Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: colorado springs
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.
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.
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.
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.