One of the more challenging aspects of this restoration is the fabrication of the missing and damaged body panels. When we rescued the 780 from the impound yard in 2016, the body kit panel on the driver’s door was completely missing, and the passenger door panel was intact but warped. So a key question from the beginning of the project has been how do we fabricate a fiberglass part of this size from scratch, given the originals were all handmade?
Also, in the body shop we just discovered that with the left and right lower side valences off, the team at ASC, some 30 years ago, had more than a full inch variance in the length of the side panels that run behind the front fender, under the door seal and in front of the rear wheel. It is yet another testimony to the one-off nature of this customized project by ASC back in 1989. The question all along has been is there newer technology we can use?
The answer came in the form of a robotics team leader, Chad Houck and his lead computer mapper Mason Chudleigh. Using the latest CAD software called Solid Works, this team was able to measure and map the existing passenger side panel. Mason then printed up several test pieces on his 3D printer to measure the fitment at both ends of the door. He made adjustments back on the computer and he will reprint new test pieces until the exact fit is made. We also decided to use this approach to 3D print both body kit door panels. Given the totally unique design of each fabricated piece and the visible variations in each side, the hope of simply “flipping” the image of the passenger door panel and making the needed missing driver’s door wasn’t going to work. So Mason is in the process of remeasuring and mapping the driver’s door with the same slow precision.
The good news is that we can minimally print everything we need using ABS plastic on a home 3D printer, but the sections will have to be made in a minimum of 6 segments given the nearly 4 foot length. The hope is to find an industrial printer who can make the piece in one solid piece. The good news it is not too tricky for Mason and his team to bolt the smaller pieces together and then have Neil, our body shop expert put a final skim and sanding, which will give them the same look as the original pieces. The 3D parts are also vastly lighter and can be attached using 3M tape.
Stay tuned for more body panel updates!