Shaping Your Next Classic Sports Car

Specializing in Classic Vintage sports cars. Hand Rolled Panels. Panel Beating. Repairs. Reconstruction.
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Vintage, classic car, or hot rod – your car is an investment. It deserves the best.

At J.S Panels, my goal is to produce the finest hand-rolled body sheet metal in the world. I specialize in excellence, with 35+ years of metal-shaping experience.

This is your passion. We share it.
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Metal Shaping, Welding, & Fabrication

Metalshaping, welding, and fabrication are the three foundational skils you will find at J S Panels. Using the skills which have their roots in blacksmithing and tinsmithing, and using the most basis of tools we’re able to comfortably fashion most any item that constructed from ferrous, and non ferrous sheet stock.

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Chassie Construction

Chassis construction and repair is a service you will find available at any traditional Carrozzeria, at J S Panels we’re no different.

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Coach Building

The origins of coachbuilding date back centuries to the time when carriages were built by craftsmen, from ash using a very basic assortment of tools. Fast forward to the early 20th century, and those very same skills were called upon to construct the framework of automobile bodies that were sheathed in steel or aluminum.

Metal Artist

Meet Joe Stafford

Panel Craft, LLC, founded in 1985 by Joe Stafford, is one of just a handful of businesses in the United States that professionally re-constructs and reproduces vintage European sports cars. Since its inception, Panel Craft has worked on more than 100 cars, including Porsches, Ferraris, Cobras and the Scarab, the rare and iconic race car. Joe was commissioned as panel beater and to oversee the sheet metal design during the restoration of the Formula One Scarab, which made its public re-debut in 1997 – thirty years after its original appearance.

Stafford’s background in reproducing handmade aluminum and steel bodies for vintage and antique automobiles began with an apprenticeship in sheet metal at General Motors, where he worked for almost six years

Years later, he moved to Massachusetts and began working for a prominent east coast restoration company. The clients encouraged him to start his own business, which led to the opening of New England Metal Crafters – now known as Panel Craft, LLC.

Since then, he has applied his skills to numerous vintage racing cars. In addition to the Scarab, other legendary machines brought back to their original glory include a number of historic Porsches that were chosen to race at Le Mans, France’s premiere 24-hour endurance race.

Where we build

The Facility Built in 1997

The facility built in 1997 can comfortably accommodate three projects simultaneously. Joe believes that bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to restoring exotic automobiles. Excess space translates into high overhead and a rush to take shortcuts, which can lead to sub-standard workmanship – something he will not tolerate.

Each job is handled with the utmost care and attention. Once the car is in the shop, progress is reported on a bi-monthly basis, along with photos (if requested) and a billing statement.

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Clients are saying…

"..I have known Joe for some time, his quality is top notch for any metal application. A true craftsman and master at fabrication. Two thumbs up!"

Jeffrey S. Gagnon, Worthen Industries Director of Manufacturing

"My Cobra has never looked better. You are a true artisan from an era gone by. Thanks Joe, I had not a single worry."

Wayne Odle
projects

Completed Cars

At J.S Panels, we’ve recreated Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Cobra, Delahaye and more.
process

Behind the Scenes

Step One: Inspiration

Creating a work of art requires inspiration, imagination, intuition, skill and a lot of hard work. When it comes to fabricating hand-rolled sheet metal for vintage car chassis, Joe Stafford of Panel Craft LLC provides all the requisite ingredients.

It begins with the model. Most of the time, Stafford is able to use the original car, from which he creates a template after taking measurements. “Even if there’s only one fender, I can do it,” he says. One fender provides the proper scale. From there, he can mirror the image on the other side of the car.

If he doesn’t have the back end of the car, he can still get the height of the fenders, the lift, the volume and other details. Stafford relies heavily on intuition and previous knowledge as he carefully examines the chassis, observing subtle details. “I also look for what isn’t there,” he adds, relying on shadows and reflections to provide hints about the shapes of the bodywork. “I study shapes, not the car.”

If the original car isn’t available, Stafford turns to photos – of which he has tens of thousands, many of which he took at car shows. If he doesn’t have it, it’s likely to be found on Instagram or elsewhere on the Internet. He will then track the photographers by their photo credit and purchase the images.

Step Two: Building a Model

Once he has the photo, he has transparencies made to use on an overhead projector to create a life-size image on a large white background, which he then cuts into three-dimensional templates. These are then used to form individual stations constructed with wire. After welding the wire onto the chassis and creating a 3-D grid pattern, he lays the buck template over the chassis to begin shaping.

Step Three: Creating the Car

After the buck is properly proportioned, Stafford needs to lay out how he wants to cut the blanks – flat pieces. He does this by attaching a paper template to the buck in a manner similar to creating darts in a sewing pattern. He then traces the outline and cuts it out with shears or a saw to create a blank, which is critical for shaping.

Next, he lays the metal on a leather bag filled with bird shot and uses blocking hammers with round heads to starts hammering. Once he has the rough shape, he proceeds to the English wheel to roll out the bumps and refine the shape, all the while checking the shape against the buck.

Wherever it touches indicates that the panel needs more work. Continuing to check his work against the buck, he looks for small scratches on the inside of the panel that indicate areas that need more shape. Because it’s not possible to make a fender out of one panel, he welds smaller panels together to create the bodywork. To eliminate warping, he stress relieves the panels. This allows the panels to revert to their original shape.

This wire method is the fastest and most cost-efficient, so he uses it frequently, but if he’s struggling to find the form, he turns to sculpting. He lays urethane foam over the chassis and begins carving. If too much material is removed, he can simply add more. Once the form is created, he adds a layer of fiberglass to stabilize the final model.

my method

Nothing Left to Chance…

If an original car is not available for measurements and templating, then photographs have to be used to construct a buck made of either wire or wood.

The most common method we employ is wire modeling. Using an overhead projector and transparencies made from photos, a full scale image can be projected onto poster board and cut into templates. These templates are then used to bend wire into individual relief sections. The sections are then assembled on the chassie using stringers that run fore and aft and side to side forming a three dimensional pattern. If the wood method is chosen for the sake of durability and longevity, the bent wire reliefs are simply laid over plywood with the outline traced and cut to form bulkhead sections. When all these pieces are assembled, they form what is sometimes referred to as an “egg crate”.

And finally, another method we employ is sculpting. By shaving and sanding large billets of urethane foam, we can mold virtually any shape for use as a pattern. To stabilize the finished model, a layer of fiberglass is applied giving it a surfboard-like quality which will allow it to stand up to some light hammering.

the right equipment matters

Tools of the Trade

To augment the two wheeling machines in the shop, we have the Kraft former 324 “Piccolo”. Additionally, we have accumulated a vast array of tooling which accompany these two hammers. Shrinking, stretching, beading, doming and louvering are cleanly and accurately performed in a fraction of the time required if only traditional hand methods were used.

If the ash frame of your classic car needs attention, we have every tool and piece of equipment on site necessary to implement repairs or re-construction. With this equipment, we feel we are the best equipped small shop in the country.

To augment the two wheeling machines in the shop, we have the Kraft former 324 “Piccolo”. Additionally, we have accumulated a vast array of tooling which accompany these two hammers. Shrinking, stretching, beading, doming and louvering are cleanly and accurately performed in a fraction of the time required if only traditional hand methods were used.

If the ash frame of your classic car needs attention, we have every tool and piece of equipment on site necessary to implement repairs or re-construction. With this equipment, we feel we are the best equipped small shop in the country.

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Edwards 42″ Type E Wheel

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Eckold Kraftformer KF 324 Piccolo
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Eckold HF 80 Hand Former

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Miller Sychrowave 250

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Trident 22″ Wheel

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Roper Whitney 48″ Finger Break

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Roper Whitney 10 Ton Punch

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36″ Slip Roll

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60″ Slip Roll

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Millermatic 200 with Mig Torch

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4 Henrob MK III with Low Pressure Regulators

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Hypertherm 600 Plasma Cutter

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Large assortment of dedicated hand tools

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

How much is it going to cost?

Because hand-made cars are each unique in their own way, it’s impossible to project with any certainty what the final tally will be, even if we have done the same model previously.

How long with it take?

Deadlines lead to shortcuts and shortcuts lead to substandard work. The process of handcrafting automobile bodies from steel or aluminum is one that we are passionate about, so every detail is meticulously executed. This requires patience and persistence to get it right.

Can you make a hood for my Maserati Ghibli or (substitute make and model)?

Yes, but only if we have a buck. A buck is a 3-D template constructed, using either wood or steel, which gives us a hard surface to work on. In almost all cases, the car will need to be sent to us so that the buck can be constructed and, in turn, the pieces can be fitted to the car.