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Build your own body?

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Build your own body?

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 02/15/09
07:51 AM

Has anyone here built their own body? I'm not talking to people with large, well equipped shop and unlimited resources. I'm talking about someone that DOESN'T aspire to be the next Jesse James or Chip Foose. Just a car guy working in his carport, garage or even out in the yard. I'm thinking about a simple roadster with few if any compound curves, using very little in the way of sheet metal and body working tools. I know someone that built a little coupe years ago (early '70s- I'm kinda' old). It turned out a little "goofy" looking.  But then the person that did it was a little "goofy" himself. OK, let me have it. What is everyone thinking? Tim  

vertible59 vertible59
User | Posts: 67 | Joined: 01/09
Posted: 02/16/09
08:44 AM

A guy I knew built a C-CAB "WOODIE" body using marine plywood and treated hardwood.  He built a neat 2"x3" frame for it with a sheetmetal floor and 1" square tubing to mount the wood for the body.  The only thing that wasn't homebuilt was the cowl, which was a haul it away freebe model A. The thing turned out to be a real head turner.
Another thing I've been seeing that I like,(I know a bunch of guys don't) is rods using an early 30's cowl with rear quarters from a 50's car.  The look appeals to me for some reason...maybe because they remind me of the "car couch" I intended to build, but never did.  

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 02/20/09
08:59 PM

I'm not offended or anything, but I thought there would be a lot of opinions voiced on this one. Actually, the lack of response/opposition to the idea leads me to believe that this isn't a stupid idea... or maybe I'm reading too much into no replies because it's of no interest to anyone. Laugh  

tinindian1942 tinindian1942
New User | Posts: 13 | Joined: 08/08
Posted: 02/21/09
08:06 AM

I actually have been thinking of doing this myself for some time now using parts, and sections of parts from various eras of cars and trucks.
A friend is willing to donate an old S-10 pickup for the running gear and chassis. It runs great but you can throw a cat through the body and box.
Rummaging through some old parts in a friends salvage yard I found a hood off of a late 70's Pontiac Grand Prix, and noticed the center section of the hood tapers to a point like a car from the 30's. I stood an old tractor grille in front of that and the combo of the loooong center section and the grille (which would have to be modified to fit up exactly right) sorta looked like an old expensive European car.
there is an old Chevy from the 40's there that all that is left is the back fenders, and an old bug convertible with a decent rear body section...hmm.
Best of all, I can get the truck for nothing, as well as parts from the salvage yard for little or nothing, so I may try it someday...what would I be out if it didnt look right?  

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 02/23/09
03:41 PM

Hopefully less than I'll be out. Well, that is if I try what I've got in mind. I'll probably have to purchase new sheet metal. Shouldn't be that bad..... if my body doesn't turn out like a piece of crap. The frame would basically be a T-Bucket frame. The only problem is, I want to build the body around the frame instead of vice-versa. If the body isn't good, I doubt I will be able to just slap a T-Bucket body on the "altered to my specs" frame and it look OK. I'm 6'3" tall and disabled. I'm not crippled but I will have a trouble climbing in and out. I want to build with dimensions to suit me. I don't want my knees on each side of *** Plus, I want the body to sit low and the seats will also sit low to keep me from looking like I'm sitting on top of the car instead of in it. The best part of all this is, I've got nothing but time. Tim.  

dlotraf dlotraf
New User | Posts: 2 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 02/23/09
07:14 PM

Red, nothing is a stupid idea, well almost nothing. I guess it depends on what style you are looking for. Using parts of another vehicle is probably the likely with limited ammounts of metal fabrication tools. Use your imagination. I have thought about building a similar roadster using another later model vehicle for the lines. By later model I mean early 60's as the newest. If people didn't think outside the box we wouldnt have some of the show cars that have become almost historic icons. There was an article in R&C using a ford f100 for body pannels and building a roadster pickup out of it. Probably can find it on this site. Good luck and don't let em convince you its a lame idea. You might just come up with the next Atomic Punk or Beatnik Bandit.  

Customikes Customikes
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 01/09
Posted: 02/27/09
11:59 PM

If you like the end result, what does it matter?

If you can participate in this great hobby with what you made proudly by yourself, who cares

"Just do it" takes on a whole new meaning

It's only metal, It does not know if it is on a 50 Merc, or on a Lambo. Make it do what you want.

coupster coupster
New User | Posts: 31 | Joined: 11/08
Posted: 02/28/09
02:19 PM

I've been watching this thread and have not posted because I don't like pissing in other peoples cherrios. To me every homemade body looks like... well a homemade body. I have seen some modifieds that used a factory cowl to launch a body from that looked ok. For me it would just take to much time to do. I think my time is beter spent fixing someones throw away body. As an example I bought a 29' A coupe body just last year for $600.  

nsmead100 nsmead100
New User | Posts: 9 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 02/28/09
03:20 PM

I have made a number of patch panels. I haven't made a homemade body but I have seen it done and the results were very satisfactory in my humble opinion. One of my friends built a roadster body in his garage at home with a minimum of tools but considerable talent.

Before I go into the how, I would suggest trying to find a copy of "airframe repair" copyright 1941, it has many great tips, also there are the Ron Covell videos.

Anyway,s I recall my friend made his roadster body from a single sheet, but that would require a HUGE sheet. In any case he started with a flat piece (maybe 3 pieces welded together) in the shape of a "U". The bottom of the "U" was wrapped around a plywood buck to form the cowl. What appears as the vertical legs of the "U" on this page formed the sides. Then the tips of the legs were wrapped around another  buck  toward each other and coming together to form the back of the tub.

If I were attempting this I would buy some poster board and build a couple scale models before I cut steel. Here is where too qualities come into play that many lack when it comes to a project like this: tenacity and discipline. Even a skilled metal man will probably prototype this project several times or at the least, trim and fit several times before being satisfied. Take the time to build a good buck, build it so you can hammer a lip on the edges to give strength, and allow for mounting a firewall and dash. To help avoid the homemade look I would take a good look at a body I like and try to emulate the profile; you know make the cowl narrower at the bottom than the top, make the body a little wider at the back than the front, The body will only be as good as your buck and the finish work you put into working the metal. If you exercize tenacity and disciplione I believe you can achieve great results.

To build a closed car, now that would be a project for someone with a LOT of time on their hands. I see many hours building fixtures and dies, that is if you want a pro. look. Back to tenacity and discipline again.

Oh yeah don't try to build  from too heavy of material if you use 20 or 22 gauge you can get the metal to do amazing things like compound curves etc. 18 gauge can be worked into complex shapes too, without too much trouble as long as the curves aren't too sharp. 18 and 16 gauge are great for structural stuff.

I hope this helps, and good luck  

XC_Ute XC_Ute
User | Posts: 109 | Joined: 01/07
Posted: 03/07/09
07:51 AM

Which magazine had the articleson how to build a FABRIC covered body, published in the last ten years. Wasn't it 1001 Rods & Customs just before that mag went toes up?

The article made a point, back in the 20's when our type of vehicle was a "gow car" fabric covered bodies weren't uncommon. In fact it ws the standard method of covering the framework of aircraft. Several World Record cars had fabric covered bodies.

As for building a metal car body at home: Biggest structural problem I can see is designing a rigid framework to support the body. Firewall and cowl areas (at the dashboard of an open car) are heavily stressed with side to side movement as well as front to rear shake (especially if the steering column is attached to the cowl, even moreso if the steering box is located inside the cowl.

On an open car the rear of the door opening has an almost impossible job of locating the body side without the aid of cross bracing and the door opening has to be kept square to the frame or the doors won't remain shut. Took the real automakers ages to come close to figuring out how to do that.

And then there is the need of strong bracing at the rear of the body, especially if the car is a roadster. I recall the first time I glassed wood supports into a glassfiber "T" body (following the R & C article). The back of the car had to support the weight and rearward stress of two people. Having some physical problems myself I am well aware that the human body must have proper support when riding in an automoblile, you can't count on the body being able to support itself in something seamingly as simple as a car hitting a bump in the road. (That's why good car seats have side bolsters that support the body. Without them, i.e. the plain bench seats of the 50's and 60's, the human body is stressed trying to keep the body upright and behind the steering wheel. Back pain means "something's physically wrong".

All this and more leads me to suggest that you plan the inner body structure well, don't skip adding diagonial bracing.  For those who think that sheet metal is strong enough to provide support, think again. Sheet metal is formed by force.

And unlike others on the board I have seen some very decent homebuilt bodies that rival those of couchbuilt bodies. If you have the skills needed to make complex curves in sheet metal in your home workshop (even if you have to weld sections of "shapes" together) and can afford the cost of sheetmetal, GO FOR IT! BUT DESIGN AND BUILD A GOOD INNER STRUCTURE FIRST.

There were reprints of the 1920-1930 era books covering the art of couchbuilding on the market back in the 1970's (including the fabric covered bodies found on big $$$ cars of the 1920's) but I haven't been looking lately and do not know if they are still out there. They are worth looking for if you want to proceed.  

nsmead100 nsmead100
New User | Posts: 9 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 03/08/09
12:51 PM

Although I only addressed forming a skin previously, XC_Ute is right.

Plan a good inner structure. To do that you should gather up the steering column and seat you are going to use so you can plan structure around them instead of having to improvise later. Or worse, cut out what you already completed.

Regarding the rear of the door jams in particular: I have a '23 T Roadster, I deleted all the wood. At the back of the jams I welded in a sheetmetal web about 2"  wide at the top and rounded (sharp corners suck) the web gets wider to about 4" at the bottom and is welded to the floor I also bent a lip on the web about 3/4" wide to stiffen it up and eliminate the sharp edge where my leg makes contact with it. The webs are attached in a side to side orientation to stiffen the shell in the side to side direction. The dash is about 6" in height and it is welded in near the front of the door openings and to the cowl. The front of the door openinings are tied together with the fire wall mounting flange via welded in kick panels which are formed from 20 gauge with several 1 3/4" holes with the edges of the holes formed much like manufacturers do on hood and trunk inner structures to add stiffness. I used dies I made myself, this process works so well my friends have borrowed the dies for their projects.

Around the top edge of the shell on the inside I skip welded in a piece of 1/2 o.d. tubing. The shell is curved across the back, I followed the curve but then welded in another piece staight across bridging the sides of the car together, and  a small brace in the middle connecting the two to form a truss, and give a straight surface for the seat back to rest against. Even if you choose to use a free standing seat I would advise that you do this, or something like it, perhaps a sheetmetal web on the horizontal plane.

The bottom of my tub has a network of 3/4" square tubing with 18 gauge over it to make the floor and tie the bottom of the car together, and provide body mounting and seat belt mounting points. If you mount the body and seat belts by drilling through the tubing, be sure to weld in sleeves so the tubing won't collapse when you tighten the bolts, it also helps restore the strength that was taken out by drilling holes.

I have been driving my T for 11 years now, and I haven't had any structural issues.

I hope you decide to go ahead with this I would like to see pic's pictures.  

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 04/05/09
01:57 PM

Well, if it turns out to look like a homemade body (chances are real good it will), you'll never see it or a picture of it. I've got plenty of time and a very hard head. I've also spent half my life doing things people said couldn't be done. Of course I spent a great deal of time failing at crazy things, too. Don't worry about offending me. I'm thick skinned. And about my cheerios, don't be messing with my cereal- eating, to me, ranks right up there with cars and guns. You can have my son if you need one. Smile  Tim.  

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 04/05/09
02:17 PM

I've already got a poster-board body built. I also built a basic t-frame out of balsa to fit it. That's why I figured I could build a full scale metal body. Of course when I was young, I also figured if someone could jump out of a plane with a parachute I could jump off the house with a patio umbrella. Kids, don't try this at home. I am a professional- heed my warning. I did eventually graduate to planes and parachutes as an infantry paratrooper in the 82ND Airborne Division. That was another life though. Tim  

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 04/08/09
06:40 AM

One more thing! There won't be any wood in it. I'll build what's inside the body out of steel tubing. I looked around for a cowl to use as a starting point. I'm really hard headed, so I'll start from scratch. If I fail, I'll tell all about it. I'm not ashamed to admit failure. I don't like it, but I will admit it. Time for my morning nap. Signing off. Tim.  

redclayhd redclayhd
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 02/09
Posted: 04/10/09
10:50 PM

And another thing. I'm going to cheat a little. I found someplace that sells  firewalls and just the upper part. That's my starting point and for less than 100 dollars. I'm definitely going to give it a shot. Tim.  

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