Making the hakosuka carbon fibre air box at studio 45

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Unfortunately there is no massive pot of money funding all the custom components for this project. The majority of the time, parts are thought of and designed….. then just kick around my laptop until I can afford to make them a reality. Even the parts we can make in house are at the mercy of playing second fiddle to the day to day work. Getting frustrated that I can’t progress because of lack of funds or time happens more than I would like. It simply doesn’t matter how much you can do yourself there will always be a point where you need money or someone else’s help to progress.

I am fortunate however to have the help and guidance of some experienced and knowledgeable people. The majority of the time that consists of the other members of the Autonomy team. Badgering Mark with design problems is a daily occurrence and all the fabricating work is dealt with in house. Plus all of the contacts we use in our day to day work within motorsport engineering.

Alastair Gibson

One person who has helped me out recently with this project is Alastair Gibson. Alastair is a well regarded sculptor working in carbon fibre and re purposed components from various F1 cars. Basing most of his work on marine life. Ranging from full size manta rays and sharks to smaller works like mackerel and piranha. His impressive sculptures have found homes with many notable clients, including Royalty and several F1 drivers.

Alastair in motorsport

Alastair’s career before becoming a full time artist would also make a decent book in itself. He grew up in South Africa then packed up and moved to the UK in the 80’s to chase his dream of working in F1. After working in nearly every formula going his experience eventually gained him the position of lead mechanic for the Benetton F1 Team, where he spent the next four years. The remaining ten years of his career at the top tier of F1 was with BAR and Honda Grand Prix teams. Working as the race team chief mechanic, with the likes of Jensen Button and Rubens Barrichello.

I was fortunate enough to meet Alastair through work. Having been involved in the mould making process for many of his sculptures over the years. They are always projects I genuinely enjoy being a part of.

I would highly recommend checking out his work if you have never seen it before.

Carbon air box

When we were discussing making the air box. Alastair was kind enough to offer me the use of his facilities and his second in command Josh. To help me do the lay ups and cures on the air box. This was a great help as Josh is producing carbon components on a daily basis and really knows his stuff. Although I have done lots of production carbon work in the past, it has been a while. So it was great to have some help. Also they stock a lot of materials that I don’t which was another great help in the process.

Obviously I jumped at the chance and headed over to his studio for a couple of days.


‘Pre preg’ or sometimes ‘dry carbon’ are the terms used to describe the type of carbon we are using for the air box. Carbon fibre of this type comes pre impregnated with epoxy resin and is supplied frozen on a roll with a backing film either side. The carbon sheet is then laid up into the moulds, placed under vacuum, and requires a specific cure cycle in an oven or autoclave to reach its fully cured state. The end product is far superior to any resin infusion type methods or the standard parts you tend to see on road cars.

I’m trying not to turn this into a long winded ‘how to’ on carbon composite manufacturing. It’s something I do for a living and even I can’t imagine it makes for a thrilling read. Instead I will just put up a load of photos of Alastair’s work, studio and of course the air box for my Skyline.

The Air box

The air box came out great. Superb surface finish and true to original dimensions. Final trimming, fit and assembly come next. I also need to finish off the front scoop of the intake duct. Nearly another big job ticked off the list.

A massive thanks again to Alastair and Josh for taking the time to help me out on this.

It all helps!
Newly made ash body for Alastair’s classic BMW
The build up of the vintage BMW Motorcycle Alastair is riding at Bonneville salt flats this year
Billet carbon fibre human skull in progress
Carbon John dory
Baby dory
F1 gear selector barrels
The cat that calls in for breakfast and a bed each morning
From the racing days
Racing Mako
Hammerhead shark in progress
The devil is in the details
Spitfire dash assembly left to Alastair by an old friend in South Africa.
Laying up the carbon intake duct
De bulking in the vacuum bag
Intake duct fresh out of the mould
Intake duct and air box main cover
First test fitting of the intake and air box