Last month we introduced our 10th anniversary Road Tour car, a sleek, chopped '36 Ford three-window based on a J.B. Donaldson fiberglass body. As in years past when the coupe is completed, we'll turn Jerry Dixey loose on unsuspecting attendees of NSRA events all over the country so they can have a good look--both at the car and Jerry.

While Dixey receives a great deal of good-natured ribbing about what a tough job he has driving all over the country going to rod runs, the truth is covering close to 30,000 miles in a summer and working at all those events isn't easy. It requires dedication and tenaciousness on his part, and the ultimate in reliability and road manners on the car's part.

As anybody who has driven one any distance at all will attest, the foundation of a good street rod is its chassis; if it doesn't work like it should, nothing else matters. Mile-deep paint, sumptuous upholstery, and all the bells and whistles that can be crammed into a car won't compensate for underpinnings that don't get the job done. And since the job of the Road Tour car is pretty much self-explanatory, we need a chassis that works. That's why we called on Total Cost Involved to build one for duty under our coupe.

Total Cost Involved opened in 1974, their first product was a reproduction Model A frame. But it wasn't long before the company expanded its product line and was on its way to becoming a major player in the suspension and chassis construction business. Over the years they've continued to add to their list of wares and today the Total Cost Involved catalog includes suspension systems, and in some cases complete chassis for a variety of cars, including '28 to '48 Fords, '36 to '54 Chevys, '53 to '62 Corvettes, '62 to '67 Novas, Ford and Chevy trucks from the '20s to the '60s. They also list a host of components that have "universal" applications.

The chassis we opted for is based on a Total Cost Involved '35 to '40 frame. Made with fabricated tube rails, these frames duplicate the shape and contour of the originals but are far stronger than the unboxed stockers. As is the common practice, construction begins by clamping a pair of rails in a fixture, or jig, so it can be said these frames are jig built. And while "jig built" is a common description of a construction technique, it's important to realize just what that means. Jig built simply means that the parts being put together are being held in position for assembly, and it also means that all the parts built in that jig should come out the same. But the question you have to ask is: "The same as what?" In the case of a Total Cost Involved chassis, the jig itself was built to factory specifications so what comes out of it is a dimensional duplicate of a Ford frame, just as if it rolled down Henry's assembly line. Of course that means when it's time to install the body, it will fit like it should.

As you might expect, Total Cost Involved offers a long list of options on their chassis, so we checked the boxes next to the components that we felt would make our coupe the ideal cross-country cruiser: Custom IFS with manual rack-and-pinion steering; front and rear anti-roll bars; rear parallel four-bars with a Panhard; and Air Ride Technologies Shock Waves on all four corners. We expect this combination of components will make our Road Tour '36 ride and handle with the best of them. In fact our only fear is that this car is going to work so well that Dixey will get soft.

To chronicle the construction of the Road Tour chassis we dispatched our ace photog, Chris Shelton, to record the process on his digital Brownie. He followed the Total Cost Involved crews as they went about building the foundation for our Road Tour '36. Take a look at what it takes to make a real cross-country coupe.