Introduction: The MacGyver Bat Tumbler (Make a Crime Fighting Vehicle Out of Junk and Readily Available Items.)
Carsplay (Car Cosplay or mobile art)
(If you have any questions or anything wasn't clear in this instructable please comment or send a message. I've never written one before so if you need more info, i will update the instructable for you. Now be safe and awesome.)
Need to make an escape in style? Want to feel as if you command the road. Or maybe you just need an Epic entrance. This is how to make any janky vehicle into a car worthy of fighting crime… Or just going to Walmart in style!
**Warning! This instructable may inspire you to try awesome or do awesome. If inspired to attempt awesome while or after reading, please be safe while doing awesome. I cannot be held responsible for others’ attempt at being awesome, to do awesome, or being awesome and meeting unfortunate mishaps while attempting to be or do awesome. I’M NOT WEARING HOCKEY PADS!
Now... Let's break and build stuff.
Step 1: MacGyver Application Theory: Knowledge, Wisdom, and Insight. Achieve Insight!
MacGyver was awesome because he had the fundamentals of doing things. He wasn't necessarily a rocket scientist, but with fundamentals of what things do, he used things in a non-rudimentary ways. Which saved the day, his life, or the lives of others. For the future of Instructables, let's all live by the way of MacGyver.
A method I try to learn by. Not sure if this method has a name or not, but it makes sense to me.
Knowledge ---> Wisdom ---> Insight.
(Wisdom is greater than knowledge, and Insight is greater than wisdom)
Knowledge - facts about stuff. Even simple stuff
Wisdom - Using those facts in application to what you've learned in basic form.
Insight - Use facts and objects in a manner that wasn't originally intended, however can be used due to wisdom or mastery of use.
Knowledge- Pencils are a writing tool. Made from wood, contain Lead (graphite), have an eraser made out of a synthetic rubber which can erase pencil marks, etc.
Wisdom - I can or need to use pencil to write with on surfaces (like paper), fill out a test that requires a #2 pencil. I understand the way a pencil was meant to be used. writing, tests, forms, etc.
Insight - A pencil is more than a pencil. Pencils can also be used for.... Self discovery or through additional learning or practice, theory, experimentation, or further knowledge. Pencils can be used for conducting electricity, sculpting, pencil shavings repel moths, eraser tip can be used as the temporary replacement for the back of an earring, make a splint for a broken or sprained finger... the list goes on and on. This is MacGyver's Way. #MacGyverTheory If you name it after me, it doesn't sound as cool.
This insight is developed by increasing your knowledge and application of what you learned about the object. The more facts you know of an object, the potentially more useful it can be when you are in a pinch or when it comes to applying previously learned things towards new things. Hence Insight. MacGuyver had an incredible insight on the world and things in it through knowing and mastering basic facts of how things work.
Our project is the Bat tumbler or whatever car you want to build. Think of the basic components of the vehicle. wheels, engine, brakes, lights, and steering. That is the basic stuff. Breaking the components by what you know and try to gain as much knowledge or wisdom as you can. Insight really can only be learned through application, testing things for yourself.
Step 2: Do Your Research!
Before undertaking any kind of major project it’s always best to do some research. The research required will vary unless you already know your budget, your available resources, and can adhere to them. If you’re unsure as far as your commitment level, this tutorial will give you an idea of the amount of time needed to complete this project. Now it’s time to identify what resources you have at your disposal and then you can make an effective plan of attack. What would batman do? What would MacGyver do? Both need to make split second decisions, however know what it takes to get a job done. The more time you spend for preparing, the higher the probability you’ll have to succeed.
Below I listed all of the tools I used for this project so you would know what you need in order to succeed. You might need more depending upon your chosen donor car, conditions, skill, life experience, have a fear of a particular tool, etc. Places to do research for this build are chickslovethecar.com (batman everything fan website/forum) and google. You can find dimensions for whatever bat mobile you’d like. We are basically going to make a large paper craft version of the car, except use fiberglass or metal as the end product.
respirator / mask (fan for toxic fumes with paint and fiberglass)
1x Grinder with a lot of cutting wheels and grinding wheels. (used for cleaning welds, cutting steel)
-PPE equipment (safety gloves, eyewear, earplugs are nice too for long grinding sessions.)
1x Reciprocating saw with extra-long blades. (useful for cutting through A, B, C pillars on the car which are thick making it difficult if you use the cutting wheel of a grinder.
1x Sander (small square kind or mouse) If you have a different one it may still work ok. Hard to get into small spaces with a belt sander.
1x welder (MIG, TIG, or ARC are all ok arc) I used a MIG welder for speed.
1x complete ratchet and socket set. (Your sockets will need to fit ½ bolts to make sure the top sub frame you’ll be building, in order to secure to the original bottom chassis.
1x large crescent wrench
Lots of 2” chip brushes (for body work phase) fiberglass
1x set of small paint rollers
1x tire iron appropriate for your donor vehicle
1x set of jack stands (2 ton is fine)
1x floor jack (strong enough for your donor vehicle)
1x saw (hand saw is good. A miter saw/chop saw is great and will save you lots of time and frustration when cutting wood and determining angles, lengths.)
-Lots of clamps even the cheap ones from harbor freight are better than nothing.
1x corded drill with drill bits (if you have a cordless one, that may be convenient, but corded ones deliver more power and you don’t have to wait for them to dry.
1x Drill with drill bits.
1x wooden or rubber mallet or a scrap piece of wood.
1x speed square, or tri-square, or square
1x specialty tool (an engine hoist, or box and tackle/ hoist for lifting heavy things, transmission jack, or
some blocks to support the frame of the back half of the vehicle while modifying the rear end.
Step 3: Locate a Donor Car
-Get a donor vehicle. Make sure it is in relatively working order. Nothing worse than putting a lot of time and money into a vehicle that is just going to break down before you even finish. If it doesn’t move, you’ll have a statue. There are a lot of vehicles out there that people don’t want, mainly for cosmetic reasons. Take a look on craigslist, ask your friends, check community boards, etc. Find a vehicle. The main things you need are: a running engine, good brakes, a good frame (straight, structurally strong), a good battery if possible (to save some money), running headlights, tail lights, and turn signals. The rest is unnecessary weight which we will remove. Compare your donor car dimensions with the dimensions and information you found out about the car you had in mind to build. It is very helpful to know this, so you are aware if you are cutting off or adding anything on. It’s always easier to cut stuff off then put it back on. If you have a vehicle in mind you can type “Year” + “Make model of vehicle” + dimensions and it will spit out most dimensions for you with little work.
In my case, I used a 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan. It’s not much to look at yet, but we will get there.
The nice things about these caravans is that they are high mileage vehicles worthy of over 300K miles. This one only had about 80,000 miles on it. It didn’t run when I got it. The mechanic said it was having radiator issues. Sold it to me for about $400, not counting the rental tow dolly to get it home ($42.36). If you are unsure what to use, get a friend who is handy enough what to look for. So I was invested at $442.36 just to start this project. The amount you spend on this project will vary depending upon the resources available.
Do more research. Now that you have your donor vehicle, whether it was one you wanted or the only one that you could find you’ll need to tell what you need to add or subtract.
So I googled 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan Dimensions in google. This is what I got.
The information age, makes things so much easier. You can find anything on the internet if you are willing and have the time to look. Now let’s compare the dimensions I found for my donor vehicle to the Bat Tumbler dimensions.
My sketch of dimensions that I took, plus other important information I thought of at the time. Such as distance between door, windows, tires, bumper hood, wheelbase, height, hood, weight, etc.
The first thing you want to do is find lots of reference material. Like lots. Lots of the original, lots of other peoples’ projects, lots other car DIY stuff, or whatever. Get familiar with what you attempting to do before doing it, it will put you ahead of the curve. I finished this project over a period of 3~4 months working on it everyday for about 5~8 hours when I wasn’t working full-time.
Fig. 2: Schematic from google search of batman tumbler dimensions.
9’ wide ( or 108” inches) by 15’ long (180”). So 108” inches wide by 180” inches. We know by looking at lots of reference pictures that the Tumbler rear end, ends with the massive car tires.
In this case, the Caravan is too long overall and hangs out too far in the back with the bumper (193” is greater than 180”). At least 2 feet too long in the back. We are going to cut off the back section behind the tires, so the vehicle ends where the tires do. It doesn’t have to be perfect. If it absolutely needs to be perfect then hire someone to build it the way you want or spend as much time as it takes for you to be satisfied with your work. Try to pace yourself, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Here is a list of the dimensions that I used for the donor vehicle.
16 feet long by 5 feet 6 inches tall, by 6 feet wide.
It’s important that it remain relatively proportionate if you are building on top of a smaller donor like a car instead of a van, then you will need to shrink your dimensions. There are online calculators you can use to calculate differences in width or length. If you find a paper craft version of the bat tumbler calculate how much bigger your car is than your model. If your model is 18” inches long and you need 180 inches for your car. It is ten times bigger. Using percentage is an easy way if you want to shrink things down but keep the other dimensions equal to each other. 80% of the length would be calculated .80 x length = (80 percent of old length), then .80 x width = (80% of old width). If you needed it to be 10% bigger, then your calculation would be 110% x length = 10% larger than your original length.
The theory I had when starting this build was to cut the end behind the rear wheel. Reinforce the frame where I cut and build the skeleton of the bat mobile to put on top of the vehicle and bolt it down. So to simplify, cut on the red dotted lines.
Step 4: Demolition Phase
It’s time to butcher a vehicle
This section will be the most fun and you are more likely to have the most volunteers to help.
**MacGyver SuperHero TIP - Before doing any modification such is cutting grinding, removing connections such as wires etc. Your absolute first step is to disconnect the battery. This also becomes extremely necessary when uninstalling any airbags on the vehicle.
After this step, it would also be a good idea to remove the gas tank since you will need to do it eventually unless you don’t intend to cut through the wall with your gas cap. However, it may still be highly recommended if you plan on using a cuting torch, cutting wheel or grinder which tends to create sparks. You know, Science! Protect yourself and your garage.
There are several pictures of Jr. high Students tearing out panels and seats. In the picture a friend of mine is using the reciprocating saw to cut around the wheel well of the rear passenger tire. He made an unscheduled visit, when he saw me butchering the van, he immediately wanted a chance to do some himself. You will find more volunteers readily available when it comes to destroying something than it comes to building something. Don’t be surprised if your volunteers disappear after demolition phase.
When disassembling a car keep in mind, the KISS method (“keep it simple stupid”). Start with the easiest thing first and label things just in case you want to use them later, especially wires. You would be surprised at the amount of wires in the cargo area of this vehicle. Each window had two wires for power windows, two dome head lights, power defrosters on windows, locks, side cargo lights on both sides, read cargo lights on both sides, wipers on front and back, power seats, rear radio connectors, rear cigarette port. There were over 64 wires. Label them what they were. If you know which is positive and negative even better. Terminate the wires so you don’t have a short later on. Make sure you can read what was written.
MacGyver Superhero Tip: Electrical rule of thumb is find a wire and what it is connected to. Label the wires both ends with painters tape. Cut and terminate the wires with electrical tape. Save the electronics for later.
Things that I saved were all of the headlights, tail lights, turn signals, switches in case I needed them, etc.
4.1 Remove simple things on your donor vehicle
-Remove hood, doors, windows, seats, spare tire, seat belts (except for front seats if possible), truck, support arms for hood and trunk. Warning! See Section 3.3 about uninstalling the steering wheel and disengaging airbag.
4.2 Remove electronics, label wires and terminate cables
-windows, locks, seat belt electronic wire, lights, turn signals, tail lights,
4.3 Once your electronics and glass are out of the way, start cutting.
-If the windows are removed then it is just a matter of cutting through the pillars (metal vertical supports). Pillars are labeled from A-Z from front to back. The windshield may give you trouble when removing it. Try using a razor knife to cut away the rubber around the glass or cut below the A pillar on both sides and remove the windshield in one piece.
4.4 Keep good metal if you plan to reuse it, discard the rest.
The metal you cut off, you can reuse it later. If you want to trash it that is fine too. A local salvage yard will give you money for steel. If you cut it small enough for a garbage bag the garbage man will take it too. Or you can pay someone to haul it away. Sell parts on craigslist or whatever. Getting some of your money back is the best ways to go. Use your grinder, reciprocating saw to start cutting the steel. Be careful of potential tool kick back from the reciprocating saw or smoke caused by rubber or insulation on walls. Use safety glasses and a protective mask. A fan is helpful if you are in an enclosed space like a garage.
I started from behind the driver’s seat and cut off everything off behind the B pillar. Believe it or not. I actually drove it around a few times just like this. It was very cool on a summer day. The neighbor’s gave me some of the most horrid looks. In the picture you can that I added some dually wheels that I was testing out and a large black box which contained the fuel cell for the car’s gas.
4.5 Rear end portion (CAUTION)
MacGyver Superhero Tip: You will want to support the tail end of the body with supports of some kind. For example, an engine hoist with a tow cable wrapped around the remaining body to hold it up after you cut the end springs. The car will want to fall on top of the rear axle and you if you are under the vehicle. You will need to safely hold it up to install your transverse spring if your donor car used leaf springs. Please think about what the car could potentially do so you can stay safe. Also, now is a good time to uninstall the gas tank and the filler tube if you haven’t already. Make sure you label the wires before removing them.
As I mentioned, the donor van was too long. On the Caravan, there was about 2 feet extra behind the rear wheel which needed to be cut off. Back in the day of hot rods and T-buckets they had trailing arms and transverse springs, and pan hard bars, prior to 4 bar and ladder bars. Guys made these in their garage. It was cheap to do with simple tools. I based my design off of those systems. A great reference for this is, the book “How to build a T-bucket Roadster for under $3,000”. You can find good pictures on good under “transverse leaf spring rear suspension.”
Picture from How to build a T-bucket Roadster under $3K, p 65
The brown lines represents the transverse leaf spring (perpendicular spring to rear axle), yellow are the rear shocks, green is the pan hard bar, and red are the trailing arms. Each of these has an important job. Trailing arms prevent front back movement, pan hard bar prevents side movement. The leaf spring supports the majority of weight, and the rear shocks allow supported sway when it occurs.
In my build I used exactly this setup. If you have full leaf springs then you can use this method or another method if you wish. If you have just coil springs on the back of your donor car you can just cut the body after the trailing arms’ and shocks’ mounting point without penalty, but make sure the steel is properly supported before cutting. Be mindful the gas tank is located underneath the car in this area. Now is a good time to uninstall it.
The car trailing arm is after the rear shock mounting point.
Be Advised! Before Cutting Properly support the rear body under the car.
Cut the leaf springs off behind the wheel, and then add a raised lip to prevent the spring from slipping off its bolted position. If you cannot weld or don’t know how to. You can expect to pay about $40~75 for this job. If the tires are off and the axle is accessible for the welder. Just be aware if they charge minimum hour’s labor fee or not. You can use a section of the leaf spring you cut and weld it onto behind the spring just behind the bolted positon on the axle. (See picture on the next page.) So carefully cut the rear leaf springs after the axle, and then cut the body behind the axle.
Body cut just after the axle of the car.
So that long cable you see in the picture with the red arrows pointing to it is the “parking brake cable”. I left mine intact since it is relatively important. Check your local DMV as far as what is required for a vehicle to be roadworthy. Some states do not require parking brakes.
When you weld the lip behind the leaf springs you can now add the transverse leaf spring above (parallel with) the rear axle and below the body of the car. See yellow arrow below. You want the leaf spring to be centered on the axle and on the body. You can measure between the spring mounts and between the channels on the frame. Leaf springs can be obtained cheaply from a salvage yard, farming store, automotive store, online, etc. You want a double eye leaf spring. The leaf spring I purchased was about $30 and it is rated for over 2,500 pounds at 42” inches wide from eyelet to eyelet. With the other supports you install, this will be more than enough. When choosing a leaf spring, look at your rear axle at what might get in the way, such as brake lines.
The next picture is of the mock up phase of the perches with the leaf spring bolted into place with grade 8 bolts all around and tacked into place. The blue lines in the picture represent the brake lines that needed to be moved since they were in the way of the perches. The red lines are the gas lines (out line from the pump and the return line). (Figure 14: Transverse spring in mock up)
The silver block at the top is what people normally use on trucks with leaf springs and trailers for extra lift. It’s a very simple lift kit block. I was seeing what the stance of the vehicle looked like with a 3” lift verses at the leaf spring stock height. This part is optional. It is all about personal preference and what ride height you are looking for. A simple lift kit like this is about $20 from an auto parts store.
So your donor car should look something like this now. Figure 15: Cut off Rear End.
I eventually ended up cleaning up the rear end piece by cutting it across the red dashed line. Other than that you are ready to install your transverse spring if you haven’t already. Again, center it on the body and install a cross bar to bolt it to. This cross bar will be bolted or welded to the frame and to the body. You will then bolt it through the body of the car, the frame, and then the leaf spring by drilling holes through the floor from above (see figure 14). Once it is bolted to the body, then weld the perches onto the rear axle. If you don’t feel comfortable welding now is the most opportune moment to hire your welder to do your major pieces. Weld the spots behind the bolted areas of the leaf springs, the perches for transverse axle, and crossbar for sub frame support.
Step 5: Try to Find Some Decent Wheels
5.1 Try to find some decent wheels.
Fortunately… Or unfortunately… Wheels can make or break a good looking car. They are one of the first things you look at. A sports car with trashy wheels reflects poorly on the car. I am not saying anything good or bad about this next car, but the accents are what makes the car bad in my opinion. It isn’t just the pink color, or the eyelashes on the headlights, or the batman logo, or the batman fins on the back, or the chrome monolith rims. Bad accents just look bad or shouldn’t go together sometimes. Put thought into what you are accenting about your car, but ultimately it’s your car do what you want and do let anyone tell you otherwise.
Figure 16: Batman’s original vehicle. Oh sorry, Original Batman Vehicle.
If you couldn’t remember exactly how the real Batman Tumbler looked one thing you would remember is that it has huge wheels. Six wheels in total. Four in the back (dual tires) and two in the front. My focus was to have the wheels roughly accurate, plain and functional. Nothing flashy since good tires and good rims are expensive. This is a budget MacGyver build remember. You need to use what you have available. If you have access to what you want, use it. Salvage yards and craigslist are your venues for shopping. Common vehicles with dual tires are Ford 350’s, Dodge 3500, and moving trucks. Whatever your source you use for your wheels make sure you write down what vehicle those tires go to. My dually tires can off of a 1998 Dodge 3500. It’s important since those wheels will not fit your donor vehicle unless it was compatible. You might be thinking, “how do I make it compatible?” The answer is wheel adapters.
5.2 Wheel Adapters
Fig. 17: An $80 investment for Justice!
I bought mine off of summit racing (www.summitracing.com). You can also get them from wheel adapters.com. Ebay is a possible option, but I have heard bad things. Just be careful. This is one of the more crucial parts you will buy. Considering you haven’t spent a lot up to this point other than your donor vehicle and leaf spring. Get good wheel adapters. You can look up what you had on your donor vehicle by using google and searching “car wheel bolt pattern” or http://www.wheelsupport.com/ford-bolt-patterns/ . You need to know what the donor car’s bolt pattern is and then the tires that you want to use. So the wheel adapters will allow you to use wheels that wouldn’t normally fit on your donor car like 4, 5, 6, or 8 bolt patterns wheels or wheels with different spacing between bolts. On my vehicle I went from a 5-bolt pattern to an eight bolt pattern. If you buy from Summit Racing, you will get military grade aircraft aluminum steel. It will most likely outlive your car. Last thing you need is to look cool driving down the street and your wheels fall off. I’ve seen it before, when people go expensive on wheels and tires and cheap on your adapters (Fig 18: car with wheel issue). Summit racing will also answer questions over the phone before you buy, saved me lots of time. A wheel adapter will often cost you about $80~100 for one, you need at least a pair.
The Caravan I used is normally a 5 lug by 5” bolt pattern, going to a 8 x 6.5” bolt pattern for the Dodge Dually wheels. So, I needed to purchase a wheel adapter that was 5 lug by 5” inch hub to 8 x 6.5” inch wheel. They are noted as such on the website. Look for one that will match your set up.
5.3 Demolition of the front end if you haven’t done so.
Unless you have your heart set on the stereo, AC, glove box, interior, dash, carpet on the floor, A pillar etc., it can all come out. Again, you should have removed the car battery, if you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend you do so immediately. This can be caused by an accidental short or when prying out. In the front half of the car is typically one or several airbags which can deploy if you are not careful. Usually in the steering wheel, passenger side above the glove box, possibly A pillar, etc. depending upon how new the vehicle is. Check in the owner’s manual for details. If you don’t have one, typically the manufacturer will write “Airbag” into the dash, steering wheel, etc. where there is an airbag. Also remove the bumper, grill, quarter panels, and anything else in the way.
In the picture above is looking over the vacant hood space and where the windshield used to be. The dash on the minivans sit too high, and the roof is very low on this car compared to standard. You can see part of an ‘A pillar’ on the left that still needs to be cut, with a wooden boxed frame behind that. We’re going to build the “Cockpit for Justice”. In retrospect, I wish I would have kept the dash for future use (custom building), but I am glad I uninstalled it. The dash will typically block your vision when driving the car since you will be sitting considerably lower. I cut my dash on the hood side right at the horizontal line you see above.
Step 6: Build the Cockpit
Build the Cockpit
If you haven’t noticed by now, your volunteers may start to dwindle at this point. Try to pace yourself. This is your project not theirs. Sometimes you may not get the motivation to complete projects unless you motivate yourself. I almost quit my project several times through the process. Towards ¾ finishing the project actually.
If you are interested in the papercraft version of the tumbler and just expanding its size and then building a skeleton for it to sit on I attached the files for it.
So onto the cockpit. I’ve have seen several variations of this. The one that I liked the best was the one with a level ‘A’ and ‘B’ pillar, meaning the first vertical piece of wood is the same height as the second vertical piece of wood. P.S. Save your 2x4 scraps, you will use them along the way for additional supports or fins.
Figure: 20 - My first Cockpit before redesigning it to be level.
This is a cockpit where the A pillar (red arrow) is considerably lower than the B pillar. In my head it looked good when first building it, but I ran into problems with making a functional door, etc. After doing a lot of investigating online and on the instructable website I found this other gun who built one.
It was short in length, but had a level A and B pillar. It also lacked measurements and description on how it was made which made me sad, but the craftsmanship was good. The dimensions I went with originally were from chickslovethecar.com . The picture below with the split windshields in the front (Fig 22) is the actual front and the one below that is the back (Fig 23).
I started off by building this out of wood (2x4’s). Wood is far cheaper than steel. You can find it savage from pallets or from a construction yard. If you mess up, you can throw it away and get more. If you’re very desperate, you can buy it from the store at about $1.86 for 8 feet; which is about $0.23 per foot. Price will vary depending upon location. Use your 2x4’s to construct a box frame that will fit over your body and allow the curves to go with or cover your A Pillar. In my pictures I made my width slightly wider than the width of the original van purposely. I was experimenting with the back end. At the time I originally had it come flat back and drop off at the end of the axle. This made it look more like a tank, but not the look I was going for (Fig 24).
I modified the back end several times until I got a sloped angle I was happy with. The angle I chose was around 60 degrees declining to the back. Install upright supports in the cockpit and behind to keep everything square. The wider you make it, the more sag you will gain.
Fig. 25: Taking a picture through the side door of the garage.
The project was getting so big, I had to be outside of it in order to get it into frame. Notice the frame over hangs the side of the vehicle in the front about 4~6 inches and tapers off in the back Fig. 26
I then added another matching outer support that is mounted lower on the declining slope, but matches the angles for the cockpit. Look at the red arrow below in Fig 27. The bottom board underneath follows parallel with the bottom body/frame marked with the green arrow.
Fig. 27: (Below) Same boards in a different view. My friend viewing my work. You should mount your tires to see your work.
Figure 28: The length of the declining board will vary depending upon your donor vehicle and where you cut behind your rear axle. The easiest way to do this is put up to vertical boards at the very back and install your sloping boards in mock up and use some clamps if you don’t want to put any holes in your board. Ultimately, I knew I was doing a metal board so I honestly didn’t care how the wood looked other than the angle and the body lines. If you are going for a finished product which is ok. Cars used to be mounted out of wood after all. Make sure you use screws long enough to hold everything together. I would recommend at least 2 ½” to 3” inches in length.
Figure 29: You should now have the basic shape for the back half of your crime fighting vehicle. You might also be running out of space depending upon the length of your garage. I literally had to turn the vehicle around in the street and back it back in since it was so long for the next step. You’ll see when we get there.
Double check all your body lines. You can use colored string from a home supply store. It usually comes in hot pink, blaze yellow, or orange and is used for leveling. After fiddling around with my lines for some time. I made both the front A Pillar and the B pillar the same height. You can see the picture (Fig. 30) of me climbing out, since my garage was stuffed and I had just been sitting in the cockpit. I think it was the better decision.
Figure 31, is on the back end squared out. For this next part you will need your clamps.
We will be mocking up the fins in the back. You will need to determine how you will mount them. You could hang them from wood, steel, or mount them to a rack which is screwed or bolted to the inclined back of the car. For now you will just mock up your fins with 2x4 scraps you have laying around. You should have plenty by now, unless you threw them away.
Fig 32: Mocked up fins on the back of car. These will slope at about a 70~82 degree angle, if 90 degrees is straight.
The end of the car drops off at the back of the body where you cut behind the rear axle. It may not look the same, but we expect to add the round jet proposition shaped spot in the authentic one.
Step 7: Mock Up and Building the Front End
This part is probably the most difficult portion of the build. Since the rest of the body is made up of simple shapes, the front is very complex and has multiple pieces. I would recommend keeping it simple, however you can use Pepakura (paper craft) model of the car to replicate the desired shapes by increasing the size of the project.
So I pulled my jalopy out into the street, and then backed it in with all my neighbors watching. Seeing the general shape of the vehicle they likely thought I was building a tank. I guess they were right to think that. Let’s review the general shape below, ignoring the wooden windshield where the hood would be. The original cockpit was positioned with the front end of it just above the steering wheel marked with the green arrow. The front addition was positioned just in front of where the hood would lay on your car. The width of this additional cockpit piece maybe the same size or can be slightly wider than your original piece (A Pillar). The reason why I say this is, it needs to clear the front tires considerably. Your front tires when driving need to turn left and right. As they do so, they will stick out considerably. If this pillar is too narrow, your tire will rub on the pillar on the front or the back end of the tire when turning. On the next page is Figure 34, showing the necessary gap needed between the wheel and tire.
Fig 33: Beginning to Build the Front End
Fig 34: Driver side front tire. When turning right, the left tire back size turns toward the support (red arrow). Clearance is necessary, else the tire will rub on the support causing tire failure or support breakage.
So, after building another box that will clear your tires when turning left or right. This distance is typically about 4 inches wider than your cockpit should be, depending upon your vehicle. This also needs to be an even number or a number that can be divided eventually to be balanced on both sides. You will attach this to the front of your cockpit with two boards going horizontally from the top face and one support on each side so it can be properly suspended. This can also lay flat upon the hood support, noted with a green arrow in Figure 34.
If you look at Figure 33 and Figure 34. Mounted several 2x4’s where the bumper used to be mounted on the front end of the vehicle. The height should be roughly equal to where your hood originally laid down and should be mounted into both vertical holes of the original bumper. I believe all bumpers have at least 4 mounting points, however they could have more. If they have more, make sure you use at least the outside two mounting points and conjoin them with a cross bar so you will have a level surface going straight across. These boards will eventually provide structural support for the build and will also keep your mock up windshield from sliding off the front where your hood was when trying to get it into position. I would recommend changing these pieces out to steel when you get to the final phase. Since steel is stronger and will not deteriorate as fast as an untreated 2x4.
In Figure 35, ignore the really weird nose that goes horizontally, and the windshield. I was still experimenting with their positons. I wanted to show a front view of the bumper mounts. You can see the driver side clearly. Unfortunately, the passenger side was blocked by some plants I planted to put into the garden. You will have at least one horizontal support at the top, one on the bottom which is visible in the picture is helpful for making sure everything is square.
Fig. 36: Still a weird set up. The windshield I had a better idea of how I wanted it. I inserted a spacer board to increase the width with the nose end cut off flush where the hood would end. The vertical board centered on the windshield was there to hold the mock up windshield. If you have a horizontal board going across, then you can use this to hold it from sliding off the old hood of the car.
Fig. 37: Opposing angle view of front cockpit addition to the windshield.
Fig. 38: Lots going on. Please see passage.
Ok. I will try my best to explain this picture (Fig. 38). The red arrow points to the horizontal piece that would go directly above the bumper mounted 2x4’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t give it a lot of thought at the time, but it would have been easier to mount to 2x4 with a screw to the board coming at the bumper. I would recommend you do so. The yellow arrow in Fig. 38, runs flush with the metal support that your hood followed. This leads directly to that board going perpendicular that the red arrow points to. Your windshield will mount to these two. The green arrow in Fig. 38 points to a lateral support off of the last piece you just built. The body will begin to taper back inward towards the front now. You leave space so the wheel can still turn freely. You can construct another support going off of the mounted bumper as I have done in Fig. 38 noted with a blue arrow. This boxed in area will form a 3D triangle which will come off to form the arm that will hold the front tire. I currently have a truck tire held into place with a 2x4 on the ground to keep it from rolling off. You should choose front tires that are proportionate to the back tires. On the real tumbler, the front tires are smaller than the back. Since the tires we are using are smaller dually, it looks more proportionate if the tires are roughly the same size as the back, if not a smidge smaller. Let’s look at a different view of the same thing.
In Figure 39 to the right, I originally planned for my tires to be this far out, but it looked awkward. So I ended up cutting the arms down. The position of the front tire should be such so it is about a 6” gap from the original front bumper to the tire itself to allow it to roll. I used 29” inch truck tires so I would be adding an additional 35” inches to the front end. Tire should be centered about where the red arrow is.
Fig. 40: A triangular shaped arm should be formed pointing off on the end (towards the front), but should not meet at a clean point as noted below. Edge of the tire is just behind it.
In the picture above, a partially lateral support (yellow arrow in Figure 40) was added not only to support this arm on top and below, but I was trying to replicate the shapes on the original car. For the mock up phase, I only built one side out of wood. I figured when I was comfortable with the shape, I could easily make reverse measurements based off of my own mockup.
Fig. 41: Additional lateral support added to the arm.
For the most part you should have a general idea of what you are looking at as far as the skeletal structure goes of the car. Now if you plan on using a wooden skeleton for your car. First, that is perfectly legal and you can do that. It has been done in the old days where car bodies were made out of wood. Some custom cars are still made of wood today. Be damn sure that it is properly anchored to your car, and is properly connected at the joints. One screw per joint will not cut it. Also when you add a body, the body will want to act like a kite and fly away at high speeds.
You may have several questions at this point about how I did the windshield, or how I planned for the doors. After cleaning up some of the boards, I expected the doors to be located where the original cockpit section you first built in Step 4. I have pictures to show of that, but this was after I converted to steel. If you plan on doing wood, that is fine. You will mount them the same way. As far as the windshield, I used steel rebar to make the skeletal structure to hold the windshield into place and still gain access to the hood. I will have pictures to show of this and will provide dimensions at the end. Get ready for Step 6.
Step 8: Steel Battalion
Now you’re ready to start looking legit. When people take a look at your project, they
will know you are serious and not just think you have some kind of wooden garage statue. I drive my vehicle back out to the street and turned it around again so the back was facing out. Since the back was the easier to build and shape. I started with the backend in the conversion of the skeleton from wood to steel.
I first removed the six fins (spoilers) on the back of the car, and then took measurements of my cage section. I used 12 gauge channeled super strut. It’s beefy. You can buy this normally at your neighborhood hardware store. It really isn’t cheap but you will average about $1.80 per foot, which is expensive compared to your previous $0.23 per foot for 2x4.
You can technically leave the back portion in place and get measurements or undo it and make one for one pieces. Whichever is easier for you is fine. See Figure 43 and Figure 44 on the next page.
Figure 43: Original back piece made from wood.
Figure 44: Same piece made from steel after welding pieces together. The only addition are the bottom pieces so the skeleton can be bolted to the body and frame of the van. In the background against the fence, you can see the first piece for the cockpit.
After building this piece, you should then swap it for the wooden piece in the car before dismantling the wood frame. Why? If it doesn’t look the way you want, or if you made a mistake, you can still have the original. Mount it onto the car. If you are 100% satisfied you can bolt it to the floor with ½ bolts grade 5 or grade 8. You can buy these at the hardware, farm supply, or home supply store.
Continue to swap out from steel to metal. When you get to the front just before the front side of the cockpit, leave a gap between the two sections as in the picture below. There should be no cross braces in-between here except for on the floor and one upper centered between driver and passenger seats. Your gullwing doors will go here.
Same on the opposite side. You can better see the gap to the right of the maroon colored seat. Gullwing door will be installed here.
Your gullwing doors will look exactly like this. They will follow the contour of the front and back sections of the cock pit and will be mounted on two points on the horizontal support that you installed between the front part of the cockpit and the back.
The easiest way to build your doors is to cut the individual sections and clamp them onto the inner side of the frame like I did in this picture and then weld them together.
Do the same thing on the reverse side. If you think your sides hang out too far before doing the doors you should make any adjustments you need. Once you have the basic shape I would recommend you reinforce the door frames and box them in with a ‘X’ or a ‘V’ formation, so they don’t become tweaked or come out of square and don’t shut.
Continue moving to the front. I started to uninstall some of the wood on the front and got a metal cross piece ready for installation.
Look very closely. After installing horizontal supports on the front bumper, I started the shape that I wanted for the windshield. With a small box centered at the radiator, at the height of the hood, I formed several triangular patterns for the windshield and the hood cover.
Red lines are the exterior mounts for the windshield. The yellow lines are the bottom support of the triangular shape to cover the engine bay. This piece was welded to hinges so I could still be accessible. The additional rebar pieces are remaining hood reinforcement which is static (in green).
My mother showing me how it’s done. I believe she celebrated her 65th birthday. That’s a goofy picture of me photo-bombing her.
Brackets were welded onto the rebar so the windshield could be pop-riveted (or bolted) into place and removed if necessary. The smaller sides have 4 mounts, the center originally had 6 however two were added at the top making 8 mounts. The two green arrows at the top are pointing to hinges that the whole set up was connected to. The windshield/hood can be lifted up and the engine can be accessed.
Fig: Lifting up windshield.
Step 9: The Fins / Airfoils
Those 6 fins on the back. Airfoils, spoilers, thingies. We are doing those next. I tried this several different ways, since I wasn’t sure how to mount these at first. I attempted having the fins mounted onto a piece of 1” OD metal conduit. The steel was strong enough and I had a pipe bender. I can show you a picture of two pieces I attempted to use as the rails.
It was ok, but I didn’t really feel whoopee about it. While the conduit did give me an idea of the height and angle that I wanted to achieve, I replaced it with static mounted pieces of ½” rebar that hold up each 1” OD conduit piece 30” in length (4 mounting points for each one). Each fin is directly mounted onto one of these.
Fig: Side View
Fig : Back View
The dimensions of the fins should be 30” wide by 12” deep. A slight corner should be cut on the inner side in order to give it an appropriate shape. I cut mine out of 1/8” inch sanded plywood. This held up for about a year and a half and then I finally switched to 14 gauge steel.
I made a template out of cardboard and then traced the shape onto 1/8" sanded plywood and then cut them out with a jig saw. They were originally bolted onto the conduit pieces in 3 places. Two on the outside and one on the center. The metal fins now are welded on.
Step 10: And Now, the Front...
More pictures added, also added long section at the end.
You’ve made it full circle returning again to the hardest part of the project, the front. Since typically people will see the car the most from the front or the side it is important for it to look relatively accurate. I first swapped the wooden pieces on the bumper mounts to steel and then added two horizontal pieces that went the full width of the car indicated with red arrows. Sorry for the blurry picture. The only one I had for this part. Where the arrows point you will put a solid bolt through both channels. The vertical and horizontal in each bumper mounting point. It’s crucial that this be strong. You want the steel structure to fail before a bolted point fails. Use a grade 8 bolts.
I also swapped one of the triangular pieces on the driver’s side with the super strut channel and then welded it together. The driver’s side tire is currently sitting in mock-up to calculate distance. The triangular box in the center (to the left of the tire in the picture above is the would-be miniature cockpit that Batman’s head would be if he went into his laydown position to see out of the front. This piece was made with two vertical pieces of super strut and the rest of the box was made with ½” rebar welded into a box for strength. The width of this is slightly larger than the box that was mentioned for the windshield lower mount that can be grabbed onto and lifted for engine access. The next picture is the same area (front view). I started building the driver side quarter panel arm.
Side view of the car. Beginning the construction of the driver side quarter panel arm.
As I added on a piece, I would bolt it into place and then make a cut to maintain the body line. I would then reinforce the piece by welding it into place with the grade 8 bolt still there for extra strength. Started the passenger side quarter panel arm, but mimicking the shape and dimensions I used off of the driver side. Wheels placed equal spacing in from the outside of the vehicle and same distance from the radiator going frontward.
Things were looking like quite a mess. I have parts, tools, cables and steel, wires, gas, a T-square, and other bits and bobs in the picture. I needed to build the actual control arms to mount the tires onto something next.
So I tried to think of how I wanted to do this exactly. I had a solid trailer axle from a boat trailer. It was for a small boat. Maybe only about 72” wide between axles. It came with two half leaf springs. I put the axle and mounted the truck tires on to see how it looked. I did like the height they were at, however there was the problem with having a visible solid axle with the tires mounted to it.
I cut the axle in half and reversed the axles so the outside of the tires would face in towards the triangular box. Like the actual Tumbler is designed. I could use these axles to approximate the distance for the control arms. I needed the distance from the inner triangular box and the distance from outside in where it was mounted to the vehicle. I started off by building a large ‘L’ shaped square tube that would be used as the driver side control arm. This was bolted by two grade 8 bolts onto the horizontal rail across the front. I then boxed it over and squared out the front with lateral supports and brackets so it wouldn’t bend and twist while moving. Each side has two leaf springs rated at 2500lbs each and has a pneumatic coil spring rated for 200psi for 5000lbs. In the next picture you can see the beginning of the box I build. I inserted lines for the areas you cannot see. Again red lines are the ‘L’ shaped box support. This was then boxed in and welded together with lateral metal supports. Leaf springs inverted and then bolted to control arm.
Fig: Same picture uncropped and without lines.
Look over my right shoulder. You can see the same box from a different angle with 8 bolts facing up. That is the center of the two leaf springs.
Added: I have had lots of questions regarding the front end and steering. You have one of two options. You can use dummy axles or do something slightly advanced similar to quad-steering. Quad-steering is typically defined as having both front and rear wheels (on a 4-wheeled car) that have the ability to steer for the benefit of a tighter turn radial. You seen it on race cars, forklifts, military vehicles, etc. Quad-steering in this example will be limited to the front end. If you do dummy axles make sure that your tires are completely clear of the ground with additional clearance. The body of the vehicle can and will shift while in motion. So it can be potentially dangerous if there isn't enough clearance, your wheels can bind.
Regarding discussion in comments about tank turning.
I made a comment that it turns like a tank. I did not mean the car mechanically turns like a tank, I meant the turning radius is long. ExplainedWhen you increase the length of any vehicle the turning radius is increased. Think of the rear corner tire when a vehicle is turning at the front axles. The rear inner tire is the pivot at which your vehicle turns (easier to imagine when your vehicle begins to turn from the parked position). The inside rear tire makes the least amount of travel and turns at a slower speed than the outside tires hence a limited slip differential. The greater the length of the vehicle, the wider the radius of the turn. Now imagine you just added a second turn set of wheels that extends the turn radius. It would be like a tank turning with one track powered is the comparison with a limited slip differential. The turns must be wide.
Front Quad steering which I am referencing is the steering that was designed after the Tyrrel P34 car. The Tyrell is an old F1 race car that was designed in the 1970's with 6 wheels (four in front, two in back). It has a rack and pinion steering system with additional tie rod end linkages set up off of swivel pivots underneath of the vehicle. Please review the pictures I added in this section. The top left is a standard turning gear box or pitman arm connected to a linkage that shifts tires left and right. The same would be for a rack and pinion besides the fact that you have a single rail that connects to tie rods bolted to the wheel hubs. Rather than a sweep, you have a pivot shift of the rack and pinion which achieves the turning left and right action. In the picture on the right, is the Tyrrel P34 Steering set up. This is the most basic set up. When the lead tire turns right, the pivot turns left (via the push of the tie rod) and the trailing tire turns right as it is pushed by the secondary tie rod end on the back end of the pivot. In order for this to work properly, the angles and distances should be equal on the front end and on the back end of the tire rods. This is important for traditional steering that the sweeping motion of your pitman area can reach both ends of the left and right turn and not go over. This is often a common problem when building hot rods or ratrods and you don't have the original gear box for the vehicle. When not using original parts or having a custom frame with a wider or narrower overall width.
Too much sweep then your tires will pivot too far and strike the frame(on the inside), too narrow and your cannot effectively make turns (especially right hand turns). Ever heard of cars that cannot make right hand turns. Right hand turns will always be more difficult for a car to make since the turn clearance is much tighter than a left hand turn. If you think about it. Turning right from a single lane road onto a single lane road. It is a much shorter distance and a much sharper angle. When making a left hand turn, you tend to have the option of turning wider if necessary when crossing lanes if you plan your turn. You also don't turn the steering wheel to its maximum rotation or as fast when making left hand turns. Unless you didn't prepare for your turn ahead of time and you're about to miss your turn, you then must crank the wheel in order to quickly correct the front end to face the street you're about (or already) missed.
Steering Further explained
If you are planning to make steerable front on your project. You could do one of two different options that I can think of. If you think of other possible options please share for others. 1) Mount an normal wheel hub off of the control arm you built. Or buy a pair of twin ibeam axles (what I did). I added several pictures and added comments to several others.
One of the new pictures is of the Tumbler built for Team Galag for the Gumball 3000 a few years ago. Notice how their axles are set up. Now compare it to how I set mine up. The Galag's car has a pivot at the top of the traveling arm(near body) to a static right angle (round tube axle) going inward to the hub from the driver's side. This arm is supported at the pivot by two massive coil springs because this arm is a load bearing arm and it needs to pivot at the body for both strength and recoil when the vehicle is in motion. If their car can't support its own weight, the vehicle will be permanently bottomed out at the rails and drag.
Review several of my pictures regarding the mock up phase of my set up. I originally used a solid axle off of a boat trailer to hold the tires up during the mock up phase. This was because I needed to determine the measurement going inward both aesthetically and for function. After cutting several times to determine distance needed from the original outer initial 'L' shaped mounts on the front. I boxed in the mounting area for a control arm to be built. I used two leaf springs installed transversely (like cantilevers) and then built a vertical box around in order to bolt the half twin ibeam axle into place and mount shocks for travel. If this was a static piece it would drag any time you hit a pot hole.
I did run into a problem when first attempting to install them though. Twin ibeam axles are tapered (from the outer hub to inner mounting point), they do not have parallel edges like traditional solid ibeam axles or dropped axles. I had to make small notches in the axles in two sections so the grade 8 'U' bolts would properly seat when mounted to the leaf springs and use one bolt through the hole where the previous radial arms were mounted (in order to prevent twisting) and to keep it mounted square.
So when comparing this to the Team Galag's version, their car is pivoting trailing arm mounted to the body with a static beam (tube) arm, mine is static mounted onto the body to a dual transverse spring trailing arm onto a dual u-bolted half-split ibeam axle. This is possible since the control arms on this junk-built vehicle are not load bearing controlling arms. The original coil-over springs on the van support all the weight of the vehicle. The only weight these additional arms need to support their own weight (axle, arm, tire maybe 100~150lbs on each side), however with 2x - 2500lb rated transverse leaf springs and one Gabriel hijacker shock bolted on each side, this is way more than enough to keep everything in line. Install your tie rod ends to the additional hub and the threaded end to an extender to an inner rod off of a pivot. The linkage from the pivot will connect to a 3-way plate connecting three things: original steering linkage, outer tie rod to original hub, and the additional tie rod connecting to the pivot. Check for any clearance issues when the vehicle is parked.
Connect front tie rod to front linkage located ahead of the tire on the original steering. Tie rod connects to pivot point between original tires and non-load bearing set. Next leading tie rod must connect to on trailing end of secondary steering (on inverted wheels). If you do not connect your linkage in this manner, your steering will be reversed.
Then, your finally your done. Functional turning.
Step 11: Body Work
Whether you decide to do a Fiberglass body or a steel one. Both approaches will be the same. You can start off with cardboard and make panels to size or use string to determine if the body lines are what you expected. If they are good, use the cardboard to cut sheet metal pieces. Clamp them into place them in place and then weld. If you are fiber glassing you are in for a little treat. A cheap mechanics trick for fiber glassing is using fleece. It will get the job done, costs a fraction of the price, you can buy it in bulk and it is typically wider than that of fiberglass mat or cloth. **As noted by BobH160, make sure you are working in a well-ventilated area when using fiberglass the fumes are bad for your health. I used several box fans to gain circulation. It also helps the curing process. A mask will be helpful if you don't have fans or even both would be recommended.
**Problems with fleece. 1) You should only use the 1st layer as fleece. Don’t layer fleece on fleece. Use fiberglass mat or cloth for your second layer. 2) Does not hold up as well as fiberglass matt. I would say it’s about 80~85% cloth to fiberglass cloth. 3) You must apply fiberglass resin to both sides. Does not penetrate as easily. Consider how thick it is. 4) I would not use it as a replacement material for a boat project. You will end up like Captain Jack sparrow stepping upon the dock as your boat sinks. Just saying.
I won’t get into everything regarding fiberglass, since that will turn into a tutorial just by itself. Fiberglass comes in two parts. The resin which is the caramel looking stuff and the hardener which comes in a small clear toothpaste bottle. Very acidic. Don’t get either on your skin. But the hardener alone is more dangerous than the resin alone. It’s one of those things you just get used to using. There needs to be a balance of fiberglass resin and hardener. Too much hardener, and you end up with a hard mess in the bottom of your cup. Too little and it will take forever to dry. Read the back of the container of fiberglass that you’ve bought from the store for best mixture based on temperature, and needs. You can typically find this at a home supply store or an auto parts store. You will need lots of resin, plastic cups, and paint brushes.
So if you are using fleece, you can usually find fleece on clearance or on sale typically for patterns that people hated, or were just unpopular colors, or when the weather starts to get warm. Fleece is dirt cheap during the summer. Buy a lot. Now that you have a lot of fleece or if you using fiber cloth stretch it over your skeleton. You can poke some small holes to mount it and stretch it. Just make sure you don’t pull it so hard that it tears, or have so little tension that it sags. It should be fairly difficult to accidently tear. There is a balance between too much and not enough. Once the material is stretched over the skeleton by making small holes and mounting with zip ties or rivets, mix your fiberglass and hardener, and then apply it to the cloth. You will first only want to apply this to one side and then let it thoroughly dry. If you begin to see any sag now is the time to attempt to stretch it tight. The sag will only increase as you add more weight. Once you have applied the fiberglass to an area and you have run out. Inspect your area to make sure you are happy with it before moving on. You will need to eventually apply more resin to the back side, but allow it to thoroughly dry for strength and again to avoid sagging.
Once the section has completely dried, you will need to use small pieces of fiber cloth or fiber mat to reinforce various sections on your body. For example, if you cut a hole and used a zip tie to hold the fleece in place before apply resin. You will need to more properly mount the fiberglass section with preferably a rivet. It’s lightweight and strong, and will hold it up. After mounting the section cut all of the zip ties and remove. Use fiber cloth or fiber matt to fill any holes or weak sections on the body.
Once you have covered all sections with fiberglass on both sides you can apply a small coat of Bondo. Bondo is similar to fiberglass in which you are applying to materials in order to activate then into a useable material however you do not need fleece, fiber cloth, or fiber matt. It is a finishing product you use in order to get smooth surfaces. **Note, Fiberglass is considerably stronger than Bondo, only use bondo for achieving a smooth surfaces. If you are intending to gain strength for your surface by using bondo you will be sorely disappointed. Once activated, you only have a certain amount of time to use the bondo before it becomes so hard it’s unusable. Only mix what you can use up in a few minutes or you will be wasting material.
The next two pictures are of the car with a fiberglass skin with a very thin coat of Bondo applied. You can typically tell if Bondo has been applied or not since fiberglass is typically yellow or orange-yellow. Bondo is usually white, pink, red, or some other different colors.
You might be wondering, “What’s up with this small black section of the car while the rest of it is a white/pink color?” I was testing out different colors and textures on the car to see, what it would look like and if I would be happy with it. I normally wouldn’t recommend that you do this, but the benefit of doing this at this stage is you can easily sand it off or apply more material. When you are near completion or in the finishing stage, I would not put paint on your project unless you are very certain or don’t mind spending the time sanding it off.
What is the main difference between Rhinoliner and Herculiner? Rhinoline is considerably more expensive. Maybe 2~3 times. Herculiner is about $60 a gallon. Rhinoliner needs a professional application. It needs to go on hot so you need special equipment to apply. Herculiner can be applied as long as it is ‘X0’ degrees outside. The car took two coats of Herculiner. I am very pleased with the results. The next two pictures show the car coated with Herculiner. I have yet to mount the 3-piece windshield, or the front vents.
After applying the Herculiner to the body. I did spray paint the windshield mounts black as well as the trim and fins.
Installed 4 spot lights and side view ports. I know the wide windows vary from the original. Being able to see while driving is important. Installed license plates.
3-Piece windshield installed. Backup camera installed.
Step 12: Reflection ~ Insight
What Would I Do Differently?
Body Skin Type –
I originally covered the body with fiberglass. It was the cheapest most efficient and cost effective method of doing it. I wish I would have done a sheet metal body so I could vinyl wrap it with sponsor logos for the after school kids program I do. I still have the opportunity to replace all the fiberglass with a metal body using truck hoods from the junk yard. I am just not looking forward to going to the junk yard, cut the hood, remove a fiberglass panel, weld it on, and then rinse and repeat. I am very happy with the fiberglass though, especially after the Herculiner (like Rhino Liner, a competitive brand) was applied. It’s held up through the all of the seasons. Considering the conditions, the students involved, the time frame, and everything else. It really came together. I am very pleased with the Jr. High students that had the opportunity to assist during the fair weather months.
Get a temperature controled garage. Days when it was 97 or hotter outside and welding in the garage is no fun. It sucks. While still young, but as I’ve gotten older I prefer comfort over looking cool. I want to feel cool (cold) and not have sweat constantly drip into my eyes, and feel like dying for a drink cold bottled water.
I knew this project was something I wanted to do it, but I feel I could have done more research. While determination will get you so far. Running into problems that could have been avoided with more preparation requires less perseverance to continue on.
The Build –
While I have always been and will always be a Batman fan, I wonder how the project would have turned out if I decided to build something different. I had thought long and hard before starting the project because I was torn between three different builds. The first was the Tumbler. The second was the Batpod, (motorcycle from the 2nd batman movie, “The Dark Knight” (picture shown below). The third was the Cybertronian Optimus Prime truck from the video game, not the movie (picture on the next page). I am curious to what the end result would have been if I had chosen one of the later projects. I may pick up one of the other two builds one day, but I need a place to store the tumbler to do it.
Favorite Part of the Build –
Demolition phase. There is something therapeutic about it, while it isn’t necessary chaos, its controlled chaos… or whatever.
Problem solving. I think problem solving is in my nature. The challenge is what I am interested in. If I am not challenged I am more likely to get bored. This is also a double edge sword. It is also my least favorite thing with prolonged issues with solving problems.
Least Favorite –
I hate getting stuck on a problem I feel I should be able to solve. I do truly enjoy problem solving and will admit if I can’t do a particular thing. However, I become flustered if I feel I should be able to do something however struggle in order to do something especially if it is a minor task.
I guess the body work was my least favorite part of the project. I loved doing the skeleton, but I do not enjoy fiberglass and bondo. I feel this is a job for a perfectionist and someone with a keener eye than me. I am a get it done kind of guy. Give me a problem, I provide solutions or options. You pick one, it’s done.
What do I think of the project? -
I like it. And to my surprise, everyone I have met or driven by likes it. I built a large portion of the project with Jr. High students I mentor in an afterschool program I run. It drives like a tank, it looks like a tank. It attracts a lot of attention. People take pictures when they see it. It is plated in my state and street legal and I drive it to the schools I serve. I have never been pulled over while driving it. And the 4 police officers that I have seen, see me driving down the street have all given me a thumbs up. So I consider that a win.
What is worst and funniest comment I have heard about the car?-
The students and I had just finished it and the car was on display at the University of Nebraska – Omaha, Lights on After School Event. Usually about 1500 students attend and we provide activities and games for all the students in public school in the area. One of the students that had wanted to see the car, but only had seen parts we had fabricated in class, finally saw the whole car for the first time. His comment was, “I… I thought it would be better.” I couldn’t help but laugh at his comment because of his high expectation he had for me or the students. At the same time, the students in the program really enjoyed the project and are excited to show it off to their parents. I did this, or I fabricated this part. No, the car isn’t for everyone, but it was worth every penny I spent for the kids.
How much did I spend?
I believe I spent about $3200 roughly for the project. The van was $400 plus the tow about $42. I spent maybe about $400 max on super struct alone. Lumber not sure but definately less than that. 2x4's are only about $1.89 for 8 feet. Herculiner I used at least 2 cans so $80 x 2. Aircraft alluminum wheel adapters I spent about $250 maybe. Tires I got from a junk yard off a dodge diesel truck. about $120~160 range. $150 for twin ibeam axles. About $60 in fleece fabric marked off about 60~80% at fabric store. Fiberglass was about $30 per gallon can. Maybe used about 4 or 5 cans. A few cans of black spray paint ($4 each). I made about $200 in metal recycling for the parts I cut off and took to the junk yard.
What are the exact dimensions of the car? (will update this to get exact measurements 8/19/17)
16 feet long by 8 feet wide by 5 feet tall.
How did you balance your work, personal life, and the build? -
When I had to work, I went to work. During lunch I would plan what I needed to do for the day. When I got off, I would buy everything I needed before I started. When I got home and I worked on it until it was dark and keep working until it was about midnight or so. If I hung out with my friends they came to my garage and we talked either while I worked or we worked together, or when I took a break. If they wanted to hang out, they knew where to find me. They are my friends it isn’t like they would try to avoid me, but I also wouldn’t rope them into helping me either. If they wanted to hang out I didn’t force them to help. If they volunteered while they were there, they would help. If they wanted to see my progress then that was fine too. I try to keep the environment as laid back as possible.
I honestly didn't expect this instructable to get as much attention as its getting. Maybe because its made from junk. This vehicle is nothing more than it claims to be. Just a hodge-podge of things from the scrap yard or farm supply store. Looking back at the experience of building this reminds me of a strange episode of Roadkill.
Have I ever had trouble with owning it (driving it)?
Yes and no. No maintenance issues. I had a group of neighborhood kids try to break into it but didn’t know how to get into it since the doors are hidden. Unfortunately, they cracked part of the windshield trying to lift it off of its mounts attempting to crawl in. A minor fix, however kind of annoying. If they would have asked to sit in it, or wanted to take a selfie with it, I would have been more than happy.