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Bodywork


The first official bodywork project is the scuttle.  I was not completely happy with the fiberglass unit that originally went with the car.  I liked the kick up that it had for the wind screen, but it broke up the lines of the hood and did not have a good shelf to support the hood with.  I wrangled with the decision to just use it as is or to make a new one with aluminum. 

The choice was made to go with a new one.  It needed to have a framework to support it and then be sheeted in aluminum.  I carefully made a frame using 1/8"x1" flat stock.  A small ring roller was used to make all the curves smooth and consistent.  I made sure that it followed the hood lines relative to the dash support all the way around by using a straight edge from the hood to the dash and building up to it.

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Posterboard template used to make a pattern for cutting the aluminum.  Looks like it will fit up perfectly.  Flanging the front lip should be the only real challenge as far as skinning it goes.

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8-13-06 - Interior Panels

Work has started on the interior panels on the car.  This is proving to be one of the more challenging of the projects.  It is not necessarily difficult, but requires many steps in order to make it go smooth.  Here is an idea of what it takes to do just one panel:

  1. Make a template from posterboard.

  2. Layout cuts on aluminum panel and cut from template.

  3. Layout holes in panel, then drill and debur holes.

  4. Dry fit panel to frame and clamp in place.

  5. Drill holes through frame and place a few clecos along the way to hold the panel in place.

  6. Remove panel and clean up mess.

  7. Apply finish to unpainted side of panel.

  8. Apply sealant to surface where panel is to go.

  9. Install panel and rivet into place.

I have made a good dent into things, but have put a LOT of time into it so far.  My philosophy to help keep my sanity is to tackle the hardest parts first...then the rest is easy.

I decided that I wanted to use the pre-painted aluminum panels on this project.  The only problem with them is that they are white on the sides that are not finished the specified color.  I chose black for the interior panels to keep with the overall orange/black theme of the car.  I did not want the whole interior to be a vast expanse of black and in figuring out how to deal with the white side of the panels, I came up with an idea.  I have seen some carbon fiber effect vinyl that looked pretty decent.  A trip to my local sign shop yielded a roll long enough to do all the places that I want on the car.  It seems to add just enough visual interest to keep the interior from being boring.  In addition, I think it will ultimately be more durable than painting that side.

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Since the tunnel was kicked out a bit on the passenger side to offer enough clearance for the drive shaft, paneling this section proved to be difficult.  It required creating many pieces with lots of bends in them.  Careful planning and measurement was required to make things fit well.  I am happy with how it turned out, but don't really want to do it again.

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8/27/06 - More Interior Panels

Work continues on the interior panels.  This little job has proven to be time consuming, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Most all of them have been at least been temporarily put into place.  The upper rear section is going to have to wait for a little bit.  My small sheet metal brake is not long enough to make the bend in this piece.  I was planning on building a simple 48" brake for the larger body panels in the future...looks like that will happen sooner than later.  An access hatch has been added to the panel on top of the firewall.  This is to make pedal adjustment and maintenance easier.

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9/5/06 - Sheet Metal Brake

Well, the time would come eventually where I would need something bigger than the 30" mighty bender brake that I was using.  Larger brakes get expensive fast, so I thought making my own 48" brake for doing light gauge steel and aluminum might be worthwhile.  The internet was a good source for examples of homemade brakes.  Using a combination of ideas of how to build the brake itself, about $40, and a couple of evenings...I have a 48" bench top brake...and it even works. :)

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10/1/06 - It's Gonna be Orange...

On Friday a couple of boxes showed up at my door.  Each contained five 2' x 5' colored aluminum panels from Performance Bodies.  UPS did their best to destroy one of the boxes, but nothing was damaged once I opened the boxes and checked the contents.  Oh...and it was very ORANGE...almost the exact color I was after.

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I decided to go with the pre-painted aluminum panels for a few reasons.  A fellow locoster sent me a sample a while back to play with.  The colored side has a VERY durable protective film that can take a lot of abuse.  The metal can be cut, drilled, formed, and shaped without damaging the finish underneath.  And that finish under the protective film is pretty nice.  I would say at least as nice as many OEM automakers.  I would say that it is pretty cost effective as well.  For roughly $280 shipped, there is more than enough material to do the entire body, including the hood and scuttle.  It would cost a good bit more just for the paint work alone...not to mention the aluminum material.

The new locost sheet metal brake was put to good use for making the two cockpit sides, as they were the longest pieces to be formed on the entire car.  They were the most straightforward panels to make, so I chose to get my feet wet with them.

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Moving up in the difficulty scale the rear portion of the body along with the rounded part of the cockpit were done next.  The rear body section has been divided into three sections to make the fabrication easier and more accurate overall and to make it a little easier if repairs are needed.  That panel was pretty straightforward to make...the bend around the corner was formed over a large diameter cardboard shipping tube.  The top was rolled over the 3/4" tube pretty easily and hammered to shape in the "corner".

The small panel that covers the rounded portion of the cockpit proved to be a bit challenging.  Shaping the metal over that 3/4" tube took a lot of clamping, hammering, and more clamping and hammering.  It would have been much easier if this were done in plain aluminum because it could have been annealed and shrunk with the right tools.  That is just not possible with the pre-painted panels.  I managed to make it work well enough, but it was not easy.  And best of all, the finish on the aluminum survived the beating that I gave it really well.

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10/10/06 - More ORANGE

The body is coming along nicely.  All the panels for the rear are done, but only held in place with some clecos for now.  Easy access will be nice while finishing up the fuel system.  This has been my first attempt with working/forming sheet metal and so far I am happy with the result.  It is not perfect, but lessons are being learned to make things easier for the future.

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The cockpit sides are now permanently in place.  The protective film was peeled back where the rivets needed to go, but the cool thing is that it can stay in place until the car is finished.  The scuttle is finished as well.  The skin proved to be more difficult to make than I thought it would be.  I nearly ruined a couple of hours of work at one point, but with some patience I got it to work out.  The problem was with the 1/8" step down on the front edge.  The material wants to buckle in those areas and due to the fact that the pre-painted aluminum can't be shrunk very well without ruining the finish.  In the end, I just cut those parts out.  That area will get covered by the hood gasket material so it will not really be noticed.

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11/16/06 - Firewall and Hatch

I finished the upper firewall along with a hatch to cover the pedal box access hole.  The upper firewall will be removable so that it is easy to get at the wiring and whatever is behind the dash.  There will be some gasket material at the bottom to seal between it and the interior.  The pedal box hatch is pretty straightforward.  A little bump was formed to clear the steering shaft.  There will be some insulation behind the bump as well.

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11/24/06 - Dash

The two halves of the dash were made.  The upper half will fixed and "permanently" mounted to the dash frame.  The center lower portion of the dash will have most of the switches and will be removable with just a few screws.  The whole thing will be covered with the carbon fiber vinyl material once all the switch and gauge holes are cut.

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12/5/06 - Tail Lights and Hood

I wrestled for a while with what style tail lights to use on the car.  They needed to be LED for high visibility, so that was a little bit of a limiter right there.  I really wanted two 2 1/2" round lights on each side mounted vertically, but all I could find round as a stop light was the big 4" ones.  All the smaller ones were just side markers and not bright enough to work as a brake light.  I ended up using some "oval" stop/turn/tail lights from Super Bright LEDs.  It was a good compromise from the look that I wanted.  Notice too that there are color matched rivets joining the three sections of the rear panel together.  I looked for a while but finally found some 1/8" colored rivets form Speedway Motors.  I was not looking forward to painting them by hand...

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One project I have been looking forward to is the hood.  It really defines the front shape of the car.  There have been plenty of other projects to keep me busy, but a lull in the action while waiting for some parts opened a window of opportunity to get the hood knocked out.

Rather than form it in one piece, I chose (well kind of was forced) to make it in three pieces.  The disadvantage is that the nice smooth one piece look is missing, but there are many advantages.  First, it was easy to form the sides accurately.  Another plus is that a bend pointing down was able to be made at each joint which supports the hood along the 36" long span down the middle.  This will keep the middle from sagging.  Finally if one part of the hood becomes damaged or needs to be altered, that section can easily be replaced or altered without having to build a new hood from scratch.  I am pretty happy with the fit.  In the pictures there are a few small gaps, but the hood is just resting in place as is.  Once some latches are put in place, they will draw the hood down and take up the gaps.  Also for now it is just temporarily riveted with only a few rivets.  It will probably have to come apart to get louvers in the center and possibly get a cut out for an air cleaner.  The color matched rivets will be used for final assembly.

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1/14/07 - Side Panels

I started working on the side panels.  Originally I wanted to make them one continuous piece that transitioned into the lower radius of the nose and to cover up the gap that is traditionally found on many seven clones.  I think that I am going to make that a two-piece affair to make it a little easier on myself.  For now, I have made the template for the rear main section.  It serves the purpose of venting the engine bay.  To me it seems to be a simple solution for getting a lot of hot air out of there and has been done on several cars so far.

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In other news, I talked with a painter on Thursday and he is ready to paint my fiberglass bits and will take them as soon as I have them ready to turn loose.  It should take him less than a week to get it all done.  Basically, once I get the rear fenders mounted and the front cycle wings mounted, they will be ready for him.  I hope that happens this week.


1/20/07 - Grille and Rear Fenders

I wanted to make an authentic "7" style grill for the car.  The nose is obviously not a Caterham part, so a custom grille is to be made.  I got a big leg up by finding (by way of friends on USA 7s) a guy in the UK selling laser cut emblems for a custom 7 grille.  It fits perfectly.  I will make the rest of it using 3/16" rod.  The "7" logo will be orange and the rest will be black.

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Once the car got some wheels and tires on, it became obvious that the rear fenders were going to need to be trimmed a little to keep the tires from rubbing if the suspension is on the bump stops.  It only needed trimming my about 3/4" all around.  I could have saved that trouble with wider fenders or a higher ride height, but I like the look of having the tires all the way out flush with the fenders and the ride height/suspension travel is right where I want that too.

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1/28/07 - Back from the Painter

The fiberglass parts all came back from the painter today.  They came out pretty well for the most part.  They are not show quality by any means, but that is not what I was after (or paid for).  Overall, there is a nice level of gloss and the color match to the aluminum panels is pretty darn close.  The car is going to be a track car, and the paint will sure get some abuse.  I plan on rolling on some truck bed liner material to the inside of the fenders to keep rocks from damaging the finish on the other side.

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I also got a chance to make the mounts for the mirrors.  The rear view is a wink 3-panel unit.  The supplied brackets were welded to the roll bar.  The side mirrors are replacement Suzuki sport bike units that came from JC Whitney.  They were only $20 each.  Little gusset/brackets were made for those and welded to the roll cage also.

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2/7/07 - Hood, Front Fenders, and Wind Screen

The hood is now as finished as it is going to be.  Latches were installed in four spots to hold everything down.  They are adjustable and have a secondary locking mechanism to keep them secure.  An opening was cut into the hood to clear the air filter.  It sort of helps to break up the long hood and nose.  I took great pains to make it 1/4" from where the filter assembly breaks the plane of the hood  all the way around.

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Next up are the front fenders.  Some stays were fabed up that bolt directly to the spindle.  I used 3/4" tubing for the bulk of it and 3/4" strap for the remainder.  They seem pretty sturdy, but they need to survive some high speeds...the jury is out.

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The wind screen is starting to take shape.  The smoked lexan is cut to shape and fitted in place.  Some mounts need to be made to hold it in place.  I will have to make them look nicey nice because they will have to support the screen from the front side instead of the rear.

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2/28/07 - Side Panels, Rear Fenders and Aeroscreen

The front side panels are finally on.  I decided to compromise a little and not take the panel all the way to the nose.  Frankly, with the building frenzy, I am just running out of patience.  I will come back to it later and make a filler panel to take up that space and make the transition to the shape of the nose.

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The rear fenders are now permanently in place.  Fender welting was added to make the gaps even out where the fender meets the body.  Undercoating was used to keep gravel from spiderwebing the paint.  These fenders are from Coveland and are really nice.  The only prep that was done was scuffing the surface prior to painting.

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The aeroscreen mounts were made using some 1/2" aluminum bar stock.  They are set to the right angle and are tapped so that the screws come from the back side.  Holes were drilled to make them not look as bulky, and I decided to color match to the body rather than paint them black.

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3/18/07 - Rear Deck lid and Hatch

In order the give the car a more finished look and to isolate the fuel cell from the cockpit, a rear cover was made for the back of the car.  The side pieces are made from aluminum and are formed around the edges to match the contours of the rear bodywork.  A hatch was made from aluminum as well.  It has a couple of dzus fasteners with butterfly nuts to make it easy to get to the fuel cell.

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