Vehicles may differ in size, speed capacity, fuel economy, design, safety systems, luxury features and a lot more but there is one thing they all have in common and that’s framework, a skeletal structure which stands as foundation for the surface features (both exterior and interior) which can be observed. This structure is called “chassis.”
From the advent of the earliest automobile design, the chassis was the first structure which came into form before the concept of other mechanical structures. The chassis is a frame work which carries other functional parts such as the tires, brakes, engine, steering wheel and axle.
During manufacturing, the entire vehicle body is molded to align with the structure of the chassis which is made up of light sheet metal, alternatively composite plastic. The chassis provides foundational support for vehicle components maintains the rigidity and firm structure of the vehicle and provides a solid barrier from vibrations, noise and harshness or extremities of external conditions. The conventional automobile chassis contains components such as;
- Fuel tank
- Steering wheel
- Road wheels
- The engine and radiator
- Suspension system
- Clutch, gear box, propeller shaft (transmission)
Vehicle manufacturers usually begin their creative process be sketching out the chassis of the car they want, the sketched chassis may vary in position of controls, number of vehicle wheels and fitting to the engine, this further classifies the different types of chassis. The three essential classifications are
Ladder type: this is structurally the oldest form and is still used by a lot of SUV manufacturers. It has the semblance of a ladder-like structure. It is popular because of the ease of repair. Vehicles with the ladder type chassis are Citroen Traction Avanti, Toyota Tundra, Ford Panther series, Opel Olympia.
Backbone Type: it has the form of a rectangular tube, built with glass fiber and holds the front and rear axle together. This design is especially for small, extremely fast sports cars. They are cost effective and easy to manufacture, however in the event of a serious accident repairs are quite complicated. Vehicle models made with the backbone chassis are Lotus Élan, Lotus Spirit, Skoda 420, and DeLorean DMC12.
Monocoque type: this is a one piece structure, forged by welding the floor pan and other mechanical pieces together. It is cost effective and mostly suitable for automated machine vehicle production. This form is very reliable as most of the monocoque chassis type vehicles manufactured today is steel plated. Car brands rocking the monocoque chassis are – most of the ford models, Audi A4 and A6 series, BMW Xseries, Fiat Linea, Punto and a whole lot of others.
The control types on chassis can either be full-forward, semi-forward or conventional-forward. While on the basis on engine positioning, chassis come with four different engine positions; front, front- crosswise, centre, and back.
When it comes to wheels, chassis structure can also be classified according to the number of wheels. These are 4×2 drives, 4×4 drives, 6×2 drives, 6×4 drives.
The Techniques and materials used in automobile production continue to evolve with the huge strides being made in technological advancement. The future has begun!