Hello everyone, hoping to start building a t-speedster body within the next few months. I want some suggestions from people that have been there and done that.
1. the T chassis flexes... A LOT. that being said, should i build a body out 4x4s and concrete so it doesnt flex?? this seems to be a huge disadvantage, but i have a hunch the body will not hold up unless built from hefty materials.
2. how do you keep the paint looking good over time? the flexing of the body has to lead to cracks. also i am planning on using wood for the majority of the body with an aluminum cowl over a wood buck. is there a primer you can put on the wood to make it last? fiberglass resin?
3. some of my body will be simple curves (not compound curves) What is the best kind of material to do these curves? id rather stay near the wood side of things. 1/4 inch plywood? Masonite? I know REOs were made patially out of masonite.
4. Any general suggestions? I am aiming for the back half of a 1920 SSK http://www.boldride.com/ride/1928/mercedes-benz-ssk and the seats and cowl of Mr. Harris's 22 http://blog.chron.com/heidispics/2012/07/all-american-story-2-friends-vintage-ra cers/
Flex will happen. The body on my car has rubber pads on the steel T body mounts and the bolts have T valve springs between the mount and the nuts. It allows for some movement. With wood, the time will come and possibly fairly soon where the wood grain will show through. The only way I know to prevent that is by covering it with at least one layer of fiberglass cloth and resin. Of course that takes you well out of the period correct range. I've built 2 wooden speedster bodies. The first was pretty ugly and the second I'm real happy with.
The first had a skin of 1/8" birch veneer, several coats of primer and an automotive finish paint. After a few years you could see where the screw heads were and the grain started to show in a few places. Oak veneer or similar with an open grain will show through much faster. Some photos of that car are at http://www.nwvs.org/CarPhotos/118/118.shtml
The second body with nicer lines (my opinion) was constructed with 1/4 by 3/4 cedar strips, somewhat like a canoe but with a fixed frame structure. It is covered by a layer of fiberglass and several coats of resin. This body has held up pretty well considering the abuse I give it but there are still some signs of stress at the bottom front of the door openings. The paint surface has held up quite well. Photos of this car are at http://www.nwvs.org/CarPhotos/033/033.shtml with a couple construction photos at http://www.nwvs.org/CarPhotos/033/118NewBody.shtml
Metal bodies seem to hold up better but that may be because the builders actually know what they are doing in contrast to a guy who makes sawdust in his garage.
1. A wood body, properly constructed, will withstand the flexing of the car.
2. It's not so much the flexing of the body that leads to cracks in the paint as it is the expansion and contraction of the wood. Use West System 105 epoxy resin (or equivalent) on the wood first. Apply, block to the desired degree of level, and reapply as necessary to achieve an unbroken coating, and you can then use automotive primers and paints on top of that without worry.
3. 1/8 Baltic Birch 3-ply is excellent for such an application. You can layer to the desired thickness and if you "glue" it together with something like the West epoxy, it will hold its form after two or three sheets.
i use poplur wood for frame, 20 gauge sheet steel for the body shin and urethane paint. right now i'm doing an A boattail with hardwood plywood framework, canvas, resin and urethane paint. Just what ever you bolt to the vehicle frame either use a material which has some flex or don't bolt extremely tight.
OK you guys don't laugh, I built this speedster over 30 years ago on a 1915 chassis. I built it out of wood and covered it with muslin and painted it with aircraft dope. It was made by making bulkheads and wooden stringers just like an old airplane.
Nearly all the pro wood body guys I know use Quick Poly instead of fiberglass. Fiberglass resin will not soak into the wood fiber very far. Quick Polly is the consistancy of gasoline. When you put it on it soaks deep into the fibers. It sets up very fast. I have built several Horseless Carriage vintag bodys and have always used it with great results. When you use it have everything ready and it also helps to have another helper to help brush it on with you. Mix it in a shallow pie tin. It will set up a little slower if its not deep in the pan. When you are ready to put it on, just slop it on as fast as you can and try to keep it wet, let it run into the seams and joints. Do not worry any about the looks of it. Just try to not let it "puddle" in a tight corner as its a hard place to sand later. After it sets up you can start to sand and finish off the body. I useally use poplar on a lot of my bodys. Ash or maple for the framework and poplar for the skins. I did a test of the quick poly on a piece of poplar and it soaked into the wood almost 1/8 of an inch. Also remember to do the inside and outside of the body to seal out moisture. And only use known kiln dried wood or air dried wood aged at least 2 yrs per inch of thickness. I also use a resorsinol type of glue. It will stain your wood purple but on most painted bodies it does not matter. It is gasoline proof,steam proof, it can be used on a wood boat. Also, as you plan your body, look at it from a "possible crack" standpoint. If there is an area that you think will crack, it probably will. So design the body as such. Put a seam at that area. Put a obvious groove there. make it into a step or lap joint, ect. An old cabinet builder who was my mentor told me " If you can not hide a joint, flaunt it, show it off". Good luck ...
No laughing here, it looks good. It's also much more like techniques of the era. All good in my book.
Steve: What are you calling "aircraft dope" I plan on building a body similar to yours with the wood headers/bulkheads and skin it with cloth like yours. I have a set of plans that were being sold on E-Bay awhile back that skins the body with a tight mesh wire and then covers it with cotton padding and then "Fabricoid" I think " Fabricoid" is like a vinyl uphoulstery, but Im not sure. Does anyone know for sure what "Fabricord" was made of ... (I may be spelling it wrong)
steves car looks great to me too, very period correct. aside from that i wanted to mention the later 26-7 frames are thicker gauge, quite strong if the flex bothers you that much. they have different crossmembers that could be built into your design, or put old members on the stiff rails
About 30 years ago I saw a boattail speedster on a '27 Hudson chassis.
Ever since then I've lusted over that car...I finally built my own on a '15 T chassis.
I used birch and it has valve springs under the body bolts like Walt's car.
Thanks guys for the compliments. I used a product called nitrate dope and coated the wood with it and then used a product called seam cement to glue the fabric to the wood at the edges. I then shrunk the fabric with water, and brushed the fabric with a coat of nitrate dope followed by several coats of butyrate dope and then enamel paint. I would use the West System products today they make the best epoxy for marine applications and it would work great for covering a speedster.
I imagine that you are running two beams down the outside of each rail which are attached to the mounting points? or is the planks/plywood floor directly mounted to the mounts on the frame?
I have built over 60 speedster bodies over the years . Flexing has never been a problem . I use hardwood plywood and skin the wood with 20 guage steel. Give me a call and I can get you started in the right direction.
248 227 1008
There is a guy up the road that makes racer(speedster) bodies for Model T's. The ones he builds is like the one Steve Redelman's picture despects except his is all metal.
I restored an original 1923 ABC Body that was steel over a wood frame like most of the aftermarket bodies. It had numerous stress cracks around the windshield, trunk opening, rear fender supports, etc. I attribute this to the poor quality of the wood frame. In fact, the wood frame fell apart when I removed the sheet metal. Since this was a restoration of an original body, I did not want to change it, but felt I had no choice, so I beefed it up some when I restored it. I used West Epoxy system throughout, which can be mixed in a number of different ways depending on what you want to do with it. Neat stuff. I put wood or metal support gussets in many joints, added a frame extension and redesigned the tail section for greater strength and added framing in the cowl area. I've had no problems due to flexing. The whole project is documented at:
Here is what the car looks like:
Larry I like it. I have a set of 5 Disteel Wheels like yours. Took me almost 20 years to get a set with hubs. Nathan, There is another thread running about Kumpel Redi Cut Plans running at this time. It has some nice speedster info also.....
Speedster bodies come in all sorts of styles. most people don't take a speedster where a lot of flex would be a problem. I say find a style you like and build it to suit you.
Come visit a NWVS endurance run and you are likely to encounter some flex. There are typically some stretches of less than the finest gravel or forest service roads included on the runs. Of course, how you drive them has some influence. We've had some "one and done" folks who only like nice paved roads that won't chip their paint or stress their suspension. Oh, bring your rain gear too, I keep a set in the car. Stay safe and be happy out there.
Nathan: I would recommend building the body in at least two sections. The tail section could be mounted on hinges behind the seat (similar to mine in the picture) and then clamped at the back to secure but leave some flexibility. The front could use std. Model T hood and firewall then notice that I build frame panels along the lower section which flex with the frame. You could choose to build a center section beside the seats to enclose it more. I did not as I wanted more of an open look. I have attached a couple of pictures so you can see what I did. All metal was formed from 18 ga. steel that was not original parts. You are welcome to contact me if you need more
I love that! That's a real boattail speedster!
I have some pictures on www.facebook/modelttom speedster.com . Never had a problem with flex cracks . Might be a problem if body is built to stiff and not letting it flex . My first speedster built 40 years ago looks as good today with no paint cracks. Simple frame work is the way to go. No springs or rubber pads bolted tight to frame.