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Monocoque (pronounced /ˈmɒnɵkɒk/ or /ˈmɒnɵkoʊk/) is a construction technique that supports structural load by using an object's exterior, as opposed to using an internal frame or truss that is then covered with a non-load-bearing skin or coachwork. The word monocoque comes from the Greek for single (mono) and French for shell (coque). The technique may also be called structural skin, stressed skin, unit body, unibody, unitary construction, or Body Frame Integral (BFI).

Monocoque construction was pioneered in aircraft, with early designs appearing circa 1916, and entering wide use in the 1930s. Automobiles saw monocoque designs as early as 1923, but widespread adoption did not begin until the second half of the 20th century. Today, a welded unit body is the predominant automobile construction technique. Monocoque designs have also been seen in two-wheeled vehicles, water vessels, and architecture.



Early aircraft were constructed using internal frames, typically of wood or steel tubing, which were then covered (or skinned) with madapolam or other fabric to provide the aerodynamic surfaces. This fabric would usually be tautened and stiffened using aircraft dope and was often required to brace the frame in tension but could provide no strength in compression; to resist buckling, these aircraft relied on the rigidity of the internal frame. Some early aircraft designers began to apply sheet metal or plywood to highly stressed parts of the internal frames; this skin did provide strength in shear and compression and could therefore be considered as early examples of monocoque elements but the aircraft still relied primarily on their internal frames.

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