A Guide to Aftermarket Steel Bodies
In the world of street rods, the words, “all steel”, pop up a lot, especially in for sale ads and even throughout feature write-ups. This distinction is still placed upon hot rods whether built from their OEM metal shell or from a brand-new steel body, even though there are some extremely high quality fiberglass counterparts. But a steel body is not all about prominence – it’s about starting a project with all new materials and a solid foundation.
For muscle car and vintage truck fans, there may not be fiberglass body counterparts to consider, so you’re stuck working with what you can find and in many cases that means a lot of rust to replace or damage to be repaired. It can also mean your new project may be full of surprises in the form of previous repairs that could have been hidden or unfortunately misrepresented.
Classic cars that are worthy of building or restoring are going to continue to get harder to find, especially many of our favorites. The good news is there are several companies that are making it easier to build your dream machine by starting with an all-new steel reproduction body. And it’s not just early Ford bodies being stamped and assembled these days, as you can start anew with a Tri-five Chevy body, early Bronco, Mustang, Camaro, Nova, Challenger or a C10 cab for your next project!
The thought of working with no rust, no previous shoddy repair work from an accident years ago, nor other surprises seems like a dream to most car guys. The manufacturers of these new bodies have gone to extremes in research and development to build their steel bodies to factory specs or better while using modern technologies to improve the fitment and quality. Just check out some of the companies we talked to and see what’s new in the world of steel bodies.
Once again, it’s a good time to be a hot rodder.
Real Deal Steel
First-gen Camaros receive a lot of love when it comes to project cars and have even been available as steel reproduction bodies for a number of years. Nova fans will be excited to see an all-new, all-steel body available for the popular ’66-’67 model years. Real Deal Steel’s steel Chevy II Nova two-door hardtop bodies are exact reproductions of the original GM product with the exception of 25-percent more high-strength spot welds to improve the strength of the structure. It’s the same body used on the Goodguys 2019/2021 Grand Prize Giveaway vehicle built by Designer Street Rods.
Each panel of the new body is made with the same gauge steel as the originals and are assembled in the USA. The bodies include doors, deck lid, drip rails, top skin, deck filler, and quarter panels, while floorpan options vary depending on the transmission shifter placement and seating configuration. Real Deal Steel also offers a larger tunnel to accommodate modern overdrives or rear mini-tubs to handle larger wheel and tire combinations. If you’re building a tube chassis race car, the Nova bodies are also available as a Race Body, which is a bare-bones skeleton.
If you’re ready to build your dream Deuce coupe, do it right with an all-new steel body from Brookvlle. No surprises and no rust, just perfect new sheet metal to start your project right. Brookville’s three-window coupe bodies are made from original-gauge steel and great care was taken to ensure that any original parts will bolt in place on the new coupe body.
If a roadster is more your style, Brookville has you covered there as well, but if you’re looking for something that will really stand out, check out their limited edition Phanton body. This body was designed by Chip Foose using panels from their roadster, coupe, and pickup bodies and features two large suicide doors for easy entrance and exit. Only 32 of the Phanton bodies were built and there are less than a dozen left, so you better hurry!
Woody’s Hot Rodz
Fancy a ’55 or ‘57
The three-year run of what is commonly known as the Tri-five Chevy was a great time for Chevrolet. Who would have ever thought that the ’55, ’56 and ’57 would continue to be so popular 70 years on? Woody’s Hot Rodz is a Tri-five expert with everything you need to restore or build your ’55-’57 Chevy, including completely new steel bodies for the ’55 and ’57 hardtops.
Each Chevrolet-licensed body is hand assembled and MIG welded in Bright, Indiana, and is supplied with the seams sealed, roughed-in exterior seams, and full sealer applied as standard features. For modern builds, they present upgrades like recessed firewalls, mini-tubs, pre-drilled trim holes, and even offer full bodywork and paint packages (in limited numbers).
Dynacorn Classic Bodies
Cabs and Challengers
There is no denying the popularity of trucks these days but finding any classic truck that hasn’t been beat on or has a serious case of rusty rockers and floors is proving difficult (and expensive). Dynacorn Classic Bodies set out to make building a ’67-’72 Chevy truck easier with a brand-new steel cab that can be outfitted for two- or four-wheel drive projects.
Mopar fans will be excited to see that Dynacorn has also added a ’70 Dodge Challenger body to their growing line of new classic steel bodies. These bodies were developed and are assembled in Camarillo, California, and provide a time-saving option when setting out to build your dream muscle car. They also offer first-gen Camaros and Firebirds, ’65-’70 Mustangs, and a ’70 Chevelle body. The Challenger and Chevy cab are officially licensed by Mopar and GM.
Extra Large T
There’s no denying the sensation of cruising in a classic Model T roadster, but you never hear someone exclaim how roomy one is after a long drive! These cars were never known for passenger comfort, but Shadow Rods set out to change that with their XL ’27 Roadster steel body. The body is 4-inches longer, 3-inches taller, and a couple inches wider, which may not sound like much but makes quite a difference getting in and out of the car.
Shadow Rods designed the body mounting points to fit original and aftermarket 1932-based chassis, plus they’ll accept a full set of Deuce fenders. The XL is crafted from 19-gauge die-stamped steel and includes stainless steel door hinges, a chrome trunk latch, door check straps, and more. There are plenty of ways to personalize your project with a smooth or modified stamped rear panel, a cowl vent, and a number of firewall configurations to build the roadster of your dreams.
Just like Henry
Nearly anyone setting out to build a five-window ’32 coupe would like to start with an original steel body but scoring a decent 90-year-old body is not easy nor likely to be in pristine shape. Which is exactly why United Pacific developed an all-new, all-steel ’32 five-window coupe shell that has been reproduced exactly like the original Ford product and is even Ford licensed.
The new body shell is the stock height and includes the hardwood inner structure, both doors with latches, and the deck lid hinged as a trunk. United Pacific offers the shell in four configurations: the original-style roof or a filled roof, and with or without a cowl vent. The bodies are assembled in Long Beach, California, and are shipped in a black EDP coating to keep all that new steel fresh and clean. They also offer individual ‘32 components including fenders, grilles, and firewalls to help finish off your new Deuce exactly how you envision.
Early Broncos, along with their ‘80s counterparts and now the new model, are a hot commodity, but finding an early version that doesn’t require a lot of rust repair and metal replacement is tough. Dennis Carpenter now offers an all new ’66-’77 Bronco body so you can start your dream Bronco build with fresh metal! The bodies are available with stock rear fender openings or with an optional flared quarter panel to match the size and shape of the front to accommodate a larger tire/ wheel combination.
The early Bronco bodies are officially licensed by Ford and are assembled at the Dennis Carpenter facility in Concord, North Carolina. The bodies feature original-style components and display all the details that were present in the original models, resulting in uniform body gaps and panel fitment. The body includes hinged and mounted doors along with the windshield frame. They also offer a large selection of Bronco restoration components to help complete your build.
American Speed Company
If you’re thinking about starting either a highboy or full-fendered classic roadster based on a ’33 Ford, do yourself a favor and check out the all-steel body offered by the American Speed Company. The body honors the original Ford design but features many subtle improvements that ease the build process such as integrated windshield stanchions, a full substructure for increased rigidity as well as a fully integrated convertible top!
A lot of planning and work went in to the ability to cover the fold-down top with a hard tonneau cover and even when the top is up, it still looks good. The body is also designed with functioning side glass to fully seal the cabin to keep it quiet and comfortable. The engineering behind the ’33 is all based on modern computer and modeling tools, which allowed the American Speed team to start with scans and measurements of original samples and combine them with their artists’ renderings. The body is stamped from 18-gauge steel and assembled with OEM tolerances on professional fixtures for a precise fit. The bodies are also available with an E-coat finish to keep the fresh metal protected during your build process.
Titling Tips for New Bodies
So, you’re getting close to finishing your next project, which was built with a new steel body, and now it’s time to get it titled and registered. How exactly do you do that when there’s no title or VIN to hand over to your friendly Department of Motor Vehicles clerk? We wondered the same thing and turned to Real Deal Steel for more information and useful tips when it comes to the process. Of course, every state is going to have some different rules and requirements, but this info will get you started down the right path and answer some common questions.
The First Step
Before you do anything on your project, find out what kind of documentation is required in your state. Most of this information is available online, or you can swing into your ‘friendly’ DMV if you have the time and ask for direction. Once you get the fact sheets, read them carefully, like you would on a spec-class rulebook, and keep that info in mind as you set about your project.
What kind of paperwork will I need register the car?
A bill of sale (invoice issued by selling dealer) is acceptable if the manufacturer didn’t issue a Manufacturers Statement of Origin (MSO). You’ll also need a completed Application for Certificate of Title from your state’s DMV and a notarized affidavit, stating that the vehicle is capable of operating on public roads.
The affidavit must also list the repairs made to the vehicle, including bills and receipts for all the parts and equipment that were not part of the body. These components may include suspension kits, doors, the driveline, frame, cowl assembly, or any parts of those elements including applicable sales tax.
Keeping records and documentation is key when working with the government and it also holds true when trying to title your new hot rod. Be sure to keep records of each part, including the vendor’s name, the part and part number, the date of purchase, and of course the price. For larger components like an engine, be sure to include a serial number in your files. Keeping a diary of your build is a good idea and is easy to document with pictures and details about the process. (All of this documentation is also handy to have for insurance or if you ever decide to sell the car down the road.)
What if I have an existing title and VIN?
Real Deal Steel DOES NOT suggest using the VIN plate from an original car transferred onto one of their bodies. If you’re a shop building the car for a customer, this practice can get you into a heap of trouble. However, if you hold a clear title to an original frame being used under your Real Deal Steel body, have the state inspect the frame and verify the VIN before assembly.
As an example, on ’55-’57 Chevrolet passenger car frames, the VIN is stamped in two places on top of the driver’s side frame rail. In most cases, the state will issue a readable VIN plate/tag that matches your frame and title that may be displayed on the body.
SEMA Action Network
Another source to check out is the SEMA Action Network at www.semasan.com. This SEMA group provides useful information including legislative updates from every state such as vehicle scrappage bills, registration classifications and other important rights for hot rodders.