The Subject Our victim is a '79 Chevrolet Impala sporting an '84 Impala body that was purchased at an end-of-the-year swap meet at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, KY. This 116-inch wheelbase car was most recently used in figure eight racing, so it had a massive push bar mounted out in front of the radiator. That would have to come off. Plus, as you can see from the photos, the car had neither a bumper nor a grille. The rollcage was also taller and wider than the Mid American car the NGB body was designed for, but as you're about to see, that wasn't a problem. The NGB is one versatile body as we simply mounted it a little higher and stretched the sides a little more.

The Fun Part Yes, we borrowed the name of this article from our friends in TV land. They say demolition is the fun part. Well, in building, or in our case re-skinning, a race car, tearing the body off may be fun, but it's also the time to make sure everything with the chassis is in good shape. Case in point, the entire car looked way better on the outside than it did on the inside once the body was removed. So, the boys at ARP decided it was best to clean it up before mounting the new body.

Flip back to page 56 and you can see the progression of the extreme makeover. It's quite a transformation and we've got a lot more pictures along with the in-depth step-by-step process at Plus, as a bonus, we've got the official Sportsman rollcage measurement and guidelines sheet available for download for free on the website. So, you too can make your Sportsman look this good. Now, don't you just want one of your own?

The Philosophy Behind It
For the last several years, the older stock-type body panels have become extremely hard to find in salvage yards around the country. Couple their scarcity with the fact that in the past year junk-car prices skyrocketed, most salvage yards cashed in on the high prices of scrap and sold anything older than 10 years. Pre-1997 body panels and the like are getting harder and harder to find.

That in and of itself would be motivation enough for a company like ARP to set about bringing a body to the market, but Jerry Criswell and his team had a better idea.

"These Sportsman/Street Stock/Super Stock divisions are supposed to be the starter/intermediate-type divisions across most of the country," says Criswell. "The problem is that the Saturday night tracks have almost no new blood coming into the sport. I believe updating these cars by giving them a new look with an updated body design, that is easy to work on and easy to replace the components, is the way to help start attracting new blood into our industry."

I can see what Criswell means. My 10 year old thinks that an early '80s Caprice/Impala looks like a brick with wheels, but a Pontiac G8 or a Caddy CTS is a whole other story.

Criswell goes on to say that a car in these divisions that has a smart updated look stands a better chance of attracting a local sponsor. "Let's face it, who wants to sponsor a beat up '79 Caprice? Even the best looking one is basically an antique ... not a collector's item but an old car," he says. "Does the local auto body shop, parts store, eatery, pub, and so on really want to have that in front of their business? Probably not, but a slick looking updated body will not only look great but will easily bring in the crowds."

Sleek, updated bodies can also bolster these divisions at the track. Let's say the local track is having a problem attracting enough Late Models to pay the purse, Criswell says the Late Model-esque look of these new bodies could reinvent the Sportsman division. "How about adding a little to the Sportsman's purse? Let them update their bodies and run them every week as your new Late Models. Take your old Late Model class and run it every other week as your Pro Late Models." It sounds like a radical idea but in the face of dwindling car counts and rising costs in a typical Late Model division, it could be just the thing the short track industry needs.

ARP Bodies