British Cars and Wooden Frames

For the second time this week, a visitor has stopped by the shop to see what was going on and asked to see the British car that had the wooden frame.  I have heard this request before, and maybe some of you have as well.  Somewhere a rumor got started that, as near as I can tell, the MGTD was built on a wooden frame.  Really, I mean even the Vale had a steel channel frame.

So I figured that we could all work to set the record straight and explain to those who ask, that the cars do not have a wooden frame, but it is the framework that is the actual real “coachwork”.  Yes, the word is coachwork.  It relates to the inner frame work that supports the body shell, and is historically related to the early coach and carriage builders who did make all of their frames out of wood.  This frame work comes into play around the front and rear bulkheads and  the structure of the door frame.

Actually, the Princess is a great example of this technology used in British cars.  Below are a few pictures that show the inner structure of the drivers door.  It is a complete wood frame, made of many parts of ash wood.  The door skin, or outer shell is the conventional body metal.

This same basic design was used in the Jaguar, Morris, MG and many other early British cars.  For the most part, it worked pretty well.  The bigger cars, as you can see by the Princess, used plenty of wood and they were very heavy, but they held up under normal use.  The T series cars did not have as robust a frame work in their doors, and after a year or two the hinges would come loose, and the doors would sag significantly.

From a restoration standpoint, this wood structure is very difficult to replicate in most cases.  The T cars are popular enough that Moss actually has replacement lumber.  You do need to complete some serious woodworking to get all parts to fit properly.  A solution that is becoming more popular is to build a replacement frame work out of steel.  It is about the same weight, actually lighter, and it is far more sturdy and will withstand years of use.

So the next time you are in a conversation with someone looking at your car, and they ask if you know about the British car that has a wooden frame, take a minute to explain to them what the “wooden frame” really means, and then, maybe, they won’t go into the questions about what kind of wood it is, and how does it support the engine.

Enjoy the ride !!!

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