The response from readerland about Project Unfair has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The only negative? Many have asked why we started with such a rusty, lost cause donor car.
There are a couple of answers to this. Remember in the first installment that one of the primary requirements was to raise the floor 1.5-inches to lower (channel) the body. This was for more than just good looks-it also lowers the center of gravity quite a bit and aids aerodynamics at the top speed goal of 200-plus mph. It would be extremely difficult to raise the floor without changing the outer sheetmetal. Since the floor was being raised, it only made sense that the donor be a car with bad floors that needed quarters and rear tail pan. Why pay for pristine floors and outer panels in an Arizona body just to throw them away?
Additionally, the cars left to restore are getting rougher and rougher. Not many will tackle a project quite this far gone, but you will deal with one area or another on almost anything you can find these days. As Frank Serafine, owner of Prodigy Customs (the builder of the car) noted, "In the '80s and '90s, many cars with much nicer bodies got thrown away. Today, there are companies that can supply every single piece of metal to repair any area of a Camaro, or even get you a body from scratch." Plus, ike the Project XS Chevelle elsewhere in this issue, another piece of American history was saved from the crusher.
Enter Auto Metal Direct in Buford, Georgia. This company is a relative newcomer to the Chevy market and its reputation is quickly growing in the hobby so it got the nod for this project.
"When the three pallets of sheetmetal showed up, the first thing we did was open one of the quarter-panels to look at it," says Serafine. "The lines were very crisp. You could feel in your hand just by the weight that the metal must be thicker. You could push on the metal with your thumbs and feel the difference in the strength of the metal. And areas like jams were finished much nicer than anything else we had used."
In this article, we will cover the sheetmetal installation of the welded body parts-pretty much everything behind the firewall. Later, in another installment we will cover the install of the front sheetmetal, or should we say front aluminum. Yes, AMD stamps all the front sheetmetal in the same heavy gauge steel, but also stamps those bolt -on panels (including everything from the firewall forward-fenders, header, valance, hood, front and rear bumpers, and decklid-all in heavy-gauge, lightweight aluminum. Total weight loss using the aluminum panels is 135 lbs. And the lines on these panels are crisp.
Because the floor was raised, it caused some issues in hanging the outer sheetmetal. One of the most major things Prodigy Customs had to do was extend the panels that go from the floor and attach to the outer body. The lower rear quarter drops that go from the trunk to the lower edge of the quarter, as well as the lower inner tailpan all had to be extended 1.5-inches. Also, the area where the rear body panel meets the trunk floor had to be massaged a bit, but as if planned the upper bumper bracket mounting hole on the rear body panel ended up lining up with the lower bumper mounting hole on the trunk floor.
Another big issue because of the raised floor was the wheel tubs. Most cars running the standard issue 25.5- to 26-inch tall tire could get by without raising the wheel tubs even if they raised the floor 1.5-inches. In street, road race and autocross trim, the car will run 335/30R18 rear tires, which are 25.7-inches tall. Most cars running this size tire could just use an aftermarket mini tub (if they were mini tubing the car) and be just fine with stock location tubs. But because in drag trim, the F-body will be running 28-inch tall drag radials, Prodigy had to raise the tubs, also.
"Because we will be running this car so low, we wanted a wheelhouse that did not curve at the top," explained Serafine. "So we selected a tub kit from Art Morrison that allowed us to use every available square inch of area between the quarterpanel and framerail for our extra tall and extra wide 345/35/18 drag radials."
Follow along and we promise by the end of this story we will have something that resembles a '69 Camaro.