It's The Finishing Touches That Make The DifferenceLast month in the first chapter of "Installing a Prefab Body" we covered everything from stripping an old body off a car, to reconfiguring the rollcage, to trimming the hood. When we left it, Mark Davis and his students at the Carolina Motorsports Tech Center in Conover, North Carolina, had the Chevrolet Late Model Stock body from Aluminum Racing Products (ARP) in place and ready for paint-which is where we will pick up for Part Two. The heavy lifting is done; now it's time for the detail work. This story will cover the final touches: installing the windshield, windows, grille, radiator and radiator box, crush panels, and the rest of the body supports.
First on the list, though, was a new coat of paint. If you have time, this is actually a good point to stop the progress on the body and put on a new coat of shine. The windshield (although it was cut to shape in Part One) and windows were not in place, so there was no chance of overspray getting on them. Likewise, the window straps, grille, and other assorted pieces were not yet on the car, so they did not have to be removed or taped over. Mark Kerttula of PitPaint.com drew up a really racy scheme and handled the spraying duties. Many racers remove the body panels from the car before painting, but because Kerttula's design features several curving lines that run from the front bumper to the back, he felt it was easier to paint the body with it mounted in place on the car. This is the situation where not having a lot of pieces that require removal or taping off is a big plus.
After the Sherwin Williams paint was laid down, the car was loaded back up (very carefully, this time) and towed back to the Carolina Motorsports Tech Center. Davis says there is no specific order when it comes to the rest of the work required to get the car into racing shape. So, we began by installing the body brackets and fitting up the crush panels to seal the driver's cockpit from the underside of the car.
Brackets and Crush Panels There are many versions of brackets out there used to hold sheetmetal and fiberglass body panels in place, and they are all effective. In our case, we used lengths of 31/48-inch, 0.035-wall steel tubing. The chassis was built with attachment tabs welded in strategic locations, so we used them exclusively. Flatten the ends to create tabs and bend them to the angles you need. Davis prefers to put in no more brackets than necessary to hold the body in place. "If you have too many, especially on the corners, it can make the body too stiff," he explains. "When the action gets tight, there's going to be some bumping going on. Whether you are bumping somebody with your front bumper or getting hit from behind, you want a little give. If the corners of the car are too stiff, it can be too easy to get spun." From there it was on to what is universally accepted as the most hated part of race car building: crush panels.
"Building crush panels really isn't all that hard, but for some reason most people hate doing it. It just takes patience," Davis says. "When you start, you have to visualize what you want the finished product to look like, and try to think about how you want the panel to attach to the rest of the car. Don't cut a panel just to fill a hole and not have any overlap where you can pop rivet it into place. The final panel doesn't have to produce an air-tight fit, you can seal it off with a bead of silicone, but I try to make sure I have no gaps any larger than 0.010 of an inch."