Finishing the Body Master Pattern

I ended up applying ten coats of SikaFloor epoxy to try to build a hard base for further finishing. Even this gave me problems, though, as it appears that the two-part urethane foam continues to expand indefinitely. Every time I would finish a section, next time I looked at it, it needed more work. For a long time I just thought my eyes were getting more demanding, but I finally realized the body buck was slowly changing shape, bulging out between the ribs. Once I figured this out, I just tried to finish the molds as fast as possible. I also installed air conditioning in this part of the workshop, and kept it running at night to avoid temperature-cycling the pattern.

If you’re thinking of doing this yourself, a better way to do it would be to just fiberglass straight over the plywood forms, using tape or something to support the first layer of fiberglass while curing. About a 3mm fiberglass shell should do it. Then use body putty right over that, using standard auto-body finishing techniques. That way there’s no foam between the ribs to push outward and mess up the shape. The only time you need foam is when you’re really sculpting something, like the sidepod air intakes. Oh, by the way, plan on about 1,000 hours of work.

After the floor epoxy there were several rounds of primering, puttying and sanding, followed by two coats of black two-part epoxy paint. This was sanded with 400, 800, 1200, and 2000 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper, then machine-polished with rubbing compound. The top layer was 9 coats of “Hi Temp Mold Release”, applied by hand strictly according to the instructions.

When I started to think about how to split up the body panels, I realized that the “horse collar” head surround would be impossible to remove when the car was finished, as it would interfere with the main roll hoop. This necessitated going all the way back to the SCCA rule book, where I took another look at the minimum cockpit opening specifications. I found that I could meet the minimum cockpit opening size with a fixed head surround, but I had to cut the “arms” off it. So, you get to see that surgery in the photos below.

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Building the Body Buck: Part 2, Putty, Prime, Repeat

Sikafloor

After the first coat of ultra-hard Sikafloor epoxy

Here’s where the heavy lifting begins. Many, many passes of plaster or putty, sanding, and primer. The first step was to coat the entire body in plaster, which is best done the messy way: just plunge your hand into the bucket of plaster and smear it on the body buck. Plaster is much better for filling voids than foam is. Especially the insulation foam that comes in a can. Don’t, under any circumstances, use the canned spray foam. It remains flexible permanently, and keeps slowly expanding over a period of weeks or months. If you use it, as I did, to fill voids, you’ll spend days and days digging it out wherever it reaches the surface, refilling the holes with auto body filler.

I discovered that spackling compound, made for smoothing house walls before painting, works great after the plaster. Plaster has a short working time, and you end up mixing lots of little batches when you’re filling ripples. The spackling compound goes on smoothly, you can work it just about as long as you want, it sands extremely easily, and it sands to a feather edge. I also tried gypsum, but it has the disadvantage of remaining water soluble as it doesn’t cure.

I put on a gallon of Jotun Penguard 2-part enamel filler, then found the only auto-body paint supply shop in town and discovered “sprayable body putty”, so I followed up with a couple of gallons of that, spackling and sanding between coats. About the third coat of sprayable body putty, I noticed that the body buck was swelling badly where it had been in the sun. Uh-oh. It turns out the foam expands and contracts with temperature. After that I kept the car only in the garage, never letting sun touch it. It took 2-3 weeks to fix that mistake, now using auto body filler and a double-action (DA) air-powered sander with 40 grit sandpaper, a great combination for this work.

So when I finally got that mess cleared up, I wasn’t too keen on spraying another coat of primer and potentially distorting the surface again. Instead, I went straight to an extra-hard epoxy used for floors, called Sikafloor. This is a very unusual paint as it’s intended to be used only on horizontal surfaces, where it remains liquid for a long time as it flows to become perfectly flat. I sprayed it on, almost unthinned, an “off label use”, but it worked great for my purposes.