1973 Chevrolet Camaro -From Beater to Neater, Here's the Saga of the Arrow-Straight Body and Unusual Finish of the F-Bomb.
It's ludicrous, we know. After buying an $800, clapped-out Camaro, we treated it to the most extensive body massage we've done to a project car in recent years just to paint it satin Army green. It just worked out like that. But along the way, we documented everything to show you exactly how to prep your car for even the highest-gloss finish, because, as Scott Carpenter said, "This thing is so straight, we could have just painted it black." And it probably would have been easier.
Carpenter is the next character you'll meet in the long lineup of guys who made HOT ROD's Project F-Bomb happen. The story began in the Sept. '06 issue with Tom Nelson, the relentless power guy at Nelson Racing Engines who served up 1,500 hp worth of twin-turbo small-block and twisted our arm to shove it into our '73 Camaro. Then, last month, you met tattooed, croaky-voiced fabrication genius Nick Miserendino at Red Zone Race Fab, who set up the Bomb with a jungle-gym rollcage to shield us from the furious power.
Now, there's Carpenter-this month's cover model and a '70s-throwback biker dude with a heart of gold who says "rad" and "gnarly" quite a bit. He worked for Corky's Customs back when that shop was buried in fiberglass dust during the building of the cars for the film Corvette Summer, and Carpenter even set up the righthand drive with a bicycle sprocket and chain that relayed righthand steering in-put back to the stock lefthand column. He's been a staple hot-rodder's body guy around California's San Fernando Valley ever since and has recently been running his own place, Scott's Customs. But then he got hooked up with Nelson, who has a shop just two doors down in the same seedy industrial complex. The guys teamed to create Nelson Supercars, since they'd already been working together to install some Nelson engines into customers' cars and had painted a few along the way-this month's cover cars included. The long-term plan is for Nelson Supercars to build three or four complete cars a year, and the F-Bomb is serial No. 001 in that program.
For our poor body hero, it was a tough road. This project did not go down in a logical order, as we'd initially scrambled to get the car done in time for last year's Drag Week(tm) event, but didn't make it. The effort involved two months of 24-hour work days, where the car was sent to various other shops during the day then trailered back to Carpenter's where it was rubbed on all night. It didn't come close to the theoretically perfect order of assembling the entire car, completing all the fabrication, testing it, then tearing it all back down for paint. That's an ideal world, not a magazine world. But it explains why the photos appear to show the car in various stages of assembly as the work is completed.
We didn't really know what color the F-Bomb was going to be when Nelson's team first attacked it with 80-grit, 9-inch discs on a power grinder to remove all the paint. Rally Green, perhaps? That was the original hue, though it was hidden under coats of a second green, light blue, silver, and then dark blue. In many cases, cars with original paint don't need to be fully stripped to bare metal to get the new finish to adhere properly, but the rescued junkyard Camaro had so much paint on it that it was chipping off. Also, according to Carpenter, "There's just so much stuff on it that you won't ever get new paint to look straight on top of it. All that buildup makes it wavy, and you can never color-sand it enough. It's just not right." It's usually obvious when a car has too much paint, but if in doubt, you can get thickness checkers, which measure in mils, from pro paint stores. ... Read more on HotRod.com