Lightweight garage #6 Fiber-reinforced polymer exterior parts for GM Corvette C1 (1953)

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Lightweight garage, News

The vehicle

The history of cars with bodies made of glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP) dates back to the 1950s. The Corvette C1 appeared in 1953, paving the way for series-produced cars with plastic bodies and marking the first chapter in the Corvette's success story.

©Sicnag, CC BY 2.0, 1955 Chevrolet C1 Corvette Roadster

The CEO of MFG, Robert Morrison, can be named as the main person responsible for the turn of events. Despite advanced discussions about steel body components, he was able to convince the decision-makers at the GM automotive group to use glass fiber-reinforced plastic. All generations of the automobile icons that have been on the market for almost 70 years have body elements made of fiber-reinforced plastics.

The technology

The body of the Corvette C1 is made of glass fibers embedded in a thermoset matrix. In terms of structural mechanics, this type of fiber-reinforced plastic has a strict separation of tasks, which has a very beneficial effect on the properties of the structure. The fibers absorb the loads that occur, and their orientation has an excellent influence on the direction-dependent properties of the component. The matrix protects and supports the fibers and is responsible for load transfer.

©攝影師, CC0, glass fibers

The possibility of precise shaping, immense weight-saving potential and rustproofing are further arguments in favor of using GRP. On the other hand, the production of the Corvette C1 was a major challenge, which meant that the number of cars produced in the first year was well below average. A significant improvement in production technology had to be waited for until 1968, when all components were manufactured using a pressing process.

The lightweight aspect

Manufacturing the body from a GRP can significantly improve the mass/performance ratio of the vehicle. However, the use of GRP bodies is no longer common nowadays due to the increased demands placed on structural components. One conceivable solution is the additional use of a stiffer and stronger frame, although this significantly reduces the overall lightweight construction potential of the GRP components.

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