Window Block-Offs
Quarter-windows, especially the opera windows of mid-'70s cars, are pretty useless. In fact, our Laguna originally had louvered covers that served a strictly decorative function. For some reason, these were missing from our Laguna when we bought it, so we improvised with these aluminum block-off plates. We felt they would look racier than the louvers, and we could make them faster (and cheaper) than we could find original louvers. The original NASCAR stockers used the factory louvers, and it's painfully obvious from looking at period photos that they did so because they were required, otherwise they would've done what we did!

Advanced Waterjet

Start With A Rendering
As much as you may be tempted to jump right in with both feet, just remember that few people have the ability to visualize a project in their head and follow it through. It's also a problem when other vendors or shops get involved who cannot see what's floating in your head. Take the time to produce a good rendering, stick to it, and provide it to all parties--you'll be rewarded in the end. After seeing Chris Gray's rendering of a fantasy 1970 Chevy Nova Trans Am car, we knew he had the chops to pull off our NASCAR Laguna idea. Chris did about a half dozen versions for us before we settled on this one. Chris works on computer, so once the body template has been modeled, it's relatively easy for him to change out graphics and color schemes. If you work with an artist who draws freehand, changes are going to be more costly. Chris charged us $500, but he also had to render a complete 3D body shape for a '75 Laguna--which jacked the price up. If he's already done a body style--say a '69 Camaro--the price is much less.

Chris Gray

Vinyl Graphics
Converting a fresh rendering onto a real car calls for special equipment and special skills. You'll need someone to produce your graphics, and Heath Elmer of Arizona Auto Trim is one of the best. Most graphics can be applied at home with a few tools such as a razor blade and masking tape, but you only get one chance to get it right. Heath can do a graphics package like the one on our Laguna for about $400, including the installation. (It runs about half that if you do the install yourself.) Compared to having graphics painted on, it's a lot less expensive, and it's temporary, too (in case you change your mind or mess up). Vinyl graphics like this typically last 6-7 years when stored outside--just make sure to use top-quality exterior vinyl like the Calon Arlon line Heath uses.

Arizona Auto Trim

Cut Springs
Maybe the proper title for this tip is "Don't Be A Dork!" Seriously, if you drop thousands on parts and spend years working on your car and it still looks like a refugee from Hurricane Katrina, then it's time to quit. Cutting your coil springs is a relatively unsophisticated and cheap way to arrive at the right stance, and within reason, won't cause any handling problems. You were planning on upgrading your suspension later on anyway, so why not make the stock springs work for you in the meantime? Later on, we'll be putting legit suspension parts under Project Talladega, but until then, we can have some fun with the junker stock springs.

Narrow The Bumper
The '70s had some inspired automotive designs that were almost always destroyed by fugly bumpers. Like the '76 Camaro that we finished last year, our '75 Laguna also suffers from big-ass bumpers. (Chevelle and Malibu owners of this year also have a massive front bumper to deal with, but we're lucky that our Laguna has a sleek aero nose, so we kept the front as-is.) Our huge rear bumper can fortunately be corrected with simple surgery, and since we planned on painting it, we didn't need to have it rechromed. Our operation consisted of cutting roughly 4 inches out of its width, shortening the mounting tubes by 2.5 inches, and trimming the urethane filler panels.

Quick Trick: Waterjet Cutting
We discovered our local waterjet shop (Advanced Waterjet) a few years ago, and wondered why we didn't use them sooner. While owning your own waterjet machine is prohibitive, it's very inexpensive to design templates for custom parts, and have them cut out at your local job shop. You'll feel the pride of designing your own parts that nobody else has, yet that everybody wants. And in our experience, it's very inexpensive, too. All the parts we've made in this story came from Advanced Waterjet in Anaheim, CA (714-278-9874, ( The digital templates for all our parts are on file, and can be ordered directly from Advanced, or you can send them your own template. They'll scan it, verify it with you, and cut it. (You can even have a dummy part cut out of masonite.) A week's turnaround time is pretty normal for most small jobs like ours.