edge by an inch or more for structural considerations as well. I chose to align the bracket with the bottom of the one angled "step" down in the raised portion, you may be able to see my pencil mark.
Both brackets drilled from the inside. That was the hard part! Triple checked bit size and bracket alignment. Now the fun begins.
I taped the outside to reduce splintering of the fiberglass.
Fairly clean holes. Use a sharp bit and let the drill do the work!
Using 100% silicone, I applied just enough to the base of the screw only within the first concentric rubber ring to help plug the hole. Thule provided a very nice rubber gasket with the 542 gutter pack and I did not want to render its seal ineffective with a bunch of silicone and/or epoxy. Time will tell if its watertight, but I'm fairly confident.
Note that the screws in the backing plate are not in the center. Make sure the plate is oriented so the hole are closer to the top of the roof in order to keep the bottom of the gutter away from the window.
A bit easier to see the pencil mark I used to align from the "step" down in the raised section.
I decided to go with 65" bars to give me a little more room for boats and a bit of an overhang makes it easier to slide the boat up there.
With the freedom panels off, the bar is just above the front of the sound bar and there is plenty of clearance to remove the panels.
I believe a critical detail is to not over-tighten the 542 artificial gutters or you'll just smash the rubber gasket. I tightened the nuts until I just started to see the gasket bow a little as shown here. You can also see a little bit of silicone oozed through the head of the carriage bolt. I believe the hole will be filled quite nicely.
Using the bracket mounting locations I chose, I was able to achieve a 35 1/2" spread which helps for transporting boats and cargo boxes.
If you needed to, there is about a 3" difference with the freedom panel gutter. This is perfect if you needed a longer span as the Thule 300 5" foot pack could be used on the front freedom panels to account for the 3" elevation difference.
Cockpit wedges nicely between the bars and the stern rocker of the boat should be as aerodynamic as it can get! Rear lift-gate also clears the boat.
After having a Gobi rack and then contemplating the MBRP, I think I found the solution that makes sense in both economics and convenience for those of us that don't plan on camping on top of our Jeep.