A Licensed Mechanical Engineer at Glew Engineering Consulting was asked by a company in Southern California to provide a Professional Engineer (P.E.) review of body modifications that they made to a theme park owned 1983 Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that they had converted to an electric vehicle.

Figure 1. A Mechanical Engineer Analyzed the Front of Custom Sport Utility Vehicle 

Licensed Mechanical Engineer Reviews a Modified Electric Vehicle

The client had already designed and built a vehicle, so Glew Engineering analyzed an “as built” vehicle.  The company hoped to repurpose a float/SUV that they had used previously in parades.  Our client was requested by the theme park to repurpose the SUV, and perform cosmetic alterations to the body and appearance. The SUV was retrofitted with an electric motor, WiMax telecommunications, sound, air conditioning and lots of batteries. They hoped to use the SUV in a new summer extravaganza parade at the theme park, with one person driving the vehicle at 3mph, and various super heroes standing in the rear waving.  The schedule was tight as summer fast approached.

Mechanical Engineering Consultant Evaluates the Structural Integrity of an SUV

The Mechanical Engineering Consultant’s Scope of Work was to evaluate the “as built” body and focus on the cosmetic changes that the client made to transform the SUV, previously converted to an electric car, into a vehicle that would appear to be one that used in a new movie.  Our client had replaced body panels with highly stylized aluminum panels and creative design features.  Also, thy added a platform for a person to stand on and wave to parade viewers, and this was also was analyzed to ensure human safety.


Figure 2. A Mechanical Engineer Analyzed the Rear of the Custom Sport Utility Vehicle 

The Licensed Mechanical Engineer was Provided Documentation

The Licensed Mechanical Engineer was provided by the client the following documents:

  • Photo of SUV.pdf
  • Photo of SUV.dwg
  • SUV Component Weight.xls
  • SUV – Engineering.pdf
  • SUV – Electrical.pdf
  • Specs 1982 SUV 4.2L automatic.pdf
  • Weight Measurements
  • Leaf springs and mounts Parts Lists 


The Professional Mechanical Engineer Reviewed the Existing Components:

The Professional Mechanical Engineer at Glew Engineering studied the component list; many were robust and served the application well.  The Ford 9” Rear End and Axles, the Dana 40 Front End Axles , and Rear Air Shocks (2 total) were kept.  Due to the tilt and age of the vehicle, Glew Engineering recommended that the the leaf springs be changed.  Accordingly, they were upgraded to a higher rated set, moving from five springs to six springs, and the mounts were replaced.  (Read another blog on leaf springs here  Leaf Spring Axle Failure .)

Further, the client used an existing custom SUV frame as an “inspiration,” and fabricated a new frame from hollow structural steel (HSS).

In our next blog in this series, we will go into further detail on the weight distribution and the center of gravity calculations and assumptions.

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Glew Engineering Consulting, Inc.
240 Pamela Drive
Mountain View,  CA 94040

Tel: 650.641.3019

Email: ContactGEC@glewengineering.com