Ever take advantage of a fellow racer's offer to help you on your car? When Chris Hargett and Neil Wilson off-handedly offered their time and expertise to help hang a new body on our Mustang, we jumped at the chance. Chris races dirt Late Models and Neil is his crew chief. They've started H&W Race Car Fabrication, building and repairing cars, and we've been enlightened on just how much quality sheetmetal work can mean to a race car.

Beginning The Body

Entry-level dirt cars like the Project Mini Stock don't depend that much on aero, but it's still important that the body is an advantage and not a hindrance to the way the car handles on the track. We ordered five sheets of aluminum and 1/2-inch square sticks of steel from Stock Car Steel and Aluminum. Chris and Neil began by building a framework to box-out the inside of the car to hang interior sheetmetal. Our rules say we must use a stock steel roof and rear quarters in the stock location, so to keep overall weight low, the rest of the car is going to be aluminum.

We discarded the heavy stock trunk lid and fabbed up a Late Model-style, trap-door access to the fuel cell. We also cut out all but the exterior face of the A-pillars; we notched them and dropped the front of the roof about an inch. Our goal was to make sure the roof angled slightly down, or was at least level, so it wouldn't act like a big sail going down the straights.

Chassis Reworking

While Chris and Neil were working their sheetmetal magic, the rest of the Project Mini Stock crew began retracing its steps on the chassis. We still didn't have our ride heights set, so it was impossible to hang the body correctly until that was done. It was about here that our progress was momentarily stalled. We decided our future efforts to tune the chassis would be greatly improved with a set of adjustable spring cups. No problem, we thought.

Bradley's Auto Parts had just about anything we needed and set us up with four adjustable units from Afco. They have about 3 inches of adjustability and required slight modifications to fit our car. Unfortunately, the 11-inch Blue Coil springs originally ordered for the front were now too long. But the folks at Suspension Spring Specialists said because the springs had not been used they could replace them with the 9.5-inch units we now needed (thanks!) The original rear springs were the right size.

Once the suspension was reworked, Chris and Neil made some solid engine mounts so we could set the engine and tranny in place. The transmission was still being readied at Jim Cook Race Cars, so we had to bolt up a dummy unit for positioning. Our engine builder, Richard Johnson, said a through-the-firewall header pipe configuration is worth a handful of horsepower over headers that route the exhaust under the floorboard, so we chose this type from Shoenfeld. But of course we neglected to take this exhaust routing into consideration when we previously secured the brake line across the firewall to get to the right-front tire. Looks like we'll be borrowing a brake line bending tool again.

Fitting A Nose

Taking into account these minor hurdles--including remounting the brake and clutch pedals--we were behind getting the body in place, but pressed on. Because there is no wiggle room at the car's front, we began by placing the nose. We are using a flexible plastic dirt Late Model nose from JR Motorsports. It comes in two halves, so it was easy to cut about 2-1/2 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 making sure it fit the overall proportions of the car. The problem was its low, angled

profile didn't fit with the radiator framework that was already welded in place. Actually, the radiator mount needed to be moved closer to the engine anyway; out came the saws and welder for a little "fine tuning" of the framework.

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 break, he recreated the original door moldings in the new aluminum skin. 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. Next, the plan is to begin the final driveline installation and wiring the car.

Bradley's Auto Parts
5601 Old Monroe Rd.
Indian Trail
NC  28079
H&W Race Car Fabrication
NC  28110
Jim Cook Race Cars
185 Glenwood Dr.
NC  28025
Ford Racing Performance Parts
44050 N. Groesbeck Hwy.
Clinton Township
MI  48036
Suspension Spring Specialists
AR  46506
LWP Auto Salvage
4731 Stough Rd.
NC  28027
National Drivetrain
20 Cane Hill
Van Buren
AZ  72956
2605 E. Cedar St.
CA  91761
Reider Racing
12351 Universal Dr.
MI  48180
Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
NC  28115
JR Motorsports
801 SW Ordanance Rd.
IA  50021