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Speedster proportions and design thoughts


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If you are building a brass era Speedster and you have the freedom to shape things as you like then I have some basic ideas that were helpful to me.

Gas tank size. A good starting point for size if you have a barrel shaped tank behind the seats is half the outside diameter of a tyre.

Seat height. The amount the seat is lifted off the chassis rails is related to the wheelbase. What will look right on one wheelbase will look out of place on another.

General "lines". Even with all the parts seeming to be quite unrelated on a brass speedster you can still give the car some over all "line". Think of a line starting at the radiator cap, coming along the hood, then in a gentle curve, passing the centre of the steering wheel, top of the seats, top of the gas tank and down the spare tyres.

Where you can have most variation is the rear end. Too boxy and it can look homemade and rear heavy. Check out the rear of a Mercer Raceabout for some style.

Fender lines. Heaps of variation to be had here..... Straight like a Simplex, curved and coming hard down to the running board like a Bearcat, angling down like a Mercer...... curved over the wheels, or straight out..... artistic flick at the ends of the rears. Running boards or a step? No fenders at all!

The sky is the limit with fenders as a way to change your look.

Scuttle/dash hood or nothing? Depends on the years you are aiming for.... their are literally hundreds of ways of shaping a small dash hood that can look nice.

Seats. The seats and upholstry are a big parts of the look of a basic Speedster and can be shaped any number of ways, some nice brass or wood trims can add a touch of class.

Their are just some random thoughts! Speedcars are a perfect way be a little creative..... after years of slavishly restoring cars to factory spec it can be a lot of fun to do!

Regards

Gavin

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Back in 1956 Dan Post re-printed a 1912 automobile body "how to" book... it had originally been published in 1912. (Although I haven't found the original title) It isn't quite as useful as it would first seem because all of the information is directed towards people in the trade and equipped to actually build bodies. Nevertheless, it is fascinating that all of it is devoted to rebodying chassis, often to achieve a more "sporty" look. This must have been much more common before WWI than is commonly thought. In fact, there is no mention of repairing damage... the entire work is devoted to fabricating new body parts, which tells us something about the nature of the car world in the brass era that is quite different from today.

In any case, I've been working with the drawings in this book to design the body for my 1910 Mitchell, aiming at the look of a coach-built roadster. One feature I have noticed is that I find that "seats on the floor" often tend to look awkward and homemade though I know that cars like Mercer and Stutz were able to pull it off. I think that elevating them 4 to 6 inches (about half the height of the original touring car seats) gives a much more finished look. A slight outward curve to the sides of the body below the seats also alleviates the "slab sided" look that a lot of home built bodies have. I also find that taking extra effort on minor features can offsett the home-made look... in my case, I'm having aluminum sill plates, body frame pieces and gas tank mounts cast.

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Guys this is exactly the discussion I envisioned. On porportions, Tom L. has a nice Marion on his site right now, and the thing that struck me about it is the near perfect porportion for a mid-sized speedster. I think when you get the details right you get a really great look - if you just throw whatever is lying around you get a less appealling look. If I build one, I hope to pick up a lot of detail hints from this group.

Anyone got any sketches, plans or care to share how you planned your speedster?

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We "built" ours out of cardboard and duct tape first. We mocked up the seats, fuel tank, cowl, grill, hood, outside exhaust, runningboards and fenders and stood back and took a look.

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Here is my 3rd or 4th preliminary drawing. I'm working with a 112" wheelbase and what we see here is the body from the dashboard back. Because I'm not much of an artist, I've done this in my graphics program (I design and edit books). The slight outward curve of the body doesn't show... nor does the difference between the aluminum gas tank mounts and the body. Since I'm probably 3 years from even starting on the body, I've plenty of time to work out the plan. Fortunately the Mitchell chassis is flat, without any curve over the rear axle which makes building the frame of the body much easier.

I think there is actually a mistake in this drawing... the side height of the body behind the gas tank is intended to be about 2 inches lower so that it forms a sort of tray behind the tank with sides about 4" high. The tank is intended to have 2 fillers and be divided so that 1/3 or 1/4 of it can be used as a waste oil tank. The Mitchell has a total loss oiling system so I will need a place to dump the used oil as I don't think the powers that be will approve of dumping it by the side of the road as was likely done in period.

I'm undecided on the trunk/tool box. From a pure design point of view I'd like a folding jump seat but I plan to drive this car and need places for both tools and possibly luggage. At this point, I'm thinking of a big wicker trunk with a wooden liner. I'm also going to use electric lights... as I have been stranded on the road after dark with nothing but gas lights. I'll go with early accessory lights (I have Gray & Davis sidelights and a spotlight). For this reason I'm making a generator distributor unit to attach to the side of the engine in place of the magneto and I'm planning to put the battery and electrical connections under the seat where they will be unobtrusive.

Suggestions are very welcome!

Joe Puleo

5958528c2f44e_Bodydesign1-1.thumb.jpg.d1b3564ef34c2a7bc8716b953687285a.jpg

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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  • 2 months later...

27" wheels. I have four 37x5 tires though 36x4 1/2 would probably be a little more realistic. As it is, the tires I have are rated for a car that probably weighed twice as much.

jvp

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree. The drawing is really my "thinking on paper" I'm probably a good three years out from building the body. I like to draw things up because it lets me discard ideas that won't work when you get the parts in scale... and I invariably change my mind half way through so this way I haven't wasted anything but time. I have to give some thought to a tire mount as well - I'll almost certainly be making that.

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  • 4 months later...
post-85192-143139310091_thumb.jpgOne idea for a mid sized speedster is the 14 Overland. This is a friends car and the same car I am building. It seems to be similar in style as the Mercer raceabout. What is cool is that the WOKR (Willys Overland Knight Registry) has all of the factory prints available for purchase at a very reasonable price. They give all the dimensions and details for the car. A great resource to relate to if you are starting from scratch with body work.-- Mark
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  • 2 months later...

I would like to inform anyone building a speedster that we are casting cowl light brackets and tail light brackets for my 14 Overland Project. They will be cast in bronze in the lost wax method. Cowl light brackets have a 27 degree tilt from the dash to the light paddle. Please let me know if you have any interest to jump in to help lower costs for all. Right know for three sets they are $390 per plus S&H. The set includes 1 tail light bracket and the R & L cowl light bracket. As we get more orders the price will be reduced. This pricing is based on todays cost for three sets. We are not making any profit on the process. Just trying to help out fellow car guys.

Please let me know if you have any interest, Mark

post-85192-143141795181_thumb.jpg

post-85192-143141795174_thumb.jpg

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post-47067-143141804132_thumb.jpgHere's another body style I came across while googling speedsters...obviously not restored, and I'm not sure what the original make was or if it was handbuilt, but I really like the shape. Think they were posted by a guy named Poul Jensen...not sure when or where.

post-47067-143141804129_thumb.jpg

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[ATTACH=CONFIG]183407[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]183408[/ATTACH]Here's another body style I came across while googling speedsters...obviously not restored, and I'm not sure what the original make was or if it was handbuilt, but I really like the shape. Think they were posted by a guy named Poul Jensen...not sure when or where.

That would be a nice find, looks like it has doors on it?

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That would be a nice find, looks like it has doors on it?

I found that interesting as well. I lean towards the faster more modern versions of the speedster and knowing my own propensity to drive with my foot in it, I like the lower seated more enclosed versions as opposed to the earlier ones with your butt hanging out over the ditch. I was thinking the rear doors off an early tub (something common like a T touring) would work well. With the number of guys making rods and speedsters out of the front sections, there has to be some discarded rear quarters laying around.

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Looks like an old steam whistle being re-purposed as an exhaust whistle.

Howard Dennis

Or maybe an early exhaust cutout? Almost looks to have a valve below it although it's pointed in a strange direction for anything but occasional use. Maybe he just wanted to scare the guys he was passing? Nice design on the body.

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I found that interesting as well. I lean towards the faster more modern versions of the speedster and knowing my own propensity to drive with my foot in it, I like the lower seated more enclosed versions as opposed to the earlier ones with your butt hanging out over the ditch. I was thinking the rear doors off an early tub (something common like a T touring) would work well. With the number of guys making rods and speedsters out of the front sections, there has to be some discarded rear quarters laying around.

I agree, it is all a matter of taste and my taste lies with a more enclosed body as well. The Rootlieb bodies are nice, on an A or ,but too open for me, especially with New England Driving and all weather conditions. Right now I am building an A Model Speedster. I am not a fan of the Faultless bodies, but I like the way they are more enclosed. My wife describes to it as sitting in the car vs on the car.

A great deal of thought needs to go into proportions as the OP of this thread indicates. If you go to the nwvs website click on Speedsters, then scroll down to number 917. John Black did an excellent job of building a wood boat tail A Model Speedster. On his page you will see a link to his construction story where he goes into great detail regarding the proportional layout of visual appeal. But as in all creations, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For me, right now it is to build an A Model Speedster/pickup that does not look like a tractor, nor an RPU but looks authentic and in proportion. I have poured over hundreds of pictures, probably close to a thousand to measure and make notes of what works and what does not.

From a Design perspective this is on of the better examples of well thought out proportion that I have seen in a speedster. Although I would bring the cowl back a bit further so the Dash was within reach of the driver while sitting back in the seat. The higher side that you step over to get in eliminates the need for doors and subsequently makes it easier for fabrication and strength, but put you "in" rather than "on" the car.

182571d1363135447-saxon-saxon-smaller.jpg

This on (If I attached it right) as well is a great example of the look I am after, but instead of a turtle deck on the back, I will use a scaled-appropriate pickup bed.post-88510-143141810818_thumb.jpg

Edited by QGolden (see edit history)
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Yah, me too,:D I am in NH, I have the shop space and a good layout to work in, all the equipment that I need, but is is not heated. I can do some work in the winter under my heat lamps and infra red propane heater, but it will be much easier in a month or so. For the winter I have been buying parts and stuff. I have a good running chassis ready to strip and most of my parts. Still looking for a few. Hoping to have all of my parts in house, so when I can start I can move right along with few interruptions.

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If you are building a brass era Speedster and you have the freedom to shape things as you like then I have some basic ideas that were helpful to me.

Gas tank size. A good starting point for size if you have a barrel shaped tank behind the seats is half the outside diameter of a tyre.

Seat height. The amount the seat is lifted off the chassis rails is related to the wheelbase. What will look right on one wheelbase will look out of place on another.

General "lines". Even with all the parts seeming to be quite unrelated on a brass speedster you can still give the car some over all "line". Think of a line starting at the radiator cap, coming along the hood, then in a gentle curve, passing the centre of the steering wheel, top of the seats, top of the gas tank and down the spare tyres.

Where you can have most variation is the rear end. Too boxy and it can look homemade and rear heavy. Check out the rear of a Mercer Raceabout for some style.

Fender lines. Heaps of variation to be had here..... Straight like a Simplex, curved and coming hard down to the running board like a Bearcat, angling down like a Mercer...... curved over the wheels, or straight out..... artistic flick at the ends of the rears. Running boards or a step? No fenders at all!

The sky is the limit with fenders as a way to change your look.

Scuttle/dash hood or nothing? Depends on the years you are aiming for.... their are literally hundreds of ways of shaping a small dash hood that can look nice.

Seats. The seats and upholstry are a big parts of the look of a basic Speedster and can be shaped any number of ways, some nice brass or wood trims can add a touch of class.

Their are just some random thoughts! Speedcars are a perfect way be a little creative..... after years of slavishly restoring cars to factory spec it can be a lot of fun to do!

Regards

Gavin

Attached are a couple of photos: 112" wheelbase, 36 x 4 1/2 tires, seats mount 9" above the frame, and hood is about 50" long. The gas tank is about 18" in diameter, fender height is about 42", with the hood a little higher yet. The overall appearance really changed when the fenders were added. This is stock, if building from scratch it might look better lowered???

(Haven't posted for a while and have forgotten how to, hope this works!)

Doug M.post-44559-143141816685_thumb.jpg

post-44559-143141816678_thumb.jpg

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I think that's just about perfect. I only wish I had that much hood to work with but my car is a 4. I think the hood is a good 8 to 10 inches shorter. That said, I'm saving your photos. Thanks.

jpv

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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I have the original hood and its in good condition. There is also the matter of the pedals and the outside shifter. In all, its not all that practical to move things. Besides, while I have no problems with building a body to suit myself, I'm very reluctant to make any irreversible changes to the basic chassis. Its a 1910 chassis and I'm trying to keep the design ca. 1912... the sort of thing that was quite commonly done to sell nearly new used cars in a market where their appearance became very dated long before they wore out.

Here's what I'm starting with

Onthetruck.jpg

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Very cool project. It looks to me that if you were sitting in the seat you probably could not reach the dash without leaning forward. One thing you could do (from my view anyway) is to pull the current dash and windshield mount, save them aside. Install a lower seat an Lower the steering column. Then build a new dashboard that you can reach while sitting in the seat. Then fabricate a cowel to fill the space between the dash and the firewall. No permanent changes, and it could be switched back at any time while giving you a longer looking hood line.

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Very cool project. It looks to me that if you were sitting in the seat you probably could not reach the dash without leaning forward. One thing you could do (from my view anyway) is to pull the current dash and windshield mount, save them aside. Install a lower seat an Lower the steering column. Then build a new dashboard that you can reach while sitting in the seat. Then fabricate a cowel to fill the space between the dash and the firewall. No permanent changes, and it could be switched back at any time while giving you a longer looking hood line.

I agree. The steering column is the primary focus to laying out the general design. On many early cars it was set at a 45 degree angle. Lay it out as is on your computer, then start to lower the wheel closer to the frame. You will be able to rough out your seat height, and make sure you leave enough room in the stomach area! Pedal locations can usually be altered with additional/modified linkage. The rest of it will be up to your imagination......have fun and have at it!

Doug M.

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Doug is spot on. The following is my opinion:

Their are two places to start with any speedster design, and they are directly related to each other, and each is as important as the other. The Radiator Shroud and the Steering Wheel. You need to determine the optimum height for the steering wheel. But there is a relationship with the steering wheel height and the Cowl/dashboard height. You need to see over the cowl comfortably and not have to look around to see the gauges. That puts the cowl/steering wheel to the seat in relationship with each other. The cowl on the other hand, is in constant visual relationship with the Hood. The cowl should start level with the hood and slope up a bit to the windshield/dashboard. Of course the Hood needs to start at the radiator shroud. Alternately, the cowl could be flat if it is raised a bit above the hood. You can get away with a completely flat hood to cowl if the front of the Speedster is lower than the rear by a couple of inches. Then the hood and cowl appear to have some rake because the front end is lower. In my opinion, unless you are building a replica era race car, an all flat Radiator Shroud to dashboard looks off. I sometimes see hoodless rods or speedsters and the radiator shroud is higher than the cowl, in my opinion that never looks right to me.

To start a speedster build, you need to set your steering wheel height in relationship to the seat and your physical size. Build your mount for the radiator shroud and mount it. Use strips of masking tape to simulate the hood lines to the firewall. Using cardboard as a template build the dashboard. Use masking tape to simulate the cowl lines from the firewall to the dashboard. Then adjust and tweak until it looks and feels right. Drawing it out on the computer helps an overall and gives you proportions to wheel size etc, but does not take into account your body size, length of your legs and arms. You need to be comfortable and safely reach all of the controls. From the drivers seat back, the sky is the limit, bullets, turtle decks, boat tails, all are good.

Note that my thoughts are geared towards an enclosed body speedster, not a Rootlieb type. The open cars have different lines to work with, particularly in seat height to steering wheel relationship.

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  • 4 weeks later...

what do you do about the radiator shell ? I have a 27 Studebaker I'm building a speedster from,I would like to use the stock radiator and cowl but they are pretty tall I'm afraid it won't look good Any suggestions will be helpful. Thanks

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Well I'm not familiar with the Studebaker parts, but one thing you might do is to move the radiator forward, off of the front cross member Make a new cross member mounted to the bottom of the frame rails and mount the radiator there That will lower the radiator about 4 or 5 inches, and lengthen the hood and cowl, which will give it a longer lower look. Some people do not like the look of the radiator in front of the front axle, but to me, if it has been dropped, then it looks good That is of course in m opinion

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Since this thread is about design ideas... I'll hazard my opinion on "later" chassis used as speedsters. The speedster is really a product of the late brass period and the early 20s when there were lots of earlier, good running but hopelessly old-fashioned cars to be had. Styles changed very quickly and people in 1920 were every bit as fashion conscious then as now, perhaps even more so as there was no panache attached to "old"... antiques dated from the 18th century and earlier, most everything else was junk. There was no "nostalgia" industry and people who affected "old fashioned" were more likely to be laughed at than admired. Ask yourself how often you've seen a street scene photograph from 1925 with a 10 or 12 year old car in it? I don't think anyone would have built a speedster on a 20s chassis (presuming the car was already 4 or 5 years old when assembled) that looked anything like one from the brass period. They'd be far more likely to make some sort of faux-racing car...

Were I to build a car on a 20s chassis, I think this one, (courtesy of The Old Motor, one of my favorite web sites) is probably one of the best I've seen. Notice the use of the original gas tank too. Actually this chassis is a 1913 Hudson, rebodied in the 20s and looking newer, not older than it really was. I've no idea how to attach the photo so it shows up, so here is the link.

HarperI | The Old Motor

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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Forgive my ignorance, but how does one lower the steering column? Is it just a matter of re-positioning the steering box by drilling new mounting holes. Or will the steering column drop enough inches as-is?

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Since this thread is about design ideas... I'll hazard my opinion on "later" chassis used as speedsters. The speedster is really a product of the late brass period and the early 20s when there were lots of earlier, good running but hopelessly old-fashioned cars to be had. Styles changed very quickly and people in 1920 were every bit as fashion conscious then as now, perhaps even more so as there was no panache attached to "old"... antiques dated from the 18th century and earlier, most everything else was junk. There was no "nostalgia" industry and people who affected "old fashioned" were more likely to be laughed at than admired. Ask yourself how often you've seen a street scene photograph from 1925 with a 10 or 12 year old car in it? I don't think anyone would have built a speedster on a 20s chassis (presuming the car was already 4 or 5 years old when assembled) that looked anything like one from the brass period. They'd be far more likely to make some sort of faux-racing car...

Were I to build a car on a 20s chassis, I think this one, (courtesy of The Old Motor, one of my favorite web sites) is probably one of the best I've seen. Notice the use of the original gas tank too. Actually this chassis is a 1914 Hudson, rebodied in the 20s and looking newer, not older than it really was. I've no idea how to attach the photo so it shows up, so here is the link.

HarperI | The Old Motor

Here is the photo that he linked to seen below. On The Old Motor we have many photos of speedsters and in our pre war auto racing section you are sure to find many more.

HarperI.jpg

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RE: Steering column, all (or most... I can't remember every one) of the early ones I've looked at are kept up by a bracket or the mounting attached to the fire wall or floor boards. I remember working on one, years ago, that was adjustable, not because it was going to be lowered but because they were supplied to multiple manufacturers who had different requirements. Steering boxes were often made by specialists, not by the car companies themselves, unless the company was very big.

I don't remember seeing one where the box itself is bolted to the frame and, since the steering shaft is round, it can pivot down. I'm certain there may be exceptions and can't say what was going on in the late 20s or the 30s because those are "new" cars in my world!

An afterthought... the steering column rake was often dictated by the body design and the column had to be adjustable to some degree to accommodate the different styles. A sedan often had a higher column than a roadster on the same chassis.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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Guest BillP

These are "new" cars for a couple reasons: both are of recent construction and both are outside the era of this discussion, I sense. Neither is a speedster of the type discussed, one being more correctly called a sports tourer and the other is a closed car. Nevertheless, they are utterly striking. I have misspent a bit of time drooling (figuratively of course) over each.

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post-30966-143141873423_thumb.jpg

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Forgive my ignorance, but how does one lower the steering column? Is it just a matter of re-positioning the steering box by drilling new mounting holes. Or will the steering column drop enough inches as-is?

The only ignorant question is the one you do not ask! We all get a little smarter by asking questions.

I can only speak for an Ford Model A, but it is easy on an A. There is a bracket under the fuel tank that supports the steering column If you are using the original tank, you get or make a longer bracket. There is a hole in the floor, and you are probably going to replace the floor, but if not, then the hole needs to elongated a bit. Where the steering box is bolts to the frame yo remove the two bolts, tilt the column down where you want it, and re-drill the frame to put the bolts back in.

I have a set of the Rootlieb kit instructions, it covers the steering column, but leaves a lot for you to figure out.:confused:.. If you want a copy, let me know, I would be happy to share.

Edited by QGolden (see edit history)
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Guest BillP
post-30966-143141873981_thumb.gifI should clarify my previous. This car was built recently (30 years ago?) as a reproduction of the original that was lost in a fire shortly after construction. This car is very accurate to the original and is in the museum in LaPorte, Ind.
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