FIBERGLAS SPORTS CAR (May, 1956)
That is one hell of a present for your kid, though with that giant hood it looks like the turning radius is probably similar to a real sports car.
FIBERGLAS SPORTS CAR
No youngster could ask for more than have his dad build him this rakish looking sports car.
By John Micklitsch
TO keep the cost at a minimum, about 75% of the mechanical parts used on the car were either bought at junk yards or second-hand dealers. Except for the welding of the chassis, which was a professional job, the body, transmission, steering, etc., was home-built and assembled by the designer, strictly an amateur.
The 1-1/2 hp Briggs and Stratton engine gives the car a speed of approximately 20 mph, but a governor keeps it down to 7 mph. The builder’s 5-year-old daughter has so far driven the car for about 300 miles without an accident. Various safety features incorporated into the design make this car as near accident-proof as possible.
The first step in construction is the building of the Fiberglas body. Of course, dimensions of the chassis, attachment points, etc., have to be worked out beforehand to assure proper fit of the body onto the frame. A plaster mold has to be made first. For this, formers are cut from scrap plywood, shaped to the approximate form of the body and joined by means of lattice strips. These strips also act as support for the window screen which will support the plaster. The plaster mold should have the exact shape of the final Fiberglas body. It must also be designed to assure easy removal of the body, therefore, be sure that the mold does not curve in at the bottom.
U.S. Gypsum Co. makes Hydrocal Bell plaster and Hydrostone plaster, either one of which is recommended for the mold. After shellacking the wood formers, attach the screen, or bailing wire, and, apply the plaster to a thickness of about one inch. Sand or add plaster to get all the proper curves, as close to the final body shape as possible. Next, the mold is sealed using several coats of Linoleum Lacquer or Cellulose Acetate Lacquer. After the body is thoroughly sealed, apply several coats of hard paste wax and polish carefully.
You are now ready for the Fiberglas application. Mix the first batch of Polyester with the desired color and catalyst, according to manufacturer’s instructions, and brush a heavy coat onto the plaster mold. Let this first layer cure, then brush on a second coat of Polyester and apply your first cover of Fiberglas cloth. On top of this goes another coat of Polyester, then a layer of (Fiberglas) mat. Smooth down each lamination carefully and squeeze out all air bubbles. On top of the mat goes another coat of Polyester and then the final coat of Fiberglas cloth. Cover this last coat with two or three layers of Polyester. Make sure that each coat of the mat and cloth is thoroughly soaked with the plastic and that the Polyester is mixed with the catalyst. If you find that you have excessive high spots on your layer of cloth or mat, let it dry and sand it down before putting on your next lamination. After it is dry, the body is wet-sanded with coarse, Wet Or Dry, sandpaper, progressing gradually to a finer grade paper as you go along. If you use a power tool for wet-sanding be careful not to get an electric shock. This is a very real danger, especially if you stand on a wet floor and use wet hands to hold the tool. Wear rubber gloves, keep the motor dry and ground it.
You are now ready to remove the body from the mold. Trim all around the bottom edges with a hacksaw and lift up the body. Cut out all the openings for lights, exhaust, hood, etc., and fix up edges and rough spots with additional applications of Polyester, as required.
All lights and switches were bought at auto accessory stores. The windshield is cut from a sheet of Plexiglas. The speedometer comes from a bicycle, its five-inch wheel running off the transmission shaft.
The 1-1/2 hp motor is mounted on a steel plate, welded to the bottom of the chassis to allow it to sit lower. The complete steering assembly and front axle is taken from a model T Ford and cut to the proper size. The gas lever on the steering column becomes the gear shift lever, the old spark lever turns on the lights. The starter, from a ’41 Pontiac, was bought at a junk yard. A piece of 2×2-1/2-in. tool steel, with a hole drilled for an oil bushing, holds the shaft containing the gear and 2-in. belt pulley. The drawings show this arrangement. The battery is placed to the rear of the seat; it has to be charged only about once every two months.
The rear axle is from a junked 3-wheel motor scooter, cut down to” 30 inches, but still retaining the drum brakes. Our transmission frame was built up by welding strips of 1-1/4-in. strap iron together. Welded to the transmission frame is 5/16-in. iron pipe, cut to 1-in. length to allow the idler pulley arms to move freely. The two transmission gears are taken from a Maytag wringer, but any other type of gear, if it is the correct size, will work. Pulleys and gears are held to the shaft with steel cotter pins. Also on the frame is a bicycle sprocket, welded onto an iron bushing and slipped on the back shaft. The same type of sprocket is used on the rear axle. A 6-in. motorcycle sprocket bolts onto the left rear wheel to hold the heavier chain used because of the gear reduction. See drawings for the installation. The transmission diagram shows the arrangement of the forward and reverse drive. The rear wheel brake drums can be activated by the separate brake pedal and also by stepping off the accelerator, which action applies the brakes automatically.
The seat is made of plywood with a 1-in. raised frame all around. This was filled with rubberized hog hair and a thin layer of foam rubber. Seat covers, floor carpeting, horn, and other accessories add the final touch.
If you would like to correspond with the builder of this car, write to John Micklitsch, 112 S. Johnson St., Bluffton, Ind.