One of the most common questions people ask when contemplating changing the looks of the car is the choice of materials used in various body kits. The 1st choice you need to make is the material you’re looking for. Today we’re going to discuss advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly-used bodykit materials.
One of the more common materials used in today’s bodykits is fiberglass. Fiberglass is a basically a mix of glass fibers reinforced with some polymer, like epoxy, vinylester or polyester resin. Fiberglass parts and kits are usually priced at the entry-point price level. While they are easy to manufacture (hence the low prices for the kits made out of fiberglass), they require the most amount of pre-paint prep and fitment work. They usually come out of molds in a pretty rough shape compared to parts made of polyurethane, ABS plastics or carbon fibre and they require a lot of additional prep work prior to getting painted. Fiberglass parts are also pretty rigid, making the installation pretty hard, even for an experienced bodyshop. This also makes fiberglass parts more susceptible to damage from stones, road debris and steep driveway transitions. Generally-speaking, fiberglass parts have the shortest expected lifespan.
Next up is polyurethane or simply “urethane”. Urethane is one of the most popular materials in automotive body kits industry. Parts made out of polyurethane are virtually indestructible and much more durable compared to fiberglass but they come at a price premium as the material itself is more expensive and parts are costly to produce. While polyurethane parts are much smoother coming out of the mold compared to fiberglass they still require some special prep work prior to paint though. Skimp on prep work and the parts will peel after only a short period of time. Polyurethane parts are also pretty heavy so they’re not a good choice if you’re going after some weight savings with your car.
ABS plastic is the material of choice with car manufacturers. Most of the original bumpers are made out of ABS plastic and many manufacturers are now starting to make other body parts like fenders and side skirts out of ABS plastic for weight savings purposes. Parts made out of ABS plastic are very heat, chemical and impact resistant. Coupled with the best fit and finish out of the 3 materials we’ve discussed so far, it’s clear why car manufacturers have been extensively using ABS plastic for body parts. ABS plastic is a bit less flexible than polyurethane but has superior paint adhesion characteristics and requires the least amount of prep work. Most of our kits are made out of ABS plastic. Click here for an example of our ABS plastic kit for Audi A7\S7\RS7
Carbon fiber parts are extremely lightweight and strong. They’ve been used extensively in aerospace, professional motorsports and other sports thanks to material’s low weight, high thermal and chemical resistance as well as high tensile strength. McLaren was the first company to introduce carbon fiber in its legendary MP4/1 Formula 1 car back in 1981. Carbon fiber is the most expensive material for production of automotive body parts, hence its applications outside of motorsports applications are usually limited to late-model high-end cars like Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Carbon fiber parts also come with “high-performance” image – a lot of people leave the parts unpainted with visible (but clearcoated for protection) carbon fiber fabric. Here’s a good example of our Ford Mustang widebody kit in exposed and gel-coated carbon fiber
One of the most interesting recent developments in the automotive industry has been a push towards “forged composites” parts. With the ever-increasing pressure on car manufacturers by CAFE standards we’re now entering very interesting times where the carbon fiber technology will be fairly widespread in just afew year’s time. Lamborghini and McLaren are currently at the forefront of forged carbon fiber technology utilizing forged composites in their “tubs” but more and more manufacturers are looking into producing subframes, control arms and other body and suspension parts out of forged composites.