Sometimes, good things come out of bad situations. Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. If you’re a fan of mixed metaphors, then check out this article from Automobile Magazine. The general idea is that the auto industry’s current aluminum surge came as a result of solving problems in bad situations. Or as they put it, Jaguar and Ford had a love child called aluminum.
When a relationship goes sour, it’s easy to focus on what went wrong. Surely, that has been the case with Ford and Jaguar-Land Rover. We dwell on Ford’s inability to understand European luxury and Jaguar’s inability to make money. And the X-Type. Gosh, what a terrible car. Yet even bad marriages can produce wonderful children. For Jaguar and Ford, that child was aluminum.
When Ford bought Jaguar in 1989, neither automaker had much expertise with the material. “Ford kind of went, ‘How about all this aluminum stuff?’” recalls Mark White, who joined Jaguar in 1986 and is now the automaker’s chief technical specialist for lightweight vehicle structures. Jaguar had in its misty past crafted aluminum racing cars such as the Lightweight E-Types, but these were exotic, largely hand-built affairs. Aluminum is usually joined by riveting and gluing, rather than spot welding, and it is much more difficult to stamp and form. “Most of the alloys used in Ferraris and Astons were really made by hand. It took lots of hours to get the shapes,” White says.
Starting in the mid ’90s, Jaguar and Ford engineers worked on ways to scale up aluminum production. Jaguar Land Rover and Ford slowly but surely worked through aluminum’s challenges with technologies such as self-piercing rivets and more complex castings that reduce the number of parts that need to be joined and thereby the number and variety of rivets that need to be used. Suppliers Novelis and Alcoa have developed aluminum alloys that are more malleable and bond more easily.
To read the full story behind this troubled marriage, be sure to visit Automobile Magazine’s full article. Spoiler: there won’t be any juicy TMZ-ready tidbits, despite the appearance of a love child.