Plywood Core Body Panels

To protect the electrical components and wiring for the trike, body panels will be made to enclose the battery and electronics compartment.   A body panel will also be created to serve as a “dashboard” for mounting switches and to enclose wiring at the front of the trike. The body panels will be made using lightweight and relatively inexpensive aluminum flashing. Used alone, flashing is too thin and would reveal bumps, bows and other distortions in the metal. So I am using a technique I have used to make dashboards and other panels for some of the hot rods I have built. Each panel has a “core” made from 1/8″ plywood. The aluminum flashing is then cut and glued to the core to form a solid, stable surface. Note that this technique can only be used on flat surfaces or surfaces curved in only one direction. It can not be used for compound curves or compound/complex curves.

Photo of body panels cut from plywood
Photo 1 – Cores for each body panel are cut from 1/8″ plywood.

Each panel section core is measured and then cut from 1/8″ plywood.   Photo 1 shows all the plywood panel cores for the chopper trike.




Photo of aluminum flashing being cut to panel shape
Photo 2 – Aluminum flashing is cut to match the perimeter of the core plus 1/2″ extra along each edge.

Aluminum flashing is cut to the outer shape of each panel with ½” to 5/8″ of extra material on all edges.   Do not cut out irregular shapes of the panel at this point.  (Photo 2)


Photo of aluminum flashing being glues to plywood panel core
Photo 3 – Apply contact cement and then glue the flashing to the front of the core.

Apply DAP Weldwood contact cement to the front of the plywood and the rear of the aluminum. Dry for the recommended time period and attach the aluminum panel to the plywood panel making sure to leave ½” of flashing extending beyond the plywood on all edges.  (Photo 3)



Photo of glued panel from back side
Photo 4 – View of the panel from the plywood core side.

From the plywood side, a simple panel will look something like Photo 4.  Note that none of the irregular shapes have been cut out at this point.



Photo of glued panel from front side
Photo 5 – The panel from the flashing side.

On the flashing side the panel will look like Photo 5.



Photo showing how to cut outside corners
Photo 6 – Detail shot of how to cut an outside corner of the flashing.



Using a good set of tin snips or metal cutting shears cut each outside corner as shown in (Photo 6)




Photo showing how to cut inside corners
Photo 7 – Inside corners corners at cut as shown and then all edges are glued and folded over the edges of the core.

Inside corners are cut as shown in Photo 7.  Once all corners have been cut, apply contact cement to the exposed surfaces and to the back side of the plywood, wait the appropriate time, and then fold the edges of the flashing over the edges of the plywood and press firmly in place on the back side of the plywood.


Photo of finished panel
Photo 8 – The finished panel will look like this from the flashing side.

The finished panel should look something like Photo 8.






Photo showing completed plywood core aluminum body panelsPhoto 9 shows all of the completed plywood core body panels for the chopper trike.




Photo of the installed dash panel
Photo 10 – The dashboard panel installed.

The “dashboard” panel is installed with machine screws for easy removal. (Photo 10)




Photo of a body panel rivet
Photo 11 – Nylon push rivets are used to install the body panels.

The other body panels are attached using nylon push type fender rivets.  (Photo 11)  These rivets are most commonly found in automotive application for both interior and exterior fastening. The rivets can be removed once they are in place but they do sometimes break off or become difficult to remove. So if you know a body panel is going to be on and off a number of times it might be better to use a different type of fastener. Also, some may want to choose a different fastener if the do not like the “look” of the rivets.

Close up photo of installed body panel rivet
Photo 12 – Close up view of an installed rivet.

Photo 12 shows a close up of an installed fender rivet.






Photo of installed panels on deck lid top
Photo 13 – The deck lid top panels are riveted in place.

The top panels of the battery box lid are riveted in place.   (Photo 13)






Photo of holes cut for wiring access
Photo 14 – Holes are drilled for running electrical wiring.

Access holes for electrical wiring are cut in the body panels with a hole saw. (Photo 14)





Photo of grommets installed for wire passage holes
Photo 15 – Grommets are used to protect the wiring where it passes through the body body panel.

Rubber grommets are used to enclose the holes and protect the wiring.  (Photo 15)





Photo of front view of installed body panels
Photo 16 – A front view of the completed body panels on the battery and electronics compartment.

The front view of the completed body panels.   Note that the two openings at the upper left and upper right of the deck lid are purposely left uncovered to allow air flow to help cool the controllers and the battery box.  (Photo 16)


Photo from rear of installed body panelsPhoto 17 shows the completed battery and electronics compartment from the rear.





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