An automobile hood is one of the body panels on your vehicle with the largest surface area, and it's the one panel you'll be looking at every minute you're behind the wheel. Considering this, maybe you find it as odd as we do that many vehicle manufacturers have chosen to make modern hood panels flat and boring, thanks in large part to the search for low wind resistance.
If you've ever sat behind the wheel of a car built before the 1990s, you can recall stylish creases, muscular bulges, and contoured shapes that actually made you feel like you were at the helm of something interesting. Sports cars, high-performance cars, and luxury cars all used to have "power dome" shaped hoods that at least hinted there was some dynamite in the engine compartment.
Custom hoods offer relief from boring OEM panels with designs that range from mild to wild. When selecting a replacement hood for your ride, one of the first choices you'll face is hood material. Most custom hoods use material lighter than the factory steel, making them an effective way to cut weight from your vehicle - enhancing both performance and fuel economy. In this article, we'll examine and compare characteristics of the materials custom hoods are made of, and we'll look at some examples we offer of each.
Carbon Fiber (also known as carbon fiber-reinforced polymer) is a polymer-like epoxy that’s made stronger thanks to actual carbon fibers. Those carbon fibers are made up of carbon atoms bonded together in crystals that run parallel to the axis of the fiber – resulting in a material that’s very strong for its weight and thickness. Carbon fiber gains its distinctive appearance because the fibers are literally woven into the polymer “fabric”. Carbon fiber hoods typically weigh one-fourth of what steel ones do, and a carbon fiber replacement for a vehicle with a large hood panel can save up to 50 pounds!
Carbon fiber hoods are extremely strong and lightweight, making them ideal for racing or any application that requires strength without the weight penalty of steel. Additionally, carbon fiber parts are equally valued for their looks and high-performance image. Their looks are usually ready to go right out of the box, because they come clear coated and don't need to be painted - unless you prefer to. The significant downside to carbon fiber is its higher cost of production compared to all other body kit materials (although as more carbon fiber is produced, that cost is starting to come down).
We offer carbon fiber replacement hoods such as the Seibon Carbon Fiber Hood, Carbon Creations Carbon Fiber Hood, AIT Racing Custom Hood, and VIS Racing Custom Hood for a wide selection of makes and models. All of these hoods offer a choice of OEM-matching looks or custom hood designs with more aggressive-looking air scoops, power domes, and vent slats that reduce "heat soak". We'll note that the VIS Racing Custom Hood is available for several high-end performance cars such as Lamborghinis, Nissan Skyline GT-Rs, and Porsche 911s among others.
If you're looking for more aggressive hood styling for select BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, or older Audi models, Aero Function's Custom Hood is available in your choice of carbon fiber or less-expensive fiberglass. The Street Scene Custom Hood offers traditional cowl induction muscle car looks in carbon fiber for a range of classic performance cars. And for something different, it’s also available in stainless steel on certain Chevrolet and Ford trucks. ARK Performance’s Custom Hood is available in carbon fiber for select models, and is contoured with more restrained vents and scoops.
Fiberglass parts are easier and less costly to produce, but their fit and finish may not match those of carbon fiber or polyurethane. Benefits of fiberglass are low weight, good resistance to temperature changes, ease of painting, and low cost. Fiberglass is more rigid in nature, and this less flexibility means that more care must be exercised during installation. Because fiberglass parts are rougher in texture when they come out of the mold, they may need additional finishing work such as sanding and filling during installation to ensure things look fully acceptable.
Fiberglass has gotten a bad rap over the years because its inexpensive nature has led to low-grade, cheaply-made parts flooding the market which are flimsy and difficult to install. To combat this, we've hand-picked custom hoods from manufacturers with proven records of quality and customer satisfaction. This ensures fiberglass hoods purchased from us will yield better fit and finish, and won't be difficult to install. So you can count on finished results that will look better on your vehicle for longer.
For best value, the Amerihood fiberglass Custom Hood focuses on custom hood designs with ram air scoops for cars as well as some truck and SUV models. We've also got the Ark Performance Fiberglass Hood for late-model Hyundai Genesis coupes. If you have a late-model Jeep Wrangler, American Fastbacks offers the stylized Airborne Fiberglass Hood.
Duraflex hoods are made of a material which combines fiberglass, plastic, and flexible resins to give you a product that is fiberglass-like, but will flex and bend (which pure fiberglass will not do). The Duraflex Custom Hood is available for a number of makes and models, and comes with black primer already applied.
Polyurethane (also known as simply "urethane") is a less popular material for custom hoods because it doesn't offer the weight savings of fiberglass or carbon fiber. However, the fit and finish level is usually superior to that of fiberglass. As mentioned previously, polyurethane is much more flexible than fiberglass - making it more durable and easier to install. A polyurethane part can be "coaxed" into position during installation without fear of it cracking, and the end product will flex in response to minor impacts instead of cracking.
Polyurethane hoods are not the best choice for racing if weight reduction is a primary goal. And while the finished surface of polyurethane hoods is generally smoother and more even than fiberglass, more specialized preparation is required in order for paint to adhere properly without peeling or flaking off. Polyurethane is also susceptible to warpage under extreme heat, so environment must be taken into consideration. Polyurethane can be stretched and elongated before returning to original dimensions, making it much more flexible in real-world use.
As you look through the custom hoods section of our website, you'll notice each product features one main photo. Because these lead pictures are not fully indicative of all the hood designs and materials you'll find within that product page, we urge you to click on the Product Options drop-down box (if applicable) to see variations that may exist for your specific make and model.
In closing, we will say that your choice of custom hood material will depend on many factors, not the least of which is availability for your vehicle. If you do have choices, you'll want to prioritize options such as weight, painting ease, and of course, cost. No matter which you choose, think about that new view you'll now have from the driver's seat!