When one builds a funny
car, the first thing they do is order a body of their choice and get it
delivered it to the chosen chassis builder. The body is inspected,
ogled, measured, and looked at some more. Most are mocked up at
approximate ride height and measured some more.
Then, the chassis builder
grabs some tubing, makes a few bends, cuts and fish mouths, and then
welds it all together to fit the confines of the body. When the two come
together, the body is mounted with a mishmash and criss-cross of more
tubing (called “trees” because they look like the many branches of a
small tree). It is after that that the tinwork goes in, the actual walls
and bulkheads that seal the engine and driver’s compartments away from
In our case, Chris Stinson
raised his hand at the wrong moment and suggested he’d always wanted
to “tin a funny car for the experience.” In retrospect, certainly,
he failed to understand the time involved or just how much work was
Chris is extremely
talented, wants to do this kind of work, and has allied himself with two
of the finest craftsmen ever in drag racing – Tom Hanna and Pat
Foster. Both were instrumental pieces to this puzzle, or should I say,
One of the major problems
of tinning a funny car is the size of the body. It is always in the way
no matter what you are trying to accomplish. There is the constant need
of other people to help hoist the body off and on, and to turn it over
to weld this or that. Take the wheels off. Put the wheels on. Chris
Stinson did a yeoman’s job on this project. I will never be able to
thank him enough.
His right-hand man has been
Ron Miller whose establishment has housed the FC pieces throughout this
ordeal. Certainly, there are many other nameless folk, mostly members of
what has been jokingly referred to as the “Winslow Sewing Circle,”
that I may never meet or know.
Instead of that perfect
world scenario of FC building described above, Chris and Ron were handed
a bunch of junk. A beat-up Nova body that has been heavily modified by
several people over its life, then left to sit outside for dogs and
errant children to use in who knows what manner. A chassis of unknown
origin that is barely close to fitting properly.
His first job was to get a
solid base from which to hinge the body. Chris chose to build a solid
truss that bolts into both the rear uprights and the rear-end housing.
Note the clever retaining
bracket that will not allow the body to hop out. In the next photo, with
wheels and body installed, one can get a perspective on the components.
Also, besides the horizontal bar that goes straight across, there is
tubing that goes straight up and straight back.
Up front, Chris had to
engineer and build the latching mechanism that holds the body down and
not allow it to take flight. What he came up with is a beauty. It goes
right through where the license plate would be on a normal car. I left
his call-outs on the photo (scroll back to the opening photo to see what
he came up with on the front side of the bumper).
As funny car fans, one of
the main ingredients that we look for is the right “look,” the
proper stance. They have got to have the correct amount of rake. Too low
and they look like a lead sled, too high in the back and they take on
the appearance of a duck that was just kicked in the ass.
With the body and chassis
united, Chris and Ron rolled the Nova outside and across Old Route 66 to
get a full perspective. The photos here speak for themselves – Chris
did a dynamite job of giving the components attitude.
So, on to the tin.
There were many, many
conversational emails and even a few phone calls, to me and his main
advisors, Hanna and Foster. Chris toiled on in his spare time between
driving trains and family.
He built an absolutely
gorgeous dash and firewall. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
There were myriad other
things that Chris did too, such as build mounts for tank and puke tank,
and build this mini cowl that seals the firewall from the footwell.
The sidefill areas –
between the chassis outsides and the body insides – are also
masterfully done. You can see they aren’t simple – notice the little
box that goes around the steering crossover for example.
Chris has just sent more
pictures of the completed project. All I can say is “Wow!” That
sentiment has gone to Chris from Pat Foster and Tom Hanna as well.
Should you need to get
tinwork done for a racecar, I would highly recommend Chris Stinson.
I’ve seen his work on dragster bodies, including cowlings, and on both
altereds and now a complete funny car. He also does complete fabrication
and repair. He’s on the (rail)road quite a bit, but you can reach him
via email or through Ron Miller or phone (928) 289-4537, always.
By the way, shortly after
the aluminum interior was completed, the editor of Hot Rod Magazine,
Matt King, called. He wanted to place the Nova in feature about wild and
crazy homebuilt projects. I sent a few photos and here is the result.