Curious Carbon Fiber Questions with Composite Specialists

Curious Carbon Fiber Questions with Composite Specialists

Imagery via Ultra-Carbon and APR Performance

Carbon fiber is one of the cutting-edge materials used in the construction of race cars the world over; the technology, which has manifested itself in the performance industry through the use of lightweight panels, was originally developed for the aerospace industry. Its widespread adoption in professional race classes has made the manufacturing processes more affordable, allowing the sportsman racer to adopt its use with a goal of weight reduction without losing component strength.

To learn more about this amazing material, its construction methods, and other pertinent details relative to its use in the performance industry, we posed a series of questions to two carbon fiber manufacturing experts: Greg Shampine of Ultra-Carbon and KC Chou of APR Performance. These two shops perform vastly different manufacturing methods; Ultra-Carbon specializes in small-run lightweight panels for drag racing, while APR Performace caters to the sport compact industry with large-run production-style panels. Their answers are enlightening, informative, and well worth the read. Beware – it’s long, but you’ll be fascinated throughout.

Without further ado, here’s what you want to know about carbon fiber.

Front Street: What are the differences between Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) and Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP)?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: CFRP and FRP are just abbreviations for what you and I would call carbon fiber parts and fiberglass parts, respectively. The commonality is in the last two words, “reinforced plastic.” So, both are just ways to reinforce plastic, which is the resin that creates the structure. Fiberglass is just a soft, white cloth until you get it wet with resin, then as the resin cures, it becomes rigid or semi-rigid. Carbon fiber works much the same way. You could patch a cracked bumper on an old Corvette with carbon fiber just as easily as you could with fiberglass, and while using the same resin, in fact.

So, now that we understand their similarities, let’s discuss their differences. Fiberglass is usually created in mats for the type of work we’ll be talking about, although it can be found in many forms. Mats are created by taking millions of tiny loose glass fibers and pressing them randomly into a loose structure. This mat can be easily manipulated and broken apart by hand. It’s cheap and easy to work with, and can yield a relatively light piece compared to a steel part of the same size. The trade-off is that it can be brittle. It can be made to flex without breaking, (ex: surfboard), but it tends to get weaker over time, the more movement is applied to it. This is why fiberglass, although commonly used due to being inexpensive, is actually a poor choice of material for car parts. And once it cracks or breaks, the breakage usually spreads quickly.

Conversely, carbon fiber is a material made of thousands of tiny fibers about 1/50th the thickness of a human hair, so fine that it’s actually very difficult to see an individual fiber with the naked eye. These fibers are spun together with thousands of other fibers into a “tow”. The tow is what makes the weave you commonly recognize as carbon fiber. A tow is usually 3,000-24,000 fibers grouped together, and what usually defines the thickness of the overall material.

It’s all in the tow. The shape, size, thickness, and direction of the tow defines the strength of carbon fiber as a loose fabric. How it’s combined with the resin and the properties of those resins is what defines the properties of the cured material. And how that combination of material, resin, number of layers, direction of materials, and quite a few other values, defines the strength of the overall part. In general, carbon fiber can be significantly lighter and stronger than an equal fiberglass part, while having more flexibility and also resisting more stress at the same time. It’s all about how you construct it. Just like building a house, it’s made of many pieces working together, and no two pieces are the same, even when they appear the same.

KC Chou/APR Performance: There are many different characteristics between carbon fiber reinforced plastic versus fiberglass reinforced plastic. First, the look of both materials are very different, carbon fiber is graphite black in color and fiberglass is transparent white in color. Second, carbon fiber has much more tensile strength and weight savings than fiberglass does. Third, the price of carbon fiber is also dramatically more expensive than fiberglass. Fourth, carbon fiber is harder to form to shape than fiberglass due to material flexibility. Last, carbon fiber is a conductive material, while fiberglass is a nonconductive material. Carbon fiber can also be fire resistant, while fiberglass is flammable.

Front Street: From a consumer point of view, is one material a better choice than the other?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: From a consumer’s perspective, there is a lot to consider. First and foremost is usually price. You’ve got three typical types of body parts being made for consumers in the drag racing marketplace.

First, most common, and least expensive, is fiberglass. It’s cheap, easy to make, and just about anyone can afford it. This is both a benefit, and a detractor. There are a very wide range of companies out there making fiberglass parts. Some are very good, some are very bad. This is where the reputation of a company becomes very important. One $600 fiberglass hood might be the nicest quality hood you’ve ever seen and another company’s $600 fiberglass hood could be the most horrible piece of junk ever made. It comes down to the quality of the mold the parts are created from, and the skill of the guy building the parts. The same holds true for the other two types of parts we’ll discuss next.

Second, and most expensive, is real carbon fiber parts. I say “real”, because there are a lot of parts being billed as carbon fiber that really aren’t, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Real carbon fiber parts are generally the lightest thing you can buy for a body part. Of course, their weight can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer based on the manufacturer’s building philosophy. I’ll usually build a slightly heavier part than another carbon manufacturer because my customers care more for quality and durability. That’s not to say a lighter part can’t be durable, we just err on the side of caution when it comes to that.

You’re going to generally pay three to five times more for a real carbon fiber part versus a similar fiberglass part, while usually saving 30-50 percent of the weight of fiberglass. For some, paying substantially more is not worth saving a few pounds. For others, it is. Another thing to consider between carbon and fiberglass, is your paint. We’ve all seen fiberglass parts that spider web and crack and end up looking like complete garbage right after a new paint job. That doesn’t happen with carbon fiber. However, carbon fiber will leave a ghost impression of the weave through your paint. This is most evident on a black car or on any high gloss finish. The glossier it is, the more you see it.

Now, the third type of composite material used for making body parts, is a hybrid, or what I call “fake carbon fiber”. They cost around 1.5-2 times more than a quality fiberglass part, weigh about the same as a fiberglass part, and are usually built more cheaply than a quality fiberglass part. They’re all about the look, this is what we see on most late model import cars with the clear carbon hood with the louvers and mesh. These are the parts that are a carbon fiber top layer with a fiberglass structure. They are usually billed as carbon fiber, but this is deceptive. You see, carbon fiber gets its strength from density. This requires multiple layers of carbon fiber to give the part ample strength. When a part is just a single layer of carbon overlay placed over fiberglass, the carbon may as well not be there at all. A single layer of 3k carbon fiber is about as structural as a piece of paper. Not only that, but when you buy these fake carbon parts, you’re usually getting something made in China, or made by an American manufacturer who’s trying to trick the consumer into paying more for what is essentially a fiberglass part. You’re paying extra for the look, that’s it. And the worst part? These parts – which you’re paying extra for the look of – aren’t built to last. They usually don’t use any UV protection in these parts, so within two to three years, even without much exposure to the sun, your part will begin to yellow or fade. This isn’t just a color issue. The color change means you are seeing the beginning of the resin breaking down. As the resin starts to break down, the clear top coat will start to peel and the part becomes more brittle. As the resin breaks down further, it causes a chain reaction that goes deeper into the part. Eventually, you lose so much structural integrity to the part that it cracks and breaks from normal everyday use. These types of parts aren’t even worth repairing. There is no cure for it once the yellowing begins and the process has started. These parts are the electric toaster of the automotive world. When it starts to go bad, throw it away and go buy another. Every three to five years.

KC Chou/APR Performance: It depends on the design purpose of the part, and also if the part is used with load pressure, high force or heat area, since carbon fiber has higher tensile strength than fiberglass. A rear wing is a good example of a part where we highly recommend using carbon fiber over fiberglass for strength and rigidity. A brake rotor backing plate is also one of the components that should use carbon fiber over fiberglass due to high heat created by rotor heat.

Front Street: What are the benefits of using carbon fiber over plastic or aluminum?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: Carbon fiber is plastic, essentially. So really comparing it to plastic, you’re really comparing something made of unreinforced plastic, like ABS, to something that’s reinforced plastic like carbon fiber. The weight would be nearly identical between the two.

The structural integrity and large volume manufacturability is where we see the difference. ABS can tend to be brittle when very thin. It isn’t a good material for something like a body part because it would crack and break from just mounting it on a car and taking a trip to the corner store. Where ABS is beneficial, is that is can be quickly, easily, and cheaply poured while liquid into a mold and fill that mold to create repeatable parts thousands of times over. The tooling costs quite a bit to build at such a volume, but broken down across the entire manufacturing life, it makes for really cheap parts.

Carbon fiber, in general, needs to be hand laid into a mold. Yes, there are robotic processes and other automations once you get into manufacturing carbon parts in an environment that requires huge volume. But it still doesn’t break the cost down to anywhere near what ABS can be made for.

As for comparing aluminum to carbon fiber, they couldn’t be more opposite. In essence, billet carbon weighs half of what aluminum weighs. Aluminum expands and contracts substantially from thermal changes, while carbon fiber hardly changes at all.

Imagine making an engine with a carbon fiber block, heads, pistons, rods, rocker arms, etc. If every link in the chain was carbon fiber, your valve lash would be the same on a cold engine as it would in a hot engine, and your piston rings would require zero gap. Imagine the extra power you could make with just those two “slop” issues of a typical internal combustion engine addressed. As far as machinability, billet carbon can be machined like aluminum, it just takes different tooling.

Nearly anything that can be made of aluminum can be also made of carbon fiber. It isn’t a matter of whether it can be done or not, it’s a matter of whether it’s practical to do or not. Some things just take so much engineering effort, or cost so much to build each individual item, that it no longer becomes practical.

KC Chou/APR Performance: The main benefit would be strength and weight saving over the plastic and aluminum material. Carbon fiber is much more stiff and rigid than plastic components. Carbon fiber is 50 percent lighter compared to aluminum.

Front Street: There are quite a few different weave patterns. Can you explain the differences between the choices? Which are the most popular for automotive applications, and why?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: Weave patterns are based off two things, appearance and performance. Some weaves are made to look cool, while some are made for a specific purpose. Things like 2×2 twill are a good general-use weave that is more meant to look pretty than anything else. It is a compromise in strength in all directions. It doesn’t have any specific properties that make it any better than anything else. It is the material you usually see and what most people associate with, as carbon fiber. 1×1, or plain weave as it’s called, is similar, yet is used less frequently just due to the fact that twill conforms to shapes easier and is usually considered nicer to look at.

After those two, you have the purpose-built directional and unidirectional fabrics. They aren’t as strong in one specific direction, but are substantially stronger in another. Let’s take a driveshaft as an excellent example of that strength. A carbon fiber driveshaft is made of unidirectional carbon fiber that wraps around in a circle shape. This fiber isn’t very strong at all to forces applied to it from the side, but it massively strong when forces are applied to it against the twist. In other words, the tow that we talked about in the first question are all resisting twisting forces because they are all laid in the same direction to resist the twist. These driveshafts commonly resist forces applied in excess of 2,000 lb-ft of torque over and over and over again. However, if you smacked that same driveshaft on the side of it with the face of a metal framing hammer with probably less that 100 pounds per square inch of force just once, you would probably damage it beyond repair.

KC Chou/APR Performance: 2×2 twill is a type of textile weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs at 45 degrees, and is a very common pattern we use today in automotive parts. It shows more depth to a formed part, which is often desired by the consumer. 1×1 plain weave carbon has a square pattern with less depth. It’s commonly used for interior panel for early production exotics, and is less desired by today’s consumer.

Front Street: In the case of automotive panel production, molds are made to ensure each piece matches the OEM panel. Can you describe the materials/general process used in the creation of these molds?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: That’s a long, boring answer, and I could probably teach an entire semester class just on our technique of mold construction, and every shop does theirs differently. But I’ll skip the details and hit the basics to keep this answer short and sweet.

The mold is the single most important part of the process to building quality body parts. It all begins with the mold. If you don’t have a good mold, you can’t have a good part. First, you must begin with a quality part. An unmolested OEM part is preferred, but in the case of older cars, that isn’t always possible or practical. So, find the nicest part you can get your hands on, regardless of price, and make it nicer.

I’ve gotten doors for free and I’ve paid more than $1,000 for a single door. Either way, you’ll be spending time or money to make a part as nice as it can be. Then you install flanges on the part and fill any holes. Next, you apply tooling gel coat and then quite a few layers of fiberglass over a week’s time. You can’t apply too much fiberglass at once or you’ll distort the part or blister the gel coat. So, we take our time with the glass work. No sense ruining all that other work just to save a day or two.

Once the mold is done, we dry sand, wet sand and then buff the mold. This is an extremely time-consuming process that begins with 80-grit paper and hits every step of sand paper from 80 to 3000. Once we reach 3000 grit, we do a three-step buffing process on the part, and then we can wax it eight times before laying up the first part. All told, we end up spending somewhere around 160-200 hours of shop time building one set of door molds from start to finish, if we have zero work to do on the actual parts themselves. As you can see from that, a large expense of doing very high quality parts is in the mold work. Yes, we could bang out the same set of door molds in 40-50 hours and have four times as many parts offered in our catalog, but then the molds wouldn’t yield the same high quality parts we offer. This is the reason why lead times of six months to a year on mold work is common. It’s very time-consuming to do it right and we always have a backlog of work.

KC Chou/APR Performance: In order to produce OEM panels in carbon fiber that fits like an OEM plastic piece, we use a billet mold with pre-preg carbon. This is the only way to ensure factory fitment and quality of the carbon fiber panel. The billet mold has less chance of warping and shrinking when high heat is curing the piece. Also by using prepreg carbon fiber, we’re able to control the thickness of the panel material for tight fit areas. Billet molds are created by digitally scanning the prototype to a CAD file, and then CNC-machining the billet aluminum to a modulated multi-piece mold, which creates extremely high cost for carbon fiber tooling using this process.

Front Street: Is it necessary to replace a mold to ensure accuracy as the mold wears?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: Yes and no. We build our molds to live to 50 pulls. That means we should be able to pull 50 parts out of a mold before it needs to be replaced. Some parts are harder on the molds and make that number lower, some parts, we can get 100 or more pulls from. And other molds for things like the seats we make, can be repaired or recoated over and over because there is no OEM shape for them to adhere to.

KC Chou/APR Performance: Yes and no. Depending on the material of the tooling molds, and how many units of the part that you have plan to be reproduced. Most of the single billet mold will last 4,000-5,000 units before you needed a new tooling. A single composite tooling mold will last about 400 units. If you are targeting 2,000 units, and using a billet mold, you probably won’t need to replace it at all. But if you using a composite mold, you will need at least five molds to complete this production.

Front Street: What extra steps are taken throughout the panel creation process to guarantee accuracy from your product?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: As said above, it’s all about the slow layup of the glass – the slower the better. Also, making the mold thick and rigid keeps it from bending or twisting while stored. Our molds are usually between ¼-inch and ½-inch thick, solid fiberglass.

A hood mold usually weighs about 150 pounds or more. Also, we keep the original part the mold was constructed from so we can back check the mold periodically to make sure it hasn’t distorted while stored. This is common with hoods and door skins especially, so we check them frequently against the original part.

And lastly, we encourage feedback from our customers, ESPECIALLY if it’s negative. Some manufacturers want to deny responsibility, or bury their head in the sand when something doesn’t fit right. It’s a rare occurrence, but I want to know about it so I can fix it before the next customer gets a part out of that mold, and work on a solution to fix that customer’s issue with the part. Sometimes it’s something they can easily fix with a little guidance, sometimes we need to send a replacement part. Most of the customers we serve are building 35-45 year old muscle cars, so every darn car out there is going to be a little unique. There are always going to be minor fitment issues, but if they’re starting out with a quality part, that is usually going to fit 99% of the cars out there. The mold shouldn’t be a variable, the old cars are enough of a variable already…

KC Chou/APR Performance: We are taking extra steps on all OEM replacement units such as hood vent, fender vents, airdams, diffusers, mirrors, interior consoles and light bezel surrounds. Measuring and documenting the factory panel thickness, making the final product to the same thickness and spec to the factory piece. Clip and tab locations are the same as the original factory component, and we reuse all factory hardware with the carbon fiber piece. All these steps are to ensure and guarantee the OEM fit on all our carbon fiber components.

Front Street: Are there any specific products which require more tedious manufacturing processes than others might?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: Every single part is different. Even two different door skins are different. Inner door panels for our stock-style doors are pretty tedious. They take a day to do each inner panel and about 35 individual pieces of carbon fiber. Valve covers and bumpers are also pretty tedious, but more so just a pain in the ass because they’re so easy to screw up. I don’t enjoy doing either one, but I love doing doors.

KC Chou/APR Performance: There are many components in our product line that required tedious manufacturing processes. For example, C7/Z06 Corvette hood and fender vents, and Viper ACR fender vents – these parts consist of many small slots and openings, and all need to be trimmed perfectly and evenly matched to the same factory size. Individual tabs and clips need to be positioned and glued to the carbon piece that matches the OEM location, which is an extremely time-consuming process.

Front Street: How does construction play a role in the reinforcement/strength of the finished product?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: As you might expect, construction of the part is everything. You could have three guys making the exact same hood out of the exact same mold, with the same number of layers of carbon fiber, and one turns out heavy and brittle, one turns out like limp spaghetti, and one is perfect. The resin plays a big role in that. There are as many different resins out there as there are paint codes for new cars. The choices are endless, and the prices can range from $10/gallon to $800/gallon, and even more for the truly rare stuff.

Then there’s the core material. Some parts need it, some don’t. That’s an entire science unto itself. There are also dozens of different choices for core materials out there. When working with carbon fiber though, you really want to work with a core material designed for use with carbon fiber in the environment the part will be used in. The core material we usually use is actually more expensive than the carbon itself. With carbon, the core isn’t necessarily a cost savings step, it’s just another piece to the puzzle.

KC Chou/APR Performance: Construction of the reinforcement plays a huge role in our finished product. Example, wings are fully reinforced with additional layers of carbon fiber where the mounts are attached to it. High downforce wing foils also are reinforced with internal cross beam. Some of the airdam applications come with additional billet braces to reinforce the factory bumper skins. Rear diffusers are often supplied with extra supports and hardware in order to mounted to car chassis.

Front Street: How are some common carbon fiber imperfections caused in the creation process?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: This is kind of a loaded question but I’ll first give you the comical answer I like to give people:

Carbon fiber hates you. It isn’t your friend, it doesn’t want to be your friend. It wants you to screw up so it can laugh at you. It wants to kick you in the nuts when you aren’t looking, and then tell all its friends how stupid you are. There are a dozen ways to do carbon fiber right, and hundreds of ways to screw it up. If you’re doing clear carbon, there are only a couple ways to do it right and thousands of ways to screw it up. It sucks to work with and it sucks to handle, but the reward of a near perfect part is enough to make anyone an addict.

Notice I didn’t say a perfect part, I said near perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect carbon fiber part. I can always find a flaw. I’ve never made a perfect part, it just isn’t possible. Sometimes it’s as tiny as a thread of the weave out of place in an inconspicuous spot, sometimes a tiny air bubble trapped between two rows of tow.

The most common imperfections are air or resin related. Air getting trapped in the part due to uneven vacuum distribution, or from resin not being able to travel through the part efficiently enough to displace the air. Sometimes these issues can be so minor than the part is still perfectly fine to use, sometime they can render an otherwise good part unusable. It really depends on the severity.

This is why unbagged wet layup of carbon fiber is a really bad choice for quality parts. Sure, it works in a pinch. I’ve made trackside repairs to 250 mph drag cars that had to be wet layup and cure overnight so the guy could hit the track at 250 again the next morning. But it isn’t ideal, and customers shouldn’t be paying for that sort of work on a brand new part.

If you could dissect an unbagged wet laid part and a bagged part side by side and examine them, you would clearly see the vacuum from bagging the part created a much more uniform dispersion of the resin with fewer air voids and less overall resin saturation of the part. So, vacuum bagging in general is the best way to go.

To take it one step further, we use a method called vacuum infusion, also known as resin infusion and the marketing term “dry carbon”. It’s where the material is laid in the mold completely dry, placed under full vacuum, and then the resin is injected into the mold using the negative pressure created by the vacuum. When all goes well, this process creates a nearly flawless, uniform part where you have complete control over resin distribution, density, cure time, resin penetration, and a variety of other factors.

This is the method that companies like SpaceX use for creating the molds for their sensitive spacecraft parts. Due to FAA compliance, they can’t actually make parts for anything airworthy with anything but prepreg, but the molds those parts are all made from are done the same way we do our parts.

KC Chou/APR Performance: In the prepreg carbon-making process, automotive clear coat is needed, and it’s subsequently applied to the top surface of the carbon fiber. Between layers of clear coats, some moisture might get trapped in between and it will form a blotchy spots. Weave pattern distortion and air bubbles are not common in our prepreg forming process, but they are common in the wetlay process.

Front Street: How many layers of material are used to create the strength needed from an exterior body panel?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: It really depends on the body panel, but usually two to four layers are needed, plus sometimes a core. We almost always start with a 6k twill layer on our parts because they’re all clear carbon; I just think that 6k looks nicer than 3k.

Keep in mind, the only difference between 3k twill and 6k twill is the number of individual strands in each row of tow. So, 6k tow looks a little wider than 3k and the fabric is just about double the weight of a layer of 3k, but it takes the place of two layers of 3k. Call 6k a “double-layer”, if you will.

Some things we make like taillight and headlight bezels are just simply two layers of 6k and that’s it, no core. Other things like hoods, are wide and flatter, so they need more strength. They end up with a layer of 6k, two to three layers of 3k, and a core.

KC Chou/APR Performance: We use three layers of material for nonstructural parts and five or more layers for structural parts.

Front Street: How does this differ from something like an interior panel?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: An interior panel is usually two to three layers. It is also important to make interior panels out of some sort of high-temp or fire-resistant resin. If your interior panels are made of regular resin that starts melting at 120-150 degrees, than just a small amount of fire will turn them instantly to goo and expose you to fire almost immediately. A high-temp resin will also, but it may give you a few extra seconds of protection at a time when every second is crucial to your survival.

KC Chou/APR Performance: Since it’s a nonstructural interior panel, we use two to three layers of material.

Front Street: How do you see composite materials being used in other areas of manufacturing automotive performance parts?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: I think it would be easier to ask what ways it couldn’t be used for automotive performance parts – there is no limit, really. I think we are a long way off from it being practical, but even things like roll cages could be constructed of carbon tubing, or as a complete unibody construction unto itself.

The trouble with that, and the difficult part toward that end, is that there would need to be a standard established. Carbon is still such a black art that innovations like that can’t happen until standards are universal. Right now, everyone has their own way of doing things. No two shops are the same. So it makes regulating a design or standardizing a building method nearly impossible.

You can regulate where bars are placed in a typical race car, the thickness they need to be, how the welds should look. All that is easy to control by the sanctioning body. Build a top fuel dragster with a carbon fiber monocoque chassis molded to the outer skin and you could create something far, far stronger than a typical dragster body…..but who’s going to let you run it? How will they certify it? What is the standard? Even if you overbuilt it by 300 percent and the first prototype ended up being twice as heavy as a pipe rack dragster, they’d still kick your ass off any track for even trying to run it.

KC Chou/APR Performance: Carbon fiber was widely used in aerospace program back in 1970, it then became sporting goods material, building material and racing industry material, and now we see it often used in wind energy program and the medical field within the last decade. As of right now, we’ve seen a few companies using it to make furniture and clothing goods. I think as long you have an idea, carbon fiber material can be used to make anything you desired.

Front Street: Greg, we understand you’ve experimented with multi-layered carbon fiber engine components (specifically rocker arms). Do you feel that the use of carbon-fiber engine components will ever become widely accepted? Are there other parts you’re experimenting with?

Greg Shampine/Ultra-Carbon: Yes, they’ll be widely accepted. Rocker arms and connecting rods are probably the single most beneficial place for such parts, but their long term use in a drag racing environment still needs to be proven. Could I make them to work for a weekend? Sure. But who would spend $4000 a set for a wear item to replace it every weekend? So, longevity is what will make them practical and widely accepted. We aren’t far off from that.

To be honest, I haven’t touched the project in months because we’re just so swamped with body parts manufacturing. I wish I could though, the billet parts and structural things are where my passion lies. If I could walk away from making body parts, and only focus on structural/billet carbon and innovating new designs and ideas, I would without a second thought. If only experiments paid the bills, right? Honestly, I think there will come a time, not too far off, where we’ll stop making body parts altogether, cold turkey. Maybe someone reading this will want to throw a million dollars at me and say “have at it, kid”. For now, though, I’ve got to keep the doors open and the lights on. Bills need to be paid, and that takes selling body parts.

We do have some other ideas in the works. We may begin experimenting with some billet carbon cylinder heads and engine blocks. The engine blocks should be an easy sell, other than the actual price. At two to three times the price of a billet aluminum block, it wouldn’t be a purchase for anyone on a budget. Keep in mind though, the benefits are staggering. Half the weight of a comparable billet aluminum block. No expansion and contraction with temperature changes makes for tighter tolerances. It won’t absorb heat as quickly as aluminum, have reduced harmonics, and be easy to patch and fix if a break or crack occurs. And the most significant of all, it’s stronger than aluminum, so you’re a lot less likely to window the block if you do throw a rod.

It’s all just theoretical at this point, but I do have an investor who’s interested in starting some experimenting. I’m really excited about that. Billet carbon fiber blocks and heads are certainly the future of motorsports. I feel like I’m in a unique position due to my unique skill set and the experiments we’ve already done, to make this happen. It’s my responsibility to make this happen, whatever it takes.

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