Shop Tour 2003 - Inline Tube

This is an archival post from March 19, 2003.

Inline Tube is located 40 minutes North East of Detroit in Shelby Twp, Michigan. Nine years ago this company started with 2 partners out of a small 2 car garage making a few different line sets. Today Inline Tube produces thousands of undercarriage parts.

A lot of people ask "how you start a company like this". First you have to love what you do and realize it is not for the money because there may be no payoff. The payoff is the pride you take in the parts you make and the cars you see the product on, knowing you were part of the restoration process. There is an extreme amount of hard work that goes into every part made. In order to make a part you need to have an original part. Where do you find a set of transmission lines for a 56 Buick Special? You hunt them down at swap meets, in junk yards, or find them on a part’s cars. Once the part is found, it is time to start the duplication process. First an exact duplicate of the part must be made by hand, this is the prototype. The prototype is then scanned by a laser to get all the measurements of the lengths, angles and rotations. Once the blueprint is made and the bender is programmed you’re ready to make parts. The entire process can take months for one part. So how many 42 Cadillac brake line sets do you think you could sell ? You can never tell what you will sell and at the end of the year they are always surprised what the top seller was. In the top 100 of course you have your Chevy Trucks, Camaro, Chevelle and GTO but who would guess International Scout, Ford Bronco or Pontiac Fiero. If you make a exact reproduction in the right market and it is a part that is not currently being reproduced you have a start. If you listen to the phone calls the customer will also tell you what to make because it is the items they are asking for the most. So always listen to the customer. In the market of low production parts what brings you to the top is having phone Techs that can walk you through the process and know your brake system better than you do. The final step is to get the product to the customer in a few days. As car guys, we know waiting for parts for more than a few days is frustrating. I have waited 16 weeks for chrome to be polished and 12 weeks for the engine shop. So when my parts come in a few days I am a repeat customer.

Inline tube has grown to be the largest tube company in the country that specializes in classic car plumbing products. They make tubes for all American cars and trucks from the 40’s and as late as the 90’s. They not only have the brake lines, but carry all the tubing for each particular car. So if you need fuel lines, choke tubes, caliper lines, transmission cooler tubes or the wiper line for a 52 Buick they are sure to have it in stock. If somehow they do not have your tube in the thousands of patterns they keep, it is as simple as making it off your original.

Once Inline Tube secured patterns for all the American cars and trucks it was time to move on to other products. Inline Tube is the only company in the country that makes reproduction parking brake cables the way the factory did with the spiral wrap. You can still get some cables from the auto parts store but it will not look like the original. These guys have reproduced the correct housing, rubber boots, end fittings for a factory correct reproduction. These cables are offered for all the popular muscle cars and trucks from the 60’s to the 80’s.

Over the years Inline Tube has expanded to make many of the undercarriage parts that transfer fluid. Another expansion included the street rod market. Inline Tube makes all there own stainless brake fittings, and carries everything needed to plumb a custom application. Products include: straight tubing sets, master cylinders, valves, stainless braided hoses and any combination of fittings you can dream up. Other products include stainless and OEM rubber flex hoses, Disc brake conversions, Brake and fuel line clip sets, Proportional valves, and even the sending units. If you plan on moving any fluid whether it be brake, fuel, or power steering these guys make the products that connect the components.

Here are a few of the employee's cars at the bring your car to work day. We not only sell the parts but we use them on our own cars.
When you call Inline tube the phone will always be answered by the friendly office assistant and the sales guys behind her will answer any questions you may have before placing an order. Before the order is placed the process has already begun.
The owner has spent many hours taking lines off original cars to build the pattern library to what it is today. This day is spent working on 68-70 Buick Electra. This is one hunting trip resulting in a few good finds.
This is a 6000 SF pattern room, every original part is measured scanned, blueprinted then downloaded to a CNC bender and stored for future reference.
Every part starts as a straight tube with some sort of fitting on the end. They have miles and miles of tube on hand in all the different sizes and in both Stainless and the OEM Tin coated steel.
Fittings are also made on the premise in every size, shape and color. There are over 60 different tube nuts to make any line combination. The large bins hold 15,000 fittings each.
Now the parts can be made. These are Computer Benders so there is no hand bending and a perfect part is made every time. Inline tube has 1/2 million dollars invested in 4 of these machines.
Now that the bender did its job the tube fitting will be installed and one of 16 forming machines will double flare the end. After each part is matched to the prototype in orange they will get labels and stocked for future orders. The part you see is a 49 Chevy truck pump to carburetor line.
Now that’s a lot of lines! and this is only one of the part Isles. We are looking at Chevelle, GTO fuel lines in stock by the hundreds. Having all this inventory ensures your parts go out the next day.
There is over 6000 sf of new part storage with thousands of parts in stock. These racks hold 275 parts each side and there are 10 sides, that is a lot of parts in stock.
In this area parking brake cables are manufactured exact to the originals with the spiral housings, ends and rubbers. You can see the raw materials and the finished Chevelle cables to the right.
Once you order is put together the shipping department will check, pack, box, label, address, and then ship the order. This entire process will ship over 100 packages a day.