A look at Blue Torch Fabworks
Birmingham, Ala.-based Blue Torch Fabworks (BTF) manufactures more than 575 off-road parts from their 33,000 square-foot-facility, and 90 percent of these products go straight to do-it-yourselfers. Catering to automotive, off-road enthusiasts that aren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty,” owner Jason Carner and his team of 10 employees encourage their customers to become more personally invested in their own projects.
“We sell innovative parts assembled or packaged in kits and empower a customer to weld it up themselves,” says Carner. “That sense of accomplishment when it’s done and you’ve built it yourself is why we push DIY.”
BTF manufactures and sells everything from simple shock tabs to full back-half kits and full-tube chassis in a variety of forms. The company listens to its customer base on what needs they have and adapts and creates new products as manufacturers launch updated body styles.
In fact, Blue Torch Fabworks was the first in the industry to offer a fabricated DIFF (also known as differential) cover, which protects the intricate parts of a differential (a product that splits the torque from the driveshaft into each side of the axle, allowing the wheels to rotate at different speeds when the car is turning).
This product along with BTF’s unique product mix was created specifically with the DIYer in mind, taking the engineering and tooling out of the process, so the user only has to weld the part onto a project.
His DIY mentality, combined with the fact that fewer people today are learning a trade, is why the “True Blue” shop looked to partner up with Miller and inspire others to give welding a try.
“There are so many people that aren’t doing it now; it’s a dying breed,” says Carner. “We help people to understand that they can learn a trade and that you don’t need to be intimidated by welding; it’s not rocket science.”
Carner uses a variety of Miller products in his shop, noting that many of their machines run all day, every day. The shop finds that the Millermatic® 251 and Millermatic® 252 MIG welders are particularly advantageous to productivity and a favorite among his employees. Carner’s personal favorite is the Dynasty® 200 TIG welder because of its versatility and the pulse function, which he says makes it “stupid simple” to weld anything.
“We like Miller products — always have,” says Carner. “But what we really like about Miller is that they not only stand behind the big companies using their equipment, they also support the home hobbyist and offer quality products for this audience.”
While Carner’s welding equipment is better suited for a shop setting where employees will be welding for a living or running the equipment long hours on a daily basis, Miller recommends auto enthusiasts and home hobbyists consider the Millermatic 211 Auto-Set™ w/ MVP MIG welder, Diversion™ 180 TIG welder and Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ Plasma cutter.
“You don’t have to have an expensive machine to produce quality stuff,” says Carner. “Miller products, in our mind, are the best quality out there — in terms of customer support, ease of use and the quality of the equipment. We’ve never had a Miller let us down.”
“Project Fire Truck”
While the shop is an industry leader in the manufacturing of quality parts, Carner and his team are also widely known for their project work and complete at least three full turnkey builds per year. Projects vary greatly, from “Project Evil Bastard,” born out of sketches on a Waffle House napkin, to “Project Fire Truck,” a full-scale build for the National Park Service (NPS), a U.S. government agency operating primarily in south Florida.
The NPS needed a truck that could perform well off-road, including the most remote areas of the Florida Everglades. The truck would need to offer at least 66 inches of clearance below the seats, feature the largest tires possible and house a LS1V8 engine. Finally, it would need to house the necessary equipment required for fighting fires and implementing prescribed burns. Other than that, BTF had the freedom to dream up the rest of the truck, and they set out to create a one-of-a-kind, dependable vehicle.
BTF Vice President James Schofield and fabricator Jey Clegg designed the vehicle, with a focus on making it easy to maintain. The truck’s design started with a slip-in tank, which would hold the motor, pump, hose, foam injection, water storage and a draft hose that could directly connect to another truck, fire hydrant, or just straight into a pond or lake.
The fire truck has a Turbo 350 transmission, Atlas transfer case, four-link suspension, 2½ ton Rockwell axles and 49-inch Irok tires. The engine is a 410 horsepower turnkey LS1.
Racing for innovation
While many project builds have been exciting and memorable for the BTF team, Carner remembers his favorite project vehicle fondly — building the shop’s first car for King of the Hammers. The race, which takes place in the Johnson Valley, Calif. desert, is considered one of, if not the, toughest off-road race in the world.
The build was both fun and painful for the BTF crew as it was the first “go fast” car they built. The learning curve was steep with many late nights and weekends spent working away in the shop.
“At one point, we wanted to be done so bad that we all said we wouldn’t shave until we finished the build. I wish I had pictures to see how big our beards were…” says Carner with a laugh.
King of the Hammers is part of the Ultra4 Series, meaning all cars must be capable of four-wheel drive, as they compete in a variety of terrains like endurance desert racing and rock crawling. First held in the 2007, the race takes place every February and features more than 150 teams and spectators catching the action live and online. In 2010, only 43 of the 100 vehicles finished within the 14-hour time limit.
“When we finally loaded it up and headed west, it was the exhilaration of, ‘Man, look at what we just created together.’ A lot of people don’t get to feel that emotion,” says Carner. “And then to get to race it … well, there’s no better satisfaction than that.”
BTF participates in a variety of racing events, including King of the Hammers, Best in the Desert Series, Ultra4 Series, ECORS and Snore. The combination of rock crawling and desert racing has forced Carner and the rest of the team to be more innovative when they build and race the vehicles as well as manufacture new parts. Carner sees racing as a fun and useful way to create and test his own products, as well as test other products out on the market. In addition, the team provides on-site welding assistance and parts to fellow racers at the events who, without their help, may be forced to drop out of the race.
“The things that car did for the shop … It was something different from what we’ve ever done before, it was innovative. It had stuff on the car that people said couldn’t be done.”
The build featured an inventive steering setup and -24 cooling lines. And Carner and the BTF team say they will continue to do what many in the industry say “can’t be done.”
Their latest groundbreaking idea? The steering on a new car, which will have a solid axle with a hydro rack.
BTF looks forward to another 10 years of innovation — creating more project vehicles, better project vehicles — which also leads to new product development in the industry. Miller looks forward to watching what they come up with next!
Want to know more about “Who Uses Blue” to get the job done? Visit our Racing, Customizing, Restoring page on MillerWelds.com to access more information on Blue Torch Fabworks and other partner bios, features, videos and automotive tech tips.