Motorizing the Canopy

It was a long tiring day in the garage Sunday.  I was contacted by the Discovery Channel last week about bringing the BatBerry down to the studio to be filmed as part of their HighTech Toys week on the Daily Planet show.  So I’ve been working hard to make sure all the gadgets are working.

The main goal for the day was to get all of the mounting mechanisms working for the 24″ linear actuator used for the canopy.  The day started at 9am and ended at 7pm filled with high paced fabrication!  The video at the top of this post shows the final product 🙂

To start this work I needed to strengthen the canopy.  I still have lots more strengthening to do (you can see how wobbly the canopy is in the video), but I needed to get the basics done in order to securely mount the actuator arm.  The strengthening was done using 5/16″ steel rod that was bent to the desired shape and then welded into place.  I’ll be following a similar pattern to the other Batmobile builder’s canopy frame.

Everything was tack welded in-place right in the canopy.  The rod was welded to the pre-existing bolt-on plates so that everything could be removed.  Once everything was secure I removed the frame and completed all the finish welding.

Once everything had cooled I bolted it back into the canopy shell.  Part of the frame was a flat piece of 1/8″ steel with four bolts welded to it.  These will serve as the mounting bolts for the arm that will reach down to the end of the actuator.  I welded another plate of 1/16″ steel on the top to give a flat mounting point for the plate that will create the removal base.

Next was creating the mounting plate at the rear of the hatch to hold the end of the actuator.  I had added two bolt holes to the chassis a long time ago knowing that I was going to get to this point some day.  For this area I cut out a 2″ plate from 1/8″ steel that had slots for the bolts.  These slots will allow the bracket to be adjusted from left to right.

One of my smaller jack stands served as a good prop to hold the actuator in the right position so that I could create some templates out of Bristol board and then transfer them onto 1/8″ steel.  There’s a mounting hole on the end of the actuator that slides in-between the two brackets that I welded onto this base mounting plate.

I used a Velcro strap on the front mounting point to adjust the angle of the actuator.  The actuator needs to be at a similar angle as the side tracks used for the canopy.  Once everything was lined up (and I ensured that the extended arm had the proper clearance) I created a mounting bracket to hang from this Velcro drop down point.  This was done by cutting out the shape of the actuator from some steel by transferring a template of the shape and creating some boxed-in sides that use the top bolt to hang from.

That meant that I now had the front and rear mounting points completed so all that was left was to create the arm that reaches down from the top of the canopy to go into the slot at the front of the actuator arm.

You’ll notice that the arm also has an elongated slot.  This allows the pivot bolt to slide up and down as the actuator moves.  Since the travel angle of the canopy can be slightly different than the canopy rails, the slot provides some forgiveness and less chance of things getting damaged.  The actuator that I’m using can create 200 lbs of force so you don’t want anything binding!

The arm was created with a Bristol board template and then transferred onto 1/8″ steel.  Once it was created I held it in place when the canopy was closed and tack welded it into position.  Then it was just a matter of unbolting the plate from the ceiling and doing the finish welding.  When things had cooled I just bolted everything into place and we were in business!

What I’ll end up doing is using a “pin” for the front arm of the actuator and not a nut & bolt.  This way I can use a pin with a clip on it so that if the actuator ever fails when I’m inside the car I can simply pull the pin and slide the canopy open.

I’m still going to have to figure out how to adjust the front of the canopy so that it doesn’t bind. I “think” I just need to make the groves longer on the front arm so that I can push up the front of the canopy a bit in order for it to clear the lip on the body.

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