Auto Body


The body shell is a fairly complex assortment of large steel sections. These sections have been stamped into specific shapes which make up the body of your car. These parts are designed to do many jobs at once; protect the occupants from the elements and in collisions, provide solid mounts for all other systems, and to slice through the air with minimal resistance. The body also has one other job, which is usually important to the owner..., it has to look good! Although the zillions of parts that make up a car are all very important, it is also important that the car's body be able to make riding in a car bearable for you. Early cars were so uncomfortable to ride in, that the human body could stand it only for short periods of time. Auto bodies have come a long way since then. The body and the suspension system now give us a smooth ride, and cushion us from the jarring of the road. The idea is that the body of the car should go forward with as little up-and-down, and side-to-side movement as possible.

It's Just Another Statistic

From the very first, automobiles have attracted each other like magnets, even when there were only two in the same town. The first incident (or accident) occurred when horse met car. The car-haters over-dramatized the runaways and foretold all sorts of catastrophes for the future. On the other hand, the motorists blamed it on the horses and predicted a great new day of personal transportation. Each side had an element of truth. There was no question that the automobile was a boon to mankind, but it was also to prove to be a killer of people, a destroyer of property, and the accomplice of criminals. Even in the beginning of the automobile age, when numbers were few and bad roads limited the amount of traffic, deaths due to accidents in automobiles began to mount. Before the U.S. entered WWI, auto accidents had killed more than 36,000 Americans. By comparison, only 22,424 had lost their lives in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War combined. This trend to kill more people with cars than with weapons worsened as the years rolled by. Before the turn of the century, anti-horse less carriage sentiments began to express themselves in restrictive regulations. In the late 1890s, Louis Greenough and Harry Adams of Pierre, South Dakota, built a homemade car out of an Elkhart wagon and a two-cylinder Wolverine gas motor, hoping to haul passengers at the county fair. They were not only denied permission to haul passengers, the authorities would not even let them bring their contraption inside the city limits. Automobiles were banned in the streets of many cities: Boston, Chicago and Bar Harbor, Maine, to name a few. In Massachusetts, an act to require that all cars be equipped with a bell which would ring with each wheel revolution was voted down, as was one for shooting off roman candles to warn of the vehicle's approach. There were laws that required motorists to stop completely while buggies, surreys and freight wagons dragged by. Speed limits as low as two and three mile per hour were imposed by a few cities and towns. In some, nighttime driving was prohibited. In 1907, Glencoe, Illinois, built humps in the streets to discourage speeding. Three years earlier, they had stretched a steel cable across the road to stop the "devil wagons." Most of this was antagonism rather than an attempt to accomplish constructive regulations. While the jumble of confusing ordinances continued to plague pioneer motorists, a new wrinkle was added: the "speed trap." In smaller towns, particularly, marshals and other law officials lay in wait for unsuspecting drivers, timing them by stop-watch or "by guess and by gosh." Some lawmen were authorized to shoot at tires or to stretch chains or wire across the road. Until the motorcycle became a police vehicle, the local sheriff's office was somewhat limited in their pursuit of fleeing cars, since they were either on foot or on bicycles. Motorists tried to find ways to defend themselves. One way was by organization, and in 1902, the American Automobile Association was formed in Chicago to take up the pennant for the motor car operator. That same year, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting the driver of a car to wear "pince-nez" glasses. The A.A.A. proved to be a good watchdog for its members as it fostered realistic regulations and fought against abusive police action, especially the common practice of arresting owners of expensive cars on the premise that such people could afford to pay a stiffer fine. In the middle of this confusion, there seemed to be no stemming the growing tide of accidents. It was a case of simple arithmetic; more cars meant more collisions. With each year, too, the autos were made faster and more powerful. Narrow roads with no shoulders and sharp, unbanked curves simply couldn't accommodate speed runs, and from the beginning, auto owners have had the desire to "see how fast she'll go." Gradually, the automobile was accepted as a permanent fixture, and traffic regulations shifted from anti-car priority to that of anti-accident. On October 13, 1913, The National Council for Industrial Safety opened a three-room headquarters in Chicago. The original emphasis had been on the "industrial," but in that year, the Public Safety Commission of Chicago and Cook County reported that in July, twenty people had been killed by automobiles, eighteen of them children. The commission launched an education program - with leaflets and slides - in the schools and parks, and the new NCIS realized that the motor car would have to be the subject of its most intense study. In 1914, the organization's name was changed to The National Safety Council, and it began to the compile statistics on automobile accidents. From 1913, when the death toll was 4,000, or 4.4%% of a 100,000 population, it rose, in 1930, to 32,900, or 26.7%%. The desire to "do something about it" was growing among Americans everywhere; but the urge to find unfettered freedom in a fast car was even stronger. In 1914, Detroit installed a manually operated stop-and-go sign. In August that year an electrical traffic signal was put in operation at 105th and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. The Ford Motor Company gave each car purchaser a card reminding him to "Stop, Look, and Listen," at all railroad crossings. Magazines and newspaper articles carried "don't drink and drive" cartoons; this cooled off during the prohibition when "nobody" was drinking. But bootleggers, in their big touring cars, and the bathtub gin guzzlers, in their sporty rumble seat models, continued to add to the highway toll. In 1924, the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety, whose chairman was the Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, authorized a committee to draft a uniform motor vehicle code for all forty-eight states. Two years later, the laws were presented and adopted by the second conference. The individual states didn't move so quickly, and some adopted the package in their own time, but a standardized code of laws was a major achievement of effective nation-wide traffic regulations. Die-hard horse-lovers saw the entire development with an "I told you so" attitude. They knew that the nation was going to suffer for its folly in permitting roads to be over-run with those mechanical contraptions. They were snickering in the wilderness, however. The automobile had a solid footing in America, and no amount of finger pointing could make it go away. Men began to feel that buying a car was like taking a bride, you just have to take what you get, for better or for worse.

Seat Belts and Air Bags

The first federal study of automobile air bags in actual traffic accidents has found that air bags used in conjunction with seat belts are far more effective than seat belts alone. Air bags reduce the risk of death in head-on collisions by 26%% and in all serious accidents by 13%%. Contrasting earlier findings that did not involve actual road conditions, the study showed that air bags protected occupants in ways that seat belts alone, did not. The air bag spread out the violent impact of a crash and kept occupants from smashing against the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. Having an air bag and wearing an effective seat belt offers the best protection of all. Not only are you protected from frontal crashes by the air bag -- you are also protected by the seat belt in all other types of crashes. Studies show that 60%% of the people killed or injured in automobile accidents would have been saved from serious injury by safety belts. Unfortunately, many people choose not to wear them. With an "effective" safety belt (one that is worn and operating correctly), your body will stop, in a crash, before you have a chance to hit or go through the windshield and parts of your car. Seat belts are especially important in small cars, because your chances of being killed or badly hurt in a collision with a big car is eight times greater. Wearing your belt will greatly improve your chances of survival. In a Department of Transportation study made public on June 26, 1992, it was announced that air bags are far more effective than seat belts alone. Air bags can reduce the risk of death in a head-on collision by 26%% and in all serious accidents by 13%%. However, the DOT cautioned that air bags work this well ONLY when occupants were wearing a properly buckled seat belt over lap and shoulder. Other studies have shown that WITHOUT A BELT, AIR BAGS ARE OF SLIGHT BENEFIT. Air bags are only useful in frontal crashes, so it is not a good idea to skip your seat belt because you have an air bag. Air bags provide very effective protection in frontal crashes, inflating instantly to protect the driver or passenger that has a air bag. They spread the impact of the crash over the individual's head and chest and protect fragile body parts from the car's hard surfaces. More than 6 million cars (about 4%% of cars on the road today) have air bags, but the majority of them have air bags on the driver's side only. Federal officials estimate that air bags have inflated in more than 57,000 accidents since they were introduced, six years prior to 1992, and saved about 300 lives. This report came out in the middle of the most sweeping safety overhaul since the introduction of the seat belt almost 30 years ago. For the first time, most new cars sold in the US in 1992 have driver's side airbags. Within 6 years, federal law will require that every new car, light truck and van have air bags on both sides. The main concern of car safety research in the last few years has been the development of passive safety design features, where the aim is to improve the "crash-worthiness" of vehicles. The fundamental aim of good passive safety design is to ensure that only tolerable loads are applied to a car occupant's body during a crash. This is done first by restraining the occupant within the passenger compartment by means of a seat belt or other device, so that chances of making contact with the interior parts of the car are reduced. Secondly, when contacts cannot be avoided, the structures which are likely to be hit by the occupants must be designed to collapse and cushion them. It is important for the designers to have some knowledge of the forces that the human body can withstand, but as yet this branch of biomechanics has not been fully researched. Work is done at low impact energy levels using volunteers, but for high speed crashes it is necessary to use dummies. The relationship between dummy performance and that of a real person in a crash is complex, and it may be that these differences are very considerable. To reduce this problem, some work is currently being done using human cadavers. In spite of the difficulties in this area, many basic improvements have been introduced into cars in recent years. These include anti-burst door latches, safety glass, energy-absorbing steering wheels and columns, head restraints and various seat belt systems. The benefits of the three-point seat belts have been firmly established: over 50%% of fatal and serious injuries to car occupants would be avoided if all occupants wore their seat belts. Most states now have a law that both passengers and driver must have seat belts buckled while in motion. Those states which do not enforce a seat belt law for all passengers have an effective law for children under five years of age to be strapped in.

Did Anyone Get That License Number?

After the end of WWII, teenagers, trying to find their individualism, made their cars into hot rods, low-riders and high-riders. They put chrome on everything that would hold it, and painted everything that was paintable - often with florescent colors, and otherwise extended their efforts to make their car their "own." Many people hung a pair of oversized dice from their mirror in an effort to show independence. Some displayed logos of their school or club. Then came the bumper sticker. The bumper sticker was first held on with wires and probably said, "Buy War Bonds." After the war, the stickers actually began to stick. Probably due to our need to "do (or say) our own thing." Nearly every car now has a message; some subtle, some clever, and some downright obnoxious. In 1901, Connecticut passed laws regulating the registration and speed of motor vehicles. That same year, New York state required "that every vehicle shall have the separate initials of the owner's name placed upon the back thereof in a conspicuous place." That was fine when there were only 954 cars involved, but when registrations increased, the variety of lettering and location of the initials was so great that the state amended the decree and required that assigned registration numbers be shown on plates or leather pads. The state collected a $1.00 fee and assigned the owner a number. He had to buy brass numerals, bolt them to a strip of leather, and attach his homemade tag to his car. In 1903, Massachusetts issued the first official state-made license plates, heavy porcelain-enameled white on dark blue tags. Other states followed suit with variations of metal, leather, wooden shingles, sheet metal and some do-it-yourself styles. The first state driver's license laws were passed by Rhode Island in 1908 and then New Hampshire in 1909. When the states took over the production of license plates, they used their prison population for the actual work - rehabilitating their inmates for a position for which there was no job on the outside. In 1937, Connecticut offered the first "vanity tags." Other states, seeing an opportunity to get more money for no more service, followed suit. They soon found that personalized license plates could become a giant problem. Just a few letters, chosen by some clever motorist, could produce an embarrassing sentiment to the issuing office. After a few incidents, they hired staff to carefully review each request so that it would not reflect badly on the state. It is now prestigious to buy a license plate or "Vanity tag" in order to display a personal message. These, as the car itself once was, are symbols of status. Losing tags to a thief is not unusual. Authorities report that these prestige license plates are being stolen in increasing numbers. To make matters worse, motorists are discovering that it doesn't pay to be too smart. The more clever and creative a tag is, the more apt it is to be stolen. On the other hand, the owner may derive some pleasure and comfort from this implied salute to his creativity.

Rust Prevention

Rust is very bad for your car. It will also depreciate the value of your car more than any other problem. It is the most difficult and expensive problem to fix. The best way to protect your car against rust is to keep the body clean and check it regularly. If you see a light brown stain, don't ignore it, have it fixed before it gets worse. Although most rust problems can be repaired, if it involves chrome parts, you will need to replace them. The major cause of rust is salt on the roads. The salt carries moisture into every nook and cranny of your car. Rising temperatures bring on salt-caused oxidation. This makes the salt already in your car worse in the spring. Heat in your garage will also bring out the worst in the salt. Acid rain is also bad for your car's body; it ruins the paint that protects the metal of the body. Undercoating is not rustproofing. Its job is to deaden sound. If any salt or moisture gets into the undercoating, it aids in the rusting process. To prevent rust: 1. Keep your car clean and well waxed. 2. Rinse the underside with water when salt is in use or if you live in a salty area. 3. Keep your wheel wells clean and free from material that holds moisture, such as dirt or leaves. 4. Make sure that all drain holes in the frame, floor and bottoms of doors are clear. 5. After you wash your car, open the doors to let the water drain out. Rust proofing is a treatment of waxy paste sprayed inside the body panels by an "after market" specialist. The specialist drills holes in hidden areas, sprays in the paste, and plugs the holes. Another type of rustproofing is a clear silicon-based spray that is applied to your paint to protect it from chemicals and pollution. Modern cars come with good built-in corrosion protection and warranties against corrosion. You might wind up sealing in the corrosives you are trying to protect against. Also, many car manufacturers void your corrosion warranty if you have your car rustproofed. The best course is to take the rust preventative measures listed above.