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Old 07-01-2003, 11:58 AM
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Thumbs down Front clips and frame swaps --- More work, less value

Sorry about this but I have to get something off my chest.

I belong to several forums and there are always questions that come up about frame swaps and front clips. Now I know many people wonít agree with me but if you really think about it I hope youíll understand my point.

I donít know who it was that started the ďframe swapĒ craze but thatís just what it is. Itís a fad. Everyone and his brother seem to want to just jump on the bandwagon with little thought of exactly how much work is really involved. Sure it looks simple on the surface but the truth is that the best frame for any vehicle is the one it came with from the factory. People just donít understand the extra work involved and most find that hanging the body and especially the front sheet metal isnít a simple operation and it requires lots of fabrication. The time saved by going to a frame that already has IFS and motor mounts (thatís the argument for doing a frame swap that I hear most often) is usually eaten up by the extra time it takes to adapt everything and make it work. With the availability of aftermarket IFS systems, bolt or weld in cross members with integral motor mounts, bolt in rear suspension kits etc, it hardly seems worth the time and extra work to perform a swap.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is that in many cases it actually lowers the value of the finished product. There are a couple reasons for this. First if it doesnít fit perfectly and the wheelbase and track width arenít correct it doesnít look right and youíre not going to get top dollar for a car or truck that doesnít look correct. (Just ask anyone that owns a StreetBeast about that one.) Second is the safety issue. Most people wonít pay a huge chunk of change for a vehicle when they donít have a lot of confidence about the quality of its construction. Face it, there are very few shadetree mechanics that can do the type of quality work that most professional shops do. Yes, there are some but most of us (and I include myself in this group) are just shadetrees. We do OK but our stuff canít match up to the average $50,000+ pro built rod in quality or in looks. And when someone is going to fork over big bucks for a street rod someone else built, unless it came from a pro builder or is something extremely special, youíre probably going to have a lot of trouble getting the cash you think itís worth. People just wonít pay as much for a car that has had major structural work done by someone other than a pro.

Front clips are the same way. Not so much because they lower the quality of the vehicle, they do, but for the overall safety aspect. Many clips just donít look right because the track width isnít correct. But the most importantly thereís only one way to properly install a clip, and there are hundreds of ways to screw one up. That said, all clips arenít unsafe by any means. But unless the person doing the cutting and welding is experienced the chances are there will be some misalignment that will find itís way into the process. This may cause tire wear problems or alignment problems or nothing at all. Worst case would be a catastrophic failure at speed on a crowded highway. Way too many inexperienced people jump on the front clip bandwagon without the foggiest idea what theyíre really getting into. It takes one person with a Mig welder one day to install a basic Mustang II IFS on a typical rod but it might take two or three times as long to do a similar clip installation. OK so the Mustang suspension costs you a few bucks Iíll admit that, but with some judicial shopping a basic kit can be had for well under a grand. But by the time you spend the money to rebuild the suspension on the clip, install new brakes and rotors and a new steering box, (we do want to compare apples to apples here) youíve spent two to three times the amount of time and darned near the same money you would have spent on the Mustang or similar kit. If a clip is welded in properly, aligned correctly, and actually has the correct track for the vehicle then youíve about broken even. We havenít even talked about all the extra labor involved in hanging your 40+ year old front sheet metal on that new clip. Youíll need to add several extra hours of labor and fabrication for that as well.

Bottom line is that as far as I can see there are only two reasons to ever consider a frame swap or clip installation. One is if the previous owner has hacked up the stock frame to the point that it is unusable or unsafe and second if the stock frame has been damaged beyond repair due to an accident or rust.

Like I said I know a lot of you wonít agree with me but your opinions are, as always, welcome.


Centerline
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