ARE PARTS REALLY TEST FITTED?

I just spent three days in Las Vegas at the SEMA Show and, as always, I spent a lot of time looking at all the new innovative parts that well-known manufactures have developed and insist will fit my application, plus 20 others. Huh? How can that be? As we build more cars it is apparent to me that these manufacturers are looking to the hot rod, customs, and muscle car builders and even you backyard car restorers to actually research -- and sometimes develop -- how these parts fit.

We spend hours, sometime days, trying to make one application work with another part, and perhaps not surprising, with no help from the manufacturer.

We had four cars to get ready to make the trip to Las Vegas to be put on display at the SEMA Show this year and a great amount of time was spent trying to make these parts work. A good example are moldings. We must have tried to fit pairs of roof drip moldings on a ‘67 Camaro without any luck. They fit loose and never seemed to snap in place. Our only alternative was to locate originals and have them polished or weld metal to the roof lip where the moldings go to insure a tighter fit.

Another problem with that car was the glass...especially the side glass. Of course the supplier told us that this particular set of glass had been tested and they fit just like factory glass. Not so! We had glass that the curvature was so off it will never be adjusted correctly. I think some of these manufacturers are in such a rush to get their parts to market they don’t care how it fits, or maybe the part is okay for some people and that’s what motivates them.

While I’m on the subject of glass, let me touch on this one company and its power window kit. The company reps will flat out tell you that their power window switches are junk….will not work, are not wired correctly (of course this is not said at the point of sale, this is said when you call their tech line and the kit is 99% installed. Well, then what do we do?) So we try original GM switches. However, we come to find that the pins don’t align with the switches, so that’s not going to work unless we change the harness. This explains the importance of building a car twice. The initial build of the car allows all these parts to be fitted and tested without causing damage to a painted product. Then of course, we disassemble the car, paint and re-assemble.

Another example is a B&M transmission that we installed. When ordered, the salesperson did not want to know rearend gears, tire size, or any other information that would help him determine what speedo gear would be needed to have the speedometer read correctly. So, consequently the car went to SEMA with a speedometer that didn’t work.

I know, not that a big of deal, right? Wrong! After the car came back from SEMA I had to pull the driveshaft and tail shaft, replace the gear and then re-assemble it, which takes time. Just to think, the correct gear could have been installed at their assembly plant if the right questions were asked.

To make matters worse, we had a radiator fit problem with that same car. We used a well-known radiator manufacturer and when it was ordered we explained the application and we were told it would fit with no problem. They were right, the radiator fit fine….what they didn’t tell us, however, was that the radiator fan shroud would be a problem, as it was so far forward it was in the front drive of the engine. So, a custom aluminum fan shroud was fabricated and theirs was sent back. It’s these little things that could be avoided if companies would just do their own test fitting for the applications they say will work, and then test with other combinations of other manufacturer’s components. That’s called working together, right?

Let’s say, for example, that I’m building a ‘67 Nova with a Heidts front clip and a small block. What radiator and fan shroud will work? Of course we don’t really know the answer, but the company selling a radiator should if they do their homework and communicate with other manufacturers.

I know the examples that I’ve given are small and a lot of you are probably saying it’s no big deal! Small or not, just because I have to re-engineer a part that doesn’t fit, I can’t justifiably turn around and bill the customer for the lost man hours.

This not an isolated problem with small companies. There are bigger examples from larger manufactures out there that I could talk about, but I still have to work with them and due to the fact I have to put food on my family’s table I don’t want to throw them under the bus. But that doesn’t sidestep the fact that their parts need to improve.

I guess what I’m saying is that it would be nice if they would do their own test fitting and not leave it up to the builders -- or their customers -- to do the R&D for them. 

 

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