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Auto body stamping dies


Aug 31, 2006
I was going to inquire of the members who've been in the auto industry: How do these aftermarket body panel mfrs. get the dies to stamp the parts from?
I have been under the mistaken impression that nothing short of a big company would have the pockets to have employee's build a big stamping die...that surely the repro guys must have had some back channel connection with the person at GM/Ford/Chrysler that was in charge when they changed model years, and would go in and buy out all the used dies and save them for reuse, like people have done buying out dealers N.O.S. parts from their parts departments.
But, what confounded me was that there is no way anyone way back when would have had the forethought to cabbage on to all them.... that there would have ever been a market for such things...
So, after barely scratching the surface... I find that, in fact, they DO make brand new dies.
What got me wondering in the first place was that a friend of mine.... a Ford aficionado, wanted one of the first generation Broncos. Was having trouble finding one in decent shape to even begin to restore.
Well, he came across a company that has produced all brand new sheet metal for those year Broncos.
He said "to hell with restoring... I'll buy all the sheet metal and have a bodyman assemble it into a brand new vehicle."... and he has.
He had the frame, and a body man has got the new tin all assembled on a jig, has painted it and is ready to put in the glass and interior. Said that they were amazed at how good all the parts fit together.​
He'll have him a brand new 1st gen. Bronco. Not sure what he said they were going to put in it for an engine.
One other thing. He said one thing he had to have was the VIN plate out of the original... the original that donated the frame. Turns out, the vin plate is on the glove compartment lid. He said he didn't find this out til way later in the process, but he said luckily, he DID save the glove box lid from the donor Bronco and, so, has the plate.
Now, he will have a numbers matching frame and body and will sail through the process of getting a title. I guess it will still be an actual 197? Ford Bronco, title wise, not a 2023 Ford Bronco... I thought that was pretty neat.
Here is a link to a company that is making restoration body parts... and other associated parts. I was amazed.

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That's cool! It always amazes me how nice all those panels fit together.

I remember back in the early 70's my dad bitching about how crummy american body panels fit together in that era.
Weigh an original panel and a reproduction, repops are as much as 1/3 lighter! Thin metal, original broncos were shit, they rusted out in a few years. How quick will they go away being 1/3 lighter.
Couple of scenarios.
1. Die is usually modified for the next iteration of the model to save cost so the old style part may be slightly different. This is generally for parts other than skin panels.
2. Car clubs have bought old stamping dies from companies that are sold off and pay someone to run them.
3. There are also companies that have bought up old tooling so they can manufacture replacement parts.
4. OEM stamping dies are over engineered, the knock offs are often made using cheaper materials and cast steel instead of tool steel die blocks.
5. The reason that a lot of after market panels don't fit properly is that the die is made using a scanned OEM panel and the spring back is not taken into account.
6. China and modern CNC. When I served my apprenticeship in the mid to late 1980's we were still using Keller aids and finishing largely by hand with die grinders in spotting presses. The dies can now be manufactured at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.

In the late 1980's GM and Toyota were in a JV, we were running stamping dies made in Spain to produce aftermarket panels. The dies were made using cast steel die blocks on the trim dies, these were in the form of a casting like a angle plate with flame hardened trim edges. On holes that were burst through the panel for using a self tapping type of screw one of the dies had a 6" nail as the punch. Shortly after we started running them Toyota Japan got a call from GM and the dies were shipped back to Spain.
Short run sheet metal panel dies were sometimes made using a low melt metal called IIRC ....Cerro-Matrix.
Kirksite. It is also used extensively in the shoe industry. I used to make blanking dies using it. The dies were to blank out brass shim for bomb fuse contacts. The liner inside a dress shirt collar was also done this way sometimes. When the die didn't cut properly anymore the edge was peened over and sheared in, voila off to the races.
Kirksite is a zinc alloy. Pricey to start out, but highly recyclable. Very economical for short run form dies. In some instances the die can be used as cast but for more precise work it is cast close and machined or barbered to finish.
The only problem with Kirksite is that it's unobtanium in Australia. I would love to have some on hand for simple die work.
I think its really unlikely that virtually any 1950s or 1960s dies actually still exist. I think they were modified, or scrapped, 50 years ago.
It really appears that the one company in Taiwan, Golden Star, is probably making 3/4 or more of the repop sheet metal today, and if you watch the video on the link, they are doing by spending lots of money on modern and antique machinery to do it very similarly to the way it was done in the first place. I love the picture of their 1920s whisker trim making machine. Here is the US distributor, with the same video. https://goldenstarauto.com/
Weigh an original panel and a reproduction, repops are as much as 1/3 lighter! Thin metal, original broncos were shit, they rusted out in a few years. How quick will they go away being 1/3 lighter.
My buddy did something similar to the OP with an older Chevy Blazer. He used aftermarket body panels and noticed they were lighter weight than OE. His first trip to the dunes he crinkled the two front quarter panels. He found out the hard way that those panels add to the rigidity of the vehicle.
Weigh an original panel and a reproduction, repops are as much as 1/3 lighter! Thin metal, original broncos were shit, they rusted out in a few years. How quick will they go away being 1/3 lighter.


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Here in Ijmuiden Netherlands Tata steel produces different types of sheetmetal specific for autobody parts
Stronger as in the old days So can be lighter with same strenght

Some times when the car maker went under the dies and jigs survived
You could get original speck body parts for MGBs
could even get aluminum fenders and doors if you wanted to pay the price
and that was a very odd situation the body didn’t really change much for almost 20 years

as far as quality well that can vary quite a bit in the after market panels and the particular
make and model
I used to go to ijmuinden from when corus acquired it from hoogovens,
Oddly car body’s are very rarely made of “steel” ok it’s called steel but it’s actually ultra low carbon interstitial free titanium iron, quite a gobfull so steel gets used to describe it, most of the car stuff gets made at port talbot in wales, hoogovens offloaded the ultra lows and electrical steels there when we merged, not profitable enough , hard to make as the degassers have to decarb down to .0010 to .0020 as the stuff picks up to the aim .0030 on its own, bit trickey.
Also there’s HSLA steel similarly, the IF titanium for pressing is very very ductile, the dies are just slightly stronger steel for cost, but car panels are very heavily contoured to give the bendy stuff some strength.
The toughest steel was the old Volvo panels, carbon and manganese, you think it was a tank early on, just look at a car crash between an old Volvo and a Toyota!
Current, aftermarket collision panels are near perfect quality. The largest manufacturer is, Gordon. http://www.gordon.com.tw/index_en.html
Enthusiast cars are an unsophisticated, whore's market driven by price. For early Broncos I know of two manufacturers, Dynacorn and Dennis Carpenter. Carpenter's parts are pricey, made under license from Ford. Quality is closely monitored.

A number of firms have offered assembled, steel bodies. Many I have inspected at SEMA. Quality of fit and alignment is a crapshoot. Few builders have the resources to engineer and fabricate professional quality jigs.

At this time, the most respected, early Bronco builders are using the completed, Dennis Carpenter body. Alternatively, I use the Bronco Design composite body.

The VIN appears in three places, the frame, glove box and door post.
I went to Ford motors die shop ( we were making steel for them, Ford A1 supplier bollocks) they had one of these giant 3D digitalised arm things to get the shape coordinates off the clay master, very techy, the gantry mill would then machine the shape after finessing.
The dies were webbed casting near to shape to save using giant solid blocks. The car was covered with a sheet when we visited.
They’ll scan 180” automotive body dies then use the data to reverse engineer the whole die or sections of it.

The first time I seen it was 7-8yrs ago give or take a couple either way. I thought it was 100% BS the first few times. Now, all new dies are scanned and the data stored until it’s needed. A section falls out and blows up the die. Weld it up or install a new section, grab the data, create the cutter path and machine it.

Boss man told me it’s only a few hundred to scan each die and it’s on us to develop the cutter path. We’ve scanned finished parts and transferred the data to repair older dies that were never scanned.
Newly manufactured may also be made with several progressive dies in smaller presses instead of one big prog die in a 700 ton press. Short runs can use an English wheel, press brake and slip roll for a few pieces.
Newly manufactured may also be made with several progressive dies in smaller presses instead of one big prog die in a 700 ton press. Short runs can use an English wheel, press brake and slip roll for a few pieces.
700 ton is small. 2400 ton doubling acting for bonnets etc. Most panels are not true deep draw. I shudder when I look at car designs from the 40s and 50s. Imagine all the time some poor toolmaker spent in the spotting press with a die grinder and polishing stones although the stones are more like bricks.