Sheet Metal – The Stamp Of Success

Gillam 2013 68

I have always been fascinated with photographs taken in the car production plants of the 1940’s to the 1960’s. They recall a visit I paid to the Ford plant in Michigan during a family trip in 1957. I had never seen steel ingots rolled and could have stopped to watch it all day. Likewise the big panel stamping machines. The sheer power involved in pressing out a steel sheet into a complex shape was deeply impressive. I found myself looking at all the steel sheet shapes that made up our family car and imagining how they were formed.

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This is not to take anything away from formed aluminium – I love to see it beaten out onto sports cars and airplanes – or of the various glue and fabric processes that eventually become glass fibre or carbon fibre shells. But think of the complex forming that eventually becomes a Chevy Fleetline like this one.

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The balloon saloon shape that seems to have been common in American cars of the late 40’s and early 50’s has always been laughed at by European car enthusiasts. They point to some classic Jaguar MkII  and then at a Desoto sedan and decry the latter. They sometimes forget that at the same time that the Desoto was produced the British industry was sticking faithfully to body, chassis, and engine designs of the 1930’s. And that the American cars were hauling working-class American families while their British counterparts were queuing for busses and taking second-class trains to the seaside. But enough of the politics of envy – have a look at what has fished up on the shores of Western Australia in 2013.

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Don’t be fooled by the preponderance of GM products in this report – Ford also sent a number of cars here to be assembled in local plants – we saw any number of Customlines at the same time that the Holden was forging ahead. These are not Holdens – these are American GM, but there are local products in evidence as well. Another report, perhaps.

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Of course these days here are any number of direct imports of older US cars in containers. They retain their left-hand drive in many cases, and somehow the local road laws have been adjusted to let them drive around. It must be a little disconcerting to be the driver of one of these as you really do not have the same view of the passing lane on our roads. You would get a pretty good look at the wheelie bins on the side of the road on bin night, but. It can’t be an easy drive in the case of some of those sedans – there is a fair set-back in the front seat at the best of times – perhaps they should fit some of those proximity alarms around the vehicle like they do on the back bumpers of BMW’s and you could navigate by beep rather than crunch.

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