The Best Performing Kit Cars Use the Best Performing Wire
Switching to ESAB's OK AristoRod™ 12.50 electrode improves GMAW welding results at Factory Five Racing, the world's premier manufacturer of kit cars
While a kit car – a modern reproduction of a classic car – can look exactly like the original, don't expect it to perform that way if it's a kit car from Factory Five Racing, Inc. View Video
The replicas produced by this Wareham, Mass., company not only out-perform the original in every aspect, they fit within the pocketbook of the average car enthusiast. Factory Five can build a performance car that's safe, fast, fun and affordable because it combines modern manufacturing techniques with traditional skills such as hand-laid fiberglass bodies and frames welded using ESAB's OK AristoRod 12.50 (ER70S-6) MIG wire with the GMAW process.
"All of our cars outperform the original, but you don't have to spend so much that you won't take it out and have fun with it," says Nate Johnson, Operations Manager, Factory Five Racing. "You don't feel bad when it gets wet in the rain" (because the price of a kit ranges from $15,000 to about $25,000).
Achieving world-class performance takes world-class technology, parts and construction, setting Factory Five far apart from industry competitors known for producing low-value, second-rate car kits. For a project where customers invest about 250 hours assembling the car components, first-rate quality quickly becomes non-negotiable.
"The difference between our car kits and all of our competitors is quality and repeatability," says Johnson. "We need to maintain the same high quality with each part over and over again. We design on the computer, cut on a laser and weld in super tight jigs. If for some reason you need a new part, I can send you the exact same part, even if it's from five years ago."
The Whole Kit and Caboodle
Founded in 1995, Factory Five manufactures six car kits, including the Mk4 Roadster, which is Factory Five's "bread and butter" and the world's best-selling build-it-yourself replica. The other cars are a '33 Hot Rod, Type 65 Coupe, GTM Supercar, Project 818 and Challenge Series Racer. With the exception of powder coating, which is outsourced, manufacturing operations include parts, laser cutting, welding and fiberglass molding and assembly that are contained in a combined 62,000-square-foot, one-stop shop.
"We make sure that our customers have everything they need in the kit," says Johnson. "They won't have to do any sort of cutting or welding. It is truly a non-fabrication kit. Everything is top-quality, brand new and clean. All they do is supply running gear, an engine and their time to assemble the kit."
While many companies were plasma cutting, band sawing or jig sawing their parts, Factory Five made a vertically integrated move with the purchase of a laser cutter.
"A lot of companies wanted to make one-off 'snowflake' cars," says Johnson. "Eighty percent of our competitors make maybe 20 cars a year. We knew we could do that in a week with laser cutting, so we purchased one."
All parts are welded in house using stationary and spin jigs that enable welding in position. The jigs are designed the same way as the finished parts — for repeatability. Once the steel is laser cut, it is placed in the jig and clamped with dowel pins that ensure repeat part placement every time. "This is what makes our welding different," says Johnson. "We make it so that we can repeat everything over and over again."
Each frame receives two quality control checks prior to powder coating and another when it comes back in, but Factory Five welders don't miss welds," says Johnson. "I have one guy who has welded every 33 Hotrod frame that's gone out of this shop. He's welded 783 of them in the frame jig. He takes pride in his work."
In addition to laser, jigs and skilled American welders, ESAB's filler metal contributes significantly to welding success.
Better Wire Performance
About four years ago, Factory Five's Welding Manager Chad Gonsalves recalls that the manufacturer of its old wire increased the price to $1.99 per pound, which was a significant jump considering that Factory Five buys more than 10,000 lbs. of wire per year. This opened the door for testing other brands of wires.
Initially, Gonsalves thought he could save a little bit of money without sacrificing quality, but what he got with ESAB's OK AristoRod 12.50 ER70S-6 GMAW wire was a much better wire, with fewer problems at a lower cost.
"With our other wire, we would get a lot of cold starts," he says. "The welders would start the arc and the wire would fuse to the tip right away. Often we would have to scrap the tip immediately." After switching to OK AristoRod 12.50, "I noticed that our everyday welding problems were tapering off. We don't go through as many contact tips and the wire feeds more easily through the liner. We were blowing through contact tips like crazy with some of the other wire."
OK AristoRod is a non-copper coated GMAW wire with advanced surface characteristics that provide consistent welding performance, a stable arc with low feeding force, trouble-free feedability, excellent arc ignition and extremely low spatter level. ESAB conducted a series of highly-rigorous laboratory tests comparing OK AristoRod to copper-coated wires.
A summary of those tests is available in the Knowledge section of ESAB's website, but Gonsalves' real-world experience confirms all of the results in terms any welder would understand.
"Before, the guys would call me with problems, and a lot of times it would be the wire not feeding through the liner correctly," says Gonsalves. "The gun would pulse and they would get a lot of wire slipping sticking and spatter, but that isn't happening now. It saves us a lot of time because less spatter results in less clean up and grinding.
"With the AristoRod wire and anti-spatter spray, I could probably pick any spatter off with my fingernail," says Gonsalves. "If there's a lot of spatter [like there often is with inferior wires], it will fuse into the metal and you need a grinder to get it off."
You're Only as Good as Your Tools
Quality and pride go in hand in hand at Factory Five. "We take pride in our work, and we know that we're only as good as the tools we use," says Gonsalves. "When you have the right tool, such as the AristoRod wire, you can just set it and not worry about it jamming in the liner or going through a tip every day."
And if you provide welders with the right tools, they learn and develop their skills more quickly. "If you give them a good machine with a good wire, they see talent that would otherwise not materialize with lower quality tools," says Gonsalves. "This creates excitement and pride that go hand-in-hand with quality across the board, so I don't cut corners anywhere."View the Factory Five Video
(Click images below for larger view.)
"With the AristoRod wire and anti-spatter spray, I could probably pick any spatter off with my fingernail," says
Chad Gonsalves, Factory Five welding manager.
Even with so three starts and stops in a small
AristoRod GMAW produces fewer shavings in
After switching to OK AristoRod 12.50, "I noticed that our everyday welding problems were tapering off. We don't go
through as many contact tips and the wire feeds more easily through the liner," says Chad Gonsalves, Factory Five