The Art of Ghetto Engineering


I drive a Daewoo. This is sufficiently humiliating on its own, but I add to this by racing said Daewoo in large, public exhibitions of my poor taste and minimal refinement. Alas, even these deprecations are not sufficient and I so go even farther by embracing the ancient art of ghetto-fabrication.

This story begins with a routine visit to my friends at Turbo Spark. First, I planned to build some air ducts that I might improve the efficiency with which my pile cools its engine and sticks to the ground. Second, I intended to complete a previously done rust repair.

The air ducts would be my first experience with fiberglass and so, in preparation, I brought along everything I would need except a  mold. A quick rummage through the garbage yielded a Styrofoam tray that, from the left over packaging, had once served to contain 532 grams of diced pork leg. Well pleased, I cut this in half and  laid out the glass fibers. With a little help from my roll of transparent packing tape, these actually came out looking remarkably like air ducts.

Half of what used to be pork packaging. You have to cover this stuff with tape or the resin will dissolve it.

Half of what used to be pork packaging. You have to cover this stuff with tape or the resin will dissolve it.

Here you can see the sheet (white stuff) and the resin (pink stuff). Do not breath the fumes.

Here you can see the glass sheet (white stuff) and the resin (pink stuff). Do not breath the fumes.

Applying more resin.

Applying more resin. We ended up using three alternating layers of glass and resin. We left it overnight and were rewarded with a very strong, solid piece the next day.

Some quick notes on fiberglass. The resin is made from some of the nastiest stuff on earth. Do not let it touch your skin or anything else you are uncomfortable throwing away. It is noxious, seriously sticky, able to dissolve rubber (and skin) and perfectly happy to bond with your concrete driveway to such extents you will need a pick axe to remove it. The sheets of glass fiber are almost as nasty. Try not to touch them with your bear skin, wear long sleeves and do not breath the dust unless you’re curious about how asbestos poisoning feels. In other words, use caution with this stuff.

But for all these problems, fiberglass is insanely easy to fabricate with. I’m going to make a new hood next time, after that some fenders and probably a trunk. Your own creativity is really the only limit when it comes to fiberglass shapes.

The enormous patches on the driver's side.

The enormous patches on the driver’s side.

After a little finishing.

After a little finishing.

Now, the activity most likely to take over and ruin my life – rust repair. Before this weekend my Nubira had been the recipient of two new rear shock towers (both rusted through), two enormous patches on the drivers side sill, a new front fender and a section of trunk. Sunday, as I got the car up on a lift – thanks Turbo Spark for letting me use the shop – I discovered six new rust holes in the passenger side sill.

Surprise! More rust on the passenger's side.

Surprise! More rust on the passenger’s side.

I could have bought sheet metal and patched them at moderate expense a few weeks later but that is a fool’s errand with one so skilled in ghetto fab as I. No, I would walk into the remains of a mostly demolished building next door, strip the steel from a large insulation panel and cut that up for strips. The only problem was that this insulation panel had been filled with plastic foam pellets, a million or so of which stuck to the metal.

You may call this a demolished building, I call it a shopping opportunity.

You may call this a demolished building, I call it a shopping opportunity.

The prize!

I had planned to fix this with the help of a butane torch, but the shop owners were not as tolerant of noxious fumes as was I and compelled me to stop before salvaging the entire 3 meters of metal. This was a bummer in that I’d planned to make a front half flat bottom with the remainder, but not so bad in that I’d already burnt enough away to make my passenger’s side patches.

Viola, rust patch for the passenger's side.

Viola, rust patch for the passenger’s side.

And the other one.

And the other one.

Given the absolute lack of investment and mostly salvaged materials, I think this is turning out pretty well. I cleaned out all the internal rust, made sure the frame rails are intact – they’re fine – and reopened the drain holes. The only remaining rust I know about is on a fender I plan to trash this weekend anyway. Some bondo and a fresh coat of paint and I’ll bet nobody notices that 10% of my car is made from butchered thermal panels.
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  1. Mike Chunat · · Reply

    Showing how much I pay attention to Facebook, this is the first time I have read this post and god damn does it bring back some memories of high school weekends and Hemi-T. Glad to see you are still doing your thing and still making guys driving Porsche’s and Ferrari’s feel bad about themselves. I can’t wait to see what you build when you get that massive book deal that we all know is coming.

  2. Heello mate nice blog

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