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OEM Report: Automotive

United Pacific Industries produces components to restore 1930s vehicles

By J. Neiland Pennington

Above: 1932 Ford 5-window coupe, built from United Pacific Industries’ reproduction parts by Roy Brizio Street Rods.

United Pacific Industries produces components to restore 1930s vehicles

September 2018 - The gold standard for classic car parts has traditionally been what restorers seemingly contradictorily call New Old Stock (NOS). These are factory produced parts that have never been used, manufactured during the same era the antique vehicle was produced. The advantages: They are pristine and compatible with other vintage parts. Disadvantages: These NOS parts are very old and may possess the same flaws inherent in the original factory parts being replaced.

United Pacific Industries offers an alternative. The Long Beach, California-based company manufactures restoration panels and parts for classic cars that are exact in dimensions, but have the performance of current components. Think of them as New New Stock.

UPI began life in 1983 as a manufacturer of parts and accessories for 18-wheel commercial trucks—primarily Freightliners, Kenworths, Peterbilts and Volvos. At the same time, it fabricated sheet metal for classic cars, principally Ford Motor Co. and General Motors models. It licensed production rights with a focus on Ford’s 1932 Model A five-window coupe.

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The jig for assembling UPI’s 1932 Ford 5-window coupe reproduction body.

Vocation plus avocation

The company’s founder, Taiwan-born Major Lin, had a passion for the Model A five-window and was an avid restorer, says John Padilla, UPI’s sales manager. “As he explored the market, he realized that there was nothing available to restorers except rare and expensive NOS parts. Nobody had made reproduction parts for ’32 five-windows. So he decided to make those parts in house.”

UPI’s business on Class 5 to 8 truck parts took off immediately. The classic car restoration items started slowly but later accelerated. The business breakdown today is 70 percent truck parts and 30 percent classic car components. But orders for the latter market is growing at a pace that easily exceeds truck-related orders.

UPI has more than 10,000 part numbers for classic cars and has published a catalog for the 1932-’34 Ford truck and ’32 coupe, plus fliers for the 1966-1977 Bronco and 1967-’68 Mustang hoods. The latter include two Shelby styles and two for the Eleanor Mustang of “Bullitt” fame.

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The windshield header and cowl for the 5-window coupe ready for welding. Fixturing is manual, using lever- and C-clamps.

Two-continent operation

UPI is aptly named, as it links facilities in Asia and the United States. The stamping equipment in Taiwan mirrors that of automotive stamping operations. Its transfer presses are in the 1,000-plus-ton range. The reason they are located overseas is logistics. “In California, it is difficult to find a factory large enough to house the size presses we need,” says Padilla.

Taiwan is the source of the formed body parts, but Long Beach is the center of engineering and development for tooling. “We own our own dies,” notes Jai Baek, marketing and creative director. “‘We send the data for the dies to Taiwan, and the tooling is produced there.” For large sheet metal stampings, the dies are tool steel; Kirksite tooling is used for smaller, shorter-run parts.

UPI’s footprint in Long Beach is extensive and modern. It operates a 350,000- square-foot manufacturing facility, more than 50 percent of which is devoted to classic car panels and parts. Its 132,000-square-foot distribution center is LEED Silver certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The long supply chain does not create an economic hardship or make UPI less competitive, Padilla reports. “Because of material and labor costs, it is cost-effective to stamp in Taiwan and fabricate in Long Beach. We have no problem filling shipping containers, and once we fill a container, the shipping cost drops dramatically.”

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A UPI craftsman gauges the position of a right-side door hinge. No automation is employed in any of the assembly processes.

Banishing corrosion

The stamped body panels are coated with electrodeposition primer in Taiwan before the voyage to Long Beach. There the bodies are assembled, using both continuous TIG welding and spot welding.

Although UPI’s body structures are an exact match for the originals and compatible with NOS parts, building a coupe or truck with these new components is like having 1932-’34 vehicle built to 2018 standards. “Most of our components are stamped from 18-gauge steel for outer panels and 14- to 16-gauge for inner panels,” Padilla notes. “The original sheet metal from the 1930s was 19- to 22-gauge. The panels were thinner because there was no technology for stamping and deep drawing thicker materials.”

There is a joke among classic car fans that you can hear old metal rusting. But UPI uses two-sided galvanized steel—unheard of in the 1930s—for all of its panels. Combine that with electrodeposition primer and “noisy” rust is silenced for good.

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This is Street Rodder magazine’s 2018 tour vehicle, UPI’s ‘32 Ford pickup truck. The build is from Hot Rods by Dean.

Promoting the product

United Pacific Industries takes a grass-roots approach to advertising its wares, marketing directly to the multitude of enthusiasts that crowd hot rod and custom car shows nationwide. Major Lin commissioned a Model A ’32 coupe to be built entirely from UPI parts. Roy Brizio Street Rods, South San Francisco, California, was the fabricator, a well-known car builder with a corporate affection for ’32 five-window models. The project was completed four years ago, and the car has traveled the country as an ambassador for both UPI and the Brizio shop.

Another traveling show was launched this summer, this time featuring a 1932 pickup truck built for UPI at the Phoenix shop of Hot Rods by Dean (see sidebar, page 31). UPI is a major sponsor of this event, the Street Rodder magazine Street Rodder Road Tour. It is estimated that 2 million car hobbyists overall—many of whom are potential customers—will attend these events. FFJ

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