Fiberglass, aluminium or steel

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Planning on rebuilding significant sections of my 76 '40, so significant that I have been considering trying to locate a new tub. This got me to thinking on whether I really want to have steel or not. I love steel for its strength, but the weight is pretty significant. Aluminum might be cheaper, but it is difficult to properly repair. Fiberglass is lighter, but nearly impossible to repair...

Alright folks, pony-up! What's your preference and why? I need to know all the pro's and cons here if I'm gettin a new tub...
 
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I bent up a lot of aluminum for the repair of my '64. I figured that rust is a thing of the past and theweight thing was good. Then I found that welding the two surfaces was going to be annoying and damn near impossible. Also painting required eteching primer and whole laundry list of other problems( to me they are, maybe someone of more skill sees this differently). The draw backs of steel were originally just weight and rust. But hell I can bend it and weld it all day with no issues. Painting is a cake walk for it too. Fiberglass didnt even cross my mind. I am not a glass friendly driver.
 
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I was faced with the same dilema with my '79 40. It is a great rig mechanicly and the interior is outstanding, but the tub was rusted through in several spots. Panels are fairly cheap, but if the tub is severly rusted it's not worth it do to labor costs and the chance of a poor fit. I looked into steel because I wanted to keep it a "true" cruiser, but that gave way to the pocket book and the fact that I have a '79. I believe '76 tubs are easier to come by, but I might be wrong. After a lot of research I decided to go with aluminum. It is lighter, cheaper, stronger than steel pound for pound, won't rust, and is pretty much a bolt on fix. You are correct about fixing the tub though. If it gets tweeked or dented you may have a hard time finding someone to properly fix it and I think welding on it yourself is probably out of the question. There are some neigh sayers out there who will talk about electrolysis but I've been convinced by reading and talking to the folks at cruisersolutions, that this shouldn't be a problem with this tub. The instalation comes complete with gaskets and everything you need to prevent deteriation.

I'm not planning on making this a trail rig so I will take my chances with the dents and enjoy my new rust free, rust proof cruiser.

By the way I got my tub from HOT. The going rate is about $2100 and another $300-$350 in shipping.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Jeremy
 
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I have 2 FJ40s one is all steel no rust the other a 1980 has an Aqualu (SP) tub on it. The steel on the 80 was so gone and patched up with everything you can imagine that it was in no way safe or worth fixing. I have had the AL Tub on for one summer and it was the best thing I could have done. Install had its problems but hey what repairs go as smooth as you want. I leave all of the painting up to th pro's and have had no issues yet. I could care less about the weight the difference in lbs. is nothing on a heavy LC. People say it hurts the value yes it does but so does patch panels, filler and the fact that it will rust befor you sell it.
I live along the Great Lake Erie and every car around rusts it is just a matter of time. If you are going to keep the truck go with AL and do not look back.
Have Pics but they are to big.
MJM
 
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I aswell had a 79' fj40, and was faced with the rust demon. My entire body was rusted, and had a major stress crack down the middle of it. One day I hit a big bump on the highway, and my rear tub bounced up and down. Imagine if a friend had been riding back there, maybe they would have gone surfing down the highway!
Anyhow, I looked into CCOT panels, as they had a good reputation, the panels alone costing well over a grand. Add in labor for someone else to do it, and I figured I'd be at $4K. So I decided to go Aqualu, which cost just a little more. I got the tub, cowl, windshield, fenders, NICE tailgate and decided to paint them myself, first time painting anything with a gun. Here is how I feel it breaks down.
Issue #1 Painting. Painting alum is not harder or more expensive than painting steel. An etching primer is comparable in cost to regular primer, maybe $20 difference. It's a myth that aluminum is sooooo hard to paint. Mine has held up just fine, outside of a few scratches. And by the way, the scratches are just shiny alum, not rusty steel, so easy to touch up.
Issue #2 Electrolosis. Maybe in an aluminum boat, with a chaffed wire sitting in fresh water, but not in a car, atleast not for a loooong time. Audis, Shelby 427's and many many other cars have aluminum bodies. The average full size truck is using 250# of aluminum, everything and anything. I dont see LS1's rotting away with the high powered ignition just because their aluminum. If your really worried, use stainless bolts, which were included with mine, nylon or rubber washers in certain areas, or plasticote rubber paint on high wear areas. Keep in mind that for electrolosis to occur, rusty steel and unpainted aluminum have to touch, with current passing through. Paint your aluminum body (duh) and clean and repaint your rusty steel. After all you are going to all the trouble of rebuilding your truck, do it right. To sum it up, a NON issue.
Issue #3 Resale. You already have rust, and dents, and dirt, and non factory things right? If you didn't, you wouldn't be reading this, and contempalating aluminum. Welded in panels reduce value, even if done right. Anything you do to your truck reduces value, except restore it like CCOT and park it in a heated garage. If its all original, and a rare model, then please keep it steel. If it's not, then your only reducing its value to purists, collectors, and people in texas, lol. Personally, I would pay more for a well done alum body than I would for a steel one, even if rust free. Worth is what someone will pay, and my money goes on functionality and longevity, especially if I was where theres heavy salt on roads, or by an ocean.
Issue #4. Repairs. Scenario: Your attempting Carburator Hill, you shift unexpectedly, and roll 360 down. You get out and look at the damage. Because the alum body is stronger than the steel, I would imagine that less damage has been done to an alum that to a steel one. So lets say 3 panels on the aluminum body have to be worked, but its still structurally solid. And lets say miraculously the steel body held up just aswell as the lighter, stronger aluminum body, just for comparisons sake. Steel is easier to work with, and there are more shops doing it, but welding costs for steel, stainless, alum, etc are around the same, at least in my neck of the woods. And there will be shops that deal in aluminum in every major city, and most small towns. Heck, my town has 25K people, and probably around 6 shops that will weld aluminum. It's not that hard. So the aluminum panels need to be replaced, since they can't be hammered out like steel. Big deal. If I take a roll in a truck, I wouldn't want bondo (cough cough) anywhere near my favorite vehicle anyhow. So even if I had steel, I would replace those stretched out panels, as opposed to caking on the bondo like drywall. So for me, the costs are the same. Steel could be done cheaper, if you don't mind bondo, but not my style.
Well, now we get into the pros of aluminum.
Pro #1. weight. Less weight = better mpg, quicker acceleration, and better trail performance, at least for my driving style, I noticed a difference for sure, now I want to go even lighter.
Pro #2 Strength. Far stronger than steel, hands down.
Pro #3 Rust. What rust?
And for quality of the Aqualu body, overall I was very happy with it. There were some issues that bothered me, like the shipping company whacking it with a forklift, but I was able to straighten everything out myself, and get paid a little aswell. Also, there was some welding splatter on the truck body, not a huge deal, but for the money spent, I feel that should be a perfect body, ready for a wash and paint job. It took about 8-12 hours to prep the body until I felt happy with the lines. Also, I have a transitional month 79, so I guess that toyota used some older model steering columns and clutch masters and such, just to finish up what they had laying around. So I had to fill in the precut holes, and recut and drill new ones. I felt that if they were making their 1000th body or so, they should have figured this out before I called them rather annoyed. But small gripes in the long run. Any major undertaking for my truck has had some unseen problems. Just another day in the garage really. And as a side note, they were incredibly helpful and kind over the phone, and answered any odd questions that I had. Very nice and genuine people up there. Hope this helps.
 
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Man that looks like a book, sorry about the length, but I wanted to be thorough. Some other things I thought of: the body mounts they gave me sucked, so get some of your own. And also, check fit the body first, with mounts on it. Then paint it. I didn't check fit it first, and found a small lip on the bottom side of the truck that touched my tranny with regular mounts. Since I had one friend over helping me put the body on the frame, we couldn't take it off easily to cut off the unneeded lip. Just a hindrance, but would have been solved had I test fit the body. And if anyone has any questions regarding quality or installation, feel free to email me or ask below.
 

Poser

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Have been forutunate to have found tubs in good shape, and like working with steel.
No matter which way you go,


Good luck!

-Steve
 

denis

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I mostly agree with Archengine. I don't have an aqualu tub, but I rebuilt the rear of my '75 tub, as well as the cabs floors, with aluminum sheets riveted, it's not looking perfect, but gets the job done. paint ? what paint ? I thought I would paint it eventually, but never got to doing it, now I like it the way it looks. I've also rebuilt a complete '80 with steel, that was a pita, since the tub was VERY bad, including door sills, door pillars, parts of the front cowl, floors... steel is easier to build (read : weld) but the "afterwork" sandblasting, prep, paint, is a bitch if you want to do it right.

fiberglass is probably OK for body panels, but I don't think it is really suitable for anything structural because of its brittleness. I consider it more as a "dressing" material...

I guess it depends on what kind of repairs your existing tub would need, and what $$$ you want to put into it...

next tub I'm building will be a mix of tubing, aluminium firewall and floors, and fiberglass dressing.
 

buckroseau

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