The cornerstone of our product line is of course the body tub. We didn’t want to do the typical fiberglass tub you’ve seen where it’s got a shiny gelcoat finish on one side and a rough resin/fiber surface on the opposite side. Bodies like this are typically, a single heavy layer of chopped glass with reinforcing plates and cross members bonded to the underside with more chop and resin. As long as the reinforcing materials are impervious to water and rot, that’s fine. If a body is cored with plywood, end grain balsa or other cellulose based materials, it (the core), will eventually rot and turn to mush. We’ve seen it more times than we can count.
We wanted ours to look like a factory tub as much as possible while remembering that we are working with fiberglass which has completely different characteristics than steel. All of our parts are made from two matched molds finishing the outside and inside surfaces. It requires a much higher degree of precision so that everything fits as it should and takes a lot longer to tool. You may be looking at the floor saying to yourself “Where’s the floor ribs like the factory body?” Our philosophy is that strength is more important than cosmetics. This is a big mistake that others make trying to make fiberglass do what metal does. What they may not understand is that they are creating points of failure in the composite matrix when they pre-bend the fibers. In composite boats and aircraft where strength is paramount, you never see crisp angles and ribs because as a force is transferred through the skin, the crease acts like an interruption or dam in the flow of pressure or tension. A smooth surface insures that the load moves smoothly through the skin rather than interrupting it creating a stress point. Remember the trick where you stand on a soda can and it will hold your weight UNTIL you tap the side causing a buckle which immediately collapses the can under you. Preformed ribs in fiberglass have the same potential especially in a rollover where pressure comes from the sides of the body inward. Our structure is designed around the material not the other way around. Another benefit of smooth surfaces are fewer flaws from entrapped air and voids typically found in the edges and corners of complex surfaces.
When you wet out the fiberglass, there is always air trapped between it and the backside of the gelcoat. You have two options; either manually roll the air out with a special ribbed roller some call a “bubble buster” or you can apply a bag over the cloth and remove the air with a vacuum pump. We do it the old fashioned way right now but we’re getting ready to go the vacuum bag route once we evaluate whether its cost effective or not. Bottom line, when someone tells you how they make a xerox copy of a metal part, its probably not as strong, subject to weakness, and may contain air voids because it couldn’t be easily rolled out. No structural engineer will debate this fact. Our tub is composed of six major pieces. There are molds for the inner body, outer body, underbody, inner and outer engine compartment, and inner radiator core support. Inside them is a full steel frame providing vertical mounting posts for the door hinges, door striker, tailgate pivots and latching pins. The posts also serve another purpose. Since they stop just beneath the outer skin of the quarters, access openings can be cut in to “plug in” upper hoops to complete a full cage system that uses zero floor space and carries the loads directly to the body mounts and frame. It also serves as the roof supports for the hard top and half cab so the sides can be removed to use them as hard safari tops.
The tub has uncut fenders for a number of reasons. There are people who want a retro original look which in not available in fiberglass. It’s relatively easy to cut the quarters and install flares if you want that look or need the clearance. Repairing or replacing a removable cracked flare is far simpler than repairing a quarter w/ a blended flare. Paint scheme options are limited if there’s no dividing line between the fender and the flare if you want contrasting colors. When assembling the body, it is actually fitted to a factory frame for final assembly to assure proper fit and save you time.
The Build Process
The finished product is incredibly stiff and strong. Try to pick up your steel tub by the ends. It will fold in half, between the doors unless you weld supports between the upper door posts. The tub comes in around 400 pounds and shows no signs of sagging.
The following pictures are shots of the finished product.