When I first called my buddy and fellow racer Shawn Johnston at T2G Customs in Wayne City, IL about painting my Vega, he had no idea what I was getting him into. I mean, he had some idea. Shawn’s parking spot at I-57 Dragstrip is beside mine, so he was familiar with the Vega. He knew she was no show piece. But there’s no way he understood the depth of the project that he was getting in to. If he did, there’s no way he would’ve accepted the challenge!
Just a few issues that he couldn’t possibly understand the depth of:
The roof: When I said in a previous blog that the Vega doubled as a center support for my dragster in the trailer for years, I was not exaggerating. A dragster and a Vega DO NOT fit in a standard height, 28’ trailer with 2’ of cabinets in the front. They just don’t. But they did. In two separate trailers. For years and thousands of miles. It’s not hyperbole to say that I would hoist the dragster up, strap it down, and then drive the Vega in until it hit the dragster, throw a few straps on it, close the door, and hope for the best. Not hyperbole at all. So the roof was somewhere between dented and caved in when the Vega arrived at T2G.
The quarterpanels: Let’s be clear. At no point as the owner of my Vega was I under any delusion that there was a piece on it that was straight. With that said, I had no idea how much Bondo was holding the quarterpanels together until I got it home from powder coat. When the guys at Rick’s stripped it, there quite frankly wasn’t much left. Like I said, no way Shawn realized what he was getting into. No way.
The rear hatch: If you’ll remember, part of my vision for the Vega was to re-introduce the factory hatch and doors: I wanted a working hatch and doors with roll up windows. All of that had been removed and replaced with Fiberglass (I assume) when the car was originally built by Don Hardy in 1974. How hard could it be to switch it back?!?
Simply locating factory components was MUCH harder than I anticipated. I’m a firm believer that 90%+ of Vega’s that rolled off the assembly line ultimately became race cars. Those race cars either still retain the factory doors/hatch, or they were replaced years ago and left in a field to rot. Thanks to my buddy Jim Henderson, we were able to locate a set of suitable doors. We also located a hatch. Notice I didn’t use the suitable phrase there.
The back half of the hatch had some rust. To my untrained eye, not a lot of rust. Yea, Shawn and his guys essentially cut it in half and started over. Better yet, at some point the quarterpanels had been modified to house the tubs, and the fiberglass hatch cut to fit. Did I mention that the factory hatch mounts weren’t in place? I can’t begin to detail the work and hours that went into getting the hatch to fit: I think Shawn could write his own blog series on that process alone.
The factory latch wouldn’t clear the fuel cell, so they had to fabricate mounts as well. At some point, they talked me into incorporating a small wing. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea at first, but they persuaded me. This became a 100+ hour project (it’s completely hand fabricated), and I could never have imagined how cool it would turn out. In finished form, it literally looks like it was a factory option. It wasn’t… but I’m now convinced that it should have been.
Included here are several photos of the body work in progress. You can find more on the T2G Facebook page.