Fiberglassing Body Parts - Pain In The Glass
Fiberglass Parts Fitment Takes Patience, But The Results Are Worth It
From the February, 2010 issue of Modified Mustangs & Fords
By Mark Houlahan
Photography by Mark Houlahan
Fiberglass work is a dusty,...
Fiberglass work is a dusty, messy job. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation, wear long sleeves, a respirator, gloves, and eye protection. Shown here is our fastback midway through our fiberglass work. Our entire fiberglass came from Mustangs Plus except for our CDC Flashback front fascia.
When it comes to personalizing one's classic Ford or Mustang, more often than not we see people playing it safe and copying age-old designs like a '66 Shelby G.T. 350 (Lexan quarter-windows, Shelby front valance, and so forth). While we understand these are tried and true designs that are ageless and still look good to this day, it's sometimes a little dejecting to pull into a car show or cruise night and having to park next to your twin. Expressing your individuality in making your Mustang something different by using body parts of your own design, customizing an existing part, or at the least, mixing up styles that complement each other, goes a long way in making your car stand out and getting noticed. Is it easy? No. Is it cheap? No. But, exploring different styling efforts never is.
We're going to start with...
We're going to start with our Shelby-style trunk lid and endcaps first. The trunk lid and endcaps simply bolt on in place of the factory parts. Our fit was actually quite good with just the driver side of the lid curing a bit too high to get a good fit. This is where the men and the boys are separated, as we had to actually cut into the decklid (called "breaking" the 'glass) to reposition the left side and then apply chopped fiberglass mat to build it back up.
One way to make your Mustang or Ford stand out from others is with fiberglass body parts. Starting with something as simple as a bolt-on hood can make a nice change, but moving forward from there with valances, bumpers, 'scoops, and more really makes a difference in how a car looks. Of course there's little in the way of boundaries with fiberglass and while it's easy to open a catalog and order up a sidescoop, with a little practice and the proper materials you can make your own parts to take your project above and beyond. But fiberglass parts all fit like socks on a rooster you say. Fiberglass parts are harder to work with you say. Fiberglass parts don't have the same quality level of steel parts you say. Well, you're right-for the most part.
We're not going to lie to you and say a fiberglass 'scoop is going to simply bolt up to your quarter-panel like it was made by Ford and be ready for paint. No, fiberglass parts do take some tweaking and finesse to get them to fit right. They also aren't made like a steel part either. Steel parts are pressed and have firm, crisp lines. Fiberglass parts are made by hand in molds and this human interaction is what plays large parts in how the parts fit, feel, and look. Variations in resin and fiberglass application, curing time, time in the mold, how they're stored, and more all play a role in how the end product will actually fit-even the mold itself and the original part, if any, that was used to make a mold. A 40-year-old part is only going to make so good of a mold example. This is why some people get great fitting fiberglass and others get some that need work, yet they were ordered from the same manufacturer.
Even Shelby had issues with the original fiberglass used in the creation of the '67 Shelby Mustang's profile. They were sanding and fitting those parts 40 years ago too. So don't be disappointed the fiberglass valance you just bought doesn't fit exactly like the steel valance you just removed. With a little work you'll have it fitting in no time. Of course fiberglass can be used for so much more than just a molded part. Besides creating your own custom-molded parts (like a console or a smoothed and painted dash) you can create custom body touches like molded quarter-panel endcaps, creating brake cooling ducts in an existing fiberglass valance, and much more. Your imagination is the only boundary (that and your budget).
After the initial fit was...
After the initial fit was verified, the quarter-panel endcaps are removed and the primer is removed from the sheetmetal where the fiberglass endcap will be glued on. Yes, we're actually going to bond these parts on and then fiberglass over them for that smooth-body look. If we were going to leave a parting line, we'd simply fiberglass over the seam and then re-cut the parting line later to make the endcap removable, yet have a nice even parting line like a metal part.
There are numerous ways to...
There are numerous ways to bond dissimilar materials, but Danny Gaydos of Classic Creations prefers to use an epoxy product by the name of Epoxo88 (www.fascoepoxies.com). Here, Danny has mixed up a batch of the fast-setting epoxy and glued the fiberglass endcap to the quarter-panel (the endcap's embedded stud fasteners were utilized as well). Danny also mixed up a little epoxy with chopped fiberglass strands to fill in some of the larger gaps.
After the epoxy has cured,...
After the epoxy has cured, the endcap and the quarter-panel are hit with a dual-action (DA) sander to prep the metal and fiberglass for the layer of fiberglass mat that is about to be applied. A 24-grit disc is what Danny used to give the parts some "tooth" for the resin and mat to adhere to.
To fiberglass over the seam,...
To fiberglass over the seam, Danny mixes up a batch of resin and brushes it onto the work area. Any brush will work, but notice he's cut the bristles down to stiffen the brush.
Once the area is covered with...
Once the area is covered with resin Danny lays down a section of fiberglass mat he measured and cut prior to mixing the resin and then applies more resin over the mat, brushing it on and completely saturating the mat with resin.
The final result, after applying...
The final result, after applying a generous coating of resin and working out all of the air bubbles, simply needs curing time to continue. Just like other forms of bodywork there is more than one way to accomplish the job and some people might comment the mat should have been saturated before applying it to the quarter-panel, but Danny finds this method works better for vertical surfaces.
Here's why we said to make...
Here's why we said to make sure you have eye protection and a respirator or mask. When sanding down the cured fiberglass work area the fiberglass dust it creates is immense (this goes for covering things in your garage and sealing the door to your house as well). The dust is an irritant and will cause breathing issues. Dress appropriately and wear the right safety gear.
In beginning our bodywork phase of our Generation Gap project '68 fastback, we knew we had plenty of fiberglass parts and modifications to tackle on our car. From installing a Shelby-style trunk lid and endcaps, to custom lower sidescoops, a multi-piece ground effects kit, and a one-piece nose, we had our work cut out for ourselves. Our fastback's bodywork is being handled by the crew at Classic Creations of Central Florida, not far from our offices. CCFL has worked with us before on numerous paint and body projects and we trust its work. From stock restos and mild customs to full-blown modified cars like ours, we've seen the company tackle it, so confidence in handling our fiberglass work was not an issue. Check out the beginnings of our bodywork here and tune in for more in an upcoming issue where we'll actually lay color and move forward with final suspension and drivetrain installation, wiring, and more. Don't worry; we've got plenty to cover, including some never-before-seen upgrades we think you'll want to see.
What You'll Need
The roughed out work area...
The roughed out work area is ready for any small secondary applications of fiberglass and/or body filler, depending upon the depth of the areas. In our case we'll be fine with high build primer and some body filler for this.
There are different types of fiberglass, resin, and hardeners available to the end-user. Buying the cheap stuff at your local Wal-Mart might be OK to build a speaker box, but for bodywork that you want to last, head straight to an auto body supply house for the good stuff, especially the resin. A good quality resin will pour like warm syrup or thin motor oil. The cheap stuff usually has the consistency of molasses and takes much longer to dry. You also want polyester resin, though that's pretty much what's sold these days anyway.
For the fiberglass there is mat mold and woven cloth, and several thicknesses of both. Mat mold uses a random pattern to its fiberglass strands where as the woven, as its name suggests, is a weave of strands with a definite pattern to it. The mat mold is easier to hide in bodywork (you can sand down to the woven cloth and see the pattern in your body work) but the woven cloth is stronger. It all depends upon what you are building and where on the car. Fiberglass is very forgiving. You can sand it, mold it, cut it, and more. Best thing is, if you mess up you can simply cut it off and start over.
There are only a few different...
There are only a few different styles of lower 'scoops on the market, but that doesn't mean you can't create your own. We actually started with these much larger sidescoops and then trimmed them down as shown for a bit sleeker look.
You'll need hardener for your resin. The mix ratio is usually 15-20 drops per ounce of resin, but it can vary depending upon working temperature. Sometimes you want to mix the resin "hot" for it to set up fast. But remember, the hotter you make it the more brittle it becomes. For a strong and effective repair you need to use the right mix. You might even want to make small sample batches of resin and take notes as to how quickly it sets up. The working environment needs to be warm, but if it is too difficult to heat your whole garage-use portable heat lamps or a heat gun for small localized areas.
Finally, grab some disposable gloves, acid brushes, paper respirators for sanding, an old long-sleeve shirt, and you'll also need a mixing bowl for the resin. A good idea is an old Tupperware container, as you can flex the plastic bowl and "pop" the dried resin out of it to reuse it again. Whatever you do, refrain from using wax paper cups, as the wax will leach off into your resin and cause all sorts of scary issues you don't want to deal with.
To finish off the stock Mustang...
To finish off the stock Mustang rocker panel area and give the car a more lowered look, we're incorporating Mustangs Plus' ground effects kit. These can be simply painted and attached with screws and panel adhesive or bonding tape, but we're going to mold them into our fastback's body lines. Danny uses more epoxy to bond them to the rocker, using self tapping screws to hold them in place. The screws will be removed later and more epoxy used to fill the holes.
The 'scoops utilize mounting...
The 'scoops utilize mounting studs, so they help to hold the 'scoop in place, but Danny once again mixes up a batch of epoxy to give the 'scoop extra bonding strength before adding a layer of fiberglass around the perimeter. You'll notice in this photo the rear wheel flare already installed and fiberglass added. Don't worry; we've got three more flares to install.
Remember when we mentioned...
Remember when we mentioned cutting the fiberglass parting line earlier? Here is an example of that being employed. While many would prefer the look of the ground effects in one smooth part, we felt it would be better to allow removal of the fender in the future, so Danny made a simple cut in the ground effect. This cut line will be enlarged to match the fender gap and a backing plate will be made so the cut will be less noticeable.
For the CDC Flashback front...
For the CDC Flashback front fascia, the installation, much like the popular Eleanor front fascia, requires trimming the lower edge of the fender area. This gives the fascia a more modern wrap-around look. After careful measuring Danny gives our fenders an initial cut, leaving enough material to bend into place as a mounting flange.
Our left fender is a last-minute...
Our left fender is a last-minute replacement from National Parts Depot, as the original fender was deemed unusable (thankfully NPD's showrooms are open until 9 p.m. and we're less than 90 minutes from its Ocala store).
Once Danny gets the fender...
Once Danny gets the fender fit to the car and the fender-to-door gap roughly set with the help of CCFL's Merv Rego, the CDC Flashback fascia is test-fit. While the Flashback fascia has only been seen on a couple of custom-built Flashback Mustangs, it can be purchased separately. Mounting is up to individual owners and their body guys, but we've got a plan, which you'll see in an upcoming story. But for now we just wanted to check the fit, and we must say, even Danny and Merv were impressed with the fit, and they deal with a lot of fiberglass parts.
Fiberglass Parts Shopping List
Our fiberglass parts used in our Generation Gap build
are listed below with available Mustangs Plus part numbers.
|Trunk Lid w/Endcaps||PN 00812||$459.95|
|Six-Piece Ground Effects||PN 10079||$389.95|
|Lower Sidescoops||PN 08274||$324.95|
|Front Wheel Flares||PN 08449||$374.95|
|Rear Wheel Flares||PN 08450||$374.95|
|Rear Valance Panel||PN 13446||$179.95|
|Rear Bumper||PN 00555||$104.95|
|Shelby G.T. 500 Hood||PN 00831||$519.95|
|CDC Flashback Fascia (includes||$2,795.00|
|foglights, lenses, and more)|
OK, now back to our wheel...
OK, now back to our wheel flares. We're going to show the right front being installed, but the steps are pretty much the same for each of the four flares. First Danny roughs up the bonding surface on the flare, trims the flare's mold line to keep it away from the fender's character line, and lastly, and this was due to our previously fit ground effects, he trimmed off a few inches of the rear portion of the flare so it would fit better.
The front fender, being a...
The front fender, being a bolt-on part, was not painted with epoxy primer when our fastback's metal work was completed, but the EDP coating on the fender is still removed to bare metal for the best adhesion possible for the epoxy to bond the materials together.
After Danny mixes up another...
After Danny mixes up another batch of epoxy (our project used approximately five epoxy kits), he clamps the flare into place with large-body locking pliers. These are essential tools for any bodywork, metal, fiberglass, or otherwise, so be ready to invest in various sizes and lengths if you are going to tackle your own paint and body project.
After the epoxy has cured...
After the epoxy has cured (about an hour) Danny goes over the flare with his DA and removes the excess epoxy and scuffs the fiberglass flare's top surface at the same time. This leaves just the epoxy in the bonding seam and prepares the fiberglass for an application of resin and mat. Danny also quickly runs a section of masking paper around the surrounding area to minimize the chance of getting resin on these panels.
Small, strategically placed...
Small, strategically placed pieces of fiberglass mat are applied around the flare's perimeter first. These pieces are cut to blend the flare into the surrounding metal and match the cuts made in the fiberglass' mold line.
Finally, larger sections of...
Finally, larger sections of mat are applied over the small pieces while the resin is still partially wet. If you applied these larger sections too soon, the weight of the 'glass and resin would cause them to sag/drop, so Danny allows the first layer some cure time.
The fiberglass mat and resin...
The fiberglass mat and resin takes approximately 24 hours to properly cure, though times can vary depending upon working temperature and how you mixed the resin. At this point the flare is ready to be knocked down with the DA and checked for any low spots that traditional filler will not fix. If you look carefully you'll see the flare does not match up to the CDC Flashback fascia. This is because the flares are designed to be used with the standard Eleanor-type fascia, so we'll have to actually build up this area with fiberglass. In our next bodywork story we'll wrap up our front fascia fiberglass work and get started on our custom upper vents, installing our '05 Mustang door handles, and more. Keep reading!