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Discussion Starter #1
A few weeks ago, we started on a tonneau cover for a customer with a full custom 1963 Ford Ranchero race car/show car. I took a lot of pictures of the build, so this thread will be very picture heavy.

The customer asked for a clean, neat install on some carbon fiber panels we make. The original plan was to use dzus fasteners to hold the panels in place and install aluminum rails under the panels, screwed to the inner bed walls, which would support the tonneau panels. As the car sat at the shop a few days while we began laying up the panels, I had an idea. I'm the type of guy who always wants to challenge himself, so I decided that I'd like to try to build the angle rails out of carbon fiber and build them into the bottom side of the panels. That would enable the absolute cleanest possible install, without any exposed fasteners on top, other than the actual Aerocatch latches that lock down the hinged rear panel.

Here are the before pics........





 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
The first step in the process was to mask off every area of the car that we thought we would have contact with.




After masking, we started the long, arduous task of making templates for the panels. This was especially tricky with this car for several reasons. First, the car has four roll bars, all coming in at different angles and in different places. It wouldn't have been difficult to make the tonneau in four or five pieces, but the goal was to get it done with just three pieces. That meant tucking one full piece behind all four bars. The toughest part of that, is that the rear "wings" of the b-pillars jutted out well behind the back window, unlike your typical pickup bed that has a flat back window area.

For templates, we use corrugated plastic panels. They are very similar in weight and construction to cardboard, but they are far more difficult to put a crease in, making for a material that would remain intact and rigid where typical cardboard would get bent and misshapen and folded. Making that first template took dozens of trips in and out of the car, cutting and trimming and taping, little by little. It took more than a day and a half just to get the template perfect.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i173/fun2xlr8/Customer%20Cars/BrentFromYakima/C29E30ED-8244-4512-B379-493335F86914_zpspmmajmxv.jpg[/IMG]

 

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Discussion Starter #3
Once we got the first template made, we were able to make the second template. This went much, much faster, only taking a few hours to complete.



After getting both fitted, it was determined that part of the first panel would need to be added to the second panel to make the nicest, most seamless fit.



Here is the finished first template piece.

 

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It is important to understand that these templates have to be exactly nuts-on because I need to use the templates to determine where the reinforcing core material goes, as well as determining where the reinforcing angles go on the edges to fasten those panels to the bed sides. One small mistake or miscalculation in these templates, or not copying them exactly to the carbon, would result in the carbon panels not fitting right, or not fitting at all. Then we would be back to square one, starting over.

So, here we have the reinforcing foam core that goes between the layers of carbon fiber. Essentially, we took the templates we made and just subtracted 1/4" all the way around the perimeter and around the bars so that we wouldn't have any exposed white foam sticking out from the cuts when we trim out the carbon fiber. We laid up both pieces on the table as they will sit on the car, so the carbon weave has a consistent, continuous look, helping to make the two panels blend more like one.



Here is the resin spreading from one end of the part to the other. This process of dry layup and adding resin while under vacuum is called "resin infusion" or "vacuum infusion". It is a very good method for creating top quality parts, with great strength and very little excess resin.



Here is what that carbon looks like after all the infusion consumables are stripped off and the finished carbon fiber part is exposed. This is the bottom side, which is why it has a rough, matte finish. The other side, which is against a glass table top, is the high gloss side.

 

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Now for the flanges. These are built to resemble add reinforcing strength to the edges and a flange to screw to the inside of the bed walls.

We built up an MDF and 2x4 backer to lay the carbon up against, all the way around the perimeter of the two pieces together. 3M metal tape covers the entire framework so the resin and carbon doesn't stick to it.



The framework is now added to the table and taped down, then a secondary bag is sealed up against the outside to keep the resin from spreading outside the working area onto the finished area.



Here's the entire structure just before adding resin.

 

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And here is the final result of that entire day worth of work. It didn't turn out nearly as perfect as I had envisioned, but it looks exactly like I needed it to look.




Here is what the bottom side of those two panels looks like after applying a gloss coat of epoxy and after trimming and fitting them.

 

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Now with the pieces fully masked off, it's time to begin cutting and trimming and fitting them. This took almost two days for the first panel because we had to be extremely careful moving the panel in and out under the bars so as not to scratch the paint on the car and the roll bars. And keep in mind that one small mistake, one slip-up, one scratch to the car or the panel, one little jump of the jig saw, or one stray jab, and the part is garbage and we start over. We're in the home stretch, but cutting carbon fiber is painstaking slow because of all that. Way, way worse than trimming out some hood or trunk lid.



Second piece trimmed and fit.



 

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Now that both panels are fitted, it's time to mask off the bottom of both panels and epoxy the locking tabs in place. Remove them carefully one last time, apply tabs, then remove masking and install for the last time.






 

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Now the reinstall. All fasteners, including the piano hinge, are stainless steel.





Summertime and installing these panels in the dark at 1am. Glad I've got good lighting....

 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Some side shots....

Keep in mind that these pieces are now fully installed. No exposed fasteners and no fasteners to connect the joint where the two panels meet!




 

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Discussion Starter #11
Compared to those last two panels, the hinged panel is pretty boring. The only real challenge was that the bed rails at the back of the car go in an upward direction. So, we had to decide if we wanted the last panel to be flush with the bed rails and tail up, or continue use it flat with the rest of the panels and have the back side fit lower to the eye at the back. We chose the latter, for an overall smooth, flat look.

First, we fit it with masking tape applied.



Next, we installed an aluminum angle rail to fasten the pins for the Aerocatch fasteners. I had planned to do this part out of carbon also, but we were already way behind schedule with all the extra work that I had added to the job. The customer was anxious to pick up his car and I couldn't add another couple days to the job just for this one little piece.



The underside of the hinged panel. Note the stud on the underside of the panel connecting it to the hinge. We epoxied bolts to the bottom side of the carbon panel to hold the hinge on to keep with our theme of no exposed fasteners. Just another one of those touches we added that had to be figured out how we would do it long before we built a single carbon part.

 

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Discussion Starter #12
And finally, the finished tonneau. Weighing in at under 25 pounds for the entire system, including the stainless hinge, angle aluminum, and all fasteners, we kept this car lightweight while reducing the drag and turbulence of the open bed.

And one other thing, we designed it so the tailgate could be opened and closed without opening the tonneau.





 

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We even had enough material left over to make a couple of door panels for the car.......



And lastly, the finishing touch telling everyone who did the work......













The end.
 

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very cool!
and prolly $$$
 

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Very nice work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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