Now that the season is over you may be one of those racers who is either looking at getting into a new chassis for next year or, unfortunately, having to put a clip on your current one because that final race of the year didn’t exactly go the way you were hoping. Regardless of which category you fall into you now have a decision to make. And that decision is what type of tubing to use.

Thanks to Indianapolis-based metals distributor, AED Motorsports, tubing is no longer just tubing and steel is no longer just steel. Since 1995, AED has specialized in supplying the motorsports and performance equipment industries with high-quality metals. These guys maintain an inventory of products and materials specific to the fabrication of race cars, tools and equipment. So when it comes to building chassis AED can point you in the right direction. It supplies many of the Sprint and Drag Car chassis builders as well as NASCAR and IndyCar teams in the country.

AED Motorsports’ new Docol R8 tubing is a better, safer alternative to use when building your race car’s chassis

In the past you had the choice of building a racecar chassis out of either mild steel or 4130 chromoly. But now there is Docol R8. Pronounced (apologies for the Homer Simpson reference) Doh-cul, the material comes out of Sweden from a steel company that AED has an exclusive deal with. The Swedes specialize in high-quality, very clean materials a lot of which is used in the U.S. for the automotive market, not in tubular dimensions but flat steel that gets fabricated into A-pillars, roof bars, bumpers, foot boxes, and so on. This material is used for over the road vehicles that have to conform to government safety standards. AED is the first to have it produced in a round tubular dimension for motorsports applications.

AED’s Al Lowe has been working on developing another material suitably comparable to 4130 for about 5 years. “I was introduced to SSAB about two and a half years ago through a couple of drag car guys that are part of SFI chassis committee, Murf McKinney and Mats Erikson to give them credit,” says Lowe.

While getting the product market ready has been a slow process thanks in part to the differing cultures and the fact that AED is a small family owned business and their Swedish counterparts are a huge steel company, the benefits of Docol R8 is well worth the wait and the effort.

So What Is It?

“First and foremost Docol is a very clean material. It comes in a surface finish that doesn’t require any cleaning or scotch brighting like you would with the aircraft materials,” explains Lowe. “For example, before fabrication, 4130 should be prepared first with a thorough cleaning, and then using a Scotch-Bright pad to get a good finish surface where as Docol is more like a mild steel, a clean finish.”

Beyond its hygienic properties comes the good stuff. “It is a very consistent product both mechanically and dimensionally because of the manufacturing process used to make the tube,” says Lowe. “It’s rolled into a tube and then welded, therefore you can control the thickness of the wall. The consistency of the wall thickness is much better in a flat strip than you would find in other typical manufacturing processes, like 4130 or the DOM material more typically found in stock car applications.”

To carry that a step further, Lowe says that the consistency of the dimensions and the mechanical properties should generate a repeatable and consistent chassis. Think of it this way, you’ve heard some of the higher level racers say this car does not work the same way as that car but the same guy built the chassis on the same fixture. This is a direct result of the varying consistency of the metals. “Docol’s manufacturing process should produce near identical or the best opportunity for identical cars we have ever had,” says Lowe.

Easy to Work With?

Docol R8 is also conducive to heavy fabrication. Because it’s clean and not a heavy alloyed product like a 4130, titaniums, or other steels the weld zone (heat affected zone) is much smaller and more comparable to the parent material. “Docol R8 is not as brittle in the weld zone as 4130 or some of our other steels,” says Lowe. “It’s also very formable so we won’t have much change with our bending and fabrication processes and it can also be easily welded to 4130 or mild steel. Plus we can use the same filler materials for the cars as you would the 4130.”

In other words, when you bend or weld any metal you change its properties, which include its strength, at the point at which you touched it. In Docol’s case, that change at those touch points is minimal compared to the aforementioned other metals. That in turn makes Docol R8 a better stronger option for fabrication.