We acquire a Camry suit for our ASA stock car chassis

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Update by J.G. Pasterjak to the American Speed Association Stock Car project car
Nov 22, 2023 | Toyota, nascar, ASA Stock Car

You ever wonder what happens to all those old race car bodies when the rules change? Yeah, us, too, and we were secretly hoping to leverage that unknown quantity to find a body for our ASA stock car chassis.

We originally hoped to wrap it in some sort of throwback uniform. Think Trans-Am or GTO from the ’80s or ’90s. We figured all that flared pony car bodywork was just taking up space in someone’s barn, waiting for the rats to have their babies in it.

Turns out we were dead wrong on that one.

Most of that bodywork that isn’t actually on a car running in some historic series or SCCA GT1 falls into one of two categories: broken garbage or priceless artifact.

And even the broken garbage category fetches top dollar. Yes, most of the molds are still out there, and the shops that own them would be happy to pull you a set of panels for high-four to low-five-figures, depending on materials and level of finish.

So that was probably off the table.

Next, we started looking at the short track world. Bodywork for Sportsman and Late Model class cars is relatively inexpensive, and basically designed around chassis like ours.

A complete set of plastic panels to completely body a car can be had for a few thousand dollars, and a “re-skin” consisting of the exterior pieces will barely crack four digits.

But that stuff doesn’t come with a lot of inherent personality. Yes, it’s highly aero-tuned, but it’s also–by rule and necessity–highly mass produced.

We wanted our project car to have some unique touch. Something to stir up discussion when it showed up to an event.

So back to dumpster diving, and it turns out the wait was worth it. Through a set of circumstances too complicated to adequately explain, a “friend” who works for a “major OEM’s NASCAR development center” just happened to “find” a complete set of carbon fiber body panels for a 2023 Camry in the “trash.”

Look, we’ll freely admit that this opportunity may not have been open to everyone, but the next time you get to go out on your friend’s cool boat and we aren’t invited, then realize that we all leverage buddy deals from time to time, and you grab the opportunities when they arise.

Anyway, Toyota will be switching bodies next year, as a new Camry just dropped, so these 2023 panels were suddenly rendered obsolete by the rulebook.

And disposing of carbon fiber when you’re a big company that gets watched by government letter agencies isn’t as easy as just throwing it in the trash. It has to be recycled under specific conditions, and many of those conditions actually cost the company money.

Sure, some of this now-retired bodywork will find forever homes in basement rec rooms or sports bars, but luckily we were able to procure a complete set that will be going on an honest to goodness race car–unless someone from Toyota asks where we got it; then we’ll say it fell off a truck and you better back us up on this.

The bodywork we procured was produced by Five Star Race Car Bodies–makers of aluminum, fiberglass, steel, and carbon fiber (aka composite) body parts for any number of oval and road race series, including TA2–under license from Toyota.

It’s all carbon fiber, except for the nose which appears to be GRP or some more highly flexible material. None of our panels ever saw a race, except for the nose which was on Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Rheem/Dewalt Camry when the right-front rotor exploded and sent him into the wall at Phoenix a few weeks ago. Thankfully Bell was kind enough to let the fender take most of the damage, knowing his nose may someday end up on a GRM project car.

Anyway, we’ve got four fenders, two doors, a nose, a tail, a decklid and a hood. The whole kit weighs maybe–MAYBE–70 pounds. The roof and the floor weren’t on the table as those parts will carry over to 2024 for the series as they are far more standardized than the individual body panels which create more identity for the cars.

At any rate, our friend told us the roof probably wouldn’t have fit our chassis properly, anyway, as it’s designed around the NASCAR safety cell, not an early oughts ASA safety cell.

For a roof, we’ll likely go to someone like Five Star or AR Bodies for a Sportsman Camry roof that should be a more accurate fit for out chassis and require little to no cage alterations.

Another minor complication will be the size of the Camry body. NASCAR Cup cars sit on a 110-inch wheelbase, while our ASA car rides on a 108-inch wheelbase. And we’d like to further shorten from there if possible, getting it down to 106 or even 104 inches.

It’s actually plausible this car could eventually sit on a similar footprint as a new Camaro or even a C7 Corvette and actually be smaller than something like a Challenger.

But, anyway, we’ll have to find a few linear inches to trim from the body, which should be attainable. Each panel fits nicely together with a series of keyways and tabs and flanges.

When the whole body is put together, even with simple clamps, it actually shows quite a bit of structure and rigidity. Now imagine that further supported by body mounts underneath the skin, and you have a solid high-speed runner.

And, best of all, no rules to follow. We won’t be beholden to any ride height or rake or templating restrictions, or restrictions on additional aero devices. 

You look at this car every day in the tunnel,” we said to our friend in the NASCAR business, “surely you’ve thought a few things you’d LOVE to do to it if it weren’t for those pesky rules.”

Sure enough, he had some ideas.

So now we have another major piece in the bullpen, which really can’t get much love until the suspension gets worked out. That’s going to define the ride height of the car and location of the wheels, and the body will need to be hung with those considerations in mind.

And once we start hanging, from what we understand, it’s a rather arduous process involving lots of tack weld, plumb bobs, and painter’s tape of various thicknesses with math and profanities scribbled on them.

And clecos. So. Many. Clecos. I have like 30 clecos, which is enough for like half a mirror, so it’s definitely time to up our cleco game.

So, follow along as this chapter of project Camry stars, but remember it’s a cool Camry. The kind that would make your grandma call the cops.

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Comments
David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/22/23 12:07 p.m.

Woot. 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/22/23 12:16 p.m.

If anyone wants to stop by this weekend just to lift these panels and feel how heavy they aren't it's worth it.

Noddaz
Noddaz GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/22/23 12:31 p.m.

Go, you guys go!

And just why do you need a roof?  A windshield, yes.  Just LOOK at that profile in the picture of the body panels in front of the brick garage.

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/22/23 12:36 p.m.

In reply to Noddaz :

The pic in front of the brick garage is me clamping the parts together for a teaser pic before loading up for delivery. Agreed, the body could probably run just fine with no roof, but the the complete beige Camry would not come thru.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/22/23 12:38 p.m.

That is one heck of a score.

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/22/23 12:44 p.m.

totally fell off a truck.  i saw it happen.  JG was just being a good citizen by moving it out of the road.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/22/23 12:45 p.m.
Noddaz said:

Go, you guys go!

And just why do you need a roof?  A windshield, yes.  Just LOOK at that profile in the picture of the body panels in front of the brick garage.

why doesn't my car run like that?

There is no wet like roofless race car wet

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/22/23 1:06 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
Noddaz said:

Go, you guys go!

And just why do you need a roof?  A windshield, yes.  Just LOOK at that profile in the picture of the body panels in front of the brick garage.

why doesn't my car run like that?

There is no wet like roofless race car wet

And there’s no hot like roofless race car hot.

(Ask me about stopping for a red flag at Sebring in our yellow Miata.)

obsolete
obsolete GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/22/23 1:16 p.m.

GRM goes racing in an automatic Camry, hah! Please wrap it beige.

Its a shame they didn't have an Altima version.  smiley  wink

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