By the 1930s, most car companies were using the body-on-frame car-building format that would last for more than 40 years! But not everyone “got the memo.” In 1940, the Budd Company of Detroit was the first to create what is known today as a unibody construction vehicle. Nash Motors was the first automaker to contract with Budd for the new body format.
And then there was this: Time magazine of August 25, 1941 reported, “The first plastic car was shown by Henry Ford in Dearborn last week. His plastic, consisting of 70 percent cellulose, derived from hemp, sisal and wheatstraw, with a resin binder, is made of soybeans, wheat, cotton, hides, plus a few imported, now hard-to-get ingredients including cork, rubber, tung oil. The material was supposedly lighter than steel and could withstand 10 times the impact.” It sounds like the “grandfather” of high-strength steel.
In 1943, Boeing Aircraft Company designed an automobile slated for post-war production. Its design, not surprisingly, was heavily influenced by aircraft design, featuring a 75HP rear engine and an all-aluminum body. It never reached production, but its development underscores the fact that aluminum for cars bodies is not a new idea.
In the 1950s, Chevrolet introduced the fiberglass-bodied Corvette. Studebaker would build its Avanti with fiberglass in the 1960s.
Around 2006, car makers started combining aluminum bolt-on parts, like doors, hoods or trunk lids with bodies that were otherwise made of steel. It seemed like a unique idea at the time and a great way to save weight to increase fuel mileage---but it was certainly not new. In 1963, the Dodge Polara was available in a special package with weight-saving aluminum front fenders, bumper and hood with a custom hood scoop. The aluminum saved about 150 pounds, less weight for… “the 426 engine and automatic transmission to push down the drag strip or around a NASCAR track.”