Getting Started

Over the next few months, Stock Car Racing will follow along as race car builder Sleepy Gomez builds an IMCA Stock Car. This is an ideal beginning race car for the novice car builder and driver. We will attempt to describe, in the simplest terms possible, what is being done, how it’s being done, and why it’s being done. Sleepy has been involved in racing since 1958 and over the years has become more infatuated with building cars than with driving them. He has built his share of cars, from karts and Mini-Stocks to Street Stocks. Sleepy works out of his shop, Sleepy’s Workshop, in Ferris, Texas, where he makes a living at metalworking and welding. The car should be ready for a couple of test rides at the end of this season—but the real racing begins in 2001.

IMCA is known mostly for its Modified class. It may come as a surprise to some that there is an IMCA Stock Car class. This class has run in the Midwest for about 10 years and is now beginning to catch on throughout the rest of the United States.

While similar to many local, entry-level and above classes, the series has a nationwide set of rules so cars (and parts) are standardized. This increases parts availability and decreases costs.

Recently, a wrecker dropped off an ’84 Oldsmobile Cutlass at our workshop. This is a 108-inch wheelbase car, the minimum allowed in its class, and it is generally referred to as a General Motors metric-frame car. We’ll get a handful of metric wrenches since the chassis and body is laden with metric-sized bolts.

Along the way, we will be as weight-conscious as our budget will allow. The rules are specific as to what can’t be removed from the body and chassis. Don’t get too happy with a torch or saw until you get your current IMCA rule book. Read it thoroughly, then call the IMCA tech rep with any questions.

First, we stripped the car down. This is perhaps the least amount of fun in the entire project. As a rule, if it can be unbolted, it can be left off. Still, we didn’t throw away any parts until we were sure we wouldn’t need them.

We removed the engine, transmission, doors, fenders, trunk, and so on, and stored the doors, hood, and trunk for later. It is easier to take out the rearend and front suspension after the body has been removed.

Next, we removed all the glass. If possible, a windshield repairman should be asked to do this. It would have been worth a few bucks to us, considering the mess we made. Otherwise, good eye protection should be worn and a hammer should be used carefully. We scraped the glass out of the channel the best we could and tried a windshield-removal tool. It helped on the front but was less useful on the rear and side windows.

We used a Sawzall to remove the top. This is a necessary step in building a car. Too many cars have not had the cage properly welded on the top side. Sawing the top off this way makes replacing it easy. It also takes much of the chore out of welding and fitting the cage.

Then we removed the body from the frame. With the top off, it weighs about 300 pounds. Four men can lift it. We removed the rubber biscuits along with the washers and bolts. They weigh 4½ pounds combined and will be replaced with square tubing spacers, which weigh about 1 pound.

To save a nickel, we decided not to sandblast the frame. Three cans of spray-on engine cleaner were used the night before we took it to the local car wash. That did the trick—it even removed most of the paint. We also brought along the body and the top to remove the dirt and any other loose stuff.

Next, we took the top and the body to Water Kleen, a local water blaster. This is not your mother’s car wash. We are talking about serious pressure: 12,000 psi. Our purpose was to remove the tar, dum dum, and other body sealers. Joe Cook and his crew did just that. “If I can see it, I can clean it,” Cook says. He removed 9½ pounds of gunk from the body and the top. This much pressure will remove paint, too. Since he was charging by the hour ($125), I asked him to only work where we might find some weight and not worry about the paint. By the way, sandblasting won’t remove tar and rubberized sealers.

Water blasters such as Water Kleen are found in many major cities. They are used in oilfield, trucking, and industrial operations. This is an excellent means of cleaning a car without damaging the original metal. Cook’s operation recycles all the spent water to catch any contaminants, which keeps his neighbors and the EPA happy.

While the body was at the water blaster, we painted the bare chassis all over—top and bottom. When the body returned, we painted the underside of it as well. Having built a number of cars with a dark underside, this one should be a pleasure to work under.

Another thought about paint—for the chassis, the underbody, and the interior, we chose an off-white color. The light color eases working under low-light conditions, such as in the pits. Pure white seems to show every nick or rust trace and sometimes may be too bright for the driver. The paint came from The Home Depot and is poly-fortified enamel. The cost is about $25 per gallon—there’s no charge for mixing the color you choose. Auto paint is much more expensive, so save your money for parts to make the car go faster.

Before installing the body, we cut six pieces of 1½x0.065-inch-thick square tubing about 5 inches long. These will be welded to the chassis—three on each side. We laid one 8 inches back from the front body-mounting hole and laid the next 18 inches rearward from the center body-mounting hole (the one in the middle of the door). The third one was placed 13 inches ahead of the rearmost end of the frame.

With these spacers welded securely in place, we set the body on the chassis. We screwed a body-mount bolt—sans washer—a few threads into the four corner body-mount holes. Using a prybar, we maneuvered the body as far to the rear as possible. Any left bias will also help.

If the square tube spacers are left out, the body will sit flat on the frame. This will cause it to shift itself 5/8-inch forward unless illegal modifications are made. Rear weight is more important than high weight on this car.

With the body located properly, we used a 1½-inch holesaw to cut two circles from the body metal over each square tube. We checked the body location again, then we welded the body to the square tubes and used a hammer to taper the body sheetmetal down to the tubing. The body is now permanently mounted. The body-mount bolts may be removed, but IMCA officials can check for legal body location by inserting these bolts.

In the next article, we will fit and install a CSC cage kit for maximum stiffness and rear weight. This kit is specifically designed for IMCA Stock Cars. Get started now, and we will talk you through the whole process.

Click Here to Return to the Building an IMCA Stock Car home page

IMCA Headquarters
P.O. Box 921
IA  52349
Water Kleen
P.O. Box 421
TX  75120
IMCA Tech ReP: Stock Car