Well, there is a good reason I haven’t blogged much over the past year – I was busy running the business – and building this…
This blog will walk you through our new chassis table and E-Type alignment jigs. I had originally thought I might NEVER post photos of this – as alot of time and effort went into it and I didn’t want some other shop copying my designs. But now that it’s completed, I now know that only an insane person would build this thing in the first place!
Another reason it would be tough to copy are the dimensions… These don’t exist anywhere – and let me tell you right now – the crash sheets that are out there on E-Types have very little useful information, and what they do have is not correct anyway. In order to get the dimensions right, I learned that you need about a dozen E-Type body shells to measure and compare.
This was a true labor of love for me. I have been working on the design for this in my head almost since I started this business, and this was a chance to really use your head to design something with a real purpose behind it. As the years have gone by, I have become more and more particular and meticulous with the things that I build, but this took that to w WHOLE NEW LEVEL!
My goal was to have something that I could turn to that was simply “THE LAW” as far as any and all dimensions go. I have found over the years that you spend a ridiculous amount of time lining up panels and measuring and re-measuring as you go. And those measurements are EXTREMELY hard to make, as you are usually trying to measure between two points that have other things in the way…
1 – So to begin with, you MUST have a known flat surface to work with. And I mean FLAT – not a poured concrete shop floor, or whatever else you can come up with – something real… We started with a surplus spot-welding trolley from the local GM plant. Now, THIS is flat! When you stick your eye on the edge of it and sight down the 140foot length, you have never seen anything so straight in your life! Lord only knows what it cost GM to have these built and then blanchard ground absolutely dead-on perfect…
2 – I wanted our jigs to be SOLID – absolutely 100% non-movable regardless of the force applied or the umber of years that we use them – so everything is ridiculously thick – and heavy!
3 – I wanted the jigs to be 100% un-movable in any direction when bolted down… That meant super thick base plates with mounting holes that were machined with ZERO clearance on the bolts, and the bolt pattern had to be absolutely perfect or they wouldn’t fit.
4 – I wanted not only the pickup points on the body shell to be in the absolutely perfect locations, but I also wanted every single portion of every jig – every base, every tower piece, every plate and every piece of tubing – to be absolutely perfectly aligned as well. This would allow me to reference perfectly straight surfaces all over the shell for future comparisons of surfaces of the shell while building. This meant that every joint and surface had to be not just cut, but machined to be on a perfect 90-degrees…
5 – In order to accomplish this precision, we had to TIG weld almost everything, AND have a way to be able to adjust out any alignment erros introduced in the welding. So we used a design for all jigs that included the use of shims at all attachment points and joints to allow for adjustment after the jigs were built. We were able to reference back to the table and change shims so that all measurements are 100% perfect.
6 – Adjustability – We built the jigs to be able to build E-Type body shells from scratch. That meat that we had to make things in sections that could be added as the shell was built up – AND had to have a design so that we could get the shell out once it was completed! But we also wanted to be able to mount any shell into it to align them properly during restoration. because we found that the factory had considerably more variation in some points than we desired, the shims will allow us to mount “imperfect” but original shells into the assembly.
7 – Tolerance – I am not a machinist, and so I don’t sweat a few thousandths of an inch here and there… But after this project, NOW, I am addicted to dimensions down to this degree of accuracy (that’s going to drive me crazy now for the rest of my life…) Ultimately, we built an E-Type jig that was more accurate than most of the measuring tools that I had at my disposal… By the end of the project, I was checking for a level of accuracy that was less than the thickness of the lines in the square I was using to check the dimensions!
My estimate is that it is true within 0.030″ (1/32″) across the entire 12 feet. After a year of exhaustively researching E-Type dimensions, I believe the cars were originally true within about 3/16″, or 0.188″. As you look through the photos below, notice that in almost every shot, there are multiple measuring devices laying around – the dedication to accuracy during the build was nothing short of fanatical.
I try to be modest about what we do here – let’s face it, no matter what you are doing, it seems that there is always someone out there doing it better… But I’m VERY proud of this creation – from the standpoint of precision, and insisting on “no compromises” in the construction – this is the greatest thing I have ever built.
And so, I believe that our new chassis table is now is the most precise E-Type body jig in existence. There are only a few others out there that are built similar to this – with this number of pickup points and of this strength – and I have seen photos of them and they just aren’t at this level of accuracy.
It took a full year to build all of the pieces, but throughout the year we had several different E-Type shells in and out of it. We also used it to build one partial shell that is being used for a lightweight low-drag replica, and also used it to straighten and rebuild a flat-floor OTS shell that was badly wrecked in the tail. It worked BEAUTIFULLY in all cases, and it is going to change the way that we restore shells, AND take the quality of our finished product to an even higher level!
Some shops have a rotisserie, some have a good flat frame table to work to – and that’s good! Some might even have a few basic E-Type jigs… None of them have this – it is 100% perfect Some parts of it might not seem very glamorous, and we haven’t painted the jigs yet (and maybe never will…), but if you’re a guy who spends his life on E-Type metalwork, trust me, this is a beautiful thing…