Total Cost Involved Engineering, located in Ontario, California, is only a forty-five minute trip, even on the worst Southern California traffic days, from the powerTV Headquarters in Murietta, California. We took this short trip right after our return from the PRI Tradeshow in Orlando, where we got to see a full gamut of goodies for the project car building crowd. If you think that doing a shop tour of a single company would be boring after the plethora of parts we saw at a trade show, you would be totally wrong. What we found at Total Cost Involved Engineering was a virtual paradise for project car builders.
The Idea Behind Total Cost Involved
The idea behind Total Cost Involved is to put together a package that includes exactly what a builder needs to complete the car of his or her dreams, without any additional components needed. Every bolt, screw, washer and chassis frame included. Yes, we did say chassis frame, and we will explain more on that later. The Total Cost Involved packages includes the final price for the project based on the customer’s needs, which shouldn’t be surprising given the company’s name.
Started in 1974 when the company began producing Ford Model A reproduction frames for the classic car restoration market, the company began to add more product lines to help customers finish their project cars. Many of these were product lines included difficult or hard to find items.
Safe Performance and Quality Ride
We want to provide products that increase safety, provide performance and gives you a better quality ride for our customers. – Ben Bryce
We met up with the company’s Marketing Director, Ben Bryce, for a tour around the 32,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Bryce explained the three major goals of the Total Cost Involved Engineering process. “We want to provide products that increase safety, provide performance and gives you a better quality ride for our customers,” he said.
Bryce explained that the company offers “Ford and Chevy suspensions, both front and rear suspension, for classic and muscle cars and trucks. We support a complete chassis packages for cars and trucks 1928 to 1941 & trucks 1948-1956 for Fords and 1947 to 1959 for Chevy trucks. Our offerings for classic muscle cars extend into the early 70′s.”
With the variety of parts that cross these years, we asked how the company was able to provide a total package. “We have lots of options so it is necessary to work with the customer. Our first question is “what do you want to achieve?” From that we can zero in on what components will help the customer get to that goal,” says Bryce. Total Cost Involved Engineering supports enthusiasts that are involved in Street Rodding, Drag racing, Pro-Touring, Autocrossing, Road Racing or just plain old street performance, so helping the customer get the suspension components that will enhance the type of driving the project car will be involved in is the overall goal of the company.
Our tour through the facility truly began once we left the front office area into the manufacturing area. This is where all the project car parts were being manufactured and assembled, the heart of the operation, so to speak.
Products Manufactured by Total Cost Involved Engineering:
- 1928-1954 Chevy car front suspension
- 1937-1954 Chevy car rear suspension
- 1928-1934 Ford rear steer IFS
- 1935-1940 Ford front steer IFS
- 1935-1956 Ford Mustang II IFS and components
- 1928-1934 Ford drop axle front ends and components
- 1928-1931 Ford Model A Frames and Chassis
- 1932-1940 Ford car frames and chassis
- 1935-1941 Ford Pickup frames and chassis
- 1947-1953 Chevy Pickup Chassis and 1955-1959 Chevy Pickup chassis (Standard Street and Pro Street style)
- 1948-1952 and 1953-1956 Ford Pickup chassis (Standard Street and Pro Street style)
- 1936-1959 Chevy and 1948-1956 Ford Pickup Components
- Chevy and Ford Pickup Custom IFS and Mustang II IFS
- 1955-1964 Chevy car components
- 1928-1940 Crossmembers, mounts and brake parts
- 1928-1940 Ford brake pedal assemblies
- 1928-1974 Ford and Chevy rear ends and brakes
- 1928-1956 Ford rear suspension and brakes
- 1964-1970 Ford Mustang and 1967-1968 Cougar Coil-over IFS and Rear torque arm suspensions
- 1960-1965 Ford Falcon, 1962-1965 Ranchero and 1962-1965 Comet Coil-over spring front end suspensions
- 1960-1965 Ford Falcon Triangulated rear suspension
- 1967-1969 Chevy Camaro and 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird & 1968-1974 Chevy Nova Coil-over IFS
- 1967-1969 Chevy Camaro and 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird & 1968-1974 Chevy Nova performance style 4 link rear end
- 1967-1969 Chevy Camaro, 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird and 1968-1974 Chevy Nova straight line mini tub performance style 4 link rear end
- 1967-1969 Chevy Camaro and 1967-1969 Pontiac Firebird & 1968-1974 Chevy Nova rear torque arm suspension
- 1962-1967 Chevy Nova Coil-over spring front end and components, Performance style 4 link rear end, Pro-Touring/Autocross IFS and Torque arm rear end
- 1968-1972 Chevy Nova Coil-over IFS, 4 link, mini tub 4 link and rear torque arm rear ends
- Mild to wild Pro-Street frames and chassis vehicle accessories
First Stop On The Tour
First stop was to the shipping and receiving department where we were amazed at the amount of virgin material stacked and ready to become a chassis component. Bryce explained that all the stock metal was ordered from a foundry that was “just down the street.” The foundry had been working with Total Cost Involved for several years and knew the standards and quality that was required for the chassis manufacturer. “We make a full effort to buy only American Made products and to support the local community as much as possible,” said Bryce, “we do a lot of work and form partnerships with other companies in the California area when we can. Wilwood brakes and Currie rear ends are a couple of examples our the local partnerships we have.”
In addition to Total Cost Involved Engineering’s commitment to the local community for materials, the company is also involved in an internship program with the local college. Currently there are two interns working with the company that are being trained in their area of interest while attending school at the same time. “The hands on training outside of a laboratory college environment goes a long way in preparing these interns for a career in the real world,” stated Bryce. With a full staff of machinists and weldors, the company strives to achieve the best in quality control. Using materials that are laser cut and formed, all the welding and machining is completed in-house.
The next stop on our tour took us through the machining area where components are machined for precise fitment into Total Cost Involved Engineering’s Performance chassis. Everything from bushings and spindles to control arms and support members are processed through the machine shop. “Having a full machine shop in-house allows us to focus in on the highest quality in our parts and packages,” said Bryce.
A major part of maintaining the highest levels of quality control is periodic checks of tolerances of the machined parts. The equipment is calibrated weekly and the specifications of each part manufactured are checked continuously. The routine quality assurance checks guarantee that the company’s highest levels of quality are controlled. This level of quality control not only helps achieve the overall goals of safe performance but helps ensure that the components built at the factory are true quality parts. Ease of installation for the end user is a key concern for the company.
The Chassis Room
The chassis assembly room was the next stop on the tour, and a must see for anyone interested in how chassis are made. All Ford and Chevy chassis are produced from American made steel, fabricated with MIG and TIG weld for quality and strength. Total Cost Involved Engineering’s chassis are all hand built, frame rails are fully boxed and center K-members are weld in square tubing. The Ford Chassis from 1928-1931 have a two inch width by four inch height frame rails and 1932-1941 have a two inch width by six inch height frame rails. The Ford truck chassis from 1948-1956 and 1947-1959 Chevy truck chassis have a two inch width by eight inch height frame rails. The main reason for the frame rail height is to protect, strengthen rigidity for your vehicle and give your vehicle a solid foundation for your investment. A plethora of options allows the company to specifically build a chassis for the needs of the customer.
“Building our own chassis allows us to custom tailor the mounting brackets to the customers goals. If they are planning on using an independent front suspension or a four link coil over rear suspension, we can build the chassis for those options. It’s all about helping the car builder get what he wants to finish his project car,” Bryce tells us.
The chassis department has various different engines and transmissions are stored in this area where mock ups of all the different drivetrain combinations are fitted on the different chassis for compatibility. “By the time a customer orders a chassis kit from us, we know that his combination will work in the chassis. We will mock up the entire drivetrain so that the builder will have no problems as far as fitment goes,” claims Bryce. “As long as the customer has told us what engine and transmission he is going to mount in the chassis, and what the purpose of the project car is, we can make sure that the chassis is purpose built for that customer.”
The company also has an area where shocks, springs and coil-over packages are manufactured and assembled. Virtually any combination of shock and spring combinations are available. The shelves are lined with a large array of springs and shocks with almost any shock valving you could possibly want. The threaded coil-over adjusters are made locally and combined with the hats to make complete sets when the order comes in.
Around the corner, in a area off by itself (almost like a top secret, restricted area) was the area where company project cars were being built. Our crew was blindfolded and led through the area for fear that we would divulge any secret projects that would be unleashed on the unsuspecting public this upcoming year. We were able to get a quick peek at some of the four link suspension kits being installed on a couple of the project vehicles.
Engineering new components starts and ends with the approval of company founder and President, Ed Moss. Identifying a need for an improved component or chassis is the starting point. Generally, redesigning a suspension package or component for a vintage car or muscle car begins by examining the OE Stock part for dimensions and weak areas. From there, the engineers at Total Cost Involved design their own suspension based on the analysis of the stock part, consideration for the type of driving that the components are being designed for and personal experiences in fabrication and vehicle testing.
Using several different computer programs to design and manufacture the components, the prototype parts are checked for ease of installation several times before moving on to the “on vehicle” testing. Several different project cars are used in the testing of the components that are being designed for consumer use. Before a component makes it to the market, it has hundreds of hours in testing and design to ensure safe performance and improved driveability.
From the top secret vault we walked through another set of doors and found ourselves back in the shipping area where a ’32 Ford chassis was palatalized and ready for shipping. We paused to check out the kits that were being packaged for shipment to customers around the world and took a moment to ask Bryce how they managed to use some top shelf materials and keep the cost down for customers. “We take advantage of every chance for efficiency like bulk buying. Then we sell our scraps, like the metal cuttings from the CNC machining procedures. By segregating our waste streams, we can recycle a lot more effectively and the cost of shipping our waste is greatly reduced. Not only does this make our operations environmentally friendly, but it reduces the overall costs,” he explained.
We had to agree with Bryce, the facility was set up for streamlined procedures where equipment was cared for, wastes were reduced or recycled and local merchants were used. With less waste streams and properly maintained equipment and machinery, less costs were going out the door on replacing broken equipment or disposing of wastes. By working with local companies, Total Costs Involved Engineering is able to keep their incoming shipping costs down and maintain control of the incoming materials to keep them at a high standard. Teaming up with top aftermarket manufacturers like Currie Rear Ends and Wilwood Brakes has helped keep the overall packages at a premium level without the premium price tag.
The Total Package
From what we’ve seen, Total Cost Involved Engineering has based their company on making it easy for project car builders, working within a project budget, to get help from engineering professionals that assemble top quality components into a comprehensive kits that meets the expectations of the customer. Here’s the kicker; they accomplish this in a one-on-one with the customer so that the packages come out as a custom ordered kit with an off the shelf price. What a unique business plan!