Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 4, 2014

I’ve seen plenty of cars torn down to their bare skeletons and its likely you have, too, if you read this magazine. Sometimes, though, it takes a certain light, angle, or perhaps a color (as in this case) to allow you to see something in a different way.

I was at Gillis Performance Restorations (Port Richey, Florida) recently on a tech assignment and happened to take notice of a customer’s 1968 Mercury Cougar that had just received a fresh coat of epoxy primer. I had seen the car there before, but I can only guess that the red oxide color that it now wears enhanced certain characteristics of the chassis. As I looked upon it, it struck me just how intricate the bare unibody chassis is. Sure, it looks pretty simple once you’ve stripped a complete car down to that point, but take a longer look and you’ll see what I mean.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

What you don’t necessarily see are the individual panels that begin life as flat pieces of steel, later stamped by huge presses into complex shapes. They’ve been engineered to fit together and the extent of their individual intricacies is usually lost once they have been spot-welded together. While this amalgam of contoured metal doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to achieve today, what with computers and computer-aided-design software, our fathers, uncles, mothers, brothers, sisters, and cousins made this all happen on draft paper with pencils, protractors, and a few buckets of clay.

Take a deep look at the photos I’ve included; if you look at all of the intricate details, the angles, bends, twists and turns, both inside the car and out, you’ll see it is quite the engineering feat. Then again, this is the same generation that put men on the moon, so perhaps chassis design was nothing more than a warm up; a few automotive jumping jacks leading to a giant leap for mankind.