Titanium: From Airplanes To Motorcycles

Aug. 25, 2006
Material offers weight reduction and performance improvement.

Three years after titanium first flew as nacelles and firewalls on the DC-7 in 1953, the metal made a grand entrance into the history of show cars. An all-titanium body graced the Firebird II turbine-engined show car that was on display at the 1956 General Motors Motorama.

In production cars, as with the 2006 Yamaha YZ series motorcycle (see photo), only select components, usually chosen for competitive advantage, make it to the showroom floor. On the Yamaha YZ series, the component is the rear suspension spring where titanium results in a 30% weight saving. The alloy, TIMETAL LCB, had its first automotive application as the rear suspension springs of the 2001 Volkswagen Lupo FSI, a performance/economy model. Earlier titanium applications by Yamaha include engine valves, head pipes, heat shields and foot pegs.

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Getting Ready For Titanium

"Increasing numbers of manufacturers are recognizing that titanium offers proven and straightforward solutions to a variety of weight reduction and performance improvement challenges," says Kurt Faller, president, TiMET Automotive, Morgantown, Pa.

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