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Unread 08-13-2013, 09:52 AM   #1
chatham
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Fiberglass vs Steel Jeep Bodies

When I decided to do a jeep build I spent a lot of time looking at steel vs fiberglass bodies. I found a lot of people stick to steel and down play fiberglass. after spending hours and hours searching all the jeep forums I haven't found any good legitimate reasons to not use fiberglass. sure there where the few who just put glass down for absurd and stupid reasons but I could not find any threads that had good sound reasons not to use glass. we have heard all the reasons:

if it aint steel it aint real.
quality, steel is stronger, glass is cheap and breaks.
grounding is a HUGE problem.
glass tweaks and moves.
and more.

so lets have an honest debate about fiberglass vs steel so future generations can make a educated assessment and purchase what is right for them.


COST
the over riding facture for me was the cost. a quality fiberglass body cost so much less than steel. that is money that I could use in so many other ways. the + or - $3000 price difference is huge and after doing all the research I just couldn't justify spending that much more for steel no matter how much better (and IMO its not) steel is or they say it is. now having said that, if you are doing a total restore and "original" is important to you, then steel is the only answer. but other than that, steel is not the only answer and again IMO fiberglass is a better choice.

when I tried to find decent used steel bodies they all needed some work and some, some serious work. by the time I figured in the cost of materials and just how many man hours it would take to make that steel body work, it just wasn't worth it. in most cases purchasing the fiberglass was almost as cheap as buy all the after market body panels to fix the steel body. so then you look at the cost of a new steel tub and there is no comparison in price to glass. so then I tried to shoot down going with glass with every search I did. of all the searches that I did, maybe and I mean maybe 1% of those who owned glass wouldn't do it again. it was for some reason like, it cracked in half on me. well I will jump out on a limb here and say that if your tub cracked in half on you then I suspect you had a lot more going on that you weren't paying attention to. to me thats the same as saying suddenly my floor pan just rusted out from under me and my wife disappeared right there on the trail.

QUALITY
if you look at any of the threads of the guys who purchased new steel tub you will here horror stories of the difficulties that they have had with things not lining up. the mounting holes not lining up, panels between the tub and fenders and hoods not lining up, etc. I did not find one thread on glass where any of that was a problem. the fit and finish of the glass was as good or better than steel. there were no holes in the glass so you could make sure they were correct and didn't have the problem if they weren't. I know that some of the after market dealers for steel tubs take the tubs and tweak weld and modify them to make them work but you $PAY$ for this. again money you don't spend on glass. sure there will be areas on the glass tub that you might need to shim or tweak but no worse than steel and in my case not even anywhere near what some of these guys have had to do with steel tubs. again this came into my decision. after reading most of these builds why would I spend an additional $3000 or more and have to make all these adjustments? the quality of glass is as good or better than steel with taking into consideration all the modifications you must make with the steel tubs. taking that into consideration glass is a better choice.

IF IT AINT STEEL IT AINT REAL
I just laugh at this. while some say it tongue and cheek others mean it. again if your after factory original steel is the deal, if not there may be a better choice. if you have a mini van, a Cherokee or any number of other cars, guess what, your lift gate is plastic. own a corvette, not a bad car, its plastic. own a boat, plastic.

STEEL IS STONGER, GLASS IS CHEAP AND BREAKS
Really?? own a corvette, a boat, a mini van, etc. etc. etc. in many of the glass threads i read guys comment on how surprised they were as to how strong the glass really was. after rolling a cj, hitting a rock, or bouncing off a tree.

glass is lighter, wont ever rust and in most cases more forgiving than steel. ever seen a plastic car with hail damage? last year we had golf ball size hail that came out of nowhere so no time to get the cars in. my corvette didnt get a scratch but my Mercedes received $12,000 worth of damage. not a good day.

now having said the above, i am reinforcing my glass body in several areas. history with steel bodies has taught me that there are certain areas with jeep bodies that need some extra help and i assume glass as well. it would be prudent to reinforce the seat bolt locations, seatbelt locations, spare tire mount, etc. but again for the difference in money this is easy and cheap. i can lay in fiberglass really really easy. weld on steel and not watch what youre doing and you warp it.

GROUNDING IS A HUGE PROBLEM
again this just makes me laugh. the frame is a huge ground bar. make sure you have grounded the motor and frame as you should. run a 10ga grounding wire to the dash and one at the rear end into a ground bus you can get at home depot and youre done. run the dash ground and light grounds to these and youre done. all those wires are a mess. really?? well i don't want you working on my jeep then.

GLASS TWEAKS AND MOVES
steel squeaks and grinds...

in the end glass was the perfect choice for me. i saved a pocket full of money. i didn't have to mess with all the poor quality issues of steel or pay someone else to fix them. i made all my own holes for body mounting, seat mounts, etc etc. and didn't have to worry about them being off. if i made a mistake i just laid in some glass and fixed it, didn't have to worry about warping the steel by welding. it is lighter and perhaps might save me some gas money. wont ever ever ever rust. sure i put in some reinforcements that i might not have done with steel but in all these cost me less than $200 in materials. IMO these modifications that i did made the glass body way better than steel when you factor in all the other things.

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Unread 08-13-2013, 11:21 AM   #2
Rick7122
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There is good and bad about both. Steel will rust and fglass is weaker structure wise. I could see if you are doing mainly show quality, so if you are just going with fglass then go for it.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 11:30 AM   #3
spottedfrog
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Not my picture, but it illustrates why I like steel.
If this Jeep were fiberglass it would not exist now:


I know my Jeep will take some knocks. I also intentionally did not use any body filler on my Jeep after fixing what rust it had.
Thats my take for trail use.

for "show" I am unaware of any "correct" fiberglass tub. by that I mean one that has all the surface detail, lines and intentions of the original.

That said, if I lived in a really humid place I'd have to go glass.

I'll edit to say. If I HAD to go with a NEW tub (dont know what would force this) I'd have to go glass at this time due to cost and fitting. But I'd rather (and did) repair an original. I didn't have to buy new panels, just some cheap 18ga steel. Cut, Bend, Weld.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 11:46 AM   #4
John Strenk
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Living in the rust belt, I would never go back to steel unless it was a garage queen. But my jeep comes out in winter to play and so do the salt truck.

Never had a crack in the 4WD tub but one of the fenders folded up hitting a dear at 60 mph.
Stretched it back out and added some glass and it's good as needs to be...

Grounding? Hell I've seen more bad grounds on a steel tub causing problems. At least you know you have to ground each item with a glass tub and works much better than a 30 year old rust connection.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 02:11 PM   #5
jacques25150
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the problem of synthetic material is the quality of this material;
in France any car constructor have follow this issue and that was a succes:
citroën with the mehari and Renault with the rodeo + some little constructor with buggies;
the problem of synthetic material is the cracks but with a solid frame the risk is minimal and many tens after are this vehicles in good conditions... if no very strong twisting!!!!
An other advantage is the weight;
for our vehicles, there is the problem for the fans of original condition;
All depends of Your use and Your mind: if You want a collector or other;
sure, in US are the CJ jeeps in most quantity as in France, and the value of Your vehicles is under the value in France: a jeep in very good condition can de paid over 10000 € (13000 USD) and with a french small engine (gasoline or diesel)...
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Unread 08-13-2013, 02:28 PM   #6
Matt80cj
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The only disadvantages I can think of is that the glass body is usually thicker. This can cause problems with things that are mounted to the body but connected to something else. ie the clutch linkage. Mine has a glass body and the PO did some crazy patching to extend the clutch linkage to make up for the extra distance that the thicker body caused. Not a big deal but something you have to keep in mind.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 03:36 PM   #7
Always2L8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jacques25150 View Post
the problem of synthetic material is the quality of this material;
in France any car constructor have follow this issue and that was a succes:
citroën with the mehari and Renault with the rodeo + some little constructor with buggies;
the problem of synthetic material is the cracks but with a solid frame the risk is minimal and many tens after are this vehicles in good conditions... if no very strong twisting!!!!
An other advantage is the weight;
for our vehicles, there is the problem for the fans of original condition;
All depends of Your use and Your mind: if You want a collector or other;
sure, in US are the CJ jeeps in most quantity as in France, and the value of Your vehicles is under the value in France: a jeep in very good condition can de paid over 10000 € (13000 USD) and with a french small engine (gasoline or diesel)...
Took the words right out of my mouth. I think the translator needs a little tweaking, but the point is understood. Just having a little international fun.

and via "google translate":

M'enlevez les mots de la bouche. Je pense que le traducteur a besoin d'un peu de peaufinage, mais le point est entendu. Le fait d'avoir un peu de plaisir international.

Fiberglass, aluminum or steel. Each has its benefits and downsides. I chose to go with a steel replacement tub mainly as it looks more correct. I almost went aluminum but just couldn't get past the flat floor bed and wells, angular trans hump etc. With proper prep, seam sealing and use of epoxy primers, the steel tub will last a very long time. In other words, a second chance to do it right.

Good Luck and Success Whichever Way is Chosen
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Unread 08-13-2013, 03:48 PM   #8
WindKnot
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First, I don't accept your premise that you don't have an opinion. For me, it's clear that you've already made up your mind on a plastic tub. You want validation. Fine. You can have a fiberglass tub if you want one; it's YOUR Jeep and you can do anything you want with it.

Obviously, I'm a fan of steel. Jeeps are not Corvettes. Corvettes don't leave the pavement. (or at least, not on purpose. ) Jeeps are designed for the off road adventures of life. The drift boats I've used have been aluminum because there is an excellent chance of an encounter with submerged rocks. Aluminum may dent, but plastic breaks. The aforementioned photograph says it all. If that Jeep had a fiberglass body it wouldn't look like it does, it would be a chassis under a broken pile. I can pound a fender out on the trail and continue. I suppose you could duct tape a glass fender, but not much beyond that. Instead of body work, you'd be dialing up a vendor for a tub. Where are the savings now?

When a Jeep has a small block Chevy engine and a fiberglass tub, is it a Jeep anymore?
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Unread 08-13-2013, 05:33 PM   #9
keith460
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Originally Posted by WindKnot View Post
When a Jeep has a small block Chevy engine and a fiberglass tub, is it a Jeep anymore?
No, and I'll say it again just for sh*ts and giggles, "If it aint steel, it aint real!"
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Unread 08-13-2013, 05:43 PM   #10
chatham
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WindKnot View Post
First, I don't accept your premise that you don't have an opinion. For me, it's clear that you've already made up your mind on a plastic tub. You want validation. Fine. You can have a fiberglass tub if you want one; it's YOUR Jeep and you can do anything you want with it.
im not after validation but if I was I certainly don't need yours. I stated my opinion several times. I made a decision to use fiberglass after carefully searching and studying what was available and why certain people chose what they chose. as I said and based on my build, cost was the over riding factor for my decision. to dismiss fiberglass as the ugly stepchild does not serve the debate any purpose. steel did not and does not offer enough benefits to spend the extra money. as for the picture of the jeep above, have any of you been to any serious off road races? the Baja? guess what, plastic bodies. so any assertion that fiberglass cant handle off-roading is nonsense. at the end of the day he has a bent up piece of steel, I might have a cracked up body but it will repair a whole lot easier.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 06:06 PM   #11
contdevelop
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Since the OP is a fiberglass fan, why not list all the companies who produce fiberglass bodies and rate them. When I bought my 1985 CJ7 several years ago, one of the deciding factors was that it already had a glass body. When i picked it up, 7 hours away i didnt pay much attention to the body assuming it was a 4WD body. After all i used some 4WD bodies back in high school and they were solid and held up nicely. Came to find out this body is not a 4 WD body as its thin, flexes bad, and is plain old junk, and has developed several cracks. I have no idea who made it as there are no tags. As i slowly restore/convert my CJ7 to a CJ8 i am ever researching and weighing the metal vs fiberglass vs aqualu aluminum bodies......
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Unread 08-13-2013, 06:11 PM   #12
jetmech1
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Because it had a steel body when it rolled off the assembly line. You want a plastic fantastic, go ahead. It's YOUR Jeep. If you're worried about budget, I suggest you stay away from Jeeps!
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Unread 08-13-2013, 06:25 PM   #13
7CJ5White6
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Originally Posted by chatham View Post
im not after validation but if I was I certainly don't need yours. I stated my opinion several times. I made a decision to use fiberglass after carefully searching and studying what was available and why certain people chose what they chose. as I said and based on my build, cost was the over riding factor for my decision. to dismiss fiberglass as the ugly stepchild does not serve the debate any purpose. steel did not and does not offer enough benefits to spend the extra money. as for the picture of the jeep above, have any of you been to any serious off road races? the Baja? guess what, plastic bodies. so any assertion that fiberglass cant handle off-roading is nonsense. at the end of the day he has a bent up piece of steel, I might have a cracked up body but it will repair a whole lot easier.
the reason you see fiberglass at Baja an other places is because they are after speed so they need less weight. And when the break their glass bodies they have plenty of sponsors and money lying around to take off the broken one and put on a new one. To them price isn't the real problem. They want speed not a Jeep. People who go off roading in a Jeep aren't trying to set a speed record and don't have thousands lying around to buy a new body when they crack it on the first off road trip.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 06:26 PM   #14
DanStew
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My old CJ3a had a fiberglass tub and i liked it but did not love it, just for the fact you lose alot of the little character that original tubs have. The various little holes and brackets. Especially for the older vintage jeeps you can date a tub by those differences. I would have kept mine if it was a metal tub, the fiberglass just didnt appeal to me after a while. I had fiberglass fenders on an older 63 CJ5 had fiberglass fenders and when i got a small tree stuck between the fender and the tire, that sound of shattering fiberglass was unforgettable.
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Unread 08-13-2013, 06:38 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by 7CJ5White6 View Post
the reason you see fiberglass at Baja an other places is because they are after speed so they need less weight. And when the break their glass bodies they have plenty of sponsors and money lying around to take off the broken one and put on a new one. To them price isn't the real problem. They want speed not a Jeep. People who go off roading in a Jeep aren't trying to set a speed record and don't have thousands lying around to buy a new body when they crack it on the first off road trip.
Bingo.
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