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Reality and Theory

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Jalopy Journalist, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. Jalopy Journalist
    Joined: Nov 4, 2011
    Posts: 255

    Jalopy Journalist
    from Austin, TX

    THEORY: I can build a car from scratch. I do have the skills (or so I think I should) and most of the tools. The only think I lack is a welder, and I am going to take some classes on that (plus my new neighbor said he could help me weld). I have the money to buy enough of the metal to atleast build the cab (which I would do starting with a plywood frame)

    The design I am using is simple but still, there is a tinge of...

    REALITY: I may have the knowledge but I am not sure that that is enough. I have shaped metal, but nothing larger than my hand and I didn't planish it, my teacher asked for my help with something else before I could get to it. I dont want to buy all the metal just to be screwing my self by buying $100's in scrap metal.

    Now with the rant done, I have two questions.

    1) What metal is the easiest to use? I was thinking about stainless, simply because of it's good looks and it's steel makeup. But then there is light aluminum. I don't know...

    2) Does anyone have any pictures of single seater roadster type deals?
  2. NoSurf
    Joined: Jul 26, 2002
    Posts: 4,128


    step 1- go to the metal scrap yard and buy 5 bucks worth of various* angles and plates.

    step 2- weld it all together.

    step 3- cut it apart.

    step 4- inspect your welds.

    step 5- see step 2.

    *start with mild steel, 30 ksi.
  3. VoodooTwin
    Joined: Jul 13, 2011
    Posts: 3,455

    from Noo Yawk

    Sounds like an ambitious project, especially if you've never welded before! I'm not trying to discourage you, but you might want to consider getting yourself a beat up roadster body, and use your skills to repair it. You'll learn a ton along the way, you'll likely be on the road sooner, and at the end of the day, you'll have a "real" Henry body. Just a thought.
  4. chopolds
    Joined: Oct 22, 2001
    Posts: 5,796

    from howell, nj
    1. Kustom Painters

    If you think you can build a body out of stainless, by yourself, with little equiment (I'm assuming, as you don't even have a welder!), I don't think you know enough to do it.
    Sorry, harsh reality!

  5. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,694



    seriously might want to get your feet wet by fixing up a car that already exists. You'll learn a lot, which will help you decide whether it might be a good idea, or a not so good idea, to build a car from scratch. Most guys (well over 99%) modify something else rather than build from scratch. Think about why that is.
  6. Mike51Merc
    Joined: Dec 5, 2008
    Posts: 3,839


    Maybe your brain is telling you that you have the knowledge, but do your hands agree?
  7. I agree with the others.....get something dirt cheap and try to patch it back together.

    For instance: You can get A bodied Plymouths and Dodges (Darts and Valiants) from the late 60's and early 70's with slant-six powerplants (fun little things) for crazy cheap prices sometimes, especially if they have cancer and aren't running. And by crazy cheap, I mean under $750 sometimes.

    So, I would buy something like that, and get your sheetmetal practice in on it. Even when a slant isn't running, it's like a big tinker toy.....just painfully simple. And they'll usually come back to life unless they have a rod sticking through the side of the block.

    The upside of doing something like that is that you can get your practice in on a cancerous Valiant/Dodge, and get it running and then sell it for a small profit, instead of tossing money out the window by wrecking a bunch of expensive stainless steel.

  8. stude_trucks
    Joined: Sep 13, 2007
    Posts: 4,755


    You don't even have a welder and think you have the knowledge to build a car from scratch? Well, it's certainly possibly with enough determination, but highly unlikely. Knowledge of this kind comes from a lot of practice and experience, not just reading about it or practicing on hand sized scraps. Only one way to get that and doesn't sound like you have done it yet.

    If you are really into it, go for it. Just be prepared to waste a lot more than $100's in scrap metal as that likely will be the least of your problems.

    But, I say hell, go for it. Even if you fail, that is the best way to learn. It is far better to try and fail, then not even try at all. That's for damn sure. I know, I seem to be an expert at failure. :) But, I do learn what not to do if nothing else.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  9. blackprimer
    Joined: Jul 7, 2011
    Posts: 20

    from Reality

    In my humble little shop I have ; Mig, Tig, Plasma, English wheel,planishing hammer, bead roller, box & pan brake,verticle mill, S/B lathe, Most every hand tool known to mankind and 40 + years of hands on experience. My `32 3-window is fiberglass. Just saying....
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  10. Well I have managed to do a lot of things in my life because I am not smart enough to know that I can't.

    It may be difficult to do but you should be able to do about whatever you set your mind to.

    For a first timer i would avoid stainless like the plague. I fabbed and welded it for a living way back in the '70s and it is not easy to work with. learn on mild steel then move on to the more exotic stuff.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  11. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 27,327


    Good point there. I can design, doodle and draw all day long but quite often my hands can't accomplish what my brain comes up with.

    But back to the original question. You don't need to go out and buy 100.00 worth of metal at one time. Usually metal supply or fab shops will sell smaller pieces and you can start out with enough metal to do one panel and go from there. Years ago I bought sheets of 18 gage metal at Central Salvage in Waco for about 10 bucks each for a 4x8 sheet. That's probably 35.00 in todays money. The stack had one corner smashed that probably made a one square foot section that couldn't be used or needed a lot of work to use.

    This is the body I am building for my roadster.
    The tail is made from a hood that wasn't good enough to go on a truck that had been sitting behind the shed for the past fifteen years. No metal shaping involved although I will have a lot of hours of welding and finishing in it when I am done.
    I've tried to make the photo smaller about four times and if it is still big I just gave up on making it smaller.

    There are plenty of good metal shaping books and videos available along with some good tech articles here and plenty of info on the metal shaping boards.
    One way to cheat a bit is to use existing panels that someone else may have thrown away to get the complex shapes. Cut and fit them together to build a body.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
  12. Flipper
    Joined: May 10, 2003
    Posts: 3,312

    from Kentucky

    Roofus is my project. It has been a fun project, but it might never be a REAL CAR.

    Start with a real car first! ...and make it something cheap. You will screw up your first build. Chances are you won't mess it up to the point you have to throw it away, but you will make mistakes that you learn from. I'm just saying, don't ruin expensive parts while you are leaning.
  13. Even rocket scientists started out with paper airplanes.
    The reality of it is you'd already have some cool projects under your belt before trying a scratch built car.
  14. Don's Hot Rods
    Joined: Oct 7, 2005
    Posts: 8,319

    Don's Hot Rods
    from florida

    I've always felt that a persons very first project should not be a total ground up build, but rather either buying someone elses almost done or done car, and making it your own, or, buying a nice old stocker and fixing it up the way you want. It would be a learning experience and get you on the road way faster than you would by doing a scratch build.

    Some people have felt that advice like that would keep anyone from ever trying something, but any of us who have built cars from chalkmarks on the garage floor know it isn't as romantic as it seems at times. First of all, it takes a lot more time, money, and equipment than you ever figure it will in the beginning. Secondly, we see so many people start out with all the enthusiasm in the world and burn out after a few years and sell off their half done project for a fraction of what they have in it. (I've bought a few like that).

    When you build a car you become an engineer, designer, engine builder, electrician, bodyman, sometimes an upholsterer, and all around mechanic. I just think it is easier to get that first car under your belt, learn from your mistakes, get to actually drive it and enjoy it, then think about doing one from the ground up. But that is just me.

  15. BillWallace
    Joined: May 6, 2011
    Posts: 132


    REALITY: You dont know how to weld & you dont know how to shape metal & you dont know anything about metal SO you dont know enough to build a automobile. Trust me on this. Learn first,try later.
  16. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 27,327


    On what BillWallace said above. True, first you need to learn to weld and perfect your welding skills. My son needed to be able to weld to get an upgrade in his job a few years ago and his buddy who had welded all his life but had also just finished a job core welding school spent every afternoon after they got off work teaching him to weld out in front of my garage with my welder. The metal in my scrap pile got cut in two and stuck together a bunch of times and over a short period he picked up on it and now is one damned good welder with six or seven years of experience and tig welds stainless every day at work.
    Do just like the high school kids do in beginner welding in Ag shop. Start by welding scrap pieces together and then see if you can break the welds. once you get that down start working on making the welds look good and then build a few things.
    At the school that I taught at the AG teacher next door had the kids build plant stands as one of their first projects. Lots of welding and fabricating and metal bending went into those. Some looked great and some got a mercy killing with a cutting torch. I still have one that one of the kids sold me one year out in my yard. Go get a junk hood or fender and cut it up and weld pieces back together and keep doing it until you can make something out of it.
  17. Jalopy Journalist
    Joined: Nov 4, 2011
    Posts: 255

    Jalopy Journalist
    from Austin, TX

    I have quite a bit of equip. I just never got a welder. I like to learn how to use a tool before I buy it, and I never learned how to work a welder.
  18. The other side of the coin is that keven lee's first project was a scratch built A roadster/lakster. He did buy a cowl to build the body from.

    I think whether you are building your first car or your 27th it takes a couple of different qualities. one is natural talent and the other is determination to do what you set out to do.

    Just being the devil's advocate here.
  19. Jalopy Journalist is also zmcmil2121 ... go back and read some of his other posts ... although I appreciate Zach's enthusiasm for HAMB-friendly cars, he seems to lack any focus with respect to what his first project will be.

    In September he scrapped the idea of building a street driven Hot Rod ... and decided to go land speed racing: Its been a while, but now it is serious... ... Two months later, and now he wants to build a "single seater roadster".

    Focus Young Grasshopper! ... Focus!
  20. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,335


    So tell us about the equipment and experience you have so we can give you some REAL input and some constructive criticism.

    People have been building scratch-built cars without a lot of tools since wheels could roll. I think the ambitious attitude is a GREAT attitude and will help keep a fire under your rear to build something to your vision.

    Tell us more. Tell us what you know so we can add something of substance to your thread before it really goes into the toilet. You've said you've never formed anything very large. The thing about car panels is... well... they're pretty large. One of the most challenging panels to shape is a low-crown panel. And then there are reverse curves and all kinds of crazy shapes that you would see when the body changes direction (like between a fender and body panel where no seam exists).

    Stainless is not a good option. Sure it's pretty and shines up nice, but it's incredibly difficult to work, is heavy, and EXPENSIVE.

    Also, do you know anything about substructures and chassis designs? They're just as much a part of the car as the body.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
    Joined: Aug 10, 2006
    Posts: 2,259


    I think the old saying applies to this guy:
    " Dont TELL us what your gonna do, SHOW us what you've done"
  22. mlagusis
    Joined: Oct 11, 2009
    Posts: 989


    Rob, that roadster looks pretty cool so far.
  23. Mindover
    Joined: Jan 18, 2009
    Posts: 1,625

    from England

    As someone who scratch builds bodies for a living I have a little advice for you.
    Very few cars are ever built from stainless, as others have said it is very hard to work and weld. Aluminium would require you to learn to weld it - this is not that easy, I build lots of ally bodies and I would never weld it with anything but Oxy/acetylene. Not to say you could not do it, it just takes practice. Steel is your best bet. A body made from flat steel is never going to look good so you have two choices - shape the parts or use sections from other cars. You can learn to shape metal and you don't need lots of machines to do it either. Watch my youtube footage and you will get an insight into what is involved in shaping and joining metal.

  24. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,335


    Funny... David was the first person I thought of in this thread. :D

    In tangent to this discussion, if you guys haven't picked up Mindover's video, DO SO! It's wonderful and PROOF that you don't need $20,000 in shaping tools to build really cool stuff!
  25. scootermcrad
    Joined: Sep 20, 2005
    Posts: 12,335


  26. striper
    Joined: Mar 22, 2005
    Posts: 4,498


    I can only agree with all the above. If you like metal shaping, start with a cheapish body. Shape and weld in the needed patch panels. Fabricate a custom dash. Make some hood blisters to clear your headers. On any hot rod project there are numerous opportunities to hone those metal shaping skills without taking on a whole car. In the end, the worst that can happen is you still have that original body to sell, or get some help to finish.

  27. Ebbsspeed
    Joined: Nov 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,106


    Jalopy Journalist, from Austin, TX.

  28. Jalopy Journalist
    Joined: Nov 4, 2011
    Posts: 255

    Jalopy Journalist
    from Austin, TX

    That was my old account. Long story short, my email was hacked and a most of the forums I freaquent where accessed through it. My email pass was changed and I couldn't access it.

    Thank you for the complement.

    Thank you very much.

    Actually chassis and sub structure are something I am very knowledgeable in. I am studing automotive design and I did rather well with these.

    I took the first year of a 2 year high school shop class on body work (which is seperate from the classes I am taking for auto design) and i was quite profecient. I moved before I could finish. I did a little scratch metal fab, but only a little. I think what I did take though would make it much easier because of the fact that my design only has 2 major curves, but again, theory.

    My tools consist of air tools, paint stuff, minor engine tools, heavy duty sowing machine, a metal break (albeit small), and a couple other things... sadly none of which are a welder, but as I said before, I like to learn how to use a tool before I go and buy it.
  29. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,265

    Rusty O'Toole

    A couple of suggestions. If you want to build a body, why not give it a try?

    1) Build it out of steel. Make it a very simple, roadster or T bucket style body. To really make it easy on yourself, omit the doors and just hop in over the (cut down) sides. For cheap material you can use sheet metal salvaged from old fridges and freezers cheap or free. Compound curves can be made of pieces cut from junkyard car bodies.

    2) Build it out of fibreglass. Ed Roth built some prize winning show cars this way, using very simple tools. Basically you make a full size model out of plaster, cover it with fibreglass and break out the plaster after it hardens. This is a simpler process and does not require much in the way of tools or special skills. It allows making compound curves and other complex shapes much easier than in metal.

    In any case don't over match yourself on your first try. Keep it small and simple. If it works WOW what a brain. If it doesn't, throw it away and start again. What have you got to lose?

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