Front hard top mount failure at the track. Catastrophe averted. How to repair? - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 09:30 AM Thread Starter
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Front hard top mount failure at the track. Catastrophe averted. How to repair?

Greetings all,

Well, it appears that 30k miles, 10 years, stiffer engine mounts and 80+ track days (per my logbook) of riding curbs has destroyed my LF hard top mount.

I was running with Trackmasters Racing at Laguna Seca on 11/1/15 and halfway through my last session (car turned 30k miles during said session), accelerating up the hill on the run up to the Corkscrew and I started to see daylight between my windshield header frame and the leading edge of the hard top as I was bouncing over the curbing on driver's left.

This was rather disconcerting right as I was approaching the braking zone, but it was clear the LF of the top was no longer secured to the windshield header frame as it was bouncing up & down, letting daylight in. So I slowed more than normal (nobody immediately behind me) and reached up with my left hand to pull the front of the hard top back down against the windshield header frame and then exited the track (I signaled) a few turns later and pulled into the paddock. The below pics show what I had in my hand after I stopped. The LF hardtop mount had cracked, causing the entire mounting pin to pull out of the hard top in its entirety, torqued bolt and all, including the portion of the top fiberglass that the mounting pin seats against. See attached pics.

I was bummed, but at least the RF mount was still intact. I shudder to think what would have happened if the RF mount had failed too, at speed, on the track. Sudden hard top removal syndrome at speed. Who knows where it woulda landed. Ugh. That really woulda SUCKED. I called it a day, packed it in, applied duct tape along the full width of the windshield header frame and the leading edge of the top and drove home 120 miles to San Francisco without further issue. My car has been parked ever since as I have been playing with my new toy (https://amoroso.smugmug.com/Cars/198...70-Point-Loma/) in the interim.

Upon some discussion with Phil, it ends up that the header interior trim piece adds some clamping / structural integrity to the leading edge of the hard top mounting, but I pulled that piece 29,986 miles prior for improved front visibility (I'm 6'2"). Oh well, live and learn. I'd still want that trim piece out of the way, but perhaps I can come up with some low-profile mount / bracketry that will utilize the three bolt receptacles in the center leading edge of the top to provide some additional clamping.

Anyway, I LOVE my hard top. Sold my soft top years ago. Have only run open top a handful of times. So, as much as I would like to use this as an excuse to purchase a carbon fiber hard top, I would like to fix mine.

I searched here and could only find these threads, which do not apply...
https://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f3/a...oke-off-96735/
https://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f259...d-help-142753/

So, there you have it. Any BTDT or suggestions for getting my top fixed? I assume it has to go to a body shop. Any recommendations for Elige approved SF Bay Area body shops would me much appreciated too!
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 09:39 AM
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.... don't drive over the rumble strips

was the part that broke metal, or fiberglass?
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 11:52 AM
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Wow, that sux. I guess the fiberglass just fatigued and allowed the rivnut to pull through. It may happen to many of us that tend to "use the whole track" at some point.

Just kicking things around here since I am not looking at the actual part, but maybe fab up a metal part that has the correct nut welded to it. Insert the metal part and rivet it to an area of good remaining fiberglass, then fill the remaining area with epoxy? Can that be done without filling the whole top with epoxy? Don't know. I guess a confined void could be created with some silicone. At least it is not a visible area so strength is more important than aesthetics.

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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 11:57 AM
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Wow that must have been scary. It looks like you still have all the pieces so it can probably be fixed.
I only use my Elise on the road. I do use the extra trim piece that you don't use and I can see that it would help to keep the hardtop in place.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks y'all. Please keep the ideas coming, besides "don't drive over the rumble strips" as that ain't gonna happen. :-)

The part that broke is fiberglass. The metal part is intact.

I'll snap some additional pics.

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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 05:58 PM
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Polyester resin (aka fiberglass resin) with MEKP plus fiberglass mat is the usual way to repair fiberglass, but, since you're having structural issues, I can see why you'd want a bodyshop to do it.

p.s. Thank you for posting this! I had always thought about running without that headliner piece at the track as I am also tall and it's one more thing to carry around, but now that you've posted this thread I see how it helps to clamp the hardtop on and I won't go without it!
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 08:02 PM
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I would have some fiberglass repair place do it! Never will be as strong as original.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 08:05 PM
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@Frank Amoroso - That can be repaired. My opinion is that there isn't a huge amount of stress in that joint, even with body flex. It seems like something other than forces while installed would have caused the damage you incurred (like maybe an off axis force applied during previous install/removal cycles).

Just going on what I can see in your photo and without tearing mine apart to look at the overall picture . . . I'd probably shave off the face of the damaged area then lay up a cup-shaped part that would plug about 1" into the existing cavity. The concave part of the cup would be oriented to the inside and include a nut plate for the metal bracket. I'd use something like 6 - 8 layers of 2 ounce woven glass: thin enough to mold the part and plenty strong with about an 1/8" thickness. You could start and finish with a layer of carbon if the surrounding roof structure is stiff enough to take the stress. You'd want to lay up the part in a mold taken from a plug that fits the interior surfaces and creates the mounting face. Don't use polyester resin as another poster suggested - it's more brittle than epoxy and won't survive heat or stress nearly as well.

The molded part would be glued in place with epoxy and a little filler, then one or two layers of glass could be applied over the exterior (except on the forward face I think) to keep the joint from peeling apart.

This is a fussy job but not too difficult - you've just got to find the right guy locally who is willing to spend the time. If you know anyone into RC aircraft and handy with composites, the part you need is just like a miniature aircraft engine cowl and would be made the same way.

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Originally Posted by Gunpilot View Post
Never will be as strong as original.
Not true . . . it would be easy to make it too strong and focus too much stress on another part of the roof. You want a part that will ultimately have a similar amount of flex as the original assembly, and that means keeping it just thick enough to do the job and no more.

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Last edited by Glen; 12-04-2015 at 08:24 PM. Reason: Add comment about strength
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-04-2015, 09:25 PM
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Looks like you'll need to cut-off the mount area of the top and reinforce it with some metal to hold the mount. Then glass the section back in. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Cheers,
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 06:20 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khamai View Post
Looks like you'll need to cut-off the mount area of the top and reinforce it with some metal to hold the mount. Then glass the section back in. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Cheers,
Kiyoshi
Yeah, the problem is the "you" in that statement won't be "me." I will need to bring it somewhere to have it repaired.

Any suggestions for SF Bay Area shops would be GREATLY appreciated!

I can see how this plays out. My car sits until Feb. first track day will be a few weeks away and I order a CF hard top. Ugh. I hope to be smarter than that tho!

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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 06:52 AM
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A member of LOST had a similar experience just recently see facebook post for LOST,

Lotus Owners of South Texas dated November 16th

https://www.facebook.com/groups/118370430602/
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 07:01 AM
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My guess is most body shops would tell you to replace the part because their time to repair would cost more. Slapping some fiberglass mat over the hole isn't going to cut it IMO.

Here's another potential way to repair it. Cut off the face of the damaged area, then build a foam tool that matches the interior of the remaining part. The tool should be small enough to leave room for sufficient layers of glass. Drill a small hole in the side of the damaged area and insert a balloon with the neck outside the part. Make a nut plate carrier out of a rigid material (like 1/4" aircraft ply) and lay that with a nut plate on top of the tool. Then lay up the glass over the tool. Transfer the glass layup to the roof, cap the damaged area with a flat plate, then inflate the balloon to push the wet glass against the sides and cap of the damaged area. After cure, remove the cap plate and drill through the glass to the nut plate. The toughest part of this is transferring the wet glass. You can use spray contact cement to hold the glass layers together, use a minimal amount of resin, then put enough resin in the roof to wet out the part.

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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 08:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Amoroso View Post
Yeah, the problem is the "you" in that statement won't be "me." I will need to bring it somewhere to have it repaired.

Any suggestions for SF Bay Area shops would be GREATLY appreciated!

I can see how this plays out. My car sits until Feb. first track day will be a few weeks away and I order a CF hard top. Ugh. I hope to be smarter than that tho!
Hey Frank,

This is one of those situations where "body shop" isn't the best answer. The best answer is more likely "boat repair shop".

Another thought is to get a hold of Mike Ostrov. Can't say if he would consider doing this, but he's a great fiberglass resource.

Kiyoshi

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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 08:44 AM
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If this is a track car and you don't care what it looks like, just make an aluminum U-bracket that mounts to the sides of the fiberglass that remain. Put a captive fastener in the bottom of the U and reuse all the hardware.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
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My guess is most body shops would tell you to replace the part because their time to repair would cost more. Slapping some fiberglass mat over the hole isn't going to cut it IMO.

Here's another potential way to repair it. Cut off the face of the damaged area, then build a foam tool that matches the interior of the remaining part. The tool should be small enough to leave room for sufficient layers of glass. Drill a small hole in the side of the damaged area and insert a balloon with the neck outside the part. Make a nut plate carrier out of a rigid material (like 1/4" aircraft ply) and lay that with a nut plate on top of the tool. Then lay up the glass over the tool. Transfer the glass layup to the roof, cap the damaged area with a flat plate, then inflate the balloon to push the wet glass against the sides and cap of the damaged area. After cure, remove the cap plate and drill through the glass to the nut plate. The toughest part of this is transferring the wet glass. You can use spray contact cement to hold the glass layers together, use a minimal amount of resin, then put enough resin in the roof to wet out the part.

Glen
Wouldn't expanding foam (which is avail w/different expansion rates & distances) work?

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post #16 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 02:58 PM
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Looks like I be putting that header piece back on ASAP. I didnt realize it gave any support.
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post #17 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 06:28 PM
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ask a boat building/repair shop about a glue called METHACRYLATE. usually comes in a 2 part tube that mixes thru a swizzle stick. if you pump it out of the tube without the stick you can mix it together later(its thicker than resin). rub some of it inside the hole where the crack is . use liberally.
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post #18 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 08:11 PM
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Wouldn't expanding foam (which is avail w/different expansion rates & distances) work?
Likely not very well. If you didn't isolate the liquid foam from the uncured epoxy, I can imagine some molasses-like syrupy concoction that never hardens. So the foam would have to go in something like a balloon. Some foams could break the roof and you wouldn't know what was going on until the bad thing happened. It would be far easier to just put a gauge and pump on the balloon and take it up to whatever the assembly would bear - more is better, but I'd think it could easily handle 15 psi.

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post #19 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-20-2015, 08:18 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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If this is a track car and you don't care what it looks like, just make an aluminum U-bracket that mounts to the sides of the fiberglass that remain. Put a captive fastener in the bottom of the U and reuse all the hardware.
It is a track car. I do care what it looks like, but that's secondary. I can live with some extra visible fasteners in this area. So far, this is the front runner idea.

I would also like to some additional bracketry that allows me to use the three additional fasteners across the windshield header frame.

Had this happened on the passenger side, I may not have noticed until it was too late.

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post #20 of 20 (permalink) Old 09-01-2018, 06:45 PM Thread Starter
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Hard top front mounts repaired

Greetings all,

Hopefully nobody has suffered a similar fate to what I experienced back in 2015.

Anyway, I wanted to report back regarding the eventual fix. I had a body shop fill the hollow cavity with resin and re-set the female mounting hardware square into the now solidly filled cavity. The passenger-side mount, while still intact, was showing some stress cracks, so we went ahead and affected similar repairs prophylactically.
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