Honestly, learning how to makes things from scratch is something you can’t escape in life. Great cooking, baking, and wrenching all require starting from the ground up. Are we right, or are we right? Sure, a lot of things already come premade, prepackaged, and easily purchased in the automotive world. But if you have a creative mind (like Grandma in the kitchen and Grandpa in the garage), then it’s inevitable that your imagination will land you in situations where an aftermarket part just won’t cut it. We can’t anticipate everything your mind will cook up, of course. But here are five situations where custom fabrication is the best answer.
Engine/Trans Mounts for Absurd Drivetrain Swaps
We all dream of a crazy engine swap at one point in our lives. Some of us more than others. Fortunately, swapping popular engines and transmissions into coveted platforms has an aftermarket stocked with the mounts needed to complete the job. Though, many builders like to fit odd couples together. In this situation, motor mounts and even transmission cross-members will require custom fabrication.
Besides, sometimes it’s just plain fun to create something yourself (like the custom seat mounts piece that we recently published). Sure, you could buy a prefab piece online, but half the pleasure of owning a project car lies in the work you do yourself. (And the ability to point it out to other people!)
No, beating the tunnel to widen it up isn’t always an option. I’ll be the first to admit that you can work miracles with a hammer and some heat but no matter how satisfying, it’s not always a viable solution. The transmission tunnel in a vehicle is shaped to accept the factory transmissions. When you start looking at aftermarket transmissions or transmissions from other vehicles to swap in, the tunnel may not be capable of accepting the chosen unit. In fact, some aftermarket companies that specialize in this sort of swap, like Silver Sport Transmission, will provide consumers with the necessary templates to make a transmission tunnel accept an aftermarket transmission.
Headers/Exhaust for Crazy Engine Swaps/Upgrades
Just because an engine and transmission are fitted to a vehicle doesn’t mean the battle is over. Let’s be honest, the decision to swap in that wild engine in the first place was fueled by the need for speed. And that means sacrificing performance gains isn’t an option.
Aftermarket headers may fit an engine, but they won’t always fit a vehicle. In this case, headers will have to be fabricated along with an exhaust system to fit the vehicle. Now, to be fair, excellent aftermarket kits from companies like Stainless Headers are available to make the process easier. But this still doesn’t change the fact that you will be spending some time welding those parts together in the proper configuration.
Sure, aftermarket Ford 9-inch differentials are abundant with popular platforms, but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea—nor are they in everyone’s budget. Swapping in a differential to back up a beefy transmission and engine combination (to prevent your car from puking its guts up all over the track) is something builders of all shapes and sizes will inevitably face.
Unless a differential is chosen from a vehicle on a similar platform for a swap, it likely will not line up correctly. In many cases, the axle tubes will need to be shortened and the mounting pads must be relocated for proper fitment. This is also a job that will have to be done in many situations where a vehicle has been tubbed.
Small Body Panel Repair
Probably the most common situation that calls for custom fabrication is addressing rust. Of the many issues rust poses, a big one is that sometimes it only affects a small area. It’s imperative to stop the damage before it spreads, but replacing an entire panel hardly seems worth it. Especially, when you factor in the expense and the amount of work such a task will require. Even small patch panels can reach over a hundred dollars, so simply making the patch you need from a piece of sheet metal is the choice approach for many techs and DIYers.
For more information on how to fabricate patch panels, check out our step-by-step Tech Corner here.
With any sort of restoration or project build, there is no avoiding some custom fabrication. Unless you happen to find that one-in-a-million vehicle in just the right condition with just the right build plan that says otherwise. (Good luck with that, by the way!) Mastering this skill will only open more doors, for situations like this and thousands more.