The present-day scarcity of really cheap sports cars and the high prices of the better ones have caused an increase in the number of home-made or ” special ” cars, consisting of modern proprietary components or adapted and modified parts of obsolete machines. This transformation can be undertaken, as regards the mechanical layout, without undue attention to appearances, but what of the bodywork? An all-steel or aluminium bodywork with a wooden or tubular steel framework is not easily constructed by the home builder with an eye to a professional finish. It is here that the fibreglass type of body comes into its own.
The advantages of this material for car bodywork are immediately apparent on examining the finished example. The whole shell weighs only about 65 lb. and is supplied in its untrimmed state, without mountings, for £49 in the case of the Stiletto and £58 for the Mistral, this latter type being constructed for longer wheelbases (7 ft. 6 in.), although this measurement may be altered slightly by trimming the shell to fit the chassis in question. A number of extras may be had at small additional cost, namely mounting tubes, wheel arches, doors, bonnet hatches, and complete sets of mounting tubes and cockpit hoops.
The production method is as follows. A complete mould, itself made of fibreglass, with detachable sections, is first waxed and then sprayed with a thin layer of coloured plastic, which is allowed to dry. A layer of glass matting is then cut to the required shape and is fitted into the mould, being pressed into the exact contour by dabbing the plastic on with a stiff brush. Further layers of glass mat and plastic are applied in the same way, and a final layer of open weave cloth is applied, and all air expelled by dabbing from the centre outwards with the brush. Finally the mould is split and the complete body shell withdrawn. A point to note here is that the insides of these moulds are highly polished, and the amateur who undertakes to make his own body, as he can well do, is unlikely to achieve the apparently easily obtained glossy exterior without first doing this. Kits of materials and instructions are available and complete bodies or small sections only can be made up. With regard to repairs after a severe impact, these can be carried out quite simply if the broken pieces are retained, the actual repair being carried out on the back surface by putting on more glass mat and plastic and then buffing and repainting the outer surface.
This method of construction can be applied to other projects than car bodies, notable examples being boat hulls and caravan shells, in the case of the latter one prominent manufacturer is now producing a complete van in this material, and new small boats have been available for some years; in some cases an old hull may be used as a mould to make a new glass-fibre vessel, or a thin skin of the substance applied for strengthening and weather-proofing, illustrating the varied uses of this reinforced plastic material in different fields.—I. G.
Makers: Micron Plastics (Microplas Ltd.), Block “N,” James Estate, Mitcham, Surrey.