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Steel backbone chassis - who was first, Renault or Lotus?


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#1 arttidesco

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 13:56

When I was growing up the Lotus Elan was always heralded, no pun intended, for it's ' steel back bone chassis which carried a fiber glass body', somewhere along the way I took it as gospel that this innovation was a Lotus idea which I believe was first shown to the public in October 1962 and was made available to the public in 1963.

More recently I have found out that the Alpine Renault A110 also featured a steel back bone chassis and fiber glass body, curiously the writer of the article linked seems to think that Chapmans thinking was a 'major source of inspiration behind the design that had been influenced by the Lotus Elan'. No problem there except SFAIK production of the Alpine Renault A110 got under way in 1961 !

Can anyone confirm that it was the A110 that lead the way with the steel back bone chassis with fiber glass body combination ?

Finally does anyone know how the A108 was constructed ?

I've seen mention of the A110 being and 'evolution' of the A108 which suggests a similar construction method.

Relevant answers may be credited and used in forthcoming blogs.

Thanking you in anticipation of your responses.



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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 14:25

No fibreglass, but both Skoda and Clisby predated both...

The Skodas, as far as I know, had their backbone chassis from the forties. I have a notion that the clumsy-looking Tatra was also built the same way. Again, no fibreglass.

But the Clisby comes closer, I guess. If fibreglass had been around when it was built, it might well have been clothed in some thin remnants of it.

This car, a hillclimb special, used a Douglas motorcycle flat twin up front and drove through a piece of pipe to a differential at the rear. The independent front and rear suspension hung off either the pipe or the diff or the engine. So did the driver.

Then came the larger-scale copy of the Clisby, Eldred Norman's Eclipse Zephyr. There are photos hereabouts of the car, which used its Ford Zephyr 6 engine and a larger piece of pipe, not to mention a Tempo Matador transaxle, as its backbone. Everything else hung off these pieces, while a lightweight aluminium body wrapped around it all.

Again, no figreglass.

When did TVR start making their backbone-chassised fibreglass-bodied cars?

#3 elansprint72

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 14:54

Rover, 1903. Unless, of course, you know different. :)

#4 Tim Murray

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 14:56

The Alpine A108 and 110 both used a similar backbone chassis of tubular construction. According to TNFer AAGR's Encyclopaedia of European Sports and GT Cars the A108 first appeared in 1957, succeeding the A106 which didn't have the backbone chassis.

#5 f1steveuk

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 15:15

Rover, 1903. Unless, of course, you know different. :)

Can anyone confirm that it was the A110 that lead the way with the steel back bone chassis with fiber glass body combination ?


The 1903 Rover was fibreglass???

#6 elansprint72

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 15:23

The 1903 Rover was fibreglass???


I was responding to the question posed in the title of the thread. :well:

#7 bradbury west

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 15:25

We have covered some of this topic previously; qv-
http://forums.autosp...dustrial museum
ISTR hat Karl Ludvigsen covers some of this topic in his recent Chapman tome. i will check it.
Roger Lund

#8 David McKinney

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 15:55

Tatra was the first one that came to mind - but again, no fibreglass in the 1920s :)

#9 f1steveuk

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 16:07

I was responding to the question posed in the title of the thread. :well:



Yeah, bit of a cheap shot, sorry.

From memory, and it was a long time ago I worked on one, but the Rover was probably a bit more advanced, as the backbone/chassis was also the gearbox/transmission/diff' housing as well, with the axle housings bolted to it???

#10 elansprint72

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 16:18

Yeah, bit of a cheap shot, sorry.

From memory, and it was a long time ago I worked on one, but the Rover was probably a bit more advanced, as the backbone/chassis was also the gearbox/transmission/diff' housing as well, with the axle housings bolted to it???

 ;)

I'm inclined to think that the fore-mentioned Tatra was the first car which really went into production with a backbone but I have a nagging doubt that something else in the UK popped up in the thirties.

#11 Tim Murray

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 16:27

According to my car encyclopaedias Tatra first produced cars with backbone chassis in 1923, and Skoda in 1933.

#12 willga

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 16:34

Didn't the A110 'backbone' design start off as a way of easing production/assembly, by connecting the front and rear suspension assemblies so they could be rolled around the workshop before bonding the body on?
The Tatras look like they were based on a similar philosophy.

The tube itself is of relatively measely diameter - how much does it contribute to torsional rigidity?

#13 AAGR

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 17:08

The TVRs did not have backbone chassis. Sloppy writing might have implied this, but most TVRs had multi-tube frames, in which there were four longitudinal tubes surrounding the drive line, plus outriggers to further longitudinals underneath the doors.

Badly explained by me ? Maybe - so please look at drawings/photographs to see what I am waffling about ....

AAGR


#14 arttidesco

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 17:46

Reading Tim's copy of Motoring Mavericks at the moment I should have realized the back bone idea went back to the dawn of motoring.

Thanks to every one who has thrown in their 10ยข worth, I am getting the picture there are many variations to the back bone concept and now have a potted time line :-

Rover 1903
Tatra 1923
Skoda 1933
Clisby 1952 (?)
Alpine Renault 108 1959
Alpine Renault 110 1961 with fibreglass body
Lotus Elan 1962 with fibreglass body

Tartra and Alpine Renaults backbone did not contribute the same sort of rigidity as the others

TVR used multi tube back bone with outriggers since ?

#15 David Birchall

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 18:06

The Triumph Herald/Spitfire used a backbone chassis-sure they had outriggers to support the floor but it was still a backbone chassis.
Presumably Artidesco wants the names of production cars not one offs?

#16 arttidesco

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 18:12

The Triumph Herald/Spitfire used a backbone chassis-sure they had outriggers to support the floor but it was still a backbone chassis.
Presumably Artidesco wants the names of production cars not one offs?


Completely forgotten about the Triumphs David :blush:

I was actually only looking to establish if Alpine Renault used the idea before Lotus David, not anticipating things would be far complicated than a yes / no answer :rolleyes:

#17 JtP1

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 18:29

The Triumph Herald/Spitfire used a backbone chassis-sure they had outriggers to support the floor but it was still a backbone chassis.
Presumably Artidesco wants the names of production cars not one offs?


The Triumph Herald/ Spitfire chassis had a backbone or even supported anything? It could hardly support itself.

#18 cheapracer

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 18:30

The tube itself is of relatively measely diameter - how much does it contribute to torsional rigidity?


About 125mm/5" looking at it, surprisingly strong without a doubt - A110 chassis in front and no it does not belong to the A310 shell behind it...

Posted Image

and floorpan ..

Posted Image

From Alpine Affairs rebuild of an A110 here ..

http://www.alpineaff...e/PHILSA110.htm

Edited by cheapracer, 18 January 2012 - 18:32.


#19 David Birchall

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 18:32

The Triumph Herald/ Spitfire chassis had a backbone or even supported anything? It could hardly support itself.


MEOW!!

Is this snobbery raising it's head?

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#20 GMACKIE

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 19:53

The VW Beetle was produced for around 40 years, with a backbone chassis.

#21 h4887

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 20:44

Tartra and Alpine Renaults backbone did not contribute the same sort of rigidity as the others


Whatever rigidity the Alpine has comes only from the backbone. The body is extremely light, and on the works cars it barely keeps the daylight out. They were rigid enough to win the occasional rally, were they not?

And perhaps the thread title could be changed to 'Alpine or Lotus'?

#22 JtP1

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 21:39

MEOW!!

Is this snobbery raising it's head?


No, it's just people dragging the rubbish to the garage door and asking me to fix it!


#23 elansprint72

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 21:42

;)

I'm inclined to think that the fore-mentioned Tatra was the first car which really went into production with a backbone but I have a nagging doubt that something else in the UK popped up in the thirties.


MG R-Type. I knew there was something from these shores. :smoking:

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 21:56

The R-Type? I must look into that...

And what on earth is the TVR chassis other than a backbone? All of them have outriggers stretching out from the central backbone!

#25 arttidesco

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 23:43

Whatever rigidity the Alpine has comes only from the backbone. The body is extremely light, and on the works cars it barely keeps the daylight out. They were rigid enough to win the occasional rally, were they not?

And perhaps the thread title could be changed to 'Alpine or Lotus'?


Yes sorry for the Alpine Omission no offence intended :blush: :blush: :blush:

#26 Ray Bell

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:10

Best I can do for the R-Type:

Posted Image

#27 arttidesco

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:11

Best I can do for the R-Type:


Top job Ray :up:


#28 David Birchall

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:50

The VW Beetle was produced for around 40 years, with a backbone chassis.



Come on! Seriously!! A backbone chassis in a VW Bug? Nah, I don't think so...

#29 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 03:19

Come on! Seriously!! A backbone chassis in a VW Bug? Nah, I don't think so...

An early beetle is a steel backbone. The floor is an out rigger, cut it away and the chassis still rolls.That is why so many 'specials' have been based on the VW floor pan because you take off the bug body and bolt on all sorts of exotica. But is still sounds like a VW!!
Really there was several versions of backbone cars made ever before Lotus. But those and the Renault were the first ;midengined' cars I feel.
Though I am sure Ray will come back with others!


#30 David Birchall

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 03:51

Cut a VW "floor pan" down to a backbone and you would have somewhere to mount the handbrake lever and not much else! Without the floor there is not much!

#31 GMACKIE

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 04:25

Cut a VW "floor pan" down to a backbone and you would have somewhere to mount the handbrake lever and not much else! Without the floor there is not much!

Without the floor, there is quite a lot.....the chassis. The floor is made of two 0.8mm 'halves', R/H & L/H, and have virtually no structural function, other than preventing the occupants from touching the road.


#32 johnny yuma

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:31

Without the floor, there is quite a lot.....the chassis. The floor is made of two 0.8mm 'halves', R/H & L/H, and have virtually no structural function, other than preventing the occupants from touching the road.

Tatra were demanding compensation for copyright infringments from Ferdinand Porsche,who told Hitler he was going to agree to pay them out and get the beetle into production.
Hitler said don't worry about it I am solving the problem...it was 1938 and he invaded Czechoslovakia...problem solved.The tatra had a flat chassis with structural tunnel like a beetle,
flat 4 boxer engine with air cooling of oil and engine.
Still no fiberglass though...

#33 Catalina Park

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:54

There are backbones and there are backbones. I don't think that anyone could claim that the Lotus chassis was a copy of a proper tubular backbone like most real 'backbones' chassis. The Lotus is a folded sheet metal chassis that fitted in narrow tunnel.

#34 Tim Murray

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 06:04

From the cutaways thread, a couple of the cars being discussed here:

Posted Image
MG 'R' Type From Max Millar

Another William Moore effort, , the TVR sports car. These were really nasty little street cars at the time, although the capability of doing a wheelstand probably doesn't fit in with the sports car image, and that thing would, in fact, do a pretty fair wheelstand on the street.
Tom West

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#35 312f1

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 07:04

There was also Ing. Franz Ganz, contemporary of Porsche and Ledvinka, who championed the idea of a backboned chassis peoples car.
http://en.wikipedia....ebruar_1933.jpg

#36 johnny yuma

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 08:34

There was also Ing. Franz Ganz, contemporary of Porsche and Ledvinka, who championed the idea of a backboned chassis peoples car.
http://en.wikipedia....ebruar_1933.jpg

That's right.But in the end,monocoque was better.Opel,Citroen and Vauxhall already had this before WW2. If the Beetle body was welded onto the
floorplan instead of bolted ,it would hove been a monocoque .


#37 elansprint72

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 08:36

Best I can do for the R-Type:

Posted Image

Clever isn't it? I think they made 10 units, so hardly a production item.

I think the line between backbone chassis and floorpan has become somewhat blurred in this thread.  ;)

#38 arttidesco

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 08:51

The Lotus is a folded sheet metal chassis ....


I suspect this might be the difference that I seem to have forgotten over time which lead me to starting the thread and differentiates the Lotus from the Alpine in particular.

Thanks for giving me so much food for thought Gentlemen :up:



#39 bradbury west

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:12

Check the links from post 7
Roger Lund

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#40 karlcars

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:47

Just a reminder not to forget the cars of Alejandro De Tomaso. He was quick to make use of the backbone concept in cars like the Vallelunga.

The sports car that Sacha Gordine never completed was to have a huge tubular backbone frame, much like some of De Tomaso's later designs.

Interestingly Morgan deserves credit for the early backbone frame of its three-wheelers. In fact after the abortive Rover of 1904 Morgan was the first in the world to use a backbone frame in production, starting in 1910. Pretty good going!

#41 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 12:35

Without the floor, there is quite a lot.....the chassis. The floor is made of two 0.8mm 'halves', R/H & L/H, and have virtually no structural function, other than preventing the occupants from touching the road.

The floor has no real strength without the body really. BUT the backbone does, it can be driven safely [sort of] without a body. A lot were as buggies with little other structure. And I doubt that you could do that with a Lotus. Though it would be quicker if you could!

#42 Ray Bell

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 12:49

The VW chassis is usually referred to as a 'platform' type...

Not forgetting that there's some strength in the lip around the outside.

#43 Lee Nicolle

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 13:22

[quote name='Ray Bell' date='Jan 19 2012, 13:49' post='5485708']
The VW chassis is usually referred to as a 'platform' type...

Not forgetting that there's some strength in the lip around the outside.
[/quo
Not much, the flex quite well when you stand on them. They would be quite stiff when bolted to the VW body.
But I have seen those floors with a simple roll bar and a mount for the steering column driven quite hard in the sandhills,, and survive.
The one I had about 35 years ago was a shortened floor pan with a decent cage built on it. That was used for about 10 years before, during and after my ownership as a weekend toy. I have pictures somewhere of it about 6 feet in the air. With a stock 40 horse engine!

#44 Catalina Park

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 06:04

The VW chassis is usually referred to as a 'platform' type...

Not forgetting that there's some strength in the lip around the outside.

Would it still be a platform chassis if you removed the pans and fitted a Lotus Elan body?


#45 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 11:14

But would it still be as strong?

You have a good point there, I agree. But the general understanding is that there is a difference.

#46 Catalina Park

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 05:19

But would it still be as strong?

You have a good point there, I agree. But the general understanding is that there is a difference.

I have played around with VWs and there is not much strength in the floors at all. The backbone does not get any strength from the floors. The suspension loads are taken through the backbone and not the floors.
You can remove and replace the floors without hurting the structure.


#47 arttidesco

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 14:57

Thanks to Ray Bell, Pete Taylor, Tim Murray, Steve Holter, Roger Lund, David McKinney, willga, AAGR, David Birchall, JtP1, cheapracer, Greg Mackie, Geoff Butcher, Lee Nicole, johnny yuma, Catlina Park, 312f1, and Karl Ludwigsen for your help with identifying some pre Elan models with back bone chassis for today's 26R Blog :up:

Backbone chassis is a subject I might well come back to at some point in the future :-)

Edited by arttidesco, 21 January 2012 - 14:58.


#48 JtP1

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 17:40

Thanks to Ray Bell, Pete Taylor, Tim Murray, Steve Holter, Roger Lund, David McKinney, willga, AAGR, David Birchall, JtP1, cheapracer, Greg Mackie, Geoff Butcher, Lee Nicole, johnny yuma, Catlina Park, 312f1, and Karl Ludwigsen for your help with identifying some pre Elan models with back bone chassis for today's 26R Blog :up:

Backbone chassis is a subject I might well come back to at some point in the future :-)


Thank you, but I don't remember pointing out what had a backbone chassis. Only what didn't . In fact, I wouldn't call what passes for a Herald chassis a chassis, more a collection of bent metal loosely assembled. :)

#49 David Birchall

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 17:46

I disagree! I am surprised to find myself defending the Herald/Spitfire chassis but having recently worked on one--I chopped it up--I found that I was quite impressed. Better made than the Lotus although not as light. It has the usual mud/corrosion traps that all older cars suffer from. It is unquestionably a "backbone chassis" unlike the VW Beetle, Morris Minor or other bowls of porridge. :)

#50 mikeC

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 18:08

I disagree! I am surprised to find myself defending the Herald/Spitfire chassis but having recently worked on one--I chopped it up--I found that I was quite impressed. Better made than the Lotus although not as light. It has the usual mud/corrosion traps that all older cars suffer from. It is unquestionably a "backbone chassis" unlike the VW Beetle, Morris Minor or other bowls of porridge. :)


And the Spitfire even more so, since that did without the (relatively) substantial outrigger assemblies...