GM thermoplastic fender to receive SPE automotive award

The front fenders on the 1987MY Buick LeSabre T-Type1 sports coupe will receive the Hall of Fame award at the SPE's 39th Annual Automotive Innovation Awards competition on Nov. 12 in Livonia, Mich.

The Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE, Troy, Mich., USA) has announced the Hall of Fame winner for its 39th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Competition. To be considered for the Hall of Fame Award, a part must have been in continuous service in some form for at least 15 years and preferably have been widely adapted within the automotive or ground-transportation industries. This year’s winner meets these qualifications: It is the first use of an engineering thermoplastic on a vertical body panel – the front fenders on the 1987MY Buick LeSabre T-Type1 sports coupe produced by then General Motors Corp. (GM) using Noryl GTX 910 resin, an MPPE/PA2 copolymer supplied by then GE Plastics (now SABIC Innovative Plastics, Pittsfield, Mass.).

The automaker’s success with this application was quickly translated into thermoplastic fenders on the 1987MY Buick Reatta sports coupe, then other 1988—1995 C&H-platform vehicles, and in GM’s 1989-2005 Saturn passenger vehicles, all of whose exterior vertical body panels were thermoplastic. In fact, more than 45 platforms and 20 million vehicles globally have used or currently use this material.

A team at GE worked for more than five years to develop a polymer that would fulfill GM’s requirements for a material that was high quality, lightweight, damage and corrosion resistant, and compatible with then-current body-build practices and paint systems. GM’s own engineering group reviewed, tested, and rejected 160 materials from 17 resin suppliers before settling on the MPPE/PA grade.

Making the switch from steel to thermoplastic enabled GM to reduce part weight 40 percent (4 lb/1.8 kg vs. 7.3 lb/3.3 kg in steel) and eliminate denting and corrosion. GM’s Buick Factory 8 in Flint, Mich., molded the first fenders for the Buick LeSabre T-Type sports coupe and Delta Tooling (Auburn Hills, Mich.) produced the original injection molds for this program.

Dave Malik, director-Front & Rear Closures, and Henry Brockman, lead engineer, both from General Motors Co., will accept the award on Nov. 12 at SPE’s annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala at Burton Manor in Livonia, Mich. For more information about the Automotive Innovation Awards Competition and Gala, visit the SPE Automotive Division’s website at www.speautomotive.com/inno.htm, or contact the group at +1 248-244-8993.