Building a body for the first time

edited June 2015 in IET Formula 24+
We have built a car from the official kit (which was donated to us 2 years ago, albeit with some bits missing) and have finally got it into good working condition (the electrics no longer randomly fail). We would like to get into racing, so would like to build a streamlined body for the car and some wheel covers. What is the most simple way to build a decent raceable body? I have seen a lot of people on here talking about just sculpting a car-sized block of foam, and solartex heat shrink stuff but I am not entirely sure what it does. We have access to lots of fibreglass matting (but this may be too complex for a first attempt, or not) and enough foam to produce a whole body or a mould if we needed to. Our current body is just a series of flat aluminium panels which cover the shape of the car and although it is very shiny (essential requirement to get more funding from the school) it is quite heavy and not very aerodynamic. Are there any essential things which must be considered when building a body, and what is the recommended route for beginners?


  • A very good question! We already have very efficient aerodynamic cars in the team but we too are building a Kit Car for something to do and also to see if we can beat the competition in this category with an eye to racing in the Kit Car final at Rockingham alongside our regular F24. The most efficient shape for subsonic speeds (that's us) is a tear drop with the blunt end at the front and a long tapering tail (see our FR-6M). The Kit Car chassis is more than a bit awkward in this respect but we intend to use the maximum allowable 2.8 meters length to get somewhere close to it. We will be using 2mm ABS sheet as this can be shaped quite easily with a hot wire line bender where required or just bent into a shape and secured in place with pop rivets or self tapping screws. We won't have time to resort to mouldings which would produce better shaped component parts to fit to the body. That could well be next winter's project.
  • Is there a necessary requirement to have impact resisting foam on the front? This would mean a tapered front cone made of foam instead of having a shell made entirely of plastic so would affect the shape of a plastic shell.
  • Yes, you still have to have the foam in the front attached to the front bulkhead and this will need to be 200mm thick to comply with next years regulations. I think you will find that you still need to have a 'shell' covering the foam if only for aesthetic reasons. You could just have foam without a shell but it would look a bit ragged.
  • We've used a variety of materials, but last year, when really pushed for time, we used polypropylene sheet because that's all we had to hand. It's probably about 0.75mm thick, cuts with scissors or a Stanley, is ultra light weight and is really tough so we don't have to be scared of damaging it. If we do, any panel could be remade in about 10 minutes. We made holes in it with a soldering iron then cable tied it in place, taping over the seams to tidy it all up.

    Being even more pushed for time this year, we've kept it on and just recorded our best mileage to date - so it can't be that bad!

  • Please remember as per regulation T7.1 bodywork must be 1.5mm thick or 3mm if plywood.
  • With the kit car I'd suggest a weight saving would be to make a driver cell using the chassis rails that is 1.5/3mm thick (which meets the driver protection regulations), then use as little material as possible to make the bodywork, which will be much larger.

    Then you can still run the car in chassis form if the bodywork isn't finished on time/ gets broken.
  • We are using 2mm ABS sheeting. It is relatively heavy but is bullet proof from any side impact.
  • So it seems like thin ABS/polypropylene sheeting is a good way to go. Is it easy to achieve complicated shapes with this? I assume it can be line bent with a strip heater, but is it also possible to heat it up with, say, a heat gun and bend it into larger and more complex curves? I guess to do this accurately a jig would be required.
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