2016 Howe Statement on Fabricated Stock Replacement Frames

December 22, 2016

2016 Howe Statement on Fabricated Stock Replacement Frames

Recently there have been a lot of rumors and opinions regarding fabricated frames. This statement is intended to make the actual Howe position on this controversial subject known.

Dating back to 1971, no other racing chassis builder has produced more chassis with factory frames than Howe. Stock parts are an excellent economical resource for racers for about 15 years from the time of production. When that time expires, the production parts become rare, expensive and irrelevant. The Late Model division was created in the 1960's as a lower cost alternative to the Super Modified class of the time. The rules in 1971 for Late Model Stock Cars were "1955 and newer, American-made cars". This new class allowed the use of recently produced late model cars. Imagine if the rules then only allowed 35-year-old frames; it would have been cars made on the 1930's. There was a class for 35-year-old cars then called Jalopies, and they were disappearing.

The IMCA introduced the E-Modified class in 1979 using the same successful formula as the early Late Models by requiring parts from recent factory production cars. Time passed and 1979 parts, are now also 35-years-old. The alternative today is Chinese reproduction pieces or fabricated aftermarket replacement parts. The redeeming quality of aftermarket parts is that there is an endless supply. The bad thing is that they can get out of control if unregulated which creates a class killing obsolescence cycle.

Every critic of fabricated frames seems to know someone that can still get a factory frame, but the truth is that these frames are not available in any significant numbers and scarcity creates higher prices. Howe still builds chassis with stock frames but only if the customer supplies them. No professional chassis builder can produce modified chassis with a factory frame at a price that is consistent with the intention of the modified class.

The Chinese reproduction frame kits sound like a good solution, but in practice, the stampings are very poor quality and inconsistent. The kits come in several pieces that must be hand fitted and assembled in a fixture. Even a skilled worker can not complete two frames in an eight hour day. In the end, there is more labor in preparing a factory or reproduction frame than there is in building an entirely fabricated chassis.

In 2014, Howe decided to produce a fabricated alternative. Great efforts were taken to build a robust frame without a performance advantage. Howe advises interested race promoters not to allow to fabricated frames until the majority of their racers are asking for them. The worst possible choice is to allow just any fabricated frame; this becomes an open-ended race to extinction. Fabricated is only a good idea if it is clearly defined and limited. There is no rule that does not require enforcement. Cheating can happen with both stock and fab frames without the enforcement. For tracks that allow the Howe Fab frame as an option, Howe provides a simple means of inspection and provisions for equalizing weight differences.

The best solution to the problem would be a modern production car that suitable for racing but until that happens; a fabricated frame is the most sensible choice.