Custom Steel Wheels
When we settled on a NASCAR theme for our Pro Touring Laguna, it automatically meant steel wheels, but we were in for a big shock when we found out how inexpensive they were. After measuring our fitment, we special ordered five wheels (gotta have a spare!) in Bassett's D-Hole Lightweight line. For our '75 Laguna, we ordered 15x8-inch wheels with a 5x4.75-inch bolt circle and a 4.5-inch backspacing. We also ordered 1-inch NASCAR-style lugs, 5/8-inch valve stems, and custom bright orange powdercoating. The bill topped out at just $448.95, including freight.
Bassett Racing Wheel
Our Bassett D-Hole Lightweight...
Our Bassett D-Hole Lightweight steel wheels weigh just 17 pounds each--that's about what a custom billet alloy wheel weighs, but it costs about 90 percent less. Bassett was even able to match the exact color of our vinyl graphics with the swatch we provided them. Bassett custom powdercoats wheels all the time for big race teams, so this was no big deal for them.
Before ordering from Bassett,...
Before ordering from Bassett, we measured our Laguna, and discovered we had plenty of space. Use a straightedge and a ruler to calculate backspacing; support the car under the ball joint, and check the clearance at both ends of steering lock. We settled on a 15x8, but we could've gone 15x10. We also made the decision to stick with the stock bolt circle just to make things simple.
Compared to what was on the...
Compared to what was on the Laguna, the new Bassetts look way better, and fill the wheelwell just fine. For rolling stock, we chose Nitto NT555 Extreme Drag Radials, 275/60R15 for all four corners. Of all the things you can do to your car, the rolling stock is what leaves the biggest impression, good or bad. It pays to science this out.
At Bassett, they got to work...
At Bassett, they got to work building our custom wheels within the week. Each wheel is made to order, and custom backspacing is no problem.
With our rolling stock settled, we wanted to further exploit the NASCAR theme with big white letters. Traditionally, that would mean Firestone, Goodyear, or Hoosier lettering, but we had Nitto tires. No problem, just hijack the look using a Nitto logo. Fortunately, we were working with Heath Elmer of Arizona Auto Trim on this project, and he was able to quickly download a Nitto logo off the Internet, load it in his graphics program, curve it to our tire diameter, and cut a painting mask out of vinyl. All this took less than an hour's time, and it's inexpensive, too. Additionally, Heath can make painting masks for anything, including bodywork.
Arizona Auto Trim
Peel the paper backing off...
Peel the paper backing off the mask and tape some paper on the edge to prevent overspray. White or yellow spray paint can be used; just make sure to put on a very light coat. A heavy coat will crack the paint as the tire flexes. Over time, the paint will dull and turn brown, just like a used tire. We like that look, too.
Want that no-nonsense NASCAR...
Want that no-nonsense NASCAR look for your tires? Paint the logo of your choice right on the sidewall. You can put anything there, but we chose a big Nitto logo using a paint mask and some Dupli-Color spray paint.
You'll need a vinyl mask to...
You'll need a vinyl mask to do this, and you can have Heath Elmer make them for you for a very minimal charge to cover his time and materials. Heath charges $45 plus shipping for a set of four tire masks. After cleaning the sidewall with lacquer thinner, carefully place the mask on the tire, then burnish it.
A headlight block-off cover is a real easy way to send out a race car vibe for a Pro Touring car, especially if you're looking for the NASCAR or Trans Am look. The only problem is that permanently blocking your headlights is illegal for the street, not to mention unsafe. The key is making a block-off that can be easily removed. After making some block-off blanks from sheet aluminum using a template and a waterjet, we discovered some Dzus fasteners from Moroso would give us the quick access we needed, while keeping the race car equipment theme.
Summit Racing Equipment
Nothing says race car like...
Nothing says race car like a headlight block-off cover. We even put a vinyl number on the driver-side block-off to increase the vibe.
The inspiration for our Laguna's...
The inspiration for our Laguna's headlight covers came from period NASCAR racers, the only difference being that the originals were not removable.
After Advanced Waterjet cut...
After Advanced Waterjet cut the aluminum block-offs from a template we made, we curved it to fit the bezel, only to find out that the domed headlights interfered. Advanced charges $47.50 for this pair of 1/16-inch block-offs.
After lots of trial fitting...
After lots of trial fitting and trimming to the block-off cover, we established the cover's depth inside the bezel, bent the mounting clips at a right angle, and drilled holes to mount the formed clips in the bezel. Here, we're attaching the retaining clips to the mount with a rivet gun.
The answer was to replace...
The answer was to replace the stock headlights with these flat ones from Zoops. We got them from Summit Racing (PN 101C) for $49.95 each, and they bolted right in and plugged up to our existing wire harness. This was by far the biggest expense for the block-off covers.
Once the mounts are in place,...
Once the mounts are in place, you can mark and drill your holes for the Dzus fasteners. These are riveted to the covers once you have trial fit the covers to the bezel. Ours now fit perfectly, and come off very easily with a screwdriver or a spare coin.
While our Laguna was being...
While our Laguna was being painted, we sent out the chrome headlight bezels with the rest of the trim for powdercoating (Extreme Powder Coating in Mesa, AZ, 480-832-9034). The satin black matched the car perfectly. With those back in hand, we began fashioning the Dzus fastener receiver clips (Moroso PN 71550, $6.88 from Summit) to the inside of the bezels. The Dzus fasteners (PN 41440, $41.69 from Summit) attach to the covers after the mounting clips are in place.
Quick Trick: Nutserts
Also known as threadserts, these dandy pieces are useful for adding attachment points to metal surfaces. A nutsert is similar to a rivet: it's installed with a crimping tool that pinches the nutsert around a metal surface in a hole that's the same size as the OD of the nutsert. We used nutserts for our windshield blow-out straps and rear spoiler, and found them easy to use right out of the box the first time out. Threadserts come in a variety of thread sizes (you can get them at Ace Hardware), and once installed, provide a fairly sturdy attachment point that lasts a long time. It's a good alternative to welding tabs or nuts, especially after you've painted a car. These are widely used in race cars, and add a nice repertoire of build choices to the hot rodder's trick bag.
Quick Trick: Riveting
Rivets are a staple or race car builders; they're quick, easy, sturdy, and lend any car a distinct race car vibe. We're not saying they're for every car, but if you like your hot rods rough and ready, rivets give you clear fabrication options unavailable from other techniques in the same price range. Riveting two pieces together is shamefully easy--drill your holes, load the right size rivet in the gun, and squeeze. You'll want to practice on a few pieces first, because the rivet gun clips the extra nub off the rivet at the end, sometimes resulting in the tool bouncing on your paintjob! Easy does it, and you're good to go.