Sunday, 24 February 2013

GRP body panel fitting

GRP body panel fitting

There are five major GRP panels to fit, the key to a successful assembly is to temporarily join the two sills and the upper central moulding, taped together using Gorilla tape (which is superior to duct tape). The front and rear tubs are then offered up and the position of all of these is adjusted and held in place initially with Gorilla tape and wooden blocks till the gluing stage.

After initial placement, and assuming you have optimal initial placement, you can start drilling holes to fix the sills and central moulding in place a little less tentatively. There is so much depending on the central moulding it was/is not wise to glue this in place at this time.

In terms of complexity and rigour this is the most difficult set of operations on the whole build.

Tasks I have now (must have) completed at this stage:

* Front and rear hinges for the bonnet and engine shroud glued in place.
* Sill end closure plates front and back
* Front and rear harnesses and any attachment to GRP panels.
* Throttle cable routing
* Battery fuse box final bolt down
* Battery holder in place at front near side void
* Heater air duct to driver side only of course
* Brake reservoir mountings
* Rear aero catch locating pin brackets
* Rear alignment pins/buffers
* Front and rear internal access panels
* Wiring fixes/completion/ testing

Corner closure plate fabrication

The Sylva at first sight has very little luggage space, unlike the Westfield which at least has a small boot box. But after thinking about it, the offside sill is completely unused in my build. The Near side sill has the ECU, Battery fuse box and the battery itself. However there is even a space in that sill at the rear, provided you set the closing panels far enough back.

I decided to move the suggested position of closure panels away from that in the build blog to a position to maximise storage space. The space provided by this strategy exceeds that of my Westfield by a good margin. As there was nothing to attach the closing plates to in these locations, I needed to make some alloy curved angle plates which would be bonded to the GRP with Tiger Seal or the like.

 I borrowed a shrinking machine for this operation from Aliblast (the chap that did my chassis preparation). I made up 20mm x 40mm angle sections in the bender then fed them into the shrinker on one side. This has the effect of curving the angle section. With some practise you can form any shape within reason. I made 6 curved plates in all if you include the internal access panels behind the seat.

The rear hidden closure plates  were a real challenge requiring approx 3 attempts to get them right and water tight. The front closure plates doubles as mud guards for the front wheels.

Alignment pins/buffers

I used some parts off ebay for a Triumph TR4/6 bonnet locating cones/buffers made of rubber and bonded on to a unf threaded bolt. A wheel nut and a 19mm socket acted as a tool to shape the receiving plate for the buffers.


All the lights were installed and tested at this stage, I went down the road of installing an LED E marked numberplate light,  wrong move, it did not illuminate the whole of the numberplate. The only one I found (and I tried 3 different types) is one from a Freelander and it illuminates the whole plate because it has two bulbs. To attach the wiring to the grp I used some fibre glass tube and glued them on. The repeaters were attached to the front movable bonnet using the same heat resistant sleving.


I had trouble understanding the wheel size and tyre options on the Sylva J15. It is determined at the rear by the clearance between the tyre and the GRP rear panel in one direction (Inset) and the mudguard overhang in the other (Poke). I contacted Jeremy and he recommends 185/55/15 on the rear and a slightly smaller tyre size on the front. The wheel size is recommended to be 6J x15" this is mainly driven by the choice or rear calliper. People with 14" wheels do not use the Passat calliper, or they modify it. I put all the data into an on line analyser by Jonathan Rowney(*) and low and behold the problems and restrictions became clear. The data I used other than the standard wheel and tyre stuff is Inner Offset/Inset = 138mm and the Poke/Outer offset is 50mm. In order to get the wheels I already had lying about, with 35mm offset,  to fit, was by using 24mm spacers on the rear (I do not know why these spacers are necessary, it is not indicated in the build manual, but they are absolutely necessary on my build). The ideal offset (see on line calculator) with the spacers on the rear is 40mm, front and back, and happens to be the offset that Jeremy recommends. I had a wondrous time trying to find wheels at an economic price with the correct offset but eventually it boiled down to two choices s/h off ebay mainly due to cost. Escort GTI in Cosworth form and wheels from a Mondeo Venora both have a 40mm offset. I chose the Veora wheels because they are not only cheap £100 delivered but also look great (picture to follow).The wheels are currently being refurbished by Alloy Finishings in Airdrie. I have ordered 185/55/15 Yokohama AD08 tyres from Camiskill.

Note: I only arrived at the above solution by making some adjustments to the suspension, otherwise the Inset was too restrictive. If you have trouble in this area mail me.
Old numberplate light

Freelander light

Offside rear

Offside front

Shrinking tool

dash area hydralic resivoir fixing
 This area is not very accessible after the centre GRP panel is fitted, access limited from underneath!
Dash area speedo area
 This area is accessible after the centre moulding is in place covered by access panel

Front offside dashboard fuse box and switches

Offside rear closure

Nearside rear closing

Wiring outlet to engine

Front near battery box
Rear engine cover alignment pin/rubber
Access panels x 4off
Panels now fitted to each corner to gain access to the hidden space

Still to do before my next outing

* Seal grp top panel to sills
* Aero catches front and back 4 off
* Alignment pins/rubbers at front as per rear engine cover successful experiment
* Steering cover panel
* Exhaust

Hopefully Angus will take another video


Access panels:
Offset calculator:
Alloy Finishings 01236 440411




  1. Hi,
    Great to see your progress!
    A couple of questions:
    1) I was looking for some banjos for my masters with 8mm tails to straight to a flexible hose but the only ones I can find are nearly £50 for two! I see you have gone to copper pipe then flexible. Can I ask where you got yours from?
    2) Did your tub end up centrally aligned? Another builder had to offset his and when I align my rear clam the the wheels and then the tub it looks like mine needs offsetting too which means its tricky to see where to cut the tub for roll bars.

  2. 1) I bought a couple of banjos from Rally Design P/N RD1515 I then removed the olive, unscrewed the outer, then silver soldered Kunifer 6mm pipe to the Banjo body. Then I replaced the outer to make it look professional. I then silver soldered 8mm pipe to the ends so that the rubber hoses could connect. I used small hose clips to seal the rubber pipes. Learn how to silver solder it is not difficult cheaper too!

    2) No..... I found that if I centrally aligned the tub the Poke is not symetrical on each side. I don't know if you have fitted the wheels yet but I had lots of trouble getting adequate Inset/poke ratio. The adjustment of the tub is all part of the strategy to get wheels/tyres that do not exceed the bodywork (Poke). I have fitted 6J x 15 x40 wheels with 185/55/15 tyres and if I fit 195/50/15 I get tyres sticking out the side by a few mm each side. I plan to use the 40 offset for road use and 35 offset with 195's for track use (As I have them already).

    1. Ive got my wheels on (195/60 14s - rear) and set them up neutrally.
      I can just cover the wheels with he rear clam but when I do so its apparent that the tub wont be central. Its tricky because you need to cut the tub before you can properly check the alignment. Also you cant put the front clam on until the tub is cut and moves over the roll bars.

      Thanks for the banjo advice.

      I like the idea of the shrinking machine for closing the panels. I was looking at using some 'T' section plastic or rubber but your idea will give the panels more strength.

  3. As previously stated I cannot have 195/60/? without generating problems, you are luckier than me. If truth be told I cut the cental tub symetrical and then filed 5mm off the holes to shift the tub towards the drivers side. I will have to fill the gaps I guess which are not excessive. The biggest problem is filling in the holes that alow the tub to fit, pity they don't do red silicone or Tiger Seal. The hole you cut to fit the tub is a D shape and the bit facing forward has to be filled. I guess I will have to make a custom trim panel to cover it. This is not even at the design stage. Still contemplating the mirrors and Aero catches. Paul AS from the Locost site has some good ideas here.

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