I lent my trusty old Team Associated TC3 to a friend for a local VTA race here in Canada. The body was in somewhat rough shape when I gave it to him, but it was especially bad when I got it back— new rips, crushed nose, cracks, missing paint, and a bunch of fresh scuffs. No big deal, just paint a new body, right? But it isn’t only the monetary investment in a new body, paint, and decals; it’s also the investment in time required to paint and mount a new lid. The other option is to repair this sucker and bring it back to reality, at least for a few more races. It’s important to have a nice-looking shell, especially in the VTA class, where aesthetics are paramount, so read on to get some tips on how to repair and clean up some common ailments of a beat-up polycarbonate body.
CLEAN IT - The first step before you try to tackle more advanced repairs is to clean your entire body. Initial cleaning should include use of a bristle brush or an air compressor to remove dirt, debris, carpet fibers, and/or foam tire dust. A quick wash with dish soap and water will do wonders as well, especially for dirty off-road bodies. Be sure to dry your body thoroughly before moving on to the next step. This first cleaning step should leave you with a sparkly body, although I’m sure there will still be scuffs remaining from contact with the wall or other vehicles. Body scuffs usually take a little more elbow grease than just simple soap and water, so break out your motor spray or denatured alcohol, and wet a rag with either so you can rub those scuffs into oblivion. Almost all motor sprays are safe for polycarbonate bodies, but a quick test on some old scrap material will ensure that you aren’t using the wrong cleaning juice that could cause further damage. Be careful of other solvents for this step, as well, because many cleaners will damage polycarbonate and could end your body-repair plans just as you’re getting started. These simple cleaning steps will make the most drastic difference in appearance and also give you a much better view of any other damage that needs attention.
PAINT TOUCHUP - You generally won’t be able to break out the spray cans for paint touchup, as your window masks and overspray film have obviously been removed. But you can still clean up missing paint areas from the inside with a small bristle brush and matching colors. There are many wear-prone areas within a body that could remove paint, and class will determine where the common areas of removed paint will be. In our case, the top of the wheel wells have some tire-rub areas that could use some freshening up. Before you crack your paint jar open, use motor spray and a rag to thoroughly clean the area inside your body where the paint has been removed to ensure that no color-altering debris is present and to give the paint a better surface to bond to. Next, use your small bristle brush and matching paint color to apply a small amount of touchup to the exposed area. Remember to keep your paint thin so it can flex with your body and not chip off. If you initially used spray cans to paint your body and want a perfect color match, simply spray a tiny bit of paint into an old paint cap. This will provide just enough to use your bristle brush for coverage.
CRACKS AND RIPS - Now that your body is clean and all the missing paint areas have been touched up, you are ready to handle some actual structural repairs. Rips and cracks are the most common damage areas but are relatively easy to fix. Use a rag and some motor spray to clean the inside surface of your body where the damage is. Next, trim some drywall fiber tape to size and apply it over the full length of the damage, allowing for about ½-inch overhang all around. Then spread Shoe Goo over the entire area of fiber tape and allow it to fully cure. (Try to use a fresh tube of Shoe Goo that hasn’t dried out to ensure that it flows well over the damaged area.) Be careful not to move the body while the glue is drying so the body shape doesn’t alter if the crack shifts. How much Shoe Goo you use will be determined by the extent of the damage you are repairing. Always try to use as little glue as possible to allow for flex and to reduce adding unnecessary weight.
COVERUP - The most difficult part of repairing a body is covering up your dirty work after the fact. Stickers are your best friend here, so don’t be afraid to use them! A few strategically placed sticky graphics can cover up the gnarliest repairs so no one will ever be the wiser. Don’t go overboard and create a gross sticker-monster, but look over your repairs and slap a sticker on here and there to hide the more obvious obscenities. Even existing stickers that you were already rocking could use some attention. Headlight and grill stickers are usually the first to get ripped and damaged, since they’re the ones getting up close and personal with the wall during most collisions. Some bodies come with more than one set of these graphics, so if you have extras, peel off the old and slap on the new. Otherwise, you can get creative and use other material such as chrome or carbon-fiber to make your own unique look. We used some blank carbon-fiber decal sheets from xxx main Racing and trimmed out some new headlights and grille to replace our ratty old ones.
ADDED SECURITY - Now that you know exactly where the weak areas are on your body, you can take some precautionary measures to further strengthen the damage-prone areas. The areas that most commonly need attention are around the body posts and up front, at the nose. Fiber tape and Shoe Goo on the inside of the body around body-post mounting holes will add a lot of strength but may not be feasible if your body-post holes are drilled through a clear window area. Transparent stick-on vinyl material is much quicker and easier to use and usually offers all the body-post security you’ll need. Fiber tape and Shoe Goo in the front end will also drastically increase strength, but try to go easy here because you don’t want to add too much extra mass so far out front of your vehicle. Where and how much you increase strength will depend on your class of racing and how much abuse your body is subjected to.
CLOSING - The body repair tips in this article are relatively simple and easy to apply, so there is no reason not to use them. If you keep an eye on this stuff and address body repairs early, you won’t even have to do any major fixing-up, as small blemishes will be addressed as they come along, and this will allow you to get the most out of your lid while still looking hot on the track.