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GRP #1 – Side panels

February 14, 2018

Along with getting the aluminium panels onto the chassis, fitting the external panels has been a long, drawn out, process…

The first step in doing this was really just getting them into a state where I could leave them attached to the chassis. For the nosecone, scuttle and bonnet this is simply a case of plonking them down and holding then secure with some spring clamps. But for the side panels this involved begining to cut some of the holes which will eventually have the suspension mounts, steering rack, etc sticking out of them, simply to be able to get the panels square against the chassis.

The first learning point to all this has been that some slight distortion to the side panels had occurred in the 4 years (!!!) since I bought it – in hindsight I could have put some wooden braces into them to support them in the correct shape – but I suspect that would not have been a perfect solution either. However it has not really been a signifcant problem, not least because so much of the return on the side panels – which had the most sag in them, has been cut away to make them fit. This has been caused by my use of a 3mm floor panel, if I had welded in a flush 1mm steel panel I suspect I may have been able to simply ‘wrap’ the bottoms of the side panels round.

The second learning point was that it’s only when the panels are squarely in their final resting place that you can really  work out exactly where the holes need to be cut. But you need to cut holes to get them into their final resting place. Yossarian would be pleased… The best approach has been to make a paper template, based on the dimensions in The Book, then transfering markings across to the GRP and cutting as little as possible before offering the panel up the chassis, seeing what goes where, trimming a bit more, then doing it all again. And again…

The work on this started in Jan ’17, just to get the panels to the state where they could be clamped in roughly the right place. In trying to force the first panel on I made some cracks in the gelcoat which will need sorting at some point.

Side panel1st

A few days concerted effort in Sept ’17 got them actually fitting over the chassis rails properly. It took many hours as I was trying to avoid removing any more GRP than necessary, and didn’t realise how much I would take out in the end. The 4.5″ angle grinder with 1mm cutting disc and sanding disc was the ideal tool, but noisy and messy.



And just over 12 months since I started, about another 10 hours of concentrated effort has got the panels almost to their final state. Once again, working out exactly where to make the necessary cuts has been the biggest challenge, the time is taken up mostly by careful measuring and marking, and by careful fitting and removing of the wishbones.

One of the benefits of leaving some big time gaps in the process here has been that the GRP does give over time, so some of the ‘sag’ that had developed in the 4 years the panels had been stored has been alleviated by nearly 12 months being simply clamped in a new position. This is particularly true for the scuttle which, although carefully stored – and mostly self supporting due to the returns in the moulding, did need to be pulled in by a few mm to get a nice flush finish. 12 months being clamped in the new position has worked wonders.








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