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Tunneled, recessed, frenched


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#1 crazyjim

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 05:05 AM

What is the difference between tunneled, recessed, and frenched?

#2 High octane

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 06:00 AM

None to my knowledge, they all mean the same.

#3 Chas SCR

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 06:50 AM

They all have a diffrent part to the car.

Tunnel is when you drop the body over the frame and lower the body but do not lower the frame rails. You tunnel the frame rail inside the body.

recessed is where you move a part of a pannel like (Door or fender) back from another part of the same pannel. Look at the 49 Merc body on how the door is at the top to the bottom.

French is when you take the head lights or tail likes and push them inside the fender holes to a flush point. This take the headlight bezzel out of it and puts every thing inside the fender.

#4 Gluhead

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 07:03 AM

Frenched means that the trim has been blended into the body. You can french a part without moving it.

Recessed means to simply move back. One example would be relocating a floating grill farther back in the opening.

Tunneling is recessing with extra material added to fill in the blank space left by moving the part back.

This is one of those topics that can kinda bend your mind a bit trying to force everything into a specific definition. You can french a headlight without recessing or tunneling, but even if it's your goal to do so, you may have to recess the headlight to some degree in order to get the job done. But that doesn't necessarily make it recessed in the sense the word as intended here. :D

#5 Gluhead

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 07:08 AM

They all have a diffrent part to the car.

Tunnel is when you drop the body over the frame and lower the body but do not lower the frame rails. You tunnel the frame rail inside the body.

This is actually called channeling.

recessed is where you move a part of a pannel like (Door or fender) back from another part of the same pannel. Look at the 49 Merc body on how the door is at the top to the bottom.

While true, that's a factory feature. Not quite the same meaning for custom bodywork terminology.

French is when you take the head lights or tail likes and push them inside the fender holes to a flush point. This take the headlight bezzel out of it and puts every thing inside the fender.

That's actually a better description of recessing. :P Most traditional frenching jobs actually utilize the trim in the process, be it the stock trim or some other to give it a different profile.


Edited by Gluhead, 23 November 2012 - 07:11 AM.


#6 crazyjim

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 12:14 PM

Thanks for making it more confusing, guys. I'll just keep calling the result(s) the same as I have been. I'm sure somebody will correct an under glass post I might make.

#7 Art Anderson

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 01:56 PM

All three terms come from the "lead sled" era of customizing which started just before World War II, and reached its zenith in the early 1960's, and refer to bodywork.

What Chas SCR referred to as "tunneling" actually was called "Channeling" back then: Channeling was the technique used by early postwar hot rodders to lower the body shells of Model T's, Model A's and '32 Ford bodies down over the frame, by means of cutting the floor framing loose from the body sides, raising them up into the inside of the body shell then welding into place, which created a "channel" of sorts that allowed the body shell to be dropped down over the frame rails, generally with the "sills" of the exterior of the body at or just below, the bottom of the frame rails. This first originated on the Dry Lakes in Southern California for the purpose of reducing the frontal area of the car being modified, in order to lessen wind resistance at speed. It picked up popularity with the "track roadster" era, in which these same types of Ford body shells were channeled over their frames, to lower the center of gravity in hot rods being built up for racing on oval dirt tracks.

"Tunneling" referred to the technique of setting headlights (and in many cases, taillights) deeply into their respective fenders/quarter panels by means of using or creating a sheet metal tube matching the shape/diameter of sealed beam headlights and round or oval taillight fixtures. The resulting "tube" resembled the concept of a tunnel, with the headlight or taillight set well into the bodywork, behind the original lines and shapes of the fenders or quarters.

It's hard for a lot of modelers today to remember when car radios were extra-cost options, and when a radio was ordered and installed, the antenna was merely mounted over a hole cut in the top of the right front fender, just ahead of the corner of the windshield. One of the customizer's "tricks" became to recess the base of that antenna at the bottom of a short length of steel electrical conduit tubing an inch or two below the top surface of that fender, and this was called "recessing" the antenna, albeit the process being very much like "tunneling" as described above. This also referred to the idea of setting taillights slightly into the rear corners of a customized body, while the concept of setting say, '59 Cadillac "bullet" taillights deep into the sides of the rear quarters, say on a '46-perhaps ;52 or thereabouts GM car, certainly on a '49-51 Mercury or Lincoln, where the fabricated "tunnel" as described above was deep only on the inner edge, with the outer edge necessarily exposing a lot of that taillight lens. Actually by the 60's, this term, "recessed" became somewhat synonymous with "tunneling"/

"Frenching" referred to the technique of blending in headlight bezels with the surrounding sheet metal, by the use of lead (when headlight bezels were stamped steel) and catalyzed body putty when Detroit began transitioning to diecast white metal bezels). I believe this term hearkened to the looks of French custom body companies, such as Saoutchik, who created numerous voluptuously styled custom bodies for luxury cars such as Delahaye, etc. in the years immediately after the end of WW-II. Frenching was also used with taillights in many cases as well--but in any event, the technique was used to create a smooth, coachbuilt look as opposed to multiple separate parts assembled on a factory assembly line.

Hope this helps!

Art (whose been around since 1944!)

#8 crazyjim

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 02:35 AM

Thanks, Art. Excellent descriptions.