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Composites are making automobiles lighter, stronger and faster. The latest evidence has come with the all-composite reconstruction of a vehicle from the 1950s.
(Published on March 2006 – JEC Magazine #23)
The classic 1955 Chevrolet S-S has been reconstructed entirely out of composites. Its new materials make it significantly lighter, faster and stronger than the original model. The maker says the frame is so strong that you can stand on the car’s roof without it bending.
Known for its mean, tough-guy look, the new car can reach 105 miles per hour in just a quarter of a mile. It also features power locks and windows, things that were definitely not available in 1955.
Steel into glass
The car was built by John Bohannon, from Bohannon Concepts, who started with what he calls a “plug” car made entirely out of steel.
From there, he made moulds that were spread out into three sections of the car and then glassed together.
Mr Bohannon said the hardest part was making the replica fit together, especially as the car’s sides are nearly 14 feet long and four feet tall.
The doors’ inner and outer structures are in composite, with metal reinforcing them on the inside. In all, producing the composite parts took about 40 hours.
Materials used in the process
Transforming the steel structure into a slick-looking car was a complicated process that required the utmost precision.
Mr Bohannon produced the moulds from the zero-shrink Polylite Profile tooling system.
The moulds were glassed together using hand lay-up techniques with Dion 6631 corrosion-resistant resins. Mr Bohannon put down three layers of 1.5-oz fibreglass-Coremat, and then finished with two layers of 1.5-oz glass.
Reichhold provided him with the resin, which he described as perfect for his project, saying, “I tried other resins and got different viscosities that were inconsistent. With the Reichhold resin, I have never had any junk or scrap parts.”