I just purchased a 97 civic dx with dings and dents on most of the panels. Im a sculptor by trade and since I don't really want stock panels anyways was considering simply making my own panels out of fiberglass. I was wondering if anybody had any experience doing this, if their are any legal issues i need to consider, and what sort of structural roles the panels play on my car. If anybody has any info or can direct me somewhere I would really appreciate it.
Well were are you from, as this will impact what you are alowed to do.
Baically most parts play some sort of structural role but ussually body pannels really only in the event of an acident.
What you can do is dictated by not just car rules but also road building rules and regualtions.
If you live in the uk like me then you will probibly have the horror of potholes and speed humps. you will have to take this into condideration when building body as if you make the ride height lower then obvoiusly navigating such obsiticales becomes a bit more difficult.
Any council can put in a speed hump upto 150mm heigh with out any concent from any one else, if you have a work cr park then there will probibly be a speed hump near you which you should go and measure.
in terms of what you can and cannot do then the best guide for this in simplisity terms is have a look at the SVA regualtions as if your car is considered to be seroiusly modified past the manufacutres expectations then you might be called in for a conformace check.
If you are going to make your panels out of fibre reinforced composite then there are a few things to think about. Firstly, you will need to use a benzanated resin so that it is fire resistant, or get an aprotiate additive.
Most good quality products are produced with use of a mould which as a sculpter then i am sure you will be more than qualifed to fashion from a styling perspective.
However structually you have to rember that there is alot of work that you will have to put in to making your mould. I asume you want it to mount on your exicting mounting points for your body panels, therefore you will need to make a +ve mould first and then take a negative from it.
There are a number of ways of creating fibre reinforcements, they all have diffrent uses and are aimed a diffrent production levels and qualites.
Hand wet dry laminating
these are the main ones.
For your purposes only the first 3 are suitable unless you are indending to make a number of them.
Hand laminating is a very messy, old fashioned way of doing it, means basilly laying the fabric and then burshing and rollering the resin into it, you end up with a high resin content. This means that its very heavy for the perfomace that you get out of it. Its easier to damage and will need replaicng sooner.
There are ways around this but it does take alot of practice to get it right, you will need to encorpate some sort of uv protection into the gelcoat or the paint. The other problem is you will have to work in a very well ventilated area as you will be rolling around in a loverly lot of organic and inorganic solvents aome of which are carsonogenic.
Prepreg, this is a very expensive way of doing it, basically you buy all the fibre pre dipped in the resin and its indutrally treated so you achive a better resin fibre fration. Then its just like hand laminating, the only problem is that you need to keep all of your fibre in frezers to stop them curing, so if your making something sizeable you will need to borrow a local abotiur to store all your fibre in, to move it wou will need refrigerated trucks/van etc.
This is relaivly easy most of the work goesinto the mould making. Most of the moulds are made out of hand laminated fibre compsite and they are genrally very thick and heavy but then again you dont need to move them that oftern so its not to much of a big deal.
Once you have made your mould then you polish the gel coat on the inside of the mould and apply a relese agent (floor polish works well with certain resins. You then lay the fibre dry in the mould and apply a bag which in essence is a big polethene sheet, but dont go to your local builder mechant to buy it. you use tacky tape around the edge (you can buy this at the builders meerchant its used for mounting glass panels on sky scrapers and its 1/2 the price in this from than the specialist stuff from a dealer)
You will need to put pleates in around the edgests to alow for curveture etc and apply a vacuum, with a full vacuum you get a presure of 10 tonnes per sq metre., you then prime the resin lines and let it go.
Wait for a while depending on the hardener and you you have you nice pannel.
Thanks for the info,
Im in the US, California. Ive done the hand laminating, but i did not realize it was heavy, ive only compared it to steel and such. Guess im gonna have to do a bit more evaluating since the main reason i was planning on doing my own design was to save me some cash. But if it is going to be significantly heavier then I may just go buy one...
well the average handlamination is about the same weight as steel as you need the thickness to geth the same stiffness. email me and we can discuss it further.