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What Is a Rolling Chassis?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term rolling chassis is used to describe a vehicle with no engine, transmission and typically no rear end gears. The vehicle does, however, have tires and wheels and can be rolled and trailered with no difficulties. The rolling chassis can include a body and interior, or it can consist of a bare chassis or any stage in between. In motorcycles, a rolling chassis can include a bare frame with tires and wheels or it could also include a gas tank, oil tank and other small bolt-on parts. Commonly used when selling or buying race cars and hot rods, the term designates a project that will require a drive line.

The advantage in purchasing a rolling chassis for many consumers is the freedom to install the engine and drive line of their choice into a vehicle. The average hot rodder is able to assemble an engine and transmission in his garage using ordinary hand tools. This allows the builder to create an engine that serves his every need for performance and also serves to be visually appealing to him as well. The restoration of a rusty body and the subsequent painting of the vehicle, however, is above many home mechanics' abilities. Purchasing a rolling chassis saves time and money in many cases by allowing the consumer to purchase a vehicle that has had the body work and painting already completed.

In some circumstances, the consumer will purchase a rolling chassis without a body. This plain chassis will be used to mount a replica fiberglass body of a very rare vehicle that would otherwise be out of the builder's budget. Commonly called kit cars, these body and interior kits are mounted on a finished rolling chassis and the builder then installs an engine and drive line to complete the build. Most of these kits are installed on purpose-built chassis, however, some of the kits mandate a specific year and model of production of vehicle chassis be used to complete the build.

In racing vehicles, a rolling chassis is commonly purchased from a renowned chassis builder and finished in the consumer's garage. Most racing classes are filled with vehicles constructed by a small handful of chassis builders. These builders have designed and built a winning chassis and offered it for sale to race teams that wish to be top contenders. The competition chassis can be bought as a plain chassis or as a rolling chassis in order to best fit a customer's budget.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By kylee07drg — On Feb 16, 2012

@cloudel – Go-carts are pretty tricky because of their simplicity. It seems to me that the steering wheels are much harder to turn than those in most vehicles, and I think this probably has something to do with the highly basic design.

I have actually injured my pectoral muscles while trying to abruptly turn the wheel in my brother's go-cart. He warned me that I would have to make wide turns and that it would take more strength to turn the wheel, because the rolling chassis does not include a rack and pinion, which is what cars have.

I panicked while trying to fit through a gate, and I pushed so hard trying to force the wheel to make the corner that I pulled a muscle. I had to stop and rest while the pain subsided, because it burned like fire. I have since learned to respect the rolling chassis design and plan my turns accordingly!

By wavy58 — On Feb 15, 2012

My dad used a rolling chassis to build his motorcycle upon. He loves building things, and he especially enjoys working on vehicles and motorcycles, so this was the ideal thing for him to do.

Oh, he could have gotten a cheap one already put together, I'm sure, but for him, that would have taken half the fun out of it! He was able to slowly build his dream cycle, as time and money allowed, and it all started with that rolling chassis.

He drives it proudly now, and he often has people request that he make them one. He tells them that if they have the money to spend on parts, he has the time! He loves doing this, and I'm pretty sure he will make it a full-time thing one day.

My mother is certain that he will at least make it his job after he retires. Apparently, there is more of a demand for rolling chassis motorcycles in our area than I would have assumed!

By cloudel — On Feb 15, 2012

I don't know a lot about it, but I'm pretty sure my husband's go-cart started out as a rolling chassis. I know that he added a motor to it, and it was a very basic frame when he purchased it.

It still looks amazingly simple. It's just a metal frame that goes up and over the seat, and it has a steering wheel. The gas and brakes are controlled by handles on the steering wheel.

He let me drive it once, and that's how I discovered it did not have a reverse. I got myself backed into a corner, and he had to actually pick it up and turn it around to get me out. This is one large drawback of the rolling chassis setup!

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