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Step 2: Aluminum and Fiberglass

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Step 2: Aluminum and Fiberglass Empty Step 2: Aluminum and Fiberglass

Post by GMinehart on Tue May 10, 2016 1:04 pm

Aluminum and Fiberglass write up
Aluminum panels
2 Floor Pans
1 Seat Back
2 Hip Panels
2 Tunnel Sides Front
1 Rear Tunnel
1 Tunnel Top Front
1 Firewall Shelf
3 Foot Wells
2 Side Panels
1 Deck lid
2 front fenders
Rear end
(classic) 2 rear fenders

Tools: (2) 1/8” drill bits.  (25-50) Clecos, Cleco plyers, Clamps, Jig saw, 30” break, Grinder, sand paper style grinding wheel, Tape measure, Straight edge, Pen, ¼” hex driver, Phillips Head Bit, angle tracer, ¾” drum sander.  Pneumatic Jig saw is recommended (great for trimming fiberglass, safer, and cleaner then a cut wheel dremel) but not needed.  Mixing cup, cheap brush, plastic spackle knife for bondo and fiberglass.    

- (300) Phillips Head #8 3/4” self-tapping screws
- T hinges
- 1/4" bolts, washers, and nuts

Step 1: Grind down welds
In order to get a nice proper fit for the aluminum we need to grind down some welds until they are smooth.  The welds will only be on flat surfaces and will not compromise the strength of the chassis, make sure not to grind below the surface and into the tube.  Use your grinder to smooth out the surfaces where the panels will mount.   Starting with the chassis upright begin with the tunnel and work outward.  This will help avoid any accidental burns.  A good order to grind welds would be tunnel, seat back, foot wells, fire wall shelf, hip panels, then side panels.  Now you can flip the chassis over so the floors are facing up.  Grind these welds and now you can start fitting your aluminum.

Step 2:  Floor Panels. 

With the chassis already upside down, place your floor panels on the chassis squaring the panel to the chassis using the rear and outside frame tubes.  Place the panel about 1/16” in from the edge so the panel does not hang past the radius of the tube.  Use spring some clamps to hold your panel in place.  Drill a hole at the rear of the panel in each corner.  After you drill the holes place 2 clecos in them.  This will ensure your panel goes back on in the same spot after you trace it.  Using a pen or sharpy, trace the frame tubes from underneath.  Be sure to trace all sides of the all the tubes.  Then remove the panel and place on a table.
Using a Jig saw or electric snips, trim the outside the edges of the floor.  You should now have the correct shape of your panel and it’s now time to mark and drill holes.  Holes should be in 1 ½-2” increments.  Holes can be marked down the centerline of all tubes EXCEPT the outside tube.   On the exterior frame rails, mark these holes 1” in from the outside of the frame tube.  This will allow our side panels to fit nicely later on.  After all the holes are marked and drilled.  Place the panel back on the chassis and drill the holes through the chassis.  Start with a couple holes on each end and in the middle.  Insert clecos to hold the panel in place while drilling the rest of the holes.
Repeat steps for second panel.  Then flip chassis back over.

Step 3: Seat Back 

The seat back panel already has the bends needed for the sides.  Notches will need to be cut in each corner as well as cutting the clearance for the tunnel.  When marking to cut out the tunnel, Use the top frame as a reference for the factory edge.  First, measure in from left and right.  Making sure you allow the aluminum to clear the corner welds.  Then measure from the top of chassis down to the tunnel.  Using a straight edge, draw the cuts lines for clearance around the tunnel.  
The notches get cut out of the bent legs on the panel.  The top corners get cut 1 ¼” from the top.  For the bottom notches, start 1 ¾” from the bottom.  You may need to trim more to clear the weld.  For a nice fit, use an angle finder to trace the angle on the side panel.
With all the clearances cut you can position the panel into place with clamps.  Drill 2 reference holes for clecos. Trace the frame tubes on the back of the panels.  Remove the panel and mark holes in 2-3” increments.  Holes should only be marked in the diagonal and bottom tubes.  The other holes will be drilled through other panels.  The lower 1 ¼” needs to bend to fit against the chassis.  Use the sheet metal break to put a slight bend in the bottom of the panel.  Or you can install the panel and use a mallet to bend the lower portion into place.  
Drill the holes and insert clecos to hold the seat back panel in place.  

Step 4: Hip Panels.

Use the front edge of the vertical tube as a reference for measuring and factory edge.  There will be 2 notches cut into the panel before we can trace the frame tubes.  Start by measuring from the front edge of the tube back to the inside corner weld.  Make the mark and go 1 ½” up from the bottom.  Cut out this notch.  
Now we need to place the panel on the chassis to determine how much to notch the top corner.  The panel placed as far back as it will go, and still vertically plumb to the chassis, measure how far the panel needs to move backward.  Use the distance from the front edge of the panel to the tube to determine this.  Now use that distance to cut the depth of the notch on the top of panel.  
With the notches cut, position the panel in place with clamps and trace the frame tubes.  Remove the panel and cut the out lines.  Mark holes in 2” increments in center of tubes.  Position the panel on the frame and drill holes into the chassis.  The rear holes will go through the sides of the seat back.
Repeat steps for opposite side.      

Step 5: Rear Tunnel

Make sure the seat back is in position before fitting these panels.  Measure from the front of the cross bar to the seatback.  (This dimension varies with different models).  Measure from the leading edge of your panel and mark this dimension.  
Place the angle finder in place to locate the rear angle.  Draw this angle on each side of the panel starting at the mark.  
Note at the bottom of the panel the angle changes to vertical.  Draw this into your cut line to ensure a nice fit.  Easiest way is to measure from the bottom up.
Trim the panel and slip it into place.  Trace the tubes onto panel, mark and drill holes.
TIP.  You can leave the screws out of the top of the tunnel for a smooth finish.  
Remove the panel for now.

Step 6:  Front tunnel sides  

The first panel to fit the front side of the drivers foot well.  This panel is placed on the tunnel side of the tube.  The top corners will need to be notched around the other frame tubes.  Place on the inside part of the tunnel, trace the tubes, and drill holes in 2” increments.  
The next piece will go from the front edge of the pedal box tube to just past the bend in the tunnel on the cockpit side.  This panel will be positioned so the rear edge will tuck underneath the tunnel cover.
**On the MX5 chassis this is a little different. To keep the passenger compartment wide and still have clearance for the driveshaft, the front tunnel panel does not attached to vertical member on the rear part of the panel. Instead, the rear tunnel cover will screw into this panel when it over laps it.  
Measure and notch for the cross tube at the top, cross tube on the bottom, (if installed, power steering mount).  Measure to the bend and mark this on the panel.  Place on the break and give a slight bend to conform with the tunnel.  This panel only needs to underlap the rear cover by ¾”.  
After the notches are cut, the bend has been placed, and length trimmed.  Put the panel in place with some spring clamps, and trace the tubes and trim the top edge.  Mark and drill holes 2” on center.  
The passenger side panel is very similar except it is all one piece on the passenger side of the tunnel with a bend at the foot well.  Start by making a 75* bend 1” from the end of the panel.
Now measure and notch for the bottom foot well tube, cross tube at the top, and middle cross tube on the bottom using the front vertical tube as a reference point.  Then place the bend at the rear, trace the tubes and trim, then drill holes.

Step 7:  Foot Wells

The foot well panels get placed on the engine side of the foot wells.  First measure the trim panel to the width of the foot well.  Measure in from the outside 1 ¼” and place a vertical bend.
The driver’s side panel will but into the 1 ¼” tube will the passenger side will extend to the bottom.  Measure and trim to the correct height.  Now measure and notch for the protruding tubes.  Mark and drill holes 2”-3” on center, leave the panel in place.    

Step 8: Side Panels

The side panels will have 2 flanges, one side is 1” and the other ¾”.  The 1” flange goes on top of the frame.  When fitting the side panels it is best to start toward the front and work rear ward.  I start by measuring from the front edge of the firewall back.  To create a nice smooth bend instead of the crease, we will take a long notch out of the flanges on the top and bottom.  I start my notch about 2 inches before the bend and extend it to either just behind the dash, or roll cage if applicable.  When notching the flange, I try to leave around an 1/8” of thickness on the edge.  Make sure to notch the bottom the same distance as the top to get a consistent bend.
After the notches have been made, try a test fit.  You will notice that the rear of the panel will hit the hip panel tube.  Measure and trim accordingly.  Trim only the flange and allow the side of the panel to extend past.  This will ensure that there will be no reveals after the fender is mounted.
The side panels will only receive screw holes on the top and bottom through the flanges.   On the top flange, drill the holes 3/4” in from the outside, this will allow room for the hood flange to sit flat.  On the bottom, go in ½” from outside and drill through the floor pan as well.  
Note: Leave screw holes out of the area where the scuttle sits, just use one hold at the rear most section before the panel bends  

Step 9: Fit the dash

The dash is positioned so the flange will rest against the bottom of the cross tube and above the steering shaft.  Try to position the dash into place.  The dash will be tall.  The sides and middle will need to be trimmed until the dash can sit down into place.  Make sure the dash fits tightly against the tunnel tubes.  Once the dash is seated flat on the tunnel and the side panels, you can trim to the hoop.  Holding the dash in place, trace the metal hoop on to the back of the dash board panel.  Remove and trim to this line.  Place the dash board back into position for now.

Step 10: Fitting the Scuttle.  
Position the scuttle over the dash so that the dash scuttle is tight against the dash.  (make sure you side panels are still in place).  Using some clamps, hold the scuttle into place making sure it is flush with the sides of the car.  This typically takes a small amount of inward pressure.  Make sure your fit and finish is nice.
The next step depends on your drill.  It is easiest to remove the scuttle, and drill 4 - 1/8” holes.  One hole “near” each corner and toward the inside edge of the flange.  Place the scuttle back into position and use a pen to mark each hole.  Remove the scuttle and drill a hole at each mark.  Double check fitment by placing the scuttle back into position with clecos.  It is difficult to apply a zip screw in this area so I typically remove the scuttle and tap it for a ¼” bolt.  

Step 11: Fire wall shelf    
The fire wall shelf is now made of 2 different pieces to make future maintenance much easier. One piece should be 12" x 48", and other is 38" x 11" with a 1" flange bent on it. Start with the flat 12" x 48" piece. Position the panel flush with the front edge of the firewall. You will need to notch out for the brake booster. Position the panel then scribe the panel alonge the inside edge of the side panel so the firewall panel buts up against the side panels. After triming, install the panel. Instal the scuttle and dash back into place. Take the second panel with the bend, and place it against the scuttle. Drill and cleco the the panel down onto the first panel. Then trace the out line of the scuttle onto the panel, remove and trim. Place the panel back into place, and drill holes to attach the panel to the scuttle itself.

Step 12: Front of tunnel top    

Use your remaining piece of aluminum to cap off the tunnel.  Make sure the fire wall shelf, front tunnel sides, and rear tunnel cover are in position.  Measure from the rear cover to the fire wall shelf and trim the panel to length.  Place panel over the tunnel and mark the sides and trim.  
Position this panel in place and try to position the dash.  The dash should be slightly too long to fit all the way in the place.  Trace a line across the panel where the dash meets.  Trim the panel into the 2 pieces at the dash line.  Position the forward portion in the car, then the dash, then the rear ward piece.  The goal here is to sandwhich the bottom of the dash in place with the 2 panels.  Trim accordingly to do so.  The rearward panel will be the shifter panel.  If you can’t hold the bottom of the dash in place with the panels, make a small bracket (about 110* angle) to screw the bottom of the dash into the forward tunnel top.    

Step 13: Hood

Before installing the hood, the aluminum side panels, dash, and skuttle must all be installed and secure.  Use 2 scraps of bent aluminum to clamp them to the upper frame rail near the front of the car.  This will keep the hood level for fitment purposes.  First trial fit the hood onto the skuttle.  The hood should be able to clamp down tight all the way around the skuttle.  Trim or sand the edge for desired fitment.  *It is important to not make the gap too tight.  After it is painted, an excessively tight fit can chip paint after repeated use.  
After your desire gap and fitment is achieved, clamp the hood down in place.  
Position the latches on each side.  Keep the latches close to the skuttle but make sure not to interfere with the flange on the skuttle where the hood overlaps.  Keep the two parts of the latch assembled.  Position it on the hood so the bottom edge of the catch plate is flush with the hood.  Mark and drill the two holes for the catch plate.  Now mark the four holes of the latch on to the aluminum.  *Tip* A nice tight fit can be accomplished by drilling the holes a 1/16” below the marks.
Using the 5” Tee hinges from a hardware store, attach the front of the hood to lower frame rail.  
*Tip*  Take the hinges and cut the pin out of them so you are left with 2 parts.  Using a ¼” or 5/16” metal rod (measure your hinge holes to confirm) make a pin to slide through the hinge.  It helps to bend on end for better use.  Making this pin will allow you to remove your hood quickly and easily.
Assembly the hinges back together with your new pins.  Position the rectangular part on the front lower frame of the chassis and the leg part onto your fiberglass.  Either weld or bolt the rectangular part to the chassis, and then drill and bolt the other part into the fiberglass.  It is advised to use fender washers on the fiberglass side.    
Step 14:  Rear end
To install the rear end and fenders you will first need to assemble the rear suspension.  It is easiest to leave the shocks off at this point.  Depending on where you are working on your car, use a jack or other props to position the rear tires for a 6.5” ride height.  Also make sure the toe is set.  You can run a straight edge off the spindle and measure over to the frame for reference.

Classic  Rear
For the classic rear, you will need to remove the wheels.  Position the rear end over the chassis.  Drill holes and cleco into side tubes on the chassis.  After the rear is in place (you may need to use screws near the front edge where the wheel is), bolt the wheels back on.  You can now position the rear fenders around the wheel.  Make sure you leave about 2.5” of gap between the top of tire and surface of fender.  This should allow for enough wheel travel.  You can use pieces of 2x4 to shim up the fender into place.  Use a marker to trace the fender onto the rear end fiberglass to make sure it doesn’t move.  On the front half the fender, I drill holes from the inside of the chassis through the existing hip panel holes.  Remember to cleco or fasten each hole after drilling so that nothing moves out of place.  Repeat this throughout the flange of the fender, in the rear part it will just bolt to the rear end fiberglass.   Trim off the excess fender hanging beyond the desired location.  

M-spec Rear
With the wheels and tires on the car, position the rear end on the chassis.  Use 5” T hinge and removable pins (like the front hood), and attach to the rear chassis.  The long part of the hinge will rest up against the fiberglass.  Mix up a small amount of bondo, and place some behind each hinge.  Press the hinge against the bondo squeezing it out the sides, if you can, smooth out some small ramps on each side of the hinge.  Allow to cure.  The rear off, and lay a couple strips of fiberglass across the hinges securing them to the rear end.  Allow to cure.  Put the rear end back on the car, with the hinges in place, now using spring clamps, hold the front half of the fenders in place, checking to make sure the reveal around the tire is even.  Drill a few holes from the inside of the chassis through the holes made for the hip panels.  Once everything is in position, you can remove.  Where the holes were drilled, tap out for ¼” bolts.  Bolt back into place, trim off excess finder to desired location.  

Step 15:  Deck Lid
The deck lid comes as one 12” x 48” piece.  This will get cut into 3 pieces, the middle piece hinging allowing access to the fuel tank and rear suspension.  Use a framers square, along the edge of frame near shocks mounts, measure over from the outside edge and cut the length off the panel.  You want the outside pieces to come about 1/8” in from the roll bar down tubes.  Postion the outside corners so that they overlap the rollbar plate by about a ¼”, this will allow a place to attach the panels.  Then mark and notch for the rear down tubes.  After these are in place, double check with the square to make sure it’s nice and square to the front tube where the hinge will mount.  Drill some holes and cleco into place.  You can then trace the outside of the fiberglass onto the panel, remove, then trim of the excess about 3/8” in from your mark.  
After the corners are in place, you mount your hinge.  Measure the distance between your panels, and cut your piano hinge to the nearest dimension keeping it symmetrical with the holes.  Position the hinge on the car and attach the zip screws.  Measure and cut the remaining piece of aluminum and fit to the hinge.  
To fasten the rear of the deck, there are a number of options.  Some just use Velcro, but at high speeds can lose adhesion.  Some use spring loaded clamps like the hood.  I like to use the flush mount latches on the shopping list from mcmasster-carr.  It requires some careful measuring but you can get this to latch onto the rear tube.  You can always attach a small piece of metal to have a strike to latch on to.  

Step 16:  Front Fenders

The front fenders have to be fitted with the wheels bolted on.  Bolt your fender stays onto each side.  The front part of the stay will bolt onto the steering arm, and rear part will use one of the caliper bracket bolts. Then hold your front fender next to the end of the stay tubes, holding an even gap around the tire.  Make sure your louvers are position in front of the top tube.  Trace the tube onto the side of each fender.  You can use a ¾” sanding drum to the make the notches for the fender to slip over the stays.  I do not attach the fiberglass at this point.  After the stays have been powder coated, I then attach the fenders to them.  
To attach fenders, you use a small amount of bondo to fill the gap and build small ramps.  Slip the fenders onto the stays after wheels.  You can then lift the outside of the fender up ( almost like hinging it where the notches are around the tubes.  Lay down some bondo on each tube, then press the fender on to it.  Make sure you keep the fender nice and even around the tire top and bottom, inside and out.  Allow to cure, remove the wheel.  You can use some more bondo to make small ramps off of each tube.  Cut some strips of fiberglass and lay down the glass attaching the tubes to the fenders.  
Some choose to bolt on the fenders.  It is much nicer looking,  and a much stronger bond to fiberglass the fenders on.

Classic Windsheild


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