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Day 16

After fitting the carpet to the interior of the Ultima, the next stage was fitting the alcantara to the dash. Firstly, the hole for the steering column was drilled in the dash, and then the recess for the dash pod for the Stack unit was marked out using the steering column hole as a central point. This was cut roughly to shape, then filed so that the dash pod would fit in neatly with a millimetre or so clearance at the edge to allow for the thickness of the alcantara.

The Ultima interior before the carpets and alcantara was fitted

After this was done, the alcantara was fitted to the dash pod. This was done before the main dash as a bit of a practice run, in order to gauge how pliable the alcantara was and how easy it would be to fit it to the complex curves of the dash. Fortunately, the material was semi pre shaped, which meant that only a small amount of stretching was required to get it to fit nicely against the curves. The alcantara for the dash pod was painted with the impact adhesive, as was the dash pod, then the alcantara was placed carefully onto the pod and stretched round the curves, making sure no creases formed or any air bubbles were trapped under the material. The edges were folded under the pod and adhered to the underside so that they were neat, then any excess material was trimmed from the pod.

Whilst this was being done, the serious work of creating the carbon fibre dash section that would house the majority of the buttons and the flip up screen for the reversing camera was being carried out buy another member of the team. An MDF male mould was created from the engineering drawings generated from the CAD 3D model; the curved face was done by hand using a profiling tool, and the recesses for the buttons was created using hole saws and a bit and brace. Once completed, this was sanded down to give a good smooth finish, and sealed using liquid PVA. The mould is shown below; the intention was to build up a couple of high quality layers of carbon fibre on the surface of the mould, and these would provide a good appearance to the dash, then the carbon fibre would be removed from the mould, and the back face would be built up slightly with fibreglass to provide a bit more rigidity to the assembly. We were advised by a composite expert to combine the two materials in order to limit the possibility of resonance affecting the dash once it was installed in the vehicle.

Painting the dashboard mould with liquid PVA

Once the mould was sealed with a few layers of liquid PVA, this was left to dry, then wax polish was applied to the PVA in order to stop the epoxy resin sticking to the mould. When a couple of layers had been applied, the epoxy resin was mixed, and the carbon fibre cloth (which was surprisingly difficult to handle as it was so flimsy) was carefully cut to approximate shape. The third layer of epoxy was left to semi cure, until it felt tacky (similar to sticky tape), then the carbon fibre was applied to the tacky epoxy. This was left a few minutes for the epoxy to adhere to the carbon fibre, and then the carbon was brushed with epoxy making sure it did not lift from the mould. Once cured, the process was repeated with a further layer of carbon fibre. We found it necessary to plug the button recesses with appropriately sized sockets in order to stop the carbon from lifting when it was curing, as we were not using the vacuum bagging process as you would in industrial production with proper equipment.

After the epoxy had cured, it was time to remove the carbon from the mould. This proved to be very difficult, as the wax had obviously not provided enough protection between the epoxy and the PVA, as the two had bonded together. The upshot was that the dash panel split when it was being removed. The process then had to be restarted, as the damage was too severe to repair. The second attempt totally bonded to the mould, so both were scrapped. A second mould was made, and after looking into the problem, it was decided that the new mould would be covered in tin foil, as the epoxy did not stick to it very well. The mould was covered in foil, which was glued to the wood. The process was then repeated, and eventually, after a lot of frustration, the carbon dash was released from the mould with minimal damage. There was a tiny bit of splitting of the carbon fibre, but this was easily repairable. A couple of layers of epoxy were built up on the exterior of the carbon so that they could be sanded back and polished to give a high gloss finish to the dash.

A couple of layers of fibreglass were used to build up the back of the dash, which stiffened the whole thing significantly without adding excessive material. The holes were then carefully cleaned out to the correct size to accept the buttons and fuel gauge, and the surface was cleaned up, cut back and polished to give a high gloss finish. Needless to say this process was carried out over a long period, but the results were worthwhile after several attempts at getting the dash correct.

Meanwhile, the hole for the dash assembly was marked out and cut into the dash on the car. The position of this was governed by the chassis tubes which ran behind the dash, as well as the position of the air conditioning unit which restricted the position of the flip up screen. This was cut out and sanded before the carpets were fitted to the car, in order to avoid glass splinters and dust being stuck in the carpet.

The holes were marked out and cut for the screen vents, which were cut out using a hole saw, then sanded out to the correct size using a drum sander on the end of a drill. The fibreglass sanded very quickly, so care was taken not to go too quickly so that the holes did not end up over size. Like the dash panel, the position of the vents was once again governed by the position of the chassis tubes and air conditioning unit which took up the majority of the space under the dashboard, so there was little option but to put the four vents wherever they could be squeezed in.

The Ultima interior with the alcantara and carpet in place

After the holes for the vents were cut, the alcantara was painted with the epoxy resin, and so was the dashboard. The alcantara was then placed on the dash before the adhesive became tacky to allow some repositioning of the fabric. This was positioned using the stitching along the front edge as a datum, then stretched across the top surface of the dashboard, working from the middle outwards. The fiddly bits were fitting the alcantara round the roll cage bar at the sides of the cockpit, and round the complex curves at the edges of the dash. However, after a bit of perseverance and a lot of adhesive later, the material was in place, without an air bubble or wrinkle in sight.

The Ultima seats are in

The Stack dash pod was then temporarily fitted with the Stack unit inside it to check for fit. The seats were then bolted back into place, and after a lot of struggling the 6 point harnesses were bolted into place using the M10 bolts provided. The vents were ‘plumbed in’ and for effect the screen was placed into position, suddenly the car looked ready to go!

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Just Doors UK sponsoring MacG Racing
PTR Exhausts
Braid Wheels
AWS Racewear sponsoring MacG Racing
Quantum Racing Suspension sponsors MacG Racing
Albins Performance Transmissions sponsors MacG Racing
Rotary Revs Logo

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