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   The bodywork was always going to be a bit of a challenge because while steel fabrication was my trade I had done very little sheet metal work over the years, and even less aluminum work . I had made my mind up that if I could get a satisfactory finish on the panels I would leave them in bare aluminum , and to use domed head rivets where ever possible , I would also need many louvers to let air in and excessive heat escape.

  The first thing I planed to do was to fabricate the front grille in 18 swg mild steel and get it positioned to give me one fixed point to work from as I reasoned that the shape would probably be to some extent be dictated by how  the panels themselves turned out.

     I decided on a vertical front panel grille surround with mesh infill , not that I had a radiator to cool but I had mounted the main oil cooler radiator there instead, and a bit of extra cool air over the engine and water header tank when under way could only help with heat dissipation , I had the grille frame black powder coated.

    The Engine starter motor being stuck right out in front was going to protrude forward of the grill but that  was not going to be a problem as the front dumb irons  and the Andre Hartford friction dampers were there  to protect it , and any way the racing Blower Bentley s of the 1930s had a super charger mounted  in the same place and no one ever said that looked wrong.


     About this time I started looking in to the problem of aluminum body panel forming, I was confident of being able to form single curved panels without  much of a problem as either thick brown paper or card patterns would work fine, but as for stretching and shrinking aluminum sheets to produce compound curves, I had very little idea of how to go about it apart from knowing that an English Wheel was going to be a requirement.

   I spent a while phoning round and looking on Ebay etc.  but it soon became clear that  a genuine English Wheel was not going to be an option, and the cheap Chinese ones looked as they would not go the distance so I planed to make my own and teach my self how to use it .

    Now I had started looking into panel work I needed some instruction , so I spent many hours searching Utube for English Wheel videos and treated myself to a couple of books on the subject , I found a wealth of information mostly from the States  due to there long history of building  hotrods and specials, but England is the home of panel beating and there are some super cleaver craftsmen in the UK.  I  picked up a lot of information and little tips from looking at there videos .

   All this time I was still working on the fire wall and bulk heads for the the flyer also the many  things that would influence the final body shape ie. steering column angle and position ,seats, leg room, approximate size of dashboard, fuel tank and various wiring and plumbing fittings .

   I had decided that I would like the aluminum panel work to be removable in large sections without interfering in any way with the chassis or other installations , so I would be able to get at every thing for maintenance purposes and still run the engine and even move the vehicle about under its own power without the body on if necessary.



Fire Wall and Bulkheads Gallery

    I now took a few weeks time out to build and learn how to use the English Wheel . I had also started planing the fabrication of a louver press and a hand operated stretcher and shrinker . I will  describe these machine tools later.

    A month or so later I was back on the Flyer proper and ready to start the body panels , from the front up to the first bulkhead was straight forward enough with only single curves to sort out ,because I was fabricating the panels to be removable I decided that only the top section of the bonnet needed to be hinged and these panels were bent over a gas bottle with the flat side sections screwed in place .

   I carried on with the next bonnet section as that also had very little shape apart from a slight sweep up and out to the next firewall , this section was directly above the 2-1 step up gearbox and several fittings that I needed to access including the small Ki gas tank ,fuse box, booster coil etc. so I made this  section hinge up separate to the bonnet proper.

   The louver press did a perfect job and the front end was starting to look very nice with all the aluminum rivets showing and the bare aluminum against the black front grille and bonnet straps.

  The cockpit section  was the next challenge as it was to be a very important part of the over all appearance of the vehicle and also a comfortable place to be. I mocked it up with cardboard first off to make sure that I could get in and out without to much difficulty as it was I ended up having to climb in on the left hand side and slide across behind the steering wheel.

   I wanted a soft edge to totally  surround the cockpit to look not unlike early open cockpit aircraft, this section was also to be able to be lifted off without much trouble , because of the proximity of the exhaust pipe on the outside , at a later date I was to fit a pair of  heat shields on the inside of the cockpit as the heat transfer made it very uncomfortable to drive .

  The climbing handles , reversing mirror and fire extinguisher leaver were also fitted at a later date.I fitted the fly screens at this time so I could be sure the bolts  would clear the dashboard on the inside.

     At  this time the temporary plywood dashboard was in position as I was still collecting the various gauges I needed.

Body Panel Gallery

     Up to now the panel work had been relatively straight forward with little or no compound curves ,but the rear section behind the cockpit was a different thing all together.  The first step was to form a buck or frame in MDF to the shape I wanted in such a way to alloy the use of clamps to hold panels in place and to give some form to the job.


Once I had built the buck I covered it in heavy brown paper using cuts, overlaps and sticky tape to reproduce the compound curves that I would end up with in aluminum,  I was then able to cut and remove the paper in sections that then gave me the individual panel forms ready for cutting and shaping ,using a method of stretching metal that goes back to the medieval  Body Armour makers ,using a hollowed out timber stump and a blocking hammer, I could then smooth out the surface with the English Wheel to produce a crown in the sheet .

   I also used a method of shrinking the edges by causing a crease to form and then hammering it back into its self using a oak stump and a blocking hammer.

 I am finding the above process somewhat more difficult to enplane than execute but I would recommend  anybody that requires further information on the subject to view some of the many excellent videos on utube to help make sense of it.

   After this it was a very satisfying process to form and fit the infill panels . I was using some clever little things called cleco pins and the appropriate tool to fit them ,they are a temporary fixing that can be put in and removed very easily so that panels can be left in place to allow the positioning and fixing the next one but still being able to remove a panel at any time , even one that is surrounded completely if for some reason an alteration is needed .

    The previous method of doing this was using skin pins they did the same job but were closed using a thread and knurled nut to tighten them up  being a laborious process if you had many to do.

   Once the whole rear end was held together with cleco s and I was happy with the fit and overall shape the whole back end was removed for riveting ,I enlisted the help of  Graham a good friend of mine to help by holding the steel dolly on the inside of the rivets so that I could rivet them up from the outside with an air riveting hammer .

  While all the clecos were still in position he described it as looking like a hedgehog with alapesia, not very complementary but funny all the same.


 Even as all the panel work was finished and in position there was still a large amount of finishing and detail work to be done to the outside of the Flyer.

    I found a good sized varnished box to double as an outside tool box and a vintage Chromed  Pyrene fire extinguisher to mount on the outside of the cockpit its empty, but  I have a modern Co2 one fitted inside the cockpit where I can get at it quickly if need be. I also fitted a large brass fuel tank filler cap to match the header tank cap at the front,  and mesh grille panels over the radiators.

    I was happy with the surface finish on the aluminum body so I was able to keep it bare aluminum and  after some experimenting I decided rather than polish it I would use WD40 and a scotch pad , it produces a slightly matt sheen and I dont seem to have any problem with corrosion plus if it gets scratched it is the work of seconds to re finish it .