With Shaw's rendering in hand and Morrison's Max G chassis eagerly hugging the ground in the corner of the shop, Sondles and crew stepped into the job without wincing. Sondles explains: "The first thing you have to do is cut everything away from the car that's not going to be there in the future. Everything from the core support to the taillights was one piece, so you eliminate everything you're not going to need, which is everything but the exterior sheetmetal from the firewall back."
This build was not going to be anything like the V-8 Vega hot rods built from engine-swap kits back in the day. Those were usually no more than a salvage yard small-block mated to a set of engine-swap headers and a pair of custom motor mounts. Coughlin had been very specific in his powertrain instructions: a 454ci LSX crate motor would have the displacement and thrust of an old-school big-block (a Jegs hallmark), the compact dimensions of a small-block, and the reliability of a new Corvette. Putting all 620 hp and 590 lb-ft of twist through a unibody that was assembled by an indifferent union shop over 40 years ago was not in the cards. The Morrison Max G chassis would easily handle the punishment of both road and powertrain, but first it had to be mated to the body.
Don’t let the stock-looking interior fool you. Beyond the reuse of some interior trim pane
The unibody was channeled over the Morrison frame, with 2.5-inch rocker panel extensions doing a nice job of subtly altering the Vega's proportions with a road-hugging profile. As work progressed, the artisans at Woody's built temporary scaffolding inside the body to hold the Vega skin to its factory dimensions while the work progressed. Sondles elaborates: "You have to build an internal cage that will be removed in order to keep the car square while you're working on it. Once you get all the stuff you don't need removed, then you need to start adding all the stuff you need for the full chassis, which consists of rebuilding the firewall and making an entirely new floor and tunnel from the firewall to the tail pan."
The process of putting a full frame chassis like the Morrison Max G under a unibody car is a well-established procedure, but Woody’s Hot Rodz departs from the norm in one significant way: their bodies are not welded to the chassis, they’re bolted on. “When we make a unibody car into a full chassis car,” Sondles says, “we do things a little differently in that we don’t weld the body onto the chassis; it’s unboltable. We use rubber body mounts, giving it a better ride, and it’s removable in case there is a need for repair.”
One area that saved Sondles a bunch of time in the fabrication area was the availability of fiberglass body parts for the Vega. Sondles explains: "You can actually find bolt-on fiberglass parts that were made back in the day. They still make them new if you can believe it. We got the front valance, lower front grille area, rear valance, and the wing all off the Internet." These were subsequently modified to more closely match Shaw's rendering. Also of note is the front bumper, which was modified to resemble the split bumper of a '71 Camaro-another key design element of the original Hot Wheels car. Once all the critical fabrication was complete by Dane Heninger, the car was painted in-house by Woody's Hot Rodz and the steady hand of master painter Jamie Reedy. The color? PPG Jegs Yellow!