Fiberglass is a plastic which is fiber-reinforced using glass fiber. The advantage of using it on cars is that it’s light, tough, inexpensive and rust proof.
The few of the cars with fiberglass bodies include the Chevrolet Corvette as well as the Lotus Daimler and the Rochdale, in addition to several British sports cars.
There are also fiberglass kit cars out there, you will be hard pressed to find a metal kit car.
The cars aren’t completely plastic, they do include items like a metal chassis for example.
Using fiberglass has a long pedigree, all the way back to 1951, the first one being the Glaspar 2, built by an engineer more used to creating fiberglass goats, for example the Green Dolphin in 1947.
Fiberglass was known as glass reinforced plastic and marketed as a wonder material so an ideal substance to use.
The Glaspar is a sports car with the chassis of a Willy’s Jeep mixed with a Ford V8. Maybe if it hadn’t gained coverage by Life Magazine it would never have had a run of manufacture by General Motors and have appeared in 1961’s LA Motorama.
Glasper himself went on to create more fiberglass vehicles such as the Lancer and Skorpion, but they didn’t do so well.
Looking for an alternative to Metal
At the time Ford was also looking for alternative materials for making cars such as soya-based products and hemp.
It’s easier to create a car in fiberglass than metal, especially those with complicated curves. It’s biggest selling point is a strong strength to weight ratio, in other words not that strong but strong with it. It’s also harder to paint metal than fiberglass. Applying the layers of fiberglass creates the expense.
There are other selling points in using fiberglass such as the reduction in noise and vibration, which may explain why it was used in sports cars.
It tends to be a product used more by the smaller car manufacturers than the big names out there. It could be possible soon to create a fiberglass car using nothing more than 3D printing.
Fiberglass can be used to create or recreate various car parts; getting a car back after a dent for instance or, failing that, giving the illusion it has. Using fiberglass resin saves an expensive car repair.
Working with Fiberglass
You can adapt a fiberglass mold for various car parts by flattening it slightly or making it taller. It can then be painted. Any particular part can contain up to 3 layers of epoxy resin. After five days the body mold will be cured and is safe to touch.
Any design should start with a drawing so make sure it is done correctly. It’s essential that you don’t pull the mold in only one direction. It’s not an exact science, many people make mistakes.
The disadvantage is that it’s itchy stuff to get on your skin and you don’t want to breath it in—EVER.
Fiberglass is also used in the rubber belts in the engine as well as the brake pads and clutch discs, even the automobile’s insulation.