Classic Car Restoration Club Editors

Shaping Steel Sheet Metal

Classic Car Restoration Club Editors
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Duration:   24  mins

Shaping steel sheet metal panels for classic cars dates back to the early 20th century when automobiles were first mass-produced. In the early days, car bodies were primarily made from wood and composite materials. However, as automotive technology advanced, manufacturers began using steel for its superior strength, rigidity, and ease of shaping.

Before the advent of modern technology, shaping steel panels was a labor-intensive and skilled craft. Skilled artisans known as panel beaters used hand tools and techniques like hammering, English wheels, and planishing hammers to shape the steel sheets into the desired forms. These skilled craftsmen played a crucial role in shaping the distinct designs and curves of classic cars from various eras.

With the rise of mass production and industrialization, the art of hand-shaping steel panels gradually gave way to more mechanized methods. Presses and stamping machines became prevalent in the automotive industry, allowing for faster and more standardized production of steel panels.

Many classic car restoration shops still rely on traditional hand-shaping methods to preserve the authenticity of vintage vehicles, many manufacturers and restoration specialists utilize a combination of traditional techniques and modern technology to shape steel panels for classic cars efficiently and accurately.

Thankfully there are still skilled artisans like Bruce Macleod of the Contour Autocraft Academy, who are passing along their skills and techniques to the next generation of classic car restorers. In this video Macleod instructs us on how to create a dual curvature panel from mild steel sheet metal.

He begins by introducing the proper safety equipment and supplies, then explains how jigs and templates can ensure the panel will be correct when completed. Using simple hand tools, Bruce demonstrates how to shrink and stretch sheet metal into roughly the desired shape and then uses a hammer, dolly and panel slappers to planish the steel. In just a few minutes Macleod demonstrates how to correctly shape steel sheet metal into a nice double curvature panel that is common on many classic cars.

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