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Fabric Covered Car Bodies?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Drive Em, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. Drive Em
    Joined: Aug 25, 2006
    Posts: 1,748

    Drive Em

    Has anyone ever build a fabric covered car body in the way old airplanes were built? I was thinking that a metal framework could be built in any shape you wanted, and the fabric would cover it all up. I think it would look awesome, especially done in a military war type plane theme.
  2. The early Bi Planes used cotton and cellulose dope as covering,,very flammable.

    I believe today they use Ceconite,,which is very expensive. HRP
  3. Gearhead Graphics
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 3,166

    Gearhead Graphics
    from Denver Co

    not only is the fabric spendy, the paint is incredibly expensive!
  4. stude_trucks
    Joined: Sep 13, 2007
    Posts: 4,755


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  5. Dapostman
    Joined: Apr 24, 2011
    Posts: 294


  6. rustbox66
    Joined: Oct 31, 2010
    Posts: 21

    from Illinois

    You can use the same construction techniques with cloth. I've seen flannel blankets, sheets and nylon material used for this type of work, (please research what type of cloth will be most durable) and then fiberglass over it to make it durable enough to withstand all the touching, tapping and knocking it will experience from inconsiderate morons that can't keep their hands off your vehicle. Good luck and please post pics!!!
  7. Tnomoldw
    Joined: Dec 5, 2012
    Posts: 1,563


    :)In the early 60s ,there was a roadster pickup that the body panels were covered with a brown/white cowhide pattern ,It was at Indiana, Ohio, Michigan rod/kustom shows. I'm assuming it was a Naugahiyde material.:D
  8. aircap
    Joined: Mar 10, 2011
    Posts: 1,473


    I seem to remember a story about a lakes racer back in the day with a canvas belly pan. It caught on fire and burned to the ground.

    Also.... I think one of Mickey Thompson's early slingshots had a paper mache' body over chicken wire and tubing.
  9. banjeaux bob
    Joined: Aug 31, 2008
    Posts: 5,793

    banjeaux bob
    from alaska

    Rustbox said it all... you don't have to use expensive ceconite.You could use old bed sheets if you wanted.Or even new ones and cover them with some sort of coating to make it more durable.There has to be some youtubey videos out there describing how to stitch the fabric to the frame work.
  10. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 10,906

    from Quincy, IL

    I think it's great idea and something different for a new build. In the early part of the 20th century many vehicles used fabric covered bodies, even leather in some instances.

    Aircraft covering with cotton used "dope" that, when drying, tightened the fabric. With Ceconite, running a warm iron over the fabric shrinks and tightens the fabric.

    Following an aircraft refinish process can result in a very nice outcome. But I fail to understand how that is considered any more expensive than current automotive finish materials.

    I encourage you to follow through........sounds like a cool project.

  11. 63comet
    Joined: Jan 31, 2006
    Posts: 508


    I think I'd look into the way people build skin over frame boats. Heat shrunk nylon is one of the more common methods, canvas and paint is a traditional method.

    Make google work for you and you should find some ideas to get the hamster wheel spinning.
  12. If i wasnt on my hand crank phone, id give you a link to my thread on hop up mods for 28 hudson. Lots of talk there about this, as im looking at diffrent ideas for a speedster body.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  13. Google Weymann coachbuilders. Even the big $$$ boys used fabric bodies - Duesenberg, Bugatti, Rolls.
  14. black 62
    Joined: Jul 12, 2012
    Posts: 1,895

    black 62
    from arkansas

    what are we smoking tonight ?
  15. Don,t need to smoke funny stuff to see that it is traditional and can look good. Was done a lot by the fancy & sporty auto body builders in the 1920s & 1930s.

    Attached Files:

  16. greg32
    Joined: Jun 21, 2007
    Posts: 1,963

    from lemont,IL

    Saw a car a few years ago, made his roadster top bows, and covered it like a wing, fabric and dope. Looked great. Also, Bentleys in the 20s had leather covered bodies. Light weight for these period race cars.
  17. Fabric bodies were pretty popular in Europe (Vanden Plas Bentleys, Hispanio-Suiza, etc.) Some of the plans and several period advertisements I've come across specify DuPont Fabrikoid - which was a pyroxylin cloth. Pyroxylin is a cellulose resin - similar to nitrocellulose lacquer. These days it is most commonly seen in the form of book binding.

    There is a company out of the UK that specializes in Fabrikoid, with colors and embossed texture to match DuPont's old me if you'd like info.
  18. i saw on the power block tv a few weekends back where they took some fabric and put fiberglass resin on it.
    might be an option
  19. afaulk
    Joined: Jul 20, 2011
    Posts: 1,189


    Duhh...why didn't I think of this? Seems like a good way to make a form for fibergass parts, like a FED body or at least a nosepiece.:D
  20. If you use fiberglass over the material then it no longer is a canvas body. HRP
    volvobrynk likes this.
  21. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 1,892


    I made a fan shroud by stretching some stretchy cloth over a form then coating it with resin. Later laid up another layer of cloth and resin, works pretty slick.
  22. chinarus
    Joined: Nov 9, 2010
    Posts: 492

    from Georgia

    I have had some limited success using house painters dropcloths (canvas) and fiberglass to prototype "rough" body parts. You have to stretch it tight with clamps, weights, nails or whatever works and avoid real complex shapes or trim similar to how you would trim a stiff paper template but it holds it shape pretty well compared to thinner cloths and it is cheap enough. Downside is it takes a lot of resin to soak it to 100% penetration so it's hard to work a large area.
  23. scottybaccus
    Joined: Mar 13, 2006
    Posts: 4,106


    You know, Tom, back before you and I met, maybe only a year or so, I had sketched up plans for a low slung T frame, banger powered car with a narrowed model A cowl and hood that used small round tubing to form a speedster boat-tail.(ring roller?) I went so far as visiting some WWI aircraft restoration folks to find out what was involved. Turns out it's pretty straight foward, but definitely a practice for the patient.

    Give me a shout if you wanna compare notes.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  24. Dan Timberlake
    Joined: Apr 28, 2010
    Posts: 1,245

    Dan Timberlake

    Stumbled on a surprising claimed benefit of fabric bodies, at least on low speed "people's cars" of the 20s / 30s.

    "The DKW segment of the Union went in for two-cylinder, two-stroke engines and front wheel drive cars which featured panelled bodies in a soft and flexible fabric in an effort to reduce passenger compartment noise."

    A few paragraphs down here.
  25. gnichols
    Joined: Mar 6, 2008
    Posts: 10,544

    from Tampa, FL

    I was thinking the same thing as I read down this thread. There might be a way to spray on some sort of catalytic resin if it would soak in and, hopefully, eliminate the need to finish the surface like hand-laid resin would probably require. One of the advantages of cloth / dope is that it shrinks and dries tightly. But don't poke it with your finger! Gary
  26. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 41,335


    I think I would use a wood frame. The fabric would be held to the frame by tacs then painted.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  27. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,873

    Ned Ludd

    Precisely.'s page on Weymann:

    On that page:
    ... and many, many more construction details.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  28. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,873

    Ned Ludd

    I'd been thinking of a wooden frame panelled in 1mm "Triplex" white laminated card. That assembly gets a few coats of rattle-can enamel to waterproof the card. Then it gets clothed in selected unbleached linen that had earlier been cut and sewn as required. The linen is steeped in diluted white wood glue. When that has set and thoroughly dried it receives a coat of polyester resin and final paint.

    Unlike the Weymann system this would not have the flexibility to deal with frame flex, indeed it would produce quite a delicate brittle body; so it's a good thing I'm going for that eccentric interconnected suspension.
    volvobrynk likes this.
  29. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 26,244


    TOP MATERIAL, like the stuff on a Model A Ford is what Bugatti and others used back in the day. There was a 1/4 inch or so padding stretched over the wood framework then the top material was stretched. I just sold a 1930's issue of Popular Mechanics that had a feature on building a Speedster body this way. Bob
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2013
  30. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,873

    Ned Ludd

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