Through the construction of our Project XS '70 Chevelle convertible and '55 hardtop, we've learned more than a few things about what really goes into building a car. Not just the nuts and bolts of it, but into the murky depths of what it takes to assemble a really cool Chevy.
Before a car can be wheeled into the paint booth for some color, there are important and sometimes critical things that need to be checked, test-fitted, and looked at. If you can avoid it, you never want to be drilling or cutting on a painted body. It's too easy for a tool to slip or similar mishap that'll add hours more work to your build, and ding your wallet for what it costs to fix the damage.
Now, if you're a pro builder obviously you're going to know most of what we're about to discuss. You might even think of something we didn't mention. If you do, head on over to the Super Chevy Facebook page, and post your dry-building hints and tips for everyone to see.
With the help of Classic Automotive Restoration Specialists' (CARS) Jim Barber, we're going to throw some tips out there that'll help make the build process easier for the at-home guy and help those with cars being built at shops better understand what's going into their car's construction.
Know Your Parts Ahead of Time
Building a custom car is a lot like cooking. You've got to know your ingredients beforehand and have them ready to go before putting everything together in the pot. If you're building a custom dash, you need to have the gauges in hand so you can build the structure around them. Do it in reverse, and you've just limited your options while probably increasing cost.
What wheels are you using? A lot of custom and aftermarket wheels require more clearance than what stock wheelwells can give, requiring mini-tubbing out back and mods to the inner fenders up front. For steering, wheel width is going to affect your turning radius and range, possibly requiring bumpstops to prevent rubbing.
Aftermarket A/C, stereo, and other accessory systems usually require dash mods and tweaks for proper fit. Installing power windows that weren't originally there? That means test-fitting the inner mechanisms and drilling holes in the doors and body to run the electrical wires.
Converting to aftermarket seats? A late-model transmission? Installing an aftermarket or custom center console? Odds are modifications will be necessary to the floor pan, seat mounts, and trans tunnel.
The list could go on for pages. The bottom line? Have as many of your parts in hand as possible, or at least their measurements, so you can get an idea of the mods necessary before paint. Here's Jim's take on this aspect:
"Have out all your parts first. This allows you to test fit everything prior to paint as the building process moves forward. Whether a custom build or stock resto, the finished product will be head and shoulders above the competition by dry building."