Paneling the Cockpit

 

Cockpit Panels

Fully paneled cockpit

While the sides of the cockpit already have side-intrusion panels on the outside, they will also have a second panel on the inside to prevent the seat foam from extruding between the frame tubes and pushing on the outside panels, something those outside panels aren’t equipped to properly resist. The interior panels also must follow the SCCA rule against stressed skins that requires chassis attachment points to be more than 6 inches apart. Due to their different shape and size, the interior panels have a completely different mounting pattern and can’t share any of the exterior panel mount points. Thus, many more tabs are cut and welded on.

The seat back is formed by the fuel tank and three additional pieces of aluminum, shaped at the sides to provide shoulder support on the front while providing space and access at the back to the fuel pump on one side and the fuel filler on the other. The center section is removable to access the shoulder harness mounting points.

 

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Fabricating the Seat Bottom

Just a quick update here as the next one will be big and I want to keep it together as one post. I want to get all the tabs and brackets attached to the frame as soon as possible so I can paint it, so I started with an easy one: the seat bottom. I had the pieces laser cut, but the shop forgot that there are two identical side pieces and I had to cut that one by hand. I turned out to be easy after making a paper template. Each of the four pieces is a section of a cylinder and some of the edges intersect off-axis with frame tubes, so those lines that look straight really aren’t. The seat bottom is curved like this to get the driver as low as possible, mainly to keep the top of the main roll hoop as low as possible. The curvature was easy to make by just bending the steel by hand and fitting it by eye to the frame.

Attachment points are carefully spaced more than six inches from each other to comply with the F1000 rule outlawing stressed panels (with certain exceptions). It would have been much easier to just weld each piece to the frame tubes below it, but I don’t plan on this counting as the stressed belly pan. A stressed belly pan will be added to the planar bottom of the car. Making the seat bottom removable gives the advantage of easier access to the triangular compartment below it for mounting the fire extinguisher and whatever else will fit, and I can also replace the seat bottom later with a carbon fiber and kevlar version to save weight. At the moment I’m appreciating the fact that certain important body parts will be protected by two layers of steel in the event of a crash.