Fiberglass or GRP (glass reinforced plastic) was the preferred material for many historic sports cars such as Lotus, Daimler, and Rochdale. Even the legendary Chevy Corvette was traditionally made from fiberglass. Fiberglass cars are light, not expensive to manufacture, durable, and do not rust. These iconic cars allow collectors to own a piece of history created during the automobile boom of the 1950s.
However, repairing or repainting fiberglass vehicles can be more time-consuming and costly than their metal counterparts. Understanding the process that goes into the art of maintaining these classic vehicles will help their owners understand why it may take longer than expected for their auto body shop to perform the work.
Rust or Accident Damage (smaller areas)
Steel panels used in traditionally made cars can be repaired if they are damaged in an accident or have rusted by cutting out the affected area and welding new metal and painting. With fiberglass, it is possible to remove damaged areas, but layering replacement fibers and a resin coat to ensure a perfect match is time-consuming and intricate.
Overall Damage or Cracking
Fiberglass is porous. Cracking of the gel coating can be a big issue with GRP cars. The materials used when these cars were originally built don’t hold a candle to new technologies. The remedy is to remove the coating and resin again.
In some of these cases or major overall damage, it’s necessary to go back to the bare body. Unlike cars made of metal, fiberglass cars are more reactive and cannot withstand paint stripper or other harsh chemicals. Machine tools cannot be used for concern of altering the car’s unique design. The work must be done by hand. This is a long process. Any cracks or imperfections need to be filled and a new resin coat applied and cured. This surface then needs to be dry sanded to a dull finish before primer can be applied-but even that abrasive step cannot penetrate the gelcoat. Finally, primer, up to four coats, can be sprayed, more manual sanding, top coats, and a clear coat.
Fiberglass cars are a reminder of a cool, quirky time in automobile history. Maintaining and preserving them requires specialized care by professionals that have experience with these classic cars.