Aluminum Molding and Readers’ Rides

Posted April 28, 2017

Steve Temple, Editor

Our issue theme on “Alloyed Success” is a bit of a departure for me. While I’ve covered aluminum-body replicas occasionally in the past, they haven’t been as popular as fiberglass for two reasons: They’re much more expensive, and usually require a lot more labor and equipment to produce. But the finished product is certainly a sight to behold. Nothing looks quite so alluring nor more attention-grabbing than a gleaming, polished aluminum body.

With the growth of the automotive hobby, along with wildly expensive show cars (for some fine examples, see coverage of the Grand National Roadster Show in this issue), it’s not such a surprise that we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in aluminum. When I began to look further into all the available offerings in aluminum bodies, I was surprised by how many are on the market now, and the diverse ways they are fabricated.

This issue touches on several different methods of aluminum molding, from hand-beating panels and forming them with an English wheel to power hammers and hot-metal shaping with the Superform process. Each approach has its proponents, and which one you select for your own car will depend on whether you’re a DIY car builder, limited in budget, creating a custom body, or want a sleek and virtually seamless shape. 

For those who already own a fiberglass-bodied replica, don’t think you have to start all over again. One metal shaper we spoke with (Kyle Yocum of Yocum’s Signature Hot Rods mentioned in the feature “Metal Mettle”) says he can use your fiberglass body as a mold for forming a fresh aluminum skin to replace the fiberglass body. 

Even it you don’t want a complete aluminum skin, we’ve also included some tips on making specific custom parts and working with metal tubing, aluminum or otherwise. Just about any buildup project will require fabricating various components. Also, once done, if you want your bare metal to look truly pristine, the feature “Naked Gun” (on a Kirkham hardtop for a Cobra roadster) mentions an aircraft-grade product that can give aluminum a flawless finish, just like one of those silver-bodied vintage airplanes.

We really enjoy hearing from readers about their cars, and how they’ve personalized them in various ways. So I encourage you send us info and photos through our website: www.rcnmag.com/featured-automobile-form. (Look in the “Cars” dropdown menu or on the bottom right of the homepage under “Submit Your Ride.”)

One important key to getting published is providing high-quality photos. Fortunately, even some cellphones can take pretty decent photos, as long as the file sizes are big enough (1 MB or larger). Also, brace the camera so the image stays sharp, and park your car in a nice setting with softer light (either early morning or late afternoon, or in open shade). We like to see a dozen or more shots from various angles, along with the engine and interior. And who knows, maybe we’ll hire you for some other shoots!

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