Here's a quick quiz question for you. What's the largest, in terms of numbers of participants, short-track racing division in the country? If you said Street Stock (or Sportsman or Super Stock for that matter) you're right on target. Pound for pound, there are more Street Stocks around the country than any other type of oval-track race car.
The backbone of many a short track's back gate, the venerable Sportsman division is an entry level to intermediate class of race car that has everyone from 16 to 60 years old competing. Cars in these divisions run the gamut, from early '70s 116-inch wheelbase cars to late '80s 108-inch metric chassis and beyond. Those chassis and their squared off, boxy shaped bodies are the staple at both dirt and paved tracks from California to New York. But rarely, do you see a sleek-bodied race car show up in this division. That's about to change thanks to the guys at ARP Bodies.
For years, Jerry Criswell, President of ARP Bodies, wanted to design a body that would fit the 108-inch high rollcage stock-type chassis common in Sportsman divisions everywhere. "We wanted to do a body that looked different from the basic Late Model bodies available and one that might also be more durable and easier to use than the stock steel bodies out there," explains Criswell. The stock chassis-type cars typically have a straighter, longer, and higher (50 inches or more) style rollcage along with a 12-13 inch engine crank height which makes the installation of a current late model body almost impossible. "At best it usually looks bad," he says.
After drilling out the rivets holding the body on, the ARP crew lifts the old body off.
The Problem Most Late Model bodies have a 'cage height of 45 inches or less. They're also generally set back farther on the chassis with the 'cage being laid back as well. Plus, the dry sump engines that most Late Model touring series run are as much as 3 to 4 inches lower than those found in a Sportsman. In the past, if you ever tried to update your sportsman by installing a Late Model body on your stock metric or Impala chassis, you ran into a whole host of problems. In addition to the roof being too small to fit the larger Sportsman-type 'cage, the roof and quarter-panels wouldn't line up, leaving a 3 to 4 inch gap. If you could get the roof to fit, then the wheel openings wouldn't match, largely because a Late Model body is designed to fit a 101 to 105 inch wheelbase chassis. Not to mention the fact that the height of the Sportsman motor will prevent the hood from fitting correctly. The list of problems with this type of body swap goes on and on.
The Solution Enter ARP, taking the concept of an updated Sportsman/Street Stock race car, it designed its NGB Sportsman Body to be versatile enough to fit everything from a 108-inch wheelbase car, up to 118.
With the body off, the need for some serious housekeeping became apparent.
Introduced at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando, Florida, in December 2008, the NGB Body was originally designed to fit the rules of the Mid American Racing Series, the Midwest sanction that runs mostly on - to -mile tracks, but also throws in stops at Road America and the Milwaukee Mile for good measure.
The versatility of the body can be seen in the special trim panels which allow you to fit the quarter-panel wheel openings to your specific wheelbase. The body is also designed to accommodate the taller wet sump-type engines that have to conform to a 13 inch crank height rule. The NGB body has molded-in side flairs that make the fender side taller and allows the fender top to be higher for added carburetor/air cleaner clearance.
Designed to fit a metric chassis with a 62 to 63 inch tread width using the proper 8 inch wheels and tires, the NGB Body's plastic parts come in seven different colors along with complete front and rear window mounting ledges as well as quarter window ledges. You can choose from the Pontiac G8, Cadillac CTS, Chevy Malibu, Dodge Charger, or Lincoln MKS. But enough of the stats, let's get to the transformation.
These window braces will be removed, along with other braces that were designed for the fi
Once the frame heights were set, the guys at ARP cut tubing and welded each side of the fr
Here, a plumb bob is dropped to the center of the front wedge bolt to accurately measure 1
New uprights have been welded in, along with the removeable cross support for the bay bars
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 www.circletrack.com. 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?
With the housekeeping done, it's onto the real fun part ... getting the body in place. Aft
The Philosophy Behind ItFor 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."
The hole for the quarter window is cut out.
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.
Just a bit of sanding to knock off any burrs before putting in the Lexan window. ARP offer
The makeover takes a giant step forward when the roof is attached.
Clamps will hold the panels together before riveting, but here you can see how easily they
Special trim panels allow you to fit the quarter-panel wheel openings to your specific whe
Decision time. Depending on your tracks/series rules, you can choose to run the NASCAR-sty
Or a more convention spoiler.
A close-up look of the conventional spoiler mounting points.
The finished product. Check out the Taco Bell sponsorship ... looks good doesn't it?