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THUM have been quite loud rumblings recently in scientific, engineering, and sports-car circles, relating to fibreglass. Leaving out the technical side of this newest form of bodywork. we will content ourselves with discussing its practical aspect.
R. G. S. (” Dick Shattoek had one of his sports-car chassis on view at the recent Plastics Exhibition, with the all-enveloping 2/3seater open sports body seen in the accompanying photograph. It was displayed on the Bakelite stand, because their resins were employed for the bonding process. It is of the increasingly popular sort in which the bonnet carries lamps and radiator grille, ete.,. and hinges upwards from the front to provide access to the engine, the tail similarly hinging upwards from the hack to reveal tank, back axle, spare wheel, etc. The DB2 Aston Martin has this sort of bonnet and in the Kieft sports car both bonnet and tail binge thus.
Shattock, on behalf of R.G.S. Automobile Components and the North-East Coast Yacht Building & Engineering Co., Ltd., who are sponsoring these fibreglass shells for sports chassis, claims that he had the only fibreglass product on view at the exhibition that was on sale to the public, and that experts acclaimed the quality of what was an experimental body as only partially finished.
Other fibreglass bodies have been built in this country and the technique is being developed by some of the big Ameriean automobile manufacturers. A Buckler is running about endowed by the Dynasteel Company with a fibreglass body formed of about 14 panels, this car constituting a useful mobile demonstrator for the firm’s fibreglass products in general. A nose-piece for an Allard has been made in fibreglass, and Universal Laminations supply fibreglass tops for Morris Minor, M.G., Healey and other Open cars.
But. when We heard that Shattock’s firm has already received orders for fourteen fibreglass bodies, three of which are being exported to Canada, one with a complete R.G.S. chassis as well, we thought it time we Motored to that pleasantly rural part of Berkshire where he operates to ” see for ourselves.”
In a nutshell : what does fibreglass offer the amateur specialbuilder who, front time immemorial, has been faced with the difficult task of constructing a body for his chassis when the latter is complete? It is largely a question of cost and convenience. For £92, carriage paid, R.G.S. Components offer the aforesaid body to suit chassis of 7 ft. 6 in. to 9 ft. wheelbase, 4 ft. to 4 ft. 8 in. track, and scuttle height of about 2 ft. 9 in. The body comes in four parts—bonnet. tail and two doors. It is finished in undercoat, and drawings and instructions make the fitting of it to the chassis and attachment of doors, etc., a job within the scope of those who have already built their own ehassis in their own Workshop.
The shell, as supplied, requires a frame, but this is reasonably easily fabricated from steel tube and alloy sheet, particularly as the body shape is already established by the shell itself. A ” field pack ” of fibreglass, resin, accelerator and strengthening cellophane is provided, and with this the structure can be built up where required, holes and vents introduced, brackets bonded in, and so on.
The finished body is perhaps a shade heavier than an equivalent alloy shell, although if required comparable weight reduction is possible at the expense of thin panels. The fibreglass body is so strong you can at tack it with a hammer and jump on the door panels without damaging them. It is impervious to sea water, acid and racing fuels. It is about ten times as resistant to age/corrosion as aluminium. Being resilient it does not develop vibration cracks, does not ” drum,” does not damage easily in a ” prang.” Painting is as straightforward as for a conventional body, and the cost Is not much more than half that of an equivalent alloy panel body. Moreover, if the fibreglass body is damaged, or if alterations are required to vents or orifices in its panels, the amateur can bond in new pieces to fill holes, which in a metal structure would require an ugly plate, or. if the result of an accident, heating out by an expert ” panel hasher…
Those, briefly, are the claims for R.G.S. Components’ fibreglass bodies. Dirk Shattoek is anxious to answer criticisms of the new medium, but. asks that those who aim them should have first seen a fibreglass body for themselves.
For our part we were naturally impressed by the surprising strength of this substance which is woven into a mat from the minutest glass fibres and hardened with Polyester resin, found it lighter than we expected for its normal thickness of about 0.25 in., and met fewer ” disadvantages ” than expected. Indeed, once the art of manipulating the bonding process has been acquired. the workshop enthusiast is going to have the time of his life finishing his body and adding equipment to it.
The technique of producing fibreglass is beyond the amateur builder and consequently he must use the R.G.S. body or go without. It is a handsome, modern, all-enveloping shell suitable to the great majority of chassis. The required metal ” under-body,” acting as stiffener and providing wheel arches, etc., is easier to make than the tubular shell required for a ” panel bashed” shell and full instructions are given. Moreover, you can see what the B.G.-S.. body looks like before yOu buy it, whereas an alloy shell will only look right if the framework presented to. the metal-worker is ” spot on.” A similar alloy body could cost £1504:110 ; the fibreglass shell costs £92, carriage paid, plus a few simple tubes and sheets for its ” underbody.” Fibreglass is repairable, while metal is not, and is vastly more adaptable and durable. It is inflammable only under applied flame.
The aircraft industry is confident that fibreglass has a big future and already America has built many fibreglass bodies. It is pleasing to discover that Britain seems to have the lead in this field, as, from data available. American open sports bodies would seem to cost about twice that of a finished R.G.S. body. R.G.S. hope soon to introduce a 0132 style coupe, with or without detachable ” lid.”
We saw enough during our investigation to suggest that thosewho are facing the perennial problem of providing bodywork for a ” special ” would be well advised to call at either R.G.S. Automobile Components, Ltd., Brookside Garage, Winkfield, Windsor, Berkshire, or the North East Coast Yacht Building & Engineering Co., Ltd., Beach Road, Blyth, and discuss the matter.