Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
February 4, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy Anvil Auto

Fiberglass body components have been around for decades as lightweight replacements for steel body panels, though much of it as we have come to know offers little to be desired in the way of proper fit and finish. In the'60s, they were simply crude weight-savings devices installed on race cars that didn’t need to win any shows, but rather find their way to the winner’s circles. Fast forward 50-plus years, and fiberglass component quality is still an issue for a substantial part of the market. Anvil Auto aims to change that with precision-fabricated components in fiberglass, carbon fiber, and carbon/fiberglass construction.

For Anvil Auto, the automotive composite business began with a number of components for GM products, but Anvil proprietor, Matt Lazich, used his'69 Mustang build (MM&F 2012 Car of the Year) to design and develop the Mustang side of the product line. To showcase his company’s quality in design, fabrication and construction, Matt created components out of carbon fiber for his Mustang project.

Built by Pure Vision (Simi Valley, California), the Anvil Auto Mustang received numerous custom touches as directed by Pure Vision’s Steve Strope, as well Lazich, who added quite a bit of design influence. One of the touches was widening the rear fenders. Using plastic models to test out designs, Strope and Lazich opted for widening the fenders rather than adding larger fender flares. The change is hardly noticeable, but added room to the wheelhouse and subtly gave the Mustang a more pronounced figure. To match the shapely rear haunches, a similar modification was made to the front fenders, after which were used to produce molds for the carbon fiber and fiberglass versions.

Additional changes to the stock'69 Mustang body parts include more shapely bumpers that have been snugged up against the fenders, a highly modified hood, a three-piece rear spoiler extension, and more. The Anvil SportsRoof, as you may have seen in its Modified Mustangs & Fords features, utilizes the components’ carbon fiber construction as an exterior appearance detail; Lazich left a number of areas of the carbon fiber exposed to provide striping details.

Though carbon fiber is becoming more and more common, prices for these products are still quite high, though not out of reach. To reach a wider market, Anvil Auto is offering its components in fiberglass and carbon/fiberglass as lower cost options. All of the components take advantage of modern design and fabrication equipment, ensuring a better fit for your dollar.

Though carbon fiber is becoming more and more common, prices for these products are still quite high, though not out of reach

All of the components take advantage of modern design and fabrication equipment, ensuring a better fit for your dollar. For the Ford market, Anvil currently caters to the'69-’70 Mustang market

1. Though largely flat (unless equipped with a factory hoodscoop), the Mustang’s hood doesn’t seem to have much shape. However, the subtle raised center section was exactly what Anvil Auto’s Matt Lazich did not like about it. Here. Pure Vision’s Steve Strope, and Anvil’s Matt Lazich have marked out where the new raised section will reside, as well as what is about to be excised from the hood.
2. With the center now flat as the rest of the hood, Lazich utilized foam panels to construct the new raised (and much wider) center of the hood. While most late-model Mustang aftermarket hoods took a page out of GM’s cowl induction hood catalog, Anvil Auto’s design is much less dramatic, and doesn’t look to utilize the low-pressure area at the back of the hood like the GM piece does. Instead, it paves it’s own path in a more subdued way—the venting comes later, and in a different location, as you’ll see.
3. The foam is bonded to the stock hood and shaping has commenced. Note how the raised center eventually fades into the rear of the hood; the same design element occurs at the front as well.
4. Anvil created a 3D computer model in Solidworks of the hood vents, which are loosely based on an Aston Martin hood, and modified to look right with the Mustang architecture.
5. “We made a 3D print of one side before making both to make sure it was the right scale, and that it looked right on the hood,” Lazich noted. “We placed it on the hood with the paper print out of the other side to get an idea of what they would look like and what the best placement should be before we cut the holes to place the vents into the hood. It turned out that it was the right size and shape, so we 3D-printed the other side, cut the holes and bonded them in place. A little bondo and sanding is all it took to blend them in.”
6. Here is the finished design after bodywork and primer. The location of the extractor vents just happened to fit within the underside support structure, as well as hover above the area between the radiator and the serpentine drive. This piece was then used as the pattern for the mold, from which the carbon and fiberglass pieces will be produced.
7. The new hood is displayed in all of its carbon-fiber glory. Molds were made of both the top skin and the bottom understructure of the hood pattern from which subsequent composite parts were made and then bonded together in lieu of welding as in their steel counterparts.
8. Poor bumper fitment is a common issue for classic muscle cars, but one could surmise that with the absence of 5mph bumpers and shock cushions, a little gap might have saved the paint in a small collision. Most custom builders often tighten up the bumper-to-body tolerances, or even eliminate the gaps altogether. Lazich and Strope opted for the latter.
9. With the factory bumper removed, Lazich glued foam blocks to a steel pipe, which keeps the object stiff. The overall shape of the new bumper is then carved out. The larger blocks on the end are required as they offer more material to contour the curve from the vertical surface of the fender extension to the horizontal surface of the bumper.
10. Here you can see the overall shape has been roughed in. You can also see the modifications made to the metal taillight panel; ’67-’68 taillight openings were cut and welded in, and sections of the panel are replaced with a metal mesh.
11. Once the bumper’s shape has been established, the next step is to put a layer of fiberglass over it to stiffen the piece up and to allow you to bodywork it. Both are essential in getting a smooth end product that pops out of the molds easily.
12. Plastic body filler is used to level the bumper out and to tighten and sharpen the mating edges. The addition thickness of the fiberglass and body filler needs to be taken into account when shaping the foam, and a mild amount of shrinkage during the curing process is also considered. This is less of a problem when using an autoclave to cure the carbon fiber parts.
13. Gray primer is used after fiberglass and body filler to make it appear more uniform for further inspection and changes. Once the bumper has been bodyworked and primed, then the pattern, as Lazich refers to it, can be used to cast a mold for the end product.
14. The finished product is seen here in its beautiful carbon-fiber finish. You can see the carbon-fiber fender extensions and spoiler addition here as well.
15. Seeing a need to augment the relatively flat rear appearance of the stock rear deck spoiler, Lazich opted to create an extension rather than build a new spoiler altogether. To start this endeavor, tape is laid down followed by a coating of a release agent. Then a layer of body filer is laid down and the foam block is bolted up and tightened down. About an hour, after the body filler has been allowed to cure, it is removed to cure fully.
16. In creating new fenders for the Mustang the process began with the Mustang’s original steel fenders. The Pure Vision crew widened them slightly, as they now bow outward about 11⁄8-inch. Then a mold is made and the composite part is made inside that.
17. The fender’s inner structure is splash-molded right on the fender. Then the inner and outer composite pieces are bonded together permanently.
18a. One of Anvil Auto’s most recent product additions is this firewall for First-Gen Camaros. We’ve included this to show you some of the process that Anvil goes through to create a new product.
18b. Seen here in a computer modeling program, the firewall’s overall shape and contours have been established. Modifications to the ribbing at the upper right were made to accommodate a number of wiper motor options.
19. Seen here without the mods to the wiper motor area, the firewall appears in a carbon-fiber finish. Computer modeling allows you to get a very good idea of what the finished product will look like, and you can even take note of such subtleties as shadows and highlights from the raised sections.
20. The blue part at the top is sheet acrylic template that Lazich made to test fit onto cars before the design went to computer modeling. The prototype firewall was then whittled from a thick sheet of ABS plastic.
21. Anvil has been working on getting ’65-’68 Mustang parts into its product line, but other projects have taken precedence until recently. “We’re considering the options regarding stock Shelby-type parts, or going the full-custom route, which can be ‘dangerous’ if you get too custom,” Lazich noted. Here, the company’s latest Mustang project are these carbon-fiber C-pillar vents for the ’65-’66 fastback. Expect to see more Mustang-specific product from Anvil in future.


Carbon Fiber vs. Fiberglass

As prices for CF parts are still at the higher end of body replacement panels, fiberglass version are likely to be a more popular, lower-cost option. Still, some will want the additional weight savings, carbon-fiber appearance, or perhaps the cache that comes with CF components.

"Composites cured in an autoclave are much more stable long term, since they are cured in a pressurized autoclave using heat, rather than a chemical catalyst for curing," Lazich tells us. "Also, pre-preg (or dry carbon) parts utilize less resin than ‘wet layup’ processes. Too much resin makes parts heavier and less stiff, therefore composite parts produced using pre-preg material can be as much as 1⁄5 the weight of the equivilent steel part and are more stiff. Anvil can also make the parts to a customer’s request for parts that are lighter (fewer layers) or stronger (more layers)."

Hand-Crafted or Digitally Mastered

As you will see in the photos, the majority of the'69-’70 Mustang parts were created by hand. Top-of-the-line technology would employ digitizing the factory parts using a high-priced scanner, but that would not be cost effective, especially in a niche market like aftermarket body components. Late-model components short-cut this through programs like the SEMA technology transfer program. Through this program, the OEMs offer companies like Anvil access to digital data that can be put into the computer modeling program to produce an end product much quicker than if you were to create one by hand.