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Pennsylvania-based car restoration shop Hahn Auto Restoration is leveraging 3D scanning to build a custom Fiat-Hellcat car for one of its clients.
The client came to the company with the desire to build a new car, and the partners embarked upon creating the Fiat-Hellcat after being inspired by the Fiat Topolino drag racers of the 1950s and ‘60s, where drag racers would attach a Topolino body to their Rail Dragsters.
To create the Hot Rod, the company used 3D scanning to fit a Fiat 500 body to a Dodge Charger Hellcat chassis and determine where to precisely cut the cars in order to join them together.
“The Fiat-Hellcat project started out as most Hot Rods, two grown adults left unsupervised, usually guys dreaming up things to do to perfectly good, or not so good, cars,” said William Hahn, Founder and Owner of Hahn Auto Restoration. “However, we wanted to be able to drive this on the street, race it on a track, autocross it, all with modern amenities like air conditioning and an audio system.”
Leveraging AM for car restoration
Hahn has been restoring cars for close to 50 years, and established Hahn Auto Restoration in 2001 with Wes Woodward, originally under the name Hahn and Woodward. After Woodward sold his shares, Paul Vorbach came on board as a junior partner and the business was renamed to Hahn-Vorbach.
Hahn-Vorbach, as it was then known, became nationally recognized for its car restorations and custom builds, having displayed its work at some of the finest Concours shows in the US, such as Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and The Elegance at Hershey.
Soon after, Hahn and Vorbach started a spin-off company, HV3D, which sought to leverage 3D printing to help solve the challenge of locating rare and expensive components to build their cars. In 2017, the pair decided to give each business their full attention; Hahn retained the restoration firm which became Hahn Auto Restoration, and Vorbach assumed full ownership of HV3DWorks.
The two have remained close friends and business partners, referring custom to each other as appropriate. Hahn has also continued to leverage 3D printing and scanning technologies to complete his restorations and custom car builds.
“I think our first foray was to produce a 300SL emblem for a 1956 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing,” he said. “Some clients wanted custom emblems for their cars. In those cases, we were also able to produce down-sized versions of their custom emblem which they could install on their dashboard.
“Recently we produced an emblem for a 1957 Austin Healey. The original engine was a 6-cylinder and so it had an emblem with a ‘6’ as part of the emblem. The car now has a Corvette V-8 engine, so we changed the ‘6’ to an ‘8’ while keeping the same style and font.”
Benefits of 3D printing and scanning
Hahn Auto Restoration leverages 3D printing mainly to produce end-use parts in stainless steel, which tend to require post-processing work such as sanding or filing before they are sent for polishing and chrome plating. The company has been utilizing 3D printing and scanning for around six years, and has worked with Jerry Martin of Charger Metal Works to find the optimum grade of metal for printing through trial and error.
According to Hahn, one of the most significant benefits of using 3D printing is the high cost savings, “otherwise many parts just couldn’t be justified.” He also acknowledges the technology makes it easy to downscale or upscale the size of a client’s design, as the firm demonstrated with their 3D printed emblems.
Aside from 3D printing parts, the company deploys 3D scanning for a variety of other reasons. For instance, scanning a part enables the shop to have a copy saved and able to be reproduced should it be destroyed during a vintage race.
Additionally, 3D scanning enables the shop to compare a wrecked car, or a vehicle that has experienced “less than perfect” repairs, to determine any defects.
“After having restored Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwings’ and Roadsters’ bodies to within a few millimeters of the factory drawings, we 3D scanned each one,” Hahn said. “Now we can scan new clients’ 300SL cars, overlay the scans, and determine exactly where panels are misshaped. Thus, leaving no room for tricks to the human eye.”
Building the Fiat-Hellcat
3D scanning also allows the shop to locate the best lines to follow when cutting a car apart in order to “marry” it to another body or chassis, demonstrated through the shop’s Fiat-Hellcat project.
“I located a Dodge Charger Hellcat that was rolled over and totaled by the insurance company,” said Hahn. “It had less than 3,000 miles and out of Texas. Then, we bought a high mileage but rust-free Fiat 500. We reinforced the chassis portion of the Charger, then cut the body off while leaving plenty left over. We then removed the driveline from the Fiat and reinforced the body.”
Once this stage had been completed, Hahn brought in the services of Chris Tomko, a former employee who founded ‘AMClad’ tooling manufacturer Freshmade 3D which was bought by binder jet 3D printer manufacturer ExOne earlier this year.
Tomko scanned both the Dodge and Fiat then overlaid the scans to determine precisely where Hahn would need to cut the cars in order to join them together. The Fiat-Hellcat was then married together with new panels fabricated from 4130 high-strength steel and welded together. Hahn and Tomko are now discussing potentially 3D printing new body panels for custom cars.
Restoring classic cars
3D printing and scanning technologies have been leveraged before to reverse engineer and manufacture rare or discontinued parts for classic cars.
For instance, British restoration team Redesign Sport has previously deployed 3D scanning and CAD modeling to reverse engineer a classic Ferrari, while Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have both leveraged 3D printing to manufacture spare parts for their classic models.
Recreating rare classic car parts using 3D printing and scanning has even made it onto TV, when popular British automotive TV show Car SOS deployed the technologies to restore the customized central console of a 1970s Ford Cortina Mark III X.
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Featured image shows the custom Fiat-Hellcat. Photo via William Hahn/Hahn Auto Restoration.