Home » Watch This Hero Design And Build His Own Turbofan Wheels Instead Of Buying Them

Watch This Hero Design And Build His Own Turbofan Wheels Instead Of Buying Them

Diy Turbofans Ts2
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Getting a sick set of wheels can transform the look of your ride. You might go with a clean, luxury look for a German sedan, or deep-dish rims with polished lips for a JDM build. If you’re really going for a hardcore racing-inspired look, though, you’ll want turbofans. The only thing is, they’re kind of hard to come by. So, if you can’t find turbofans to suit your car, what do you do? You make your own, of course!

What are turbofans? They’re a style of vented wheel cover designed to help cool a car’s brakes. They literally consist of vanes fitted to the wheel to create extra airflow to bring temperatures down and maintain braking performance. They became an icon of top-tier 1970s and 1980s race cars, perhaps most notable for starring on dominating Porsche 935 endurance racers. As is often the way, the race-spec parts became an iconic piece of street style. Today, turbofans are more often used as an aesthetic touch. Race cars have found other ways to cool brakes that don’t impact unsprung weight.

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New Zealander Chris Watson wanted turbofans for a build, and whipped up an impressive set himself. The man behind Tofu Auto Works is an expert fabricator. In addition to his Nissan Stagea wagon wearing the face of a GT-R, he’s also well-known for his Cyberpunk Miata build. In fact, it’s so outrageous, it even won a contest to become a Hot Wheels model. Its aesthetic has morphed and changed over time, and today, it wears a sweet set of carbon fiber turbofans, of Watson’s own creation.

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Watson’s turbofan setup relies on 15-inch wheel barrels as a base. It’s an ideal wheel size that perfectly suits the NA Mazda Miata. Only a handful of NA models got 15-inch wheels from the factory in a 15×6 sizing, but Watson’s pumped-guards demanded insanely-wide 13-inchers. Watson steps through the process of removing the wheel centers from his old steelies, and welding them at the right spot to get the fitment just so with the car’s existing pumped fenders. He even demonstrates a neat rig using skateboard wheels to grind them clean prior to priming and assembly.

Cyberpunk Miata Build Making Custom Turbofans. Part 1 Of 2 9 40 Screenshot

With the wheels prepped, fabricating the turbofan covers themselves started with a 3D printer. Watson uses a Elegoo Neptune 3 Max for its sizable build plate, which makes printing larger parts easier. He has it set up with a large nozzle for printing large parts quicker, albeit at lower resolution.

The turbofans are modeled on a cyberpunk version of the wheel covers used on the Mazda 787B. Watson created the basic geometry using Fusion 360 CAD software, before using the printer to create test pieces for checking fitment with the wheels themselves. A simple flat wireframe section was enough to verify whether the design would fit the wheels. Only minor modifications were required to clear the barrels before going ahead to print the real thing.

Cyberpunk Miata Build Making Custom Turbofans. Part 1 Of 2 24 10 Screenshot

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Cyberpunk Miata Build Making Custom Turbofans. Part 1 Of 2 24 16 Screenshot (1)

Cyberpunk Miata Build Making Custom Turbofans. Part 1 Of 2 30 25 Screenshot 2The Neptune 3 Max has a print bed that’s 16.5 x 16.5 x 19.7 inches. It’s actually big enough to print the turbofans in a single piece. Sadly, it wasn’t that simple. Printing in a single piece would necessitate using support material to handle the center hub, which is difficult to remove and can mar the surface in the process. Instead, the outer section of the turbofans were printed face down, with the hub printed separately. In total, the two turbofans took about two and a half days to print. The two parts were then glued together with cyanoacrylate glue (also known as super glue), after an appropriate amount of sanding to prepare the surfaces for later finishing.

Once assembled, the fans were clamped to a wheel so the holes for the wheel studs could be drilled out. The holes are drilled large such that the wheel studs still mate directly onto the steel wheel. The turbofans are then attached to the wheels with smaller bolts via four separate holes.

Even just off the printer with a light sanding, the turbofans already look pretty sharp. However, Watson is a completionist. He designed flat cover plates to mate with the 3D-printed parts, to be made entirely out of carbon fiber. For an edgy look, he created a special “glitch carbon” finish by laying scraps of carbon fiber in different directions to create an effect not dissimilar to dazzle camouflage. He shares a tip that spray adhesive can be a great tool when working in this way, as it stops the carbon fiber from fraying when it’s being cut and arranged. Once laid up, the flat “glitch carbon” sheet was cured under vacuum to get the best possible finish.

Cyberpunk Miata Build Carbon Fiber Turbofans. Part 2 Of 2 17 50 Screenshot

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Cyberpunk Miata Build Carbon Fiber Turbofans. Part 2 Of 2 31 47 Screenshot

Watson then designed and 3D printed templates to cut the covers out of the glitch carbon sheet. The templates were screwed on to mark out the lines accurately. Then, they were removed, and the parts cut out with an angle grinder. A sander was used for final finishing to get the parts nice and round. The inner and outer parts of the cover plates were then assembled using 3D-printed tabs.

Laying up carbon fiber on the 3D-printed turbofan sections was more challenging, but was key to adding strength to the parts. Watson demonstrates a useful technique where the carbon fiber is backed with a thin layer of fiberglass to hold it together while it’s shaped around the curved forms. Once cured, the 3D-printed sections needed the excess carbon removed and plenty of time on the sander to get them looking nice.

Cyberpunk Miata Build Carbon Fiber Turbofans. Part 2 Of 2 16 3 Screenshot

Cyberpunk Miata Build Carbon Fiber Turbofans. Part 2 Of 2 16 42 Screenshot

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The parts were then treated to a clear coat, with Watson using a custom 2:1 mix of matt to gloss as he couldn’t find a satin clear coat when he needed one. Stick-on decals were then applied to the coverplates for a cyberpunk look. The shiny clean wheel barrels were then given a “weathering” treatment to make them look appropriately aged to fit the car’s dystopian aesthetic. The turbofans were then bolted to the wheels, and the coverplates installed on top with small bolts. It’s a temporary measure, as Watson plans to remake the coverplates later and then glue the better versions on permanently.

Cyberpunk Miata Build Carbon Fiber Turbofans. Part 2 Of 2 51 28 Screenshot

The turbofans look excellent mounted up, even if they’re not really intended to be functional in this case. From a looks perspective, the covers perfectly suit the Miata and the bleak future it appears to live in. Watson first installed the covers on the rear, but later took photos with the more traditional configuration, where the turbofans are fitted up front. This makes more sense from the perspective of cooling the brakes, even if Watson’s build is purely about the visual.

What about weight, you ask? The final assembled turbofans came in at 4 pounds and 5 pounds respectively. The difference is largely down to one of the coverplates being vacuum bagged, and the other created using a wet layup with more layers of fiber and more epoxy. That’s a lot of unsprung weight to add to the car, in addition to the heavier wheels and tires. Watson isn’t concerned, though. His build is about form, not function, so he’s not sweating a loss of lap time or decreased performance from the suspension.

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The final product almost has us wanting to build a set of our own, if we hadn’t just watched how difficult and time-consuming it was to build them. In any case, it’s a testament to Watson’s skills as a craftsperson that they came out looking so damn good.

Image credits: Tofu Auto Works via YouTube screenshot

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CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
1 month ago

Wow! Nice job, cool execution that matches the whole vibe of the car. That car deserves to be in some sort of dystopian future movie, driven by some sort of bad ass underdog hero that saves the day.

Ron888
Ron888
1 month ago

This style is not for me but i very much like seeing people build their own stuff

Blahblahblah123
Blahblahblah123
1 month ago

Fascinating. I have been using 3d printers for over 8 years so I’m going to comment on that side of the design.
(1) Building material:
I’m kinda perplexed why he used what looks like PLA for the part. PLA does not seem ideal as it has such a low glass temperature where it starts to become pliable. Yes, it is wrapped in carbon fiberglass so that helps. But it those turbofans are in direct sunlight, they are going to get hot enough that the PLA will definitely get soft. I’m not sure if this is an issue or not, but you can use other types of filament that seem more appropriate.
The first option that comes to mind is Nylon, or even carbon fiber embedded nylon. Tough and a super high glass point. Some PA6-CF filament from Polymaker has a glass point of 190C! It is actually surprisingly easy to print as well if you have a well tuned printer. As a bonus PA6-CF filament actually looks amazing printed and simply sanded – it has such a cool texture.
The crazier option would be to use a lightweight filament – they are often used by folks that 3d print remote control planes. This filament actually expands with air bubbles when you print it, so it can be super lightweight. The prints I have seen are freaky light and seem pretty tough. If you assume the carbon fibreglass is what provides the strength and structure (like with the PLA discussed earlier) then this could cut the weight of the printed structure in half. It would be an interesting option for sure.
(2) Support structure:
I do not think that they needed to print two pieces. The video showing the problems with removing the support structure just shows they don’t have a lot of experience with support structure tuning. You can definitely get good results with supports that pull off cleanly.
(3) Manually drilling holes:
Why did they manually drill the holes for the lugs and mounting screws?
This part is weird in my view. It would be trivial to put the holes into their Fusion 360 design and get exact placement of the required holes.
(4) It is freaking amazing:
I want to make sure to compliment the work that went into this project. It looks amazing and was definitely a labour of love. I mainly 3d print practical, usable parts, so my though process above is what I immediately thought about on how I would improve the function of the parts rather than going just for looks. The look they achieved is definitely amazing.

Blahblahblah123
Blahblahblah123
30 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Yes! ABS is awesome for applications where you need strength. If your printer handles ABS well then it is indeed amazing. I experienced a lot of warping with my one time playing with ABS. I blame it on inexperience or something about my setup.
I had a project that required Carbon fiber Nylon (Polymaker PA6-CF) and I was shocked how easy it was to print. The parts were super strong and looked cool.
Cheers!

Last edited 30 days ago by Blahblahblah123
Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
1 month ago

Why are the tires so skinny though?

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
1 month ago

In the dystopian future, tires that fit the wheels correctly will not be available. (OK, it’s a style thing that frankly isn’t my taste either)

J3FFER50N
J3FFER50N
1 month ago

@dlng.designs on Instagram makes a lot of these

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

It’s interesting artistically but one-handing that angle grinder on work he’s mostly sort of holding in place with one hand is no nope no thank you.

It looks a little smaller than mine, so maybe it handles more like a Dremel. I know he’s just cutting carbon fiber, and he’s got all his other PPE, but hunched over a one-handed high speed rotary tool is not great.

WaxhawFive
WaxhawFive
1 month ago

I’m a “fan” of this guys work (not affiliated)
https://www.studio35ive.com/

Jj
Jj
1 month ago

This build represents a very optimistic view of a post-apocalyptic future.

In the future we will not have automotive paint, but the roads will be smooth enough to drive this thing without getting high-centered on a zombie.

Matt Butler
Matt Butler
1 month ago
Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
1 month ago

If only he’d use those skills for good instead of evil…

John Patson
John Patson
1 month ago

Somehow my plans to beat a tomato can flat and use it have taken a back seat…

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
1 month ago

Hot Rod magazine had some one do the Look of this back in the 80’s (on a dark green mustang), by cutting the a piece of metal, showing recess with a piece of PVC, and connecting it to the top of the lugnuts with machine screws. It was a cool look, and I’ve looked for the magazine that had this on it, and I can’t find it.

Joshua Williams
Joshua Williams
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Ames

I remember that article, wasn’t the metal cut from old mainframe computer doors or something like that?

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
1 month ago

YES! Someone else remembers it.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
1 month ago

“…they’re not really intended to be functional” — this was a big let-down, especially so late in the article.

Last edited 1 month ago by Hotdoughnutsnow
Cal67
Cal67
1 month ago

Very involved for a non-functional part. Would have been fairly simple to put a curve on the “vanes” to push air through the wheel centre.

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Cal67

That’s what I thought, especially since it’s getting 3d printed. It would have made it harder to do the CF overlay, but since it’s an appearance item you could probably have just used cf-patterned vinyl.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago

As basically a piece of rolling Manga, I dig this thing. A much better “art car” than gluing a bunch of Barbie heads to an old VW.

AlterId
AlterId
1 month ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Why not both?

Chris D
Chris D
30 days ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

I know of a van that is covered with Barbie dolls – many hundreds, probably thousands of them. It comes off much more creepy than creative.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

As a Miata owner and 3d designer/printer, I am impressed with the inventiveness and workmanship. As an engineer, I am appalled by the weight and impracticality.

Torque
Torque
1 month ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I was thinking much the same, since this is a 1st prototype (which looks Fucking Fantastic) for version 2 if he could make the 3d printed structure super thin & then use carbon fiber (vacuum bagged) to significantly bring the weight down?

Bearddevil
Bearddevil
1 month ago

Last time I was out in Tucson, I saw a Tesla S with Rotiform Aerodiscs on it, and I have to say that they looked pretty bitchin. I have totally been looking for a way to install those on my Pacifica…

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

Aerodiscs are purely for looks. I mean, not that any “real” turbofan style wheels did a whole lot–especially for a basic street car–but Aerodiscs are basically a hubcab covering a wheel. There’s no “aero” element/blades to them.

Bearddevil
Bearddevil
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

That is very true, but as I said, they looked pretty bitchin, and I liked that.

Waremon0
Waremon0
1 month ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

In this case, wouldn’t these wheels reduce drag and increase efficiency? Same logic as the optional flat wheels that Tesla offers.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago
Reply to  Waremon0

Possibly, but I doubt it. They stick further out, and they’ve got holes in them. You’d think they’d be more flush and not have holes, or look aerodynamically designed to reduce drag. These don’t.

Chris D
Chris D
30 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

I’ve long had the idea that a fan-blade shaped wheel would pull air out from under the car and cool the brakes. Realistically, though, the amount of air being pulled out would not be significant in terms of downforce, but would likely prevent the brakes from ever overheating.

Chris D
Chris D
30 days ago
Reply to  Chris D

That would also eliminate the need for adding four pounds of plastic on each corner, and several days of labor to build the things – and would be functional.

Aaron Nichols
Aaron Nichols
1 month ago

I’ve seen the build videos, its an amazing job. Any idea what style the rear wheels are called?

Jj
Jj
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron Nichols

No idea. I feel like I’ve seen them on race cars. I looked up Mazda 787 pictures and they all seemed to either have conventional wheels all around or aero fronts and conventional rears. These are the closest wheels I found on the front of this, but I’m not sure this is a real car.

https://wallup.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/21/397715-car-vehicle-Mazda-mazda_787b.jpg

Last edited 1 month ago by Jj
Aaron Nichols
Aaron Nichols
30 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Awesome, thanks! I watched some of his videos and they too are custom made.

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