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OEM Report: Automotive

Updating classic cars

By Julie Sammarco

One fabricator uses his love of the automobile to create custom car parts

May 2012 - Since 1974, Don Sommer, an aerospace engineer, has been manufacturing new parts and restoring original parts for vintage cars from the mid-1920s to World War II. Sommer’s company, American Arrow Corp., Clawson, Mich., uses lost wax castings, spinnings, hydroforming and welding to make parts like radiator mascots and door handles from stainless steel, steel, brass and bronze.

“We manufacture the parts that make the classic-era automobile valuable,” he says.

Sommer uses mainly stainless steel, steel, brass and bronze, along with lost wax castings to make his automobile parts. The company has developed techniques for making molds for lost wax castings and for polishing and finishing stainless steel lost wax castings with zero flaws and defects, he says.

“We make lights that turn with the steering, over 200 different radiator mascots and wheels for Duesenbergs, Packards, Stutzes and many other classic-era cars. We also make Tonneau windshields, Wind Wings, spotlights, door handles and many other items used in the restoration of classic cars,” says Sommer. American Arrow operates a shop in Clawson, a suburb of Detroit, and parts are shipped to vintage car collectors throughout the world.

Originally, the business started when Don Sommer needed parts while restoring his 1930 Packard Phaeton. He figured out a way to make them instead of buying them. He soon discovered other collectors needed similar parts, which initiated the idea to start his own business. 

Techniques
Sommer uses several processes to make his many parts. The stainless pieces usually are polished and the bronze sculptures are patinated, a coloring process that can produce a variety of colors.

Workers make rubber molds from an original part to make radiator mascots. Then they fill the molds with wax and send them to a foundry for casting. When the castings are returned they are detailed, machined, polished and in many cases are flash chromed so the color matches the chrome on the car.

In restoring a wire wheel for vintage cars, the company spins a rim blank, polishes it and stamps in the dimples and punches the holes for the spoke nipple. If specific standards allow for it, the wheel is stripped, polished, copper plated, copper buffed and then nickel chromed.

“In some cases, we make new hubs,” says Sommer. “We have new stainless spokes and nipples made, polished and flash-chrome plated.”

Tonneau windshields attach to the back of the front seat of classic cars and slide backward to protect the rear-seat passengers. “To make these, we have a special glass channel made, which we bend to the proper shape, then machine the parts and then polish and plate them,” he says.

Pilot ray lights mount by the bumper in front of the radiator shell and turn with the steering through mechanical linkage attached to the steering arm. They require spinnings, lost wax castings and a variety of fabricated parts.

Sommer also manufactures a number of fine art objects from stainless and bronze, but says he enjoys working on classic cars most. He says, “it allows me to go back to my original passion, and that’s very fulfilling.” FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc.

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss UFP Industrial

PRESS BRAKES

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

AMADA AMERICA, INC. BLM Group
Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

MC Machinery Systems Inc.

WATERJET

Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

LVD Strippit

PUNCHING

Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.

SAWING

WELDING

Osborn

METAL FORMING

Behringer Saws Inc. American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing T. J. Snow Company

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

HE&M Saw

 

Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws

 

Triform

 

 

 


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