PLYMOUTH – Imagine a composite material vehicle frame 30 percent lighter than steel, but 150 percent stiffer. Well imagine no more because the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center will be unveiling its newly engineered lightweight aftermarket frames starting on Halloween at the 2017 SEMA show in Las Vegas.

Although not yet in production, this forward-looking engineering could give specialty car owners access to an affordable, stiffer and safer car frame option in the future. It will be demonstrated on a small-scale model of a Corvette C2 Stingray. The full-sized version was originally built between 1963 and 1967.

The Center, a representative of the MEP National Network, collaborated with Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation and the University of Tennessee, Center for Industrial Services Institute for Public Service to create the frame. Although multiple lightweight materials are integrated into the frame’s design, the engineering and design team was able to keep the cost comparable to current production steel frames.

“A key objective for showing our new car frame at SEMA is to gauge industry interest in the lightweight frame as we look to commercialize the design next year,” said Michael Coast, President, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, in a press release.

Engineers chose the C2 Corvette as a baseline because of its popular body style and well-engineered original frame. Engineers involved with the project use morphing software to allow the lightweight frame to be configured to fit virtually any body width and length.

“The frame’s construction is not only strong and cost-efficient, it’s nearly 90 pounds lighter than the C2 Corvette baseline,” Gregg Peterson, Principle Materials Engineer, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. “We look forward to bringing this innovative design to specialty car manufacturers and restorers in the future and showcasing models to industry peers at SEMA this year.”

The C2 Corvette alternative lightweight frame is 150 percent stiffer in torsion and 450 percent stiffer in bending than the baseline C2 production frame. It requires no welding so the parent material is not weakened during assembly and allows for thinner section material, reducing material cost. The frame is joined using structural adhesives and mechanical fasteners; the adhesive bonds 100 percent of the flange which spreads the loads out over a larger area than a typical spot weld. This uniformly distributes the forces and reduces local stresses, meaning thinner wall materials, further reducing material weight and cost. The self-fixturing design also eliminates the need for jig fixtures.

The lightweight frame could also be used on airplanes, trains, trucks and off-road vehicles, as well as for military equipment, said Elliot Forsyth Vice President of Business Operations at Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center.

Saving weight will help auto makers achieve higher miles per gallon as dictated by the federal Corporate Average Fleet Economy standards, Forsyth said.

“The important thing to remember is this lightweight frame done with multi-lightweight materials can be adopted to any frame for any vehicle,” he said.

To learn more about the lightweight aftermarket frames, visit: