Why is it that certain cars seem to be built over and over, only to overpopulate every car show and most car magazines? What makes ’em so popular? One simple answer: charisma and machismo. It’s true. Think of any popular, lusted-after hot rod or muscle car and its great bodylines. They all have a certain style and presence that reaches across the boundaries of differing tastes and just ooze cool.
So what’s a rodder to do when he wants to stand out, but still gather envious stares? Look for something boring and give it a makeoverjust like the phantom ’72 LeMans GT in the paint and body story in this issue. Similar boring cars are cheap and plentiful, and whether you love ’em, or never notice ’em, some hold awesome potential. To spotlight some ripe designs for the rodding, we reached out to a few artists who are well known for their imagination to see what they could envision. The choices vary widely, but one thing they all have in common is that they lack that certain something from the factory that makes them hip. We contend that all they need is the right treatment to put ’em on par with the superstars.
Is there any other way to describe this chic little ragtop? Despite slick styling that actually heavily influenced the original Camaro, Corvairs have always remained well off the radar of most rodders. Not because of Ralph Nader really; no, it’s because of the severely anemic and generally leaky rear-mounted, air-cooled flat six-banger. That’s not a problem for this ’Vair, though, which runs an LS1 with LS4 accessories and water pump mated to a Porsche 911type 930 transaxle, thanks to a Crown Corv-8 conversion kit (CorvairCorsa.com).
As for the look that Steve Stanford created, it’s really all in the paint and materials for this deceptively stock-looking rod. The only significant mods are the tasteful louvers in the decklid, which are also mirrored in the rear roll pan. Even the interior is mostly stock, but custom door panels that mimic stock with additional polished stainless trim were created. The seats also get a trim upgrade and are re-covered in elegant tan leather. Poor man’s Porsche? No one will be looking down his or her nose at this Corvair!
From the Imagination of Steve Stanford Stanford Design
The slab-sided ’69-70 iteration of the fourth-generation Impala has long been shunned by rodders in favor of their more flashy and muscular predecessors. Most nice examples we’ve seen were either stone-stock grandma cars or leaned toward the lowrider persuasion. The formal roofline and blas bodylines are usually considered stumbling blocks to getting these cars on par with more brawny GM offerings like the Chevelle. To make it happen, Steve Stanford decided to once again leave the body alone, but blend elements of ’60s customs and the vaunted ’59 Chevy.
The long, arching flames are paint, but that’s not airbrushed trim; to break up the bland body, Stanford reached back a decade and used the iconic trim from the radically different looking ’59 Impala, as well as its rear-mounted antennae. Surprising how well it works, isn’t it? Dig those pipes! Inspired by Bellflower-style customs, Stanford kept the long, straight chrome tips under the body, but low enough to be seen, and added a subtle trumpet tip.
Getting it low is really the key. Plan on Air Ride from RideTech. Rather than modern large-inch wheels, Stanford went for traditional Supremes with spinners. For rolling stock, he applied whitewalls on modern rubber, but did you happen to notice the rear tire is a drag radial? That’s because there’s a blown LS3 powering this beast. Inside, think 1959 meets 1969 again, with door panels, seats, and steering wheels la ’59, while still retaining the stock dash. For the kill, have the gauges redone in the appropriate style by Redline Gauge Works.
From the Imagination of Steve Stanford Stanford Design
This Hornet’s sting is set on kill. Call it a late-night, no-excuses, full road-race AMC with a tag! No good parts you say? Make it happen with a tube chassis, custom IRS, and SLA-style front suspension, road-race ’cage, and force fit a 392 Hemi, or maybe a twin-turbo 360 underhood. Why not?
To clean it up, Brian Stupski’s AMC body gets a mild shave, a flush-fit windshield, molded driprails, a narrowed, tucked, molded, and drilled front bumper, a chin spoiler and splitters, and the hood gets the centersection of a new Challenger hood. The factory grille bar is painted, and the stock parking light holes now serve as ducts to feed the turbos. Modern halo lighting resides in the stock lamp housings. Hornets already have a bit of a flare to the wheelwelljust exaggerate it a bit to fit a set of Forgeline ZX3Rs with big, sticky rubber.
For the paint, the trick here is using all of the uncool stock junk in a fresh way. Douse it a bright yellow with matte black hood accents, and lay down a cleaned-up version of the factory side stripes.
Brian Stupski’s first encounter with vintage AF/X Funny Cars in his youth ruined him. Ever since then, he’s envisioned taking a mundane Mopar and giving it the altered wheelbase, the stretched nose, huge meats, a blown mill ... and functional doors. Crazy, right?
Maybe, but take a look at this awe-inspiring ’63 Savoy. To get the look, move the rear wheels up tight to the doors like any good altered-wheelbase car, and stretch the front fenders a good foot or so. If you can’t commit there, don’t bother; that’s the jaw-dropping magic of this build. Despite appearances, this Funny is for more than straight-line fun. Think custom chassis setup for handling, and 17- to 18-inch Schott billet rollers up front (which retain the vintage look), and some giant Real Rodders wheels out back. Mammoth-sized meats are a requisite! As for the power team, drop in a blown Hemi (what else?) with EFI, and back it with a six-speed so you can freak out everyone on the freeway.
Red-tinted glass and the mild panel paint set the vintage vibe, and that Moon tank up front? It’ll be a dual-compartment piece, and hold coolant on one side, and reserve oil on the other. Interiorwise, think modern seats for comfort and control, covered in vinyl with vintage cloth inserts. Crushed velvet diamond tuft? Hell, yes!
Here’s a boring dream car that’s actually going together. The ’69-70 SportsRoof Mustang is the it car right now, so to avoid looking like they were joining the bandwagon, Goolsby Custom decided to bring some life and coolness to the otherwise forgotten and somewhat undesirable ’71-73 Mustang. The goal was to blend the ’11 Mustang with the ’71, so Goolsby tapped Ben Hermance to make the disparate designs integrate seamlessly into something that felt like a ready-for-production concept car.
To make Hermance’s beautiful rendering a reality, the lengthy front end is getting shortened by 6 inches, and the whole wheelbase loses an inch. The body line, which typically fades to oblivion right behind the door, will now wrap down and around to form a more traditional Mustang body cove that ties into the stock lower body line. Up front, a custom grille modeled after the ’11 Mustang GT will be created and use ’11 headlights and marker lights. The bumper gets reshaped and tucked, and the lower air dam is custom formed. In the rear, the tailpanel is pushed in a couple inches to create a more dramatic look to the ’71’s ducktail. The taillights, however, are custom pieces that harken to the ’69 and ’70 Mustang. Did you notice the rear glass? It’ll be sunk inward to roughly ’71 coupe proportions, which will transform the fastback into flying buttresses with a pass-through spoiler. Slick, huh?
The body will be mated with the Roadster Shop’s Fast Track Mustang chassis riding with 19- and 20-inch Nutek wheels and Pirelli tires. The heart of Pegasus will be a Coyote 5.0 worked over by Sean Hyland Motorsports paired with a six-speed automatic trans. Keeping with the concept vibe, the interior will rely heavily on factory ’11 Mustang parts with custom pieces to blend everything together. Watch for the debut of Pegasus in an upcoming issue of PHR.
From the Imagination of Ben Hermance
Wait a minute, that’s a Monza? Shockingly, yes. We don’t ever recall it ever occurring to us that a Monza could be a great basis for a handling machine, but now that we see Ben Hermance’s artwork, we picture it as an autocross king, thanks to its lightweight, short wheelbase that makes it easy to toss an aluminum block LS underhood.
For the look, Hermance went for something that was a combination of stock Monza and IMSA for the frontend treatment. Hermance’s more graceful version would require custom forming, but ’70s road-racestyle IMSA body kits and fiberglass parts are still available from VFNFiberglass.com and Showcars-Bodyparts.com. The IMSA-style headlight covers are a must, but lose the square stuff and use BMW halo-style headlights.
To get suitably wide 18-inch wheels and sticky rubber underneath calls for a bit more flair and reshaping to the wheelwells; we’re actually thinking that the lip from a 1999-2005 Audi All-Road wagon could be close.
Rather than bare bones, this little Monza gets the upscale treatment with gloss and flat black two-tone paint, and a red leather interior with recovered racing buckets. Will you ever look at a derelict Monza the same way again?
From the Imagination of Ben Hermance
This is one we’re surprised we haven’t seen yet, since it works so well with only subtle revisions. Eric Brockmeyer based this AMC on the most recognizable and distinctive ’71-74 Javelin. This car is a ’73, but any of those years could carry Brockmeyer’s subdued design. For this one, think American muscle car meets high-end European touring car. Elegance, plenty of gadgets, and comfort in abundance. It’s for the man who wants that upscale cruise-control-set-on-150 on the autobahn, but is true to his love for muscle cars. It’s not just bench racing either. This one is a real project at B Rod or Custom, and for now, the plan calls for an Aston Martin V-12 from a Vanquish S, which is legit for an American Motors car, since it was actually designed by Ford Research here in the United States.
The body stays stock, including the integral roof spoiler, though sculpted side pipes now grow from the Javelin’s rockers. Brockmeyer took full advantage of the distinctive fender bulges, which were actually designed with the idea of accommodating oversized race tires on very low cars, and filled them up with three-piece 19- and 20-inch wheels and supercar spec rubber. The chassis is full custom, however, with new framerails and front suspension by B, as well as an Aston Martin IRS. Now we’ve gone from eccentric to eye popping.
From the Imagination of Eric Brockmeyer
The name Flat Bastard may or may not be the eventual name for Jon Clark’s ’68 Valiant street Trans-Am car (as envisioned by Tavis Highlander, the same ingenious automotive doodler who penned the concept for our Max Effort project car), but he made the mistake of calling it that while we were on the phone, so that’s what we’re going with!
Clark says: It’s flat, because of the flat finish paint, and bastard for the fact that it will be meaner than hell. Matt Delaney at Delaney Auto Design is the man who has to make sure it lives up to that statement in time for its scheduled public debut in Cherry Bomb’s 2011 SEMA booth, and in print here in PHR.
The bastard’s meanness comes from a 688hp 528ci Wedge based on a World Products aluminum block with Mopar raised-port Max Wedge heads. Providing perfectly metered fuel is a Holley HP EFI system with a Dominator flange to work with a converted Edelbrock intake. It’s Trans-Am inspired, so the beast has to handle. Up front that’ll be handled by an AlterKtion tubular K-member, rack-and-pinion steering, and coilover suspension with tubular control arms. In the rear it’s a four-link with coilovers from Street Lynx. Both ends get huge Wilwood discs and monstrous adjustable rear sway bars. Inside, it’ll be spartan, but with full instrumentation from Marshall Instruments mounted in a dash insert from Redline Gauge Works.
As for the flat, want to know what that color is? Mercedes-Benz Designo Magno Alanite Grey matte finish, Code 044.
From the Imagination of Tavis Highlander
We’re not the only ones who think the boxy ’70s and ’80s Caprices are destined to be future hot rodder fodder, as we forecasted in Tomorrow’s Classics (Jan ’11). Kristina Albrecht sees the potential as well.
Starting with a ’78 Caprice coupe, Albrecht opted to accentuate the positive attributes of the squared-off body by liberating it from the easily removable stock gaudy trim and emblems. The rest of the brightwork around the windows gets a darker satin color complementary to the Dark Bronze body color to make it blend away. The wheel arches are subtly flared to cover the wide 18-inch BBS wheels and 285/40R18 and 335/35R18 tires. The large flat real estate on the hood gets a little heat extracting personality via five large-to-small Porsche-inspired louvers on each side of the centerline.
Up front, the egg crate ugliness makes way for a mesh grille treatment set in a custom grille shell. One-piece headlamps take the place of the double squares, and the bumper gets cut, shaved, and smoothed with matching mesh in the inserts and a mild chin spoiler beneath. Amazing how much that helped!
There are plenty of good bolt-ons for these cars, so the suspension stays simple with Hotchkis goodies, Belltech drop spindles, and KW coilovers with tubular control arms. As for the engine, drop in a 5.3L boneyard motor with an LS6 head and cam upgrade. Trust us, swapping in a manual in one of these is a pain, so go with a 4L60E.
From the Imagination of Kristina Albrecht
Is it just us, or do you hear that song by the Playmates about the little Nash Rambler trying to pass the Cadillac in your head every time you see one of these? Nashes are a bit comical, but with the stuff artist Murray Pfaff has in mind for this concept, he’ll show everyone that a Nash Rambler is not a car to scorn.
Pfaff fully plans to build this wagon once he has debuted his Imperial roadster, but for now it’s still in the planning stages. He does have most of the body mods mapped out though. Up front the bumper will get smoothed and recessed while the grille will get cleaned up and refitted with a custom crossbar. The lights look totally at home, but are actually ’56 Oldsmobile headlights and ’66 GTO marker lights. The Olds lights will require some reshaping and peaking of the fenders to match perfectly, but the GTO lights will simply be frenched into the sheetmetal.
Up on the cab area, the windshield gets blacked out, while the trim on the side window gets removed. Speaking of removed, the C-pillar gets the ax as well, which of course means custom glass for the greenhouse. Some surprisingly appropriate side trim comes via a ’56 Chevy. As for power, it’s still up in the air, but we’re thinking a nice Gen III Hemi would keep pesky Cadillacs at bay.
From the Imagination of Murray Pfaff
Did our artists miss any dreary cars with potential? Are you building something slightly off the radar? Let me know about it by dropping me an email at Christopher.Campbell@sorc.com.