The Tin is Done!
By Phil R. Elliott
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 each other.
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 entailed.
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, nightmare?
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.
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