FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. - A craftsman stands at an English wheel, carefully working a flat sheet back and forth between the metal balls to create a complexly curved sculpture. In another area, artisans carefully smooth the surfaces of a full-scale clay model.
Just a few yards over the craftsman's shoulder, a new $1.6 million press is ready to apply 1,800 tons of pressure as it stamps out small runs of sheet metal panels. And not far from the team working in clay, a computer-controlled laser cuts metal, rubber, plastic or composite materials with super-human precision.
Such bending and blending has produced some of the more memorable concept cars seen at auto shows in recent years. The Chrysler Crossfire, Cadillac Evoq, Nissan Quest, Mitsubishi SUP and General Motors' Precept are just a few of the concepts crafted by Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters Inc. of Fountain Valley, Calif.
"We have the latest technology. We believe strongly in technology," CEO George Gaffoglio explains. "But we can go back 100 years and do it the old-fashioned way with the English wheel and hammers."
Metalcrafters is not the only concept car constructor in North America. (See page 4D-F.) But it gained a reputation for turning Chrysler's designs into breathtaking works of automotive art. As a result, many other companies hired the family business to turn their designers' dreams into metal, glass and rubber sculpture.