Hi, I'm John Paige, the owner. Thanks for checking out Lab-14!
I've been a car guy since I saved up my lawn mowing money and bought my first race car in 1969 when I was about 10 years old. It was a direct drive, rear engine, late 50's-early 60's fiberglass bodied 1/4 midget with the #14 on it. I've used the number 14 since.
My first street car was a 68 Camaro I bought in '74 and I've had at least one F body most of my life. Currently have a 67 RS SS Convertible and a 70 Firebird Trans Am clone known as "The 14 Car". The name came from non car type friends and family who didn't even know what kind of a car it is because it doesn't have any emblems on it. So they started referring to it as simply "The 14 Car" since it usually has big track numbers on it.
I'm constantly designing, building, modifying, and testing automotive things so often my shop area looks like some kind of strange automotive laboratory. Aerodynamic testing using yarn tufts, paint mixing, structural deflection tests, string alignments, and other things are regularly conducted that make it look like a weird laboratory of sorts. Some of the #14 race car donuts I peeled of the car after track events are stuck up in the shop so "Laboratory Fourteen" seemed fitting.
For many years I've been doing restorations and high performance builds of 1st and 2nd gen F body GM cars. I've found certain areas of these cars that either corroded or did not hold up well during even normal use as daily drivers early in their lives and required repairing/strengthening. Cars used for high performance and auto sports have showed even higher levels of wear in those locations and additional areas where structural improvements like the Lab-14 products would allow modern aftermarket suspensions, tires, etc. to perform their best. So I started making many of the pieces available here as "one of" repair parts whenever necessary (or desired) for a particular job I was doing.
In the late 60's when the 2nd gen platform was designed by GM's engineers radial tires weren't available yet. The cars were designed to roll on 5-7" wide bias ply tires made out of late 60's rubber compounds. Today's aftermarket suspension and steering systems, combined with foot wide sticky rubber compound tires can put much higher loads on the chassis than the cars were designed for.
The original tires 1st and 2nd gen F bodies came with would skid or slide long before stressing the frames and components the way we can with today's rubber. That "Radial Tuned Suspension" emblem you might find on your TA dash was just a bit of marketing, only the spring and sway bar rates were changed a bit. The suspension design was still the same 60's version.
While restoring cars and building for high performance use I found there were areas of the pre 82 F bodies that needed improvement to enable modern high performance suspensions and steering components to work their best with modern tires. I also came across certain parts that typically rust out for which there were no repair pieces available. I made "one of" pieces to make repairs and upgrades which eventually lead to making a few of each piece which I started offering to members of certain car forums I've long been a member of. That brought me me to the point where it made sense to register the parts business under the name Laboratory Fourteen in Delray Beach FL (Palm Beach County) make parts in higher quantities, and offer many of the common pieces here in this online store.
It's often said that a good build starts with a solid foundation. In the early F body car guy world that's usually followed by "You should use solid body mounts and frame connectors." Lab-14 products take that concept a bit further and provide a way to create a more stable footing for the foundation. Lab-14 products can help repair and/or strengthen and stiffen the structural points where body mounts and suspension components attach. Many of the parts sold here are for increasing the load capabilities of suspension mounting points which allows the suspension to function it's best due to reduced flex of the frame mount areas, better support where cornering forces are transmitted, and reduced sub frame deflection.
A full on race car roll cage usually ties the front frame horns to the roll cage in the car with big tubes that go through the firewall. This makes the front of the chassis very stiff compared with a stock car. Many of cars fall somewhere in between stock and full on race car. We'd like the front as stiff as possible so the suspension and steering components can keep our tires stuck to the pavement during spirited driving and motor sports activities. However, we also don't want big roll cage tubes poking through the dash and may not want a roll cage in the car at all. This is where G-Braces and associated Lab-14 products come into play.
Braces that form a triangle between the upper cowl and the sub frame substantially stiffen the front end of the car similar to the way the forward bars of a fully caged race car do. Although braces can't be as solid as roll cage tubing they help significantly and allow modern suspensions and tires to perform at their best without going full "race car".
G braces reduce the deflection of the sub frame by transferring the force to the upper cowl ledge and the forward bolt of the upper control arm cross shaft. Some products like our upper cowl sandwich plate kits, UCA mount reinforcements, and adjustable UCA cross shaft mounting bolt support are designed to help the G-Braces function as well as possible by providing a more solid footing for the braces to attach to. The Lab-14 components were designed to work in conjunction with the Pro Touring F Body GEN II G-Braces and Dave the owner of PTFB has been involved as I moved forward designing and testing these products. They've also installed Lab-14 parts at the PTFB world headquarters on their own as well as others project cars.
I started to offer the Lab-14 products to fill a need for things that weren't offered elsewhere at a price that makes sense so people could save time and money while rebuilding their car or enhancing it. Some items like the inner fender extensions for late 2nd gen Firebirds weren't being reproduced and most of the sub frame sub frame reinforcements as well as G-brace accessories weren't available at all.
Most of the Lab-14 structural products and kits are not high tech things. Some are steel plate while others are combinations of hardware and things I took the time to figure out modifications to so that they work well together. You might think to yourself looking at the pics in the product catalog that you could buy hardware yourself and copy some of the products I'm offering for your car, but it's deceiving, and those who try will end up buying stuff that doesn't fit the way it needs to in order to be effective or the Lab-14 part is modified more than it looks like in the pics. In some cases you could copy certain Lab-14 parts and maybe have a part that performs the same function, but in the long run you'd probably spend more money and/or a LOT more of your time (that could be better spent working on the car or a hot date). Here's why.....
I spend the time to make patterns, prototypes, determine all the correct tolerances, determine hardware specs, and I buy certain hardware items in large quantities that aren't available in the small quantities you need for one car. Then I produce a quantity of the product saving fabrication/modification time per unit. If you decide to drive around buying what you can locally, then ordering items on line you can't find, plus buying in quantities you don't need, then adding the driving and shipping expenses it just isn't worth it.
You could just buy my parts and kits and I can ship all the products you might need for a car In a medium flat rate USPS box for under $15.00 S&H. If it was easy, quick, and cheap I wouldn't have started offering these products for sale on this website, I'd just tell folks what to buy. I realized prototyping these parts for my own cars that doing it for just one vehicle isn't worth it. It's kind of like the PTFB G-Braces I bought for my 70 bird. I fabricate things all the time, and could have copied the triangulation idea looking at pics and made my own braces but it's quicker & cheaper to just buy a set of the PTFB ones.
Well if you've read this far, here's the plan for the near future!
The Lab-14 product line will continue to expand and more products for the 1st gen F body's will be available. Then I'll start offering similar products for '68 and up Nova/ Ventura/Apollo platform. I'm also considering offering some aerodynamic pieces for 2nd gen F bodies I've been working on if there's enough demand so if you're interested in those or have any other suggestions shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll see where Lab-14 goes from here!