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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Fiberglass Restoration
By Dan Burrill/
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyModerate
Estimated Time180 minutes
180 minutes
How to Accurately Measure and Straighten a Fiberglass Body -
When hunting for a resto project, great finds can usually be had at swap meets or from ads in newspapers. It's not uncommon to find a project car that someone decided was too difficult to restore or that they simply lost interest in. Such was the case with the 1923 T-Bucket roadster shown here. The fiberglass body had been widened and the nose had been lengthened for more legroom. Fiberglass has a tendency to slightly warp or twist when overexposed to the elements, or as it ages. This body seems guilty on all counts.
Straightening Auto Fiberglass
This problem is not necessarily hard to correct. The first step is to determine the severity of the damage to the fiberglass. You'll need to take exact measurements of the body from top to bottom, right to left, front to rear, and diagonally across the top of the cockpit. Coupes and enclosed cockpit cars don't seem to be as affected by age and weather as do convertibles and roadsters, probably because the rigid top gives the vehicle more overall support.
Fiberglass is fairly easy to work with compared to metal, so usually with the proper safety equipment and some elbow grease, a fiberglass body can be straightened and restored. Unlike metal, fiberglass doesn't rust, and damaged pieces can be cut with a Sawzall and replaced to look like new. Many times, just using spacers or bolting the fiberglass body on the steel frame can straighten out warp or fit problems that may exist.
Straighten Up
After taking all measurements, remove the body from the frame (if it came with one). Next, set the body on a flat concrete floor or other flat working surface. Then attach two horizontal aluminum square rods to help with the measuring. Wooden 2x2s also work well for this. With a Corvette or a Cobra type of body, draw a line through the center of the headlights and the taillights and add two more horizontal rods for a real accurate evaluation. For this T-Bucket, only two rods and two levels are needed to get the required measurements.
For an area that needs to be repaired or built up, use DuraGlass or Bondo body filler. Clean, sand, and prep the area to be repaired or built up. Then mix the product with the tube of catalyst, and apply in thin layers. Allow each layer to fully dry between applications. Remember to always sand the previous application before applying the next. Once the body shape is evened out, simply apply primer and paint.
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