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Fiberglass Body Panels - New Skin For Your Old Rig

0210 4WOP 01 Z SKIN
Massimo Benedetto | Writer
Posted October 1, 2002
Photographers: John Cappa

Make Your Beater Look New

Many of us have 4x4s that probably started out as really nice vehicles. You could pick up a date and drive down the street without attracting cops like a sprinkled donut. After years of tree ditching, mud boggin', fender trimming, and general off-road abuse, the old gray mare...well, you know. You look at your monument to off-roading, try to figure out how certain dents, scrapes, and cracks got there in the first place, and realize that the beast just doesn't look so good anymore-and may not even be street legal. Finally, you say, "Screw it," tear off all the "unnecessary" parts of twisted metal, and end up with an open-wheel cab-truck, or worse. The problem is that you can't very well drive down a freeway at 70 mph flinging mud off of 44-inch Swampers onto somebody's $50,000 SUV. Well, maybe you can, but they sure don't like it much. With that in mind and a desire to use our beater on the street, we visited the folks at Boatec, who have an answer for almost any truck with body problems.

Fiberglass bodies and body panels have been around for a long time, but finding pieces that you could readily bolt on to your rig, or even afford, was nearly impossible. Whether you run a stock truck or a tube-chassis creation, fiberglass can be a good alternative to steel panels. In some cases they even utilize the existing mounting points. Boatec gives people choices on how they want to mount their 'glass as well as the size of flare needed to fit larger tire sizes.

Although fiberglass has a tendency to crack under pressure, it will also flex without denting. If you do crush or crack it, repairs can be made with a fiberglass repair kit from your local hardware store. Fiberglass is also much lighter than the steel it replaces, and can of course be painted to match whatever color you choose.

We found that upgrading our truck's body style was relatively easy, as we made an '82 Toyota cab-truck look more like a newer Toyota Tacoma. Mounting all of the panels can be a little tricky if you're not using the straight bolt-on fiberglass pieces, so we took a trip to California Pre-Fun in Beaumont to see off-road racing legend Curt LeDuc. Here's a few things he showed us and some lessons we learned along the way.

You need to figure out how much body you want to replace, the tire size you want to fit, and what type of fiberglass you want to run. Boatec has a variety of years, makes, and models. Bedsides come with or without an opening for your gas cap. Most pieces have tabs that allow you to mount to the stock locations.

In our case, there wasn't much usable body left on the truck. The doors wouldn't close, all the windows were broken out, and you couldn't find a square inch without some damage. We opted to scrap most of what was left and change the body style from an '82 Toyota to an '01 Tacoma. Fenders, hood, roof, door skins, and bedsides were needed.

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