If you enjoy lateral thinking solutions to car modification, you're sure to be interested in browsing catalogs of mechanical and electrical parts. Parts found in catalogs designed for other industries will often trigger thoughts along the lines of "Hmmm, I'm sure I can use that as part of a boost control.... or that as an intake duct.... or that as an intercooler cooling fan... or that to move my front spoiler...".
Here's a selection of catalogs that I've found over the years to contain lots of good bits. The pictured catalogs aren't always the latest, but by using the details provided you should be able to get the current catalog without too many problems. Where I have written that the catalog is available "free to companies" it makes sense to request it on behalf of the company where you work, or some similar subterfuge....
I haven't included CD-ROM catalogs because when you just want to browse (as opposed to go straight to a specific part) they tend to be pretty painful to work with.
Hare and Forbes Machinery House
Hare and Forbes have outlets in Sydney, Brisbane. Melbourne and Perth. The company is probably Australia’s largest seller of metalworking and woodworking machinery, and much of it is priced at a level that’s suitable for the serious car modifier.
If you are after a lathe, mill, bandsaw, measuring tools, sheet metal folder, sheet metal roller, tube bender or the like, this is the catalog to consult. Importantly, the company also sells the tooling and accessories to suit lathes and mills - indexing heads, tool holders, tool bits and so on.
Prices are included in the catalog. The current metalworking catalog is in full colour, is 123 pages long and is free. A similar sized woodworking catalog is also available.
A 452 page, full colour catalog, the Jaycar Electronics publication contains a wide range of electronics components, kits and hardware.
With many stores around Australia, and outlets in New Zealand, the US and the UK, they're also conveniently at hand - and if you don't live near to a Jaycar store or authorised dealer, you can order on-line.
Stuff of interest to car nuts includes a very wide range of automotive electronic kits (eg digital tacho, mixture meter, rev limiter, fuel adjuster, boost control); electronic pre-built modules (light flashers, battery chargers); multimeters; hand tools, a very wide range of speakers; central locking kits; alarms; and LCD remote thermometers.
It's a catalog definitely worth having, especially since prices are generally very good.
The RS Component’s catalog is the ‘bible’ when it comes to finding electronic and mechanical bits and pieces. The catalog I have (April 2007 – March 2008) has well over 2000 pages. The company has probably the best local range of electronic components, and a huge number of fasteners, pneumatics and hydraulics, bearings, adhesives, tools and materials.
However, prices are way high – you can be absolutely sure that if you go to another vender, you can always find a lower price for the same part! To be fair, one reason that RS prices are so high is that the company generally has the item in stock – at worst, they can get it overnight.
I tend to use the catalog as a source book, perhaps buying a single part from RS and then if I need more, getting them from elsewhere.
Prices are listed in the catalog.
Minitech is a Brisbane-based modelling and engineering supply company. Their catalog is a B&W design of about 70 pages.
The company has an excellent range of machinery and tooling in smaller sizes. Drill bits (and countersinks and counterbores and broaches!), lathe tools, milling cutters, taps and dies, and hand tools – they’re all there. Also available are specialist materials like silver steels for turning, and square and hexagonal section brass.
Pricing is not listed in the catalog but is shown on the website.
Narva Automotive Lighting and Electrical
Of the catalogs listed here, this one’s the only automotive example! As its name suggests, it covers automotive lighting and electrical components. At nearly 400 pages and in full colour, the catalog has an enormous range of well depicted and specified parts.
Driving lights, foglights, flashing lights, fuses (including hard to find fusible links and circuit breakers), switches (including high current ones), flashers, relays and horns – they’re all there. There’s also a wide range of LED lights suitable for custom applications. Charts show the most common applications of globes and other replacement components.
Unfortunately, product pricing is not listed.
This one’s a very unusual catalog – it contains numerous items designed for small industrial transmission of power.
You’ll find gears (spur, bevel, worm), rack and pinion assemblies, bearings and bushings, rose joints, small gearboxes and right-angle drives, linear actuators and shaft couplers. In addition, the company also sells handles and knobs, and linear slide systems.
Note that these items are not ‘car sized’ - you won’t find gearbox capable of taking car engine torque! Instead, this is the catalog to consult if you want to build a moving spoiler, a variable airflow testing bench, or an ultra lightweight vehicle.
The catalog includes full dimension drawings, is B&W and runs to over 300 pages.
And if you know of any other catalogs that contain weird and wonderful stuff of relevance to car modifiers, let me know and we'll include them in another article.