Ford Motor Co.'s '98 Ford Explorers are lighter and cost less to produce thanks to a tough new thermoset composite material developed by Quantum Composites, a subsidiary of Premix Inc., in Midland, MI. Quantum engineers developed QPC-1977 structural molding compound, which combines a high-temperature hybrid thermoset resin with 50% glass. The result is a frame-mounted heat shield that can endure temperatures up to 700oF (370oC) while retaining its shape and resistance to underbody impacts. The heat shield also cures quickly and requires low tooling costs, says the company. Mounted between the exhaust system and the underside of the fuel tank and passenger compartment, the shield is 4.5 ft. (1.4 m) long by 1.5 ft (.46 m) wide, 0.62 inches (1.5 mm) thick and weighs just 3 lbs. (1.36 kg). Lighter than earlier stamped steel or aluminum versions, the new shield reduces vehicle weight by 5.5 lbs. (2.5 kg) and vehicle cost by $12.90, says Quantum Composites. Ward's Info No. 203