Issue: Nov 2006


Steel ’57 Body-In-White



by Joe Tori

Experi-Metal Inc., a supplier of automotive prototype sheet metal and assemblies, has developed an all-steel 1957 body-in-white.

EMI was founded in 1959. For nearly 50 years, the company’s focus has been the fabrication of prototype sheet metal for domestic and international OEMs and tiered suppliers, though aftermarket has always been an important part of the mix. As company capabilities evolved, so too did the dream of bringing to market the first fully engineered and assembled 1957 body-in-white.

“It’s been a natural evolution – the culmination of a vision, detailed planning and teamwork,” according to Valiena A. Allison, president. “We all love the ‘Tri-Five’ Chevies, and we have a special passion for the ’57. This passion, together with our expanded capabilities, has enabled us to bring our dream to life.

“We began with decorative trim. From the sixties through the eighties, we produced small to medium sized stampings. We manufactured over 100 different Tri-Five components for the aftermarket, which we sold exclusively through our wholesale distributor network. In the early nineties, we produced our first class-A stamped body panels. Today, we manufacture and assemble complete bodies in white. Our rapid prototyping processes, coupled with rigorous program management, ISO 9001:2000 quality practices and unique capabilities mix, allow us to offer approximately 300 Tri-Five parts,” Allison said.

“In the last three years we’ve built five major bodies-in-white (advanced vehicle designs) for the OEs,” stated Al Sharp, vice president of sales. “We decided that the 50th anniversary of the ’57 Chevy would be the perfect time to launch an assembled body-in-white. We researched the market and decided to make a significant investment in capital equipment and facilities to support the program. Along with new weld cells and larger, full-vehicle CMM equipment, we’ve added 20,000 square feet of facilities to handle assembly. The successful launch of the ’57 paves the road for additional aftermarket projects.”


Gerry King, vice president of manufacturing, recalls the development timeline for the ’57 – and the challenges. “About a year-and-a-half ago, we recognized we could do this …. and do it well.” The approach was similar to that taken for OEM customers. “First, we validated every subcomponent of the car. We confirmed that each part would fit together, and we determined the preliminary build sequence. We built a ‘screw’ body that allowed us to take parts on and off the vehicle to determine the exact build sequence. Over a period of six weeks the body was together and apart six times.

“Building upon lessons learned, the bill of materials was created and the weld sequence developed. The next focus was fixturing. Through the application of technology, we confirmed the repeatability of the entire build process. A lot of attention was paid to fit and finish. We wanted to exceed the original OE standards. Our goal was to make it an easy decision for the consumer: Compare our all-steel, fully-assembled EMI body to the time and expense associated with searching for the perfect rust-free vehicle, investing hours in teardown, disappointing part replacements, fit and finish struggles and the endless frustration involved in restoring an original.”

Said Allison, “The result is a high-quality, all-steel body manufactured and assembled in the ‘Motor City’ by the same hands that create prototypes for future builds. The mission of Experi-Metal Inc. has always been to provide the highest quality products delivered on time with the goal of continuous improvement. Our ’57 body in white is the latest example of how technology, capability and expertise combine to produce a product the market wants.”

The ’57 EMI body-in-white is distributed by Sherman & Associates, Cross Canada and CARS Inc. Fleet sale jobber discounts are available to approved builders directly through EMI.

Experi-Metal Inc. is a world-class supplier of prototype and low-volume metal stampings, trim moldings, specialty items, full body-in-white assemblies and aftermarket sheet metal.


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