Originally, when we sketched out the plan for Project Mudslinger, we spent no more time considering our car’s bodywork than a 2 year old would his Brussels sprouts. Everyone in our group has his own strengths, but skinning a car is one that none of us claim. Simply slap on a little sheetmetal, and a lot of duct tape, and as long as nothing fell off we figured we’d be set. Painting would be handled by whatever brand of spray paint we could get by the case at the hardware store.

Of course, if you have been following the progress of Project Mudslinger in Circle Track you already know that plan has been canned. In racing, it turns out, you should treat plans like you do your socks: Update them often with fresh ones or you’re going to stink up the works.

Quality Skinning

When Chris Hargett and Neil Wilson offered their time and expertise to help hang a new body on our Mustang we jumped at the chance. Chris and Neil, of H&W Race Car Fabrication, first got down to work on the previous installment of the Project Mudslinger buildup, and since then we’ve really been enlightened on just how much quality sheetmetal work can mean to a race car.

Dirt cars in this class do not depend as much on aero as their asphalt brethren, but it’s still important that the body is an advantage and not a hindrance to the way the car handles on the track. Also, several manufacturers have helped us out along the way, and there is no way they want a project they are involved with to look like a rolling pile of you-know-what. We want to represent them well—I’m sure you have the same concerns for your sponsors.

The primary steps covered in the previous installment were to find the car’s approximate ride height (by installing the engine, a dummy transmission and finishing up the suspension) and to build a level framework inside the car to hang the interior sheetmetal. The roof and rear quarters have to remain stock and in the stock location, so other than a little trim work, that part was easy. Because there was no wiggle room there, we began by placing the nose. We are using a flexible plastic Dirt Late Model nose we got from JR Motorsports. It comes in two halves, so it was easy to cut 2-½ inches from the inside of each half to get the proper width. We used an aluminum backing sheet to span the joint and Pop riveted everything together.

Finding the proper location was a little more difficult. We spent a lot of time moving the nose around, setting it on blocks to simulate ride height, and stepping back to make sure it fit the overall proportions of the car. The problem was its low profile didn’t fit with the radiator framework already welded in place. Actually, the radiator mount needed to be moved closer to the motor anyway, so it was easy to see what needed to be done. Out came the saws and welder for a little “fine tuning.”

Once that was complete, Neil and Chris were able to build the bumper, affix the nose and begin building fenders. This is when Chris’ skills as a body man really began to shine. With nothing more than a tape measure, a Sharpie®, and a sheetmetal brake, he recreated the original door moldings in the new aluminum skin, and it really sets the car off. Both Chris and Neil live and breath dirt-track racing, and it shows in their attention to detail. We’ve learned a lot from them about the proper way to approach building a car. Once Project Mudslinger finally hits the track, we might get thumped like an old piece of fruit, but you can bet it will be from lack of driving ability and not poor mechanical preparation.

Rear Gear

While the sheetmetal was going up, we also began work on the rear gearing so that it will be ready once the engine and transmission are put in for good. Our plan is to start out racing at Lancaster (S.C.) Motor Speedway, which is a half-mile dirt oval. Imagine Martinsville’s paper-clip shape with a little more banking. To go with our 1.96 transmission, we chose a 3.08 ring and pinion from National Drivetrain.

That combination gives us a 6.04 final drive (1.96 x 3.08 = 6.036) which should be just about right. In case we need to go a little lower we also have a 3.27 manufactured by Precision Gear, which will provide a 6.41 final drive. We still have a ways to go on the sheetmetal, not the least of which is the hood, rear spoiler and driver’s tub, but we’re making headway. We’ll soon have the car back in our home shop where we’ll begin the final driveline installation and wiring the car.

Part I: In the Beginning There Was...Junk

Part II: All Caged In

Part III: Shoehorn, Please!

Part IV: Toil And Trouble

Part V: What Do You Mean, Start Over?

Bradley’s Auto Parts
Indian Trail
NC  28079
JR Motorsports
801 SW Ordanance Rd.
IA  50021
2605 E. Cedar St.
CA  91761
Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
NC  28115
H&W Race Car Fabrication
NC  28110
National Drivetrain
Reider Racing
12351 Universal Dr.
MI  48180