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Wooden Car Frames

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by woody 29 dodge, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. woody 29 dodge
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    woody 29 dodge Member

    I realize that asking if anybody has built a wooden car frame leaves me wide open for every barb going but I need a little input .I have long known that Morgans used them as well as first generation automobiles so why couldn't a person use one in the modern age?
    Ya I had a wagon as a kid ,rollerskate scooter , and gocarts of many descriptions so keep the little boy comments to yourself .:mad:
    I am truly interested to see if it is even feasable to construct one I have the ability and skills ,just would like a little feed back as to species of wood and if a metal core might be a good idea .:)
  2. 31Dodger
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    31Dodger Member

    The Franklins had the wooden frame rails up through 1928 and they were fairly large and heavy cars. You might want to check out the H.H.Franklin Club for more information.
  3. Flatheadguy
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    Flatheadguy Member

    Wood has been used on a wide variety of auto frames. This was more prevelant years ago, Morgan and a few others excepted. But, wood hasn't really changed over the centuries, has it? I suspect that wood went out of favor due to the skills required to properly fabricate almost anything mechanical. Much easier, cheaper and production rates boosted by metals of various types. And, wood doesn't lend itself to mass production. Somewhere, here on the H.A.M.B. is quite a thread of various wood frame cars from years past. Please, if you do this, keep us updated with words and photos. Go for it. I'd probably build a replica type of something from the 20s - 30s.

    ps...Oak was a common species for frames. Others were also used, but oak is, I think the more common. I could be wrong. Others more knowledgeable than I will chime in.
  4. Jay Rush
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  5. woody 29 dodge
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    woody 29 dodge Member

    Thanks guys for the input and support . I will check out what you have said nice to know I not completely off my rocker and yes I do want to try and build one .
    Jay I remember that tread the motor is a total loss motor if I remember correct and if I guy can drive it like that ,then what I have in mind is tame.
  6. Hackerbilt
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    Hackerbilt Member

    As far as I know Morgans DIDN'T have wood frames.
    They used wood body framing (coachbuilt) like early chevies...but had a regular steel chassis under it all.
  7. oj
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    oj Member


    From what i saw of the Morgan the wood frame was the center section with steel subframes for the suspension stuff. The wood section was considerable.
    BanjoBob sent me an English cyclecar fabrication book. In it there are plans for making the entire frame from ash - this is a very small frame with motorcycle-type engine. I believe they raced them in England and theres' a thread about them...something about aeromotive cars (race cars with airplane type engines) the most wicked is that J.A.P. powered car.
    The book talks about the advantages of using Ash for wood and wood vs metal or steel tubing for frame materials. Neat book.
  8. 1971BB427
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    1971BB427 Member

    My only concern would be what drivetrain will be in the wood chassis, and how heavy it might need to be to handle even moderate power and weight.
  9. 31Dodger
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    31Dodger Member

    The 1928 Franklin frame....

    Attached Files:

  10. Ned Ludd
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    Ned Ludd Member

    Morgan frames are indeed steel, full-length Z-profiles with the upper flanges outward and the lower flanges inward, so that the (wooden) floorboards can sit on the lower flanges. The driveshaft runs above the level of the floor, and some versions prior to c.1960 had "divorced" gearboxes between the seats.

    The "wooden frame" story comes from ash body framing persisting well into the era of load-bearing pressed steel bodywork, indeed of injection-moulded plastic panels; where people are no longer familiar with body-on-frame construction but are stupid enough for a separate steel frame to sound as outlandish to them as a wooden one.

    One vehicle that did have a wooden structure (besides the abovementioned early Franklins) was the Marcos GT (1964-69, whereafter it got a steel frame). It was a plywood monocoque similar in concept to the structure of the de Havilland Mosquito fast bomber.
    [​IMG]

    I've looked at wooden frames. Wood is plenty strong enough, especially if one designs cleverly. It is, however, not hard enough for many local attachment situations, and will often require metal reinforcement plates around engine mountings and suspension attachment points. It is very easy to have a situation where steel reinforcements run into one another to such an extent as to render the wooden rails redundant.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
  11. porknbeaner
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    That chassis is not wood the frame work for the body is wood.
  12. Hackerbilt
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    Hackerbilt Member

    Finally found a picture of a Morgan frame!
    I really think they LIKE the misconception that they have a wooden frame as a way to make them a little more eccentric! LoL
    Look close and you can see how the metal is bent as a Z.

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  13. Hackerbilt
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    Hackerbilt Member

    Looking at that frame...wouldn't it be super easy to replicate it and add wood "timber?" to the outside to make a stiff, composite frame...yet still have the steel there for security and a solid base from which to attach your suspension etc.
    Best of BOTH worlds perhaps!?!
  14. Halfdozen
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    Halfdozen
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    Automotive designers have learned an awful lot about a lot of things since the '20's and '30's. Any car frame should be as stiff as you can possibly make it, both in beam and torsion. Later model independent suspensions and torquey motors put loads into a frame that early designers never dreamed of.

    You might be able to build a sufficiently strong wood frame if it was designed like engineered wood floor joists- a deep section with top and bottom stringers connected by a diaphragm or triangular bracing, like a steel open web joist. But I'll bet this is not what you have in mind, or would find acceptable visually. If you must have the appearance of a wood frame, I'd consider some sort of wood facia over a steel frame.
  15. bobscogin
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    bobscogin Member

    Ironwood, of course, boxed with plywood.

    Bob
  16. Ned Ludd
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    Ned Ludd Member

    There are lots of (albeit heterodox) ways around the need for torsional rigidity, just as there are lots of nontechnical reasons the typical mainstream motor manufacturer wants to build extremely rigid unibodies (or rather wants all its competitors to have to build extremely rigid unibodies) and hence writes ostensible safety legislation to make it for all intents and purposes mandatory for a new car.

    Interconnected suspension is a favourite of mine; alternatively one could design one's suspension with a roll axis close to the centre of gravity and have zero roll stiffness at one end, then tuning the balance by adjusting roll centre heights, for example. For engine torque, moving the gearbox nearer the rear axle means that a shorter - and hence stiffer - portion of frame is subjected to multiplied engine torque. The rest is subjected only to pure engine torque, which is 25% or less of the first-gear multiplied torque. This is only scratching the surface.

    As regards species, you want a hard, dense timber that is resistant to rot, and not too prone to distortion. European oak should be good; also consider ipe (tabebuia), iroko, or afrormosia. African teaks are also more affordable than in many years. Stay away from most softwoods, as well as the various shorea species (meranti, balau) despite some being sold as mahoganies - they aren't. My pick? probably afrormosia.
  17. wsdad
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    wsdad Member

    How about hickory?
  18. Ned Ludd
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    Ned Ludd Member

    Very good choice. Early airframes used a lot of hickory.
  19. woody 29 dodge
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    woody 29 dodge Member

    Thank you I knew this would stir aleast a little interest . I will take this in and do more research I am sure there is a way to do it .

    Rob
  20. noboD
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    noboD Member

    Brush cars even had wooden front axles. Do a google.
  21. bobw
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    bobw Member

    What about engineered laminated beams? Possibly carved to resemble Deuce frame rails.
  22. JEM
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    JEM Member

    I'd bet that if you did a box-section rail, or maybe an I-beam with the voids sheeted over, in a high-quality hardwood plywood, then filled the voids with something like the Terocore epoxy structural foam used in Crown Vic frame rails and various unibody sections, the result would be exceptionally strong (assuming the foam adhered to the wood properly.)

    About as traditional as a T-5 in a Model A, of course, but an interesting engineering exercise and it could be made to LOOK very 19-teens.

    The remark about needing to reinforce suspension pickup points and other point-load regions still holds true, though this is also an issue with e.g. composite and many aluminum structures as well.
  23. Cowtown Speed Shop
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    Cowtown Speed Shop
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    I know steel prices have gotten crazy in the last few years since China Has Been buying all of our US steel And mixing it with God knows what and then selling it back to us through walmart, But Com'on guys?.....lets don't start carving our hot rods out of a Oak tree just yet.......LOL
  24. JEM
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    JEM Member

    Half a ton of round toothpicks and ten gallons of epoxy. An excellent engineering class project...
  25. Ned Ludd
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    Ned Ludd Member

    Just make sure the lamination adhesive is waterproof and resistant to the sort of chemical environment it's likely to see.

    It'd be cool if the profile of the frame were formed in curved laminations, e.g. the laminations kick up over the rear axle etc., rather than laminating straight and carving afterwards.
  26. Ned Ludd
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    Ned Ludd Member

  27. woody 29 dodge
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    woody 29 dodge Member

    There is always going to be people that don't like certain ideas but I am glad there a few more that get it . Thanks Ned I will look up that thread .Bobw and JEM thatnks as well they are good ideas.

    Rob
  28. Rusty O'Toole
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    Franklin frames were made of second growth ash boards, 7" wide, 1/2" thick. 7 boards laminated and glued together to make a 3 1/2" thick frame rail.

    The rails were connected by steel crossmembers bolted together. You could replace a rotted or broken frame rail by removing the fenders and running boards, setting the crossmembers on jack stands, unbolting the old frame rail and bolting in the new one without removing the body.

    H. H. Franklin believed the wood frame absorbed vibrations and stress better than steel. He liked to ask "would you like to break rocks with a steel handled hammer or a wooden handled hammer?". His cars rated high for ride and road holding in the days when most roads were dirt or gravel. They could cover more ground in a day than cars of higher horsepower and top speed because they could maintain a higher average over bad roads. A designer from the custom body era recalled that they often had trouble getting a good ride on their custom body cars, changing springs and shocks to suit the weight and design of the cars. Franklins were easy, he didn't recall having a problem with a Franklin.

    I should think with today's adhesives you could make frame rails out of laminated wood any size or design you like. I'm also thinking of using the vacuum bag method of squeezing or clamping the laminations together.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2013
  29. banjeaux bob
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    banjeaux bob Member

    How a bout this one that Tim Gunn is building up using an Enfield flat twin ,2 cycle engine?

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  30. h.i.
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    h.i. Member

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