June 10, 2013
This weekend we forged ahead with the bodywork, and by keeping our expectations suitably low we ended up with results that were only marginally disappointing. The Locost bodywork has intimidated us for a long time, so anything we get done at this point is a major bonus.
The first panel came out okay, considering our general lack of tools for forming sheet metal. The side panels attach to the rear suspension uprights (M tubes) in back, and the forward H tubes in front. At the bottom, the panel wraps under the car where it's riveted to the bottom of the floor. The top wraps around the upper frame rails so the rivets are on the inside and out of sight, except in our case where the scuttle is in the way along part of the upper frame rail. So we'll have half a dozen rivets showing, which we hope will look purposeful.
We of course had the option of removing the scuttle before we installed the side panel, and a second option of installing the bodywork before we even started reassembling the car last winter. But neither of those options was especially appealing, and certainly not worth the effort just to hide six rivets, which incidentally can easily be painted the same color as the body, so they won't show at all. On our next Locost, which we may have mentioned we're never actually going to build, we'll have to rethink our whole scuttle strategy.
The side panel bows out slightly. This is a regular feature of many Locosts. In our case it's due to our makeshift brake, which stops at 90 degrees. With spring back, the lower crease ended up at only about 80 degrees, and so with the lower lip flat against the underside of the floor, the side sticks out a little. We were able to bend it a little more by hand without completely destroying the panel, and in the end the bow is only about a quarter inch from flat, so not too bad. Also, something else we might've mentioned earlier, as long as it looks good in pictures, we're okay.
The rear panel turned out less than perfect, too. Kneeling on the 1/32" aluminum sheet while we traced the cut lines from our paper template didn't help. The knee imprints are mostly on one side, and after we bent the sheet metal around the curved tubes, you can hardly see them. We also had a problem with the crease at the bottom. Besides not being a full 90 degrees, it didn't come out exactly straight. It's close, and if we made the crease 1/8" lower we'd have been able to fudge. But we bent it where we bent it, and now the right side of the panel is about 1/4" shorter than the left side.
The rear panel is supposed to wrap all the way over the round top tube, and on the left side it does. On the right side it doesn't. It's not something you really notice unless you compare the two sides. And if we're lucky, after the rear panel is painted green it'll blend with the green top tube and you won't even be able to tell. In any case we plan to have some kind of wood or vinyl cover over this area someday, probably now sooner than later.
Hammering the aluminum around the curved parts of the tube wasn't nearly as bad as we've been led to believe. It's true it can't be done without wrinkling, but by working the metal slowly, and making judicious use of the hammer, i.e. not taking a full swing every time, you can more or less coax the sheet into conforming to the tube, at least half way around. After that, all bets are off. The radius gets too small and there's too much aluminum to all fit in there. Also, we don't recommend doing this with anything thicker than 1/32" aluminum.
So now we just have to make one more side panel, and we can paint these pieces and install them for the last time, although we're not entirely sure yet how to paint them. We could use a spray can. The sides aren't much bigger than the scuttle, and we managed to paint that with a spray can after only about a dozen failed attempts. Our other option is to set up the compressor, thin out a can of Rustoleum with about 30% acetone, and shoot the panels with a spray gun. But that seems like a lot of work, which is probably why we're still undecided.
We also have to make the two forward side panels. If we think back, of the dozen or so Locost body panels that we knew would be extremely difficult to build, these two we knew would be impossible. Not only do you have to disassemble the front suspension to even get the sheet metal in there, you have to bend the panels to match the shape of the nose, cut holes in it so the suspension can still operate, and then figure out some way to reattach the front suspension with the panels in place. It's been done before of course, but not by us.
Once again we have options. Some Locost builders leave these panels off entirely. We think that makes the car look like you're not quite done with it, so we don't think that's a great idea. The second option is a shorty panel that only goes as far as the rear suspension pickups. This looks better than no panel at all, and actually has the advantage of keeping the radiator and the engine bay cooler, at least in theory. Also, this particular area of the car is cluttered with suspension parts, and the wheels and fenders hide most of it anyway, so the partial panel is popular with a lot of Locost builders.
The only downside to this option is that it looks like you got scared or lazy when it came time to make this part of the body. Which is of course completely true, but maybe not something you want to advertise. So while we're not ruling this option out entirely, we will plan to remove the front suspension, and then use some kind of paper templates to figure out what might work in there. The good new is, these panels aren't holding anything up, which means we don't have to do them right away. Which is excellent. Time once again to move on.
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