Breadvan_update_074: what is a coachbuilder?
What is a coachbuilder?
The coachwork is the body of an automobile. A coachbuilder, or body-maker manufactures bodies for passenger cars. We, at Niels van Roij Design, design these one-off bodies. Experts manufacture them. The Breadvan Hommage is a great example of how we work. Historically custom or bespoke coachbuilt bodies were fitted to another manufacturer’s rolling chassis. Craftspeople who made them. Often these people used to work on bodies for horse-drawn carriages. Some classic design houses and coachbuilders made short runs of more-or-less identical – as well as one-offs vehicles. Coachbuilt bodies became obsolete when vehicle manufacturers turned to mass production of bodies. For instance, Henry Ford is a great example. Simply manufacturing separate chassis only was not enough to satisfy most customers. In addition, monocoque construction, a combined chassis and body, became standardised halfway the 20th century.
Designing custom cars
Our design work is produced in different ways. Unless the design is (semi) mass-produced, for a small series, our designs are made by hand. Because it has to justifiable to invest in tools to make the body work. Most coachbuilt bodies based upon our design work are made of hand-shaped sheet metal. Usually aluminum alloy is used. The Breadvan Hommage project is hand-shaped by experts. The body is fastened to a metal frame. Old coachbuilders usually worked based on flexible and strong timber frame. On the images you find the Breadvan Hommage body, before it will be painted in its final colour. The coachbuilder makes the body entirely made by hand. The painter has prepared it to be finished – also by hand. Just like designing the car: all done by hand. Above all, coachbuilding a custom car is truly manual labour!
How to design a car?
All ultra-luxury vehicles made before World War II were sold as a chassis only. For instance, Duesenberg, Bugatti, Cadillac and all Rolls-Royces. In addition, many manufacturers had no in-house coachworks. At Niels van Roij Design history is repeating. We are designing the vehicles in-house. After this we are overseeing all production process. Independents, selected on their knowledge of the subject, do this. The current unibody construction of cars helps our work. New car bodies are unified with and structurally integral to the chassis. Despite this, custom coachbuilding is still very much a possibility. The Breadvan Hommage photos show all changes. For instance, the headlights, bonnet, fenders front and rear, air intakes in de side have been changed. The beautiful sculpture can be seen in the close-ups. Our sketches translated directly into aluminium.