Here's How You Bend Flat Metal Into A Lovely Car

A couple weeks ago, you may recall that I drove a really lovely hand-built mid-engined aluminum roadster, all made with Chris Runge’s two hands, some hammers, and a big-ass English wheel. The very act of how the metal gets shaped to the body is fascinating, so we thought you might actually like to see how that works.

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As you probably know, aluminum doesn’t come in neat little pre-made shapes that would fit this car. It starts off as a flat sheet, which is then cut, pounded, rolled, shaped, fought with, apologized to, struggled with, and then eventually becomes a complex, compound curve.

I’ve worked with metal before, but mostly in gas welding contexts that involved heating the metal. Here, everything is done cold, with just physical force used to move the metal.

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Illustration for article titled Heres How You Bend Flat Metal Into A Lovely Car

It’s surprisingly like working with fabric, it’s just that the level of force it takes to re-shape it is so much greater. Actually, it may be more like working with sheets of Play-Doh: you stretch it and it gets thin, you pound wrinkles back into the surface and smooth them away: for something as solid as we normally think about metal, it’s odd to realize it can be worked almost like a sheet of clay.

Under Chris’ considerable guidance, we pounded, wheeled, hammered, and shaped a flat sheet of aluminum into a rounded lower fender for one of his Frankfurt Flyers.

Hard work, but really satisfying. Oh, and to whoever bought that car from Chris, if that panel fails, it’s probably because of something I did.

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Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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DISCUSSION

orusimon
Don't Hurt My Prius's Feelings

Torch, every time I see you in a video I want to ask, who picks out your clothes for you? Its just so....interesting. Like hobo meets punk meets gearhead meets kindergarten kid.