MAX Update No. 46: Working With the Fiberglass Body

| 5/15/2010 1:46:20 AM

One problem with using the Lola Mk 1 nose is it's too narrow for our purposes. MAX's wheels are spaced a little wider apart than the Lola's, and due to such challenges as parallel parking and U-turns on country roads, street cars need to steer more sharply than race cars. So in brief, I either need to move the fenders apart some, or wear earplugs to block that annoying tire-rubbing-on-fiberglass grunch grunch sound every time I turn the steering wheel. Actually, there's another option, and I kind of wish it had come to me before I grabbed the Sawzall, but more on that later.

MAX46SplitNoseSo anyway, that dark line down the middle of the hood isn't a racing stripe, it's a slice. It veers off to the right (the right side of the car, that is) for a moment because the hood has a bulge in it to clear something on the original engine (circa 1958). That bulge, or “bubble,” or “speed bump,” or whatever folks call those things nowadays, almost covers the turbocharger. It's so “almost” it brings tears to my eyes, but it doesn't quite work. So I'll be dusting off the Sawzall again and moving the bubble a few inches to the the steering wheel side of the car. The sticks and clamps hold the two halves of the nose in position with each other.

For those of you unfamiliar with fiberglass reinforced plastic (or just plain "fiberglass" as it's often called), the stuff is remarkably versatile and it's pretty entertaining to work with, but there are a few tricks to the trade. First and foremost, don't get any of the materials in your eyes — not the resins, not the fabrics, not the cleaners, and not the shards of the blades you bust when you pinch a swblade while cutting. Safety glasses are the minimum, safety goggles are better, and I usually wear a full coverage hood (yes, it has a window) that I got from an auto paint store, which I ventilate with a whitewater raft inflating motor (left over from my misspent youth). I don't even have my air source in the same room with me, the hose is about 20 feet long and that's a long enough leash for my needs.

Also, don't wear clothes you'll ever want to wear anywhere else. I guarantee you will get resins and other nonwashable fluids on your clothes, and these clothes will become your go-to outfit for your crummiest jobs from that day forward. When your spouse says, “Honey, would you mind going into the crawl space under the house, I think a family of skunks moved in,” you'll say, “Sure thing! Now what did you do with the shirt and trousers I wore when I was fiberglassing? You didn't throw them out, did you?”

You will also want to wear medical exam gloves or their industrial equivalent. All the building supply stores carry them nowadays. They're thin latex, they come in boxes of 100, and I use them once and throw them away. Cleaning them to reuse is counterproductive, in my opinion; I believe that cleaning these gloves harms the environment more than discarding them does.

And speaking of the environment, how do I justify building this body with petroleum products (and using petroleum-based cleansers and throwing my gloves in the trash at the end of the day)? Because if using a few gallons of fiberglass resin at the beginning saves a few barrels of fuel over the life of the car, then it's a good investment. Besides, my pants and shirt were about ready for the dumpster, and fiberglassing has extended their usefulness.

Jack McCornack
6/1/2010 10:11:18 AM

Regarding big vs. little... --- I want to take a 1975 Lincoln Mark V Town Coupe...Why? To prove that an efficient car doesn't have to be a dinky little thing that can barely haul two people, let alone a decent amount of stuff. --- ...I chose a dinky little thing on purpose, because 90+% of my driving is either me solo (and with no more stuff than fits on the passenger side floorboard) or me and one other person, and I think my driving habits are typical in this society. What you do to make a big car efficient can be done to a small car even more efficient. (and ps Michael, the alternative is mentioned in MAX Update #47, which should be live by now)

5/29/2010 11:03:16 AM

"Actually, there's another option, and I kind of wish it had come to me before I grabbed the Sawzall, but more on that later." He failed to mention the solution other than cutting the front clip in half. And the idea of taking a "boat" like that 1975 Lincoln Mark V Town Coupe is a bad idea for two main reasons. 1: Excessive size that is so far beyond what is reasonably needed for it's intended use. 2: Excessive weight because of the Excessive size. The power to weight ratio will have to be real small to be efficient as you want to burn less fuel (AKA less power)to be more efficient. That is why the manufactured weight issue of modern cars is such a big issue! Sure you can install a 30 CID 25 HP single cylinder Diesel in it (with an original curb weight of 4500 to 5300 lbs) and drive it around and get better mileage than the original, but you will need a close ratio trans with 32 gears (think Big Rig hauling 80,000 lbs) and it will take you 8 minutes to get up to 45 MPH on flat ground! And don't think that pulling out that 460 cid engines weight will work miracles, because adding a hydraulic system, or batteries to drive it has weight of it's own. And just like those Big Rigs, the slightest hill will bring you down to a crawl!

Gregg E._3
5/29/2010 1:19:17 AM

Where can I find practical information about hydraulic hybrid drive systems? The Mother Earth News ran some articles 30+ years ago on such vehicles. The articles are in the archives on the website. What I'd like to build is a bit grander than the VW Beetle chassis with a first generation Kelmark GT kit car body. (The second version was much slicker and far better looking.) I want to take a 1975 Lincoln Mark V Town Coupe, which got the worst MPG (one got as low as 7!) of any vehicle ever tested by some car magazines, and convert it to hydraulic hybrid drive. The engine bay, minus 460ci engine and C6 transmission, is huge! Plenty of room for hydraulic tanks etc. With 7MPG as a starting point, even 25 or 30 would be spectacular from a Mark V. Of course the rest of the mechanicals, electronics etc should get modernized too. Why? To prove that an efficient car doesn't have to be a dinky little thing that can barely haul two people, let alone a decent amount of stuff. Anyone want to sponsor such a project?

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