Homemade Hot Rod Bodyby Larry Simmons
A quality hot rod has to have looks as well as power. Your hot rod body makes the largest impression on viewers, and because of this, you need to take great care to get the look just right in order to project the exact image you want. This often requires that you build your own hot rod body, creating the look of your car panel by panel, and in doing so, creating a look that reflects the uniqueness of your vehicle.
Body kits provide a quick ready-made solution to creating your own hot rod car body. Body kits come in a variety of sets, from kits that contain all the panels you need to create a car body, to custom parts that you can add onto an existing body, or to mix and match body kit part types. Body kits come in two common material types to choose from, fiberglass or urethane. Urethane is more resistant than fiberglass, able to withstand small impacts without receiving damage. But for ease of use and modification you should go with a fiberglass body kit. It fits better than the urethane and takes a painted finish more readily than the urethane. Fiberglass panels are also easier to repair, at a lower cost than urethane.
For an even more custom job on your hot rod body you can create your own fiberglass parts through a molding process. By creating your own parts you have the options to build your body however you like, with looks borrowed from the history of automobiles, whether the models for your parts were existent or never made it off the drawing board. You'll have to create a mold of the desired part in order to turn out your own fiberglass body panels. Molds can be made from urethane rubber. Just place your part model halfway into a clay bed and frame the bed in a leakproof wooden or plastic frame. Spray the model and clay with a mold releasing agent and pour your urethane rubber compound onto the part, covering it completely. After the rubber has cured, remove your model from the frame and remove the clay bed. Cut two small grooves into the model half to serve as a guide for placing the halves together again. Replace the model into the frame rubber side down, and again spray with the mold release agent. Pour a second layer of the rubber compound completely covering the remainder of your model. When this has cured completely, the two rubber halves can be separated and the model removed. To create the fiberglass part you'll need to use a laminating epoxy like West System Epoxy. Fiberglass is easily used in large areas, but for small corners you need to mix a paste consisting of epoxy and filler. Fill the corners of the mold with this paste, and then wait until it's nearly cured, remaining a little tacky on the surface. Brush the rest of the mold with the epoxy and lay the glass cloth into the mold. Do this to both mold halves and then secure the halves to allow it to dry. When dry, remove the part from the mold and trim off any excess materials using a Dremel tool before sanding the edges smooth. Using a molding process is easier for smaller parts than larger ones which can usually be obtained from dealers or custom outfitters. But the process will work on any piece you can create a mold for, up to and including your car hood.