Technology – Tubular space frame

11 05 2009

AutoZine Technical School – Chassis

Tubular space frame. One of the earliest examples was the post-war Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” racing car. Tubular space frame chassis employs dozens of circular-section tubes (some may use square-section tubes for easier connection to the body panels, though circular section provides the maximum strength), position in different directions to provide mechanical strength against forces from anywhere. These tubes are welded together and forms a very complex structure, as you can see in the above pictures.

For higher strength required by high performance sports cars, tubular space frame chassis usually incorporate a strong structure under both doors (see the picture of Lamborghini Countach), hence result in unusually high door sill and difficult access to the cabin.

In the early 50s, Mercedes-Benz created a racing car 300SLR using tubular space frame. This also brought the world the first tubular space frame road car, 300SL Gullwing. Since the sill dramatically reduced the accessibility of carbin, Mercedes had to extend the doors to the roof so that created the “Gullwings”.Since the mid 60s, many high-end sports cars also adopted tubular space frame to enhance the rigidity / weight ratio. However, many of them actually used space frames for the front and rear structure and made the cabin out of monocoque to cut cost.


Advantage: Very strong in any direction. (compare with ladder chassis and monocoque chassis of the same weight)

Disadvantage: Very complex, costly and time consuming to be built. Impossible for robotized production. Besides, it engages a lot of space, raise the door sill and result in difficult access to the cabin.

Who use it ?
All Ferrari before the 360M, Lamborghini Diablo, Jaguar XJ220, Caterham, TVR etc.

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