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Frame Types
Ford has used quite a few different frame designs over the years. Two basic frame construction
types are full-frame and unit-body (or unibody).
The oldest frame design is full-frame. Typically, the frame rails are constructed of .120-inch-wall
stamped steel that runs the length of the vehicle. At present, Ford still uses full-frame construction
in its full-size cars and trucks.
The ladder frame is the oldest full-frame design. It typically consists of two long frame rails that run
parallel for the length of the vehicle. The frame rails are separated by lateral supports. This design
lacked strength in the early years. In 1932, Ford started adding diagonal cross-bracing (basically a
big X-shaped frame structure) between the frame rails for strength. With the body bolted to the
chassis, it became more rigid. From there, the ladder frame evolved until it was completely
redesigned in 1965. Ford trucks continue to use the ladder frame today.
In 1965, Ford’s ladder frame was redesigned and given a new name—the perimeter frame. The
front and rear frame portions were approximately 12 inches inward of the external body panels. The
frames are referred to as portions, not sections. This is a full frame, made as one unit. The front
and rear portions were not much different from the front and rear portions of the older ladder
frame. The center portion of the frame was the difference in design. The center portion of the frame
ran around the outside of the passenger compartment, usually only 1 to 2 inches inward from the
external body panels. This design is much stronger in a side impact than the earlier ladder frames.
This frame is also known as the “torque box frame” because it uses structural supports called
torque boxes that kick the frame rails outward to the edge of the rocker panels.
A full frame under a 1968 Ford Galaxie Torque boxes where the front portion of the frame connects to the main frame rails
A full-frame chassis has frame rails that run
from one end of the car to the other. This ‘68
Galaxie has what is called a perimeter frame
design, hence the frame rails running along
the rocker panels (where the legs of the hoist
are positioned).
A closer look shows the torque boxes that
attach the outside frame rails in the center
of the car, to the narrower front portion of
the frame. These frames are heavy but
strong, and they can be gusseted for extra
Unitized body and frame construction is best described as body construction that incorporates body
structure and chassis floorpan as a single structure. This single body and frame unit is made up of
many different stamped sheetmetal pieces welded together. This makes the car lighter, keeps it
rigid, and keeps cost down at the assembly plant. Ford has been labeled by some as the pioneer of
unitized frame construction in the United States. The 1935 Lincoln Zephyr was Ford’s first try at the
new frame design. By the 1960s, Ford and other American auto manufacturers were incorporating
the unibody in full swing.
The unibody frame structure under a 1971 Torino
The unibody is the most
common car frame on the
planet. This ’71 Torino is a
good example. It has stamped
sheetmetal frame rails
(arrows) that run from the left
of the photo to just past the X-
pipe. The rear rails are
surrounding the mufflers on
the right of the photo.
A subframe is the lower section of the unibody that is formed into a frame rail. Suspension
components and engines usually bolt to the subframe, due to its increased strength compared to
the sheetmetal floorpan. A subframe can also be a bolt-in section of a frame that has suspension
locating points
Body Bushings
Stock Rubber
Full-frame constructed cars typically have bushings between the frame and the floorpan that they
attach to. The factory bushings are usually made of rubber. These bushings help isolate the road
noise and road feel to the chassis. For instance, when your tires hit the little reflectors that
separate lanes on a highway, or they hit uneven pavement, the rubber factory bushings keep the
jolt from being transferred to the body structure. That same design allows the frame to flex and twist
under hard cornering.
Poly Compounds & Solid
As of writing this book, aftermarket companies are not offering body bushings for full-frame Fords
made of poly compounds (commonly known as urethane, polyurethane, and Polygraphite). They
also don’t offer solid body bushings made of aluminum. These body bushings would be the same
shape as the factory rubber bushings, and they would be installed the same way too. They add
serious rigidity to the frame and body by tying them together as one unit, and not flexing or
distorting like rubber bushings. They also add more road noise and allow more road feel as
vibrations transfer from the frame to the body. Almost all applications would be best suited with
polyurethane body bushings rather than solid ones.
torque boxes on a unibody structure Front unibody structure on a 1967 Ford Mustang
In 1967, Ford added torque boxes to the
Mustang driver’s side footwell, tying the frame
rail to the rocker panel. This sheet of metal
added strength to the unitized frame on the
driver’s side to help with side impacts. Adding
one on the passenger side would add rigidity
to the unibody.
The Mustang was designed to be
lightweight. The unibody front structure is
not very strong without fenders attached.
Don’t forget to install all the fender-mounting
bolts because the fenders tie the sheetmetal
together as a unit.
Front frame rail on a unibody chassis
Here is a good view of a front
sheetmetal frame rail. The rail is
simply a folded-up piece of metal
that’s tack welded to the
sheetmetal floorboard. It’s strong
enough for regular driving, but it
could use some strengthening
for the type of driving Restomods
sometimes see.
Subframe Connectors
When building a car with a high-powered engine and a lot of torque, keep in mind that unibody cars
tend to twist and flex. Forces from engine torque and flex from severe driving can cause fatigue in
the body and frame structure, which makes the car more unpredictable on a road course or the
street. To strengthen the structure of your unibody, you can install sub-frame connectors.
Subframe connectors attach the front subframe to the rear frame. This reduces the torsional flex
that the sheetmetal of the body structure usually absorbs and makes the car more predictable on a
road course and the street.

Before installing subframe connectors in your car, be sure to inspect your frame and all of its
components. If you install subframe connectors on a cracked frame, you will not be able to fully
utilize the connectors. Repair any frame damage from rust, stress, or an accident before installing
subframe connectors. Subframe connectors come in many shapes, sizes, and designs.
Subframe conectors installed on a unibody car
Subframe connectors, like
these from Global West, are
used to tie the front and rear
unitized frames (subframes)
together. These are non-
integral connectors, as they
aren’t installed through the
floorpan between the front
and rear subframes.
Non-Integral, Bolt-in Subframe Connectors
Bolt-in subframe connectors are the easiest to install, but they’re also the least effective. These
connectors are only as strong as the bolts that connect them to the chassis. If you want to keep the
option of returning your Restomod to stock one day, bolt-in connectors may be your best option.

Bolt-in connectors could be welded in, but they’re not intended for that purpose. If you’re going to
weld them in, you may as well step up to stronger connectors that are meant to be welded. In most
cases, bolt-in connectors greatly reduce the ground clearance, which can be a problem if your
Restomod has a lowered suspension.
Non-Integral Weld-in Subframe Connectors
Non-integral weld-in subframe connectors need to be welded in place, but they don’t require
serious modification to the floorpan, if any at all. They perform better than the bolt-in type, but
depending on the car, they can reduce ground clearance. If your Restomod is like most, it’s lower
than stock height and can use all the ground clearance it can get.

A few companies offer non-integral subframe connectors, including Total Control Products, Global
West, Maximum Motorsports, and more. Depending on the application, these types of connectors
are still less effective than the integral type. For instance, a non-integral weld-in connector that
hangs down under an early Mustang ties the front and rear frame together. However, the frame can
still twist, unless you weld a gusset somewhere in the center of the connector to the frame. To get a
mental picture of this, which do you think is going to resist twisting (not bending): a straight bar or a
U-shaped piece of round tubing? Obviously, the straight piece is stronger, unless you add a gusset
or two near the center of the bend.
Keep in mind, the only complaint ever heard about subframe connectors is about reduced ground
clearance. I’ve never heard anyone complain about a chassis being too stiff. Weld-in connectors
are typically noticeable the first time you pull your car into (or out of) an inclined driveway, at an
angle. Chassis flex should be reduced.
Integral Weld-in Subframe Connectors
Integral weld-in subframe connectors are the mother of all connectors. They require the most work
to install, including cutting the floorpan and welding, but they’re also the most rigid. For all practical
purposes, the strength you add with this type of connector is just short of installing a full frame in
your vehicle. Integral weld-in connectors are typically stronger than the actual frames they connect.
If done correctly, these connectors will not reduce your ground clearance either. Integral weld-in
connectors protrude into the driver’s compartment, but with a little creative insulation movement,
they can be hardly noticeable.

Currently, there aren’t any companies offering pre-built integral subframe connectors, but keep
your eyes and ears open. If you want to build your own, you’ll need hand tools, a welder, and
preferably an air compressor and die grinder. You can purchase the metal tubing down at your
local metal scrap yard. Most homemade connectors are made from 2x2-inch square or 2x3-inch
rectangle tubing with .120-inch wall thickness. Using any smaller tubing or thinner wall thickness will
minimize the effectiveness of all your hard work.
Before you get started, remove the seats, carpet, insulation, and any parts you want to save from
welding slag and hot ground metal flack. If you are welding near any windows, cover them. You
would be really surprised at the damage welding slag will leave behind. Take all safety precautions.
Safely elevate your car on level ground with car ramps or heavy-duty jack stands. Keep a fire
extinguisher handy.

The most important part of a subframe connector is tying the front and rear subframes together, so
locate them first. You’ll need to plot out the most direct route between the two subframes. Some
front and rear subframes will line straight up, but some chassis have a front subframe that is
narrower than the rear (or vice versa). When you plot out the subframe connector location on a
chassis where the subframes line up, the connectors will run parallel to the rocker panel. Running
connectors straight from the front to rear subframes will be the strongest. Make sure you connect
the front and rear sections. If you fall an inch or two short of the actual subframe, the strength of
the connector will fall short too. Figure out how you want the finished job to look. If you want the
connector to be flush with the underside of the floorpan for ultimate clearance, then make your
measurements to reflect your decision. If you don’t mind it sitting a little lower than the floorpan, for
instance 1⁄2-inch, then figure that measurement into your lines.
Plot out the sections of the floorpan you will need to remove. Make sure to make the lines 1⁄8-inch
narrower than the width of your tubing. Measure two or three times –cut once! Figure the cutting
wheel or blade will also remove metal, so take that into consideration. Make sure the lines are
straight. There are a lot of contours on the floorpan, so plotting out straight lines is easier said than
done. You can use a straight edge to assist, or if you’re feeling punchy, get a laser level from your
favorite hardware store and use the straight laser beam to plot out your lines. Make sure the laser
is positioned straight over the floorpan for the most accurate results. If the floorpan curves upward
more than the height of the tubing, leave the high areas when you cut the floorpan. Don’t remove
more metal than necessary. This is a tedious process, but well worth the effort. Before cutting
anything, make sure you don’t cut through a fuel line, a brake line, an emergency brake cable, or
anything else important.

There are a few different ways to cut the floorpan. If you are tool-challenged and don’t have an air
compressor, you can use a hacksaw. Use the type with a small handle and a blade sticking out of it.
I’m not proud of it, but I’ve used this method and it’s not fun! Save yourself a bunch of grief and
borrow an air compressor, a high-speed die grinder, and a cut-off wheel. In some cases, you can
get away with a heavy-duty reciprocating saw. Almost anything is better than one of those little
Previous | Next

This has been a sample page from

How to Build Ford Restomod Street Macnines How to Build Ford Restomod Street Machines
by Tony E. Huntimer
This book Should be called
"How to Build High Performance Fords!"
This is one of the best books we've seen about building high
performance Fords. It contains sections on upgrading brakes
and suspension, improving chassis stiffness, engine choices
and engine swaps, drivetrain choices including
production and
after market transmissions, electrical
systems and even body
modifications. It even has sections
to help you find the right
project car for as little money as possible and where to find the
parts you need to complete your project. This is one of the
best, if not the best book out there about building and

modifying Fords for improved performance. Best of all, this
book is not just about the Ford Mustang as many other Ford
books are. Read the sample pages to learn more!
Click below to view samples
pages from each chapter
Chap. 1 - Shocks & Sway Bars
Chap. 2 - Front Suspension
Chap. 3 - Rear Suspension
Chap. 4 - Frames & Chassis
Chap. 5 - Engine Swaps
Chap. 6 - Transmissions
Chap. 7 - Body & Glass Mods.
Chap. 8 - Finding Parts
8-1/2 x 11"
144 pages
Approximately 300 b/w photos
Item: SA101P
Price: $23.95
Click here to buy now!

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The Ranchero and Torino Handling Manual 1972-1979
This 28 page booklet discusses improving the
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Ranchero. Modifications performed to the car are
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parts manufacturers and suppliers are listed, VIN number
break down is discussed, and much more. This is a great
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the sample pages to learn more!
The Ranchero and Torino Handling Manual 1972-1979
$ 11.99

How to Paint Your Car on a Budget
In How to Paint Your Car On A Budget, author Pat
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