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Lightweight Auto Frame Designed for Replica Cars

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media
Lightweight automotive frame on display at SAE International’s WCX event.

Frame is based on a 1960s Corvette frame but has lighter materials, designed to include improvements

DETROIT – New meets classic.

A modern lightweight vehicle frame has been developed for builders of replica classic cars. The frame is comprised of aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber and advanced high strength steel.

It matches the body frame of the 1963-1967 Corvette, also known as C2, for second-generation Corvette design. With the alternate materials, the new frame is about one-third lighter than the original as well as being stiffer.

The frame “also eliminated the welding process for assembly,” said Gregg Peterson, principal materials engineer for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (Plymouth, MI), which showed the frame at SAE International’s World Congress Experience (WCX) event this week in Detroit.

Instead of welding, adhesives and through bolts were used to assemble the frame. “You don’t need a skilled welder so we can use lower-cost labor,” Peterson said.

The technology center developed the frame along with Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT; Detroit), Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI; Knoxville, TN) and the University of Tennessee.

LIFT and IACMI are part of the Manufacturing USA network of manufacturing institutes where companies, universities and other groups work together. The idea is to develop and improve manufacturing technology, which can later be commercialized.

‘Crash Analysis’

The project included finding ways to add contemporary safety features to replica cars.

“We also did a crash analysis on it,” Peterson said of the new frame. “This has been engineered to have front and rear crash zones.”

“The mission we have is to fundamentally solve engineering and manufacturing problems,” said Elliott Forsyth, vice president of business operations for the technology center.

The frame debuted at last year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas, an event dedicated to automotive aftermarket and customization. “We went there to get market intelligence,” Forsyth said. Besides replica cars, the manufacturing center said the lightweight frame can be adapted for military vehicles.

For now, the frame amounts to a display at shows such as SEMA and WCX. The question is when it actually will be used in vehicles. “We don’t have an answer yet,” Peterson said.

Below is a video the technology center produced about the frame.

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