Street Rod Build Set for Food Lion AutoFair
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Ever wonder how a tired old car gets turned into a beautiful hot rod? Fatman Fabrications will reveal the secrets during the April 12-15 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Brent VanDervort, a Charlotte transplant from upstate New York, had a business degree and was working as a small-engines engineer in 1984 when he learned his job was being phased out. Rather than sending out résumés, VanDervort turned his hobby of customizing automobiles into a career when he founded Fatman Fabrications out of a two-car garage.
"I had been working on friends' cars for years," VanDervort said. "They were all into hot rods, so I chopped a lot of tops on custom cars; I lost count after I did a hundred of those."
Fatman's early customers were largely interested in driving their ‘30s and ‘50s street rods at highway speeds in comfort and safety, so the most common request was for the installation of modern suspension components and high-performance brakes. VanDervort knew the hot rod industry's answer for such a request-an independent front suspension system based on a 10-year-old Ford design-was in need of improvement, so he put his engineering skills to work and developed a complete line of chassis components.
"From there, it was a natural progression to the point that we now build and sell entire chassis from the ground up," he said. "Fatman is one of two manufacturers with permission to create 17-digit vehicle identification numbers for its chassis, just like any modern car has. The hot rod and kit car worlds struggled for years with the problem of how to create a car from scratch and register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles. This program solves that issue."
Familiar with Fatman's nationwide reputation, H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, issued VanDervort and his team a challenge: assemble a complete street rod during the four days of the Food Lion AutoFair. Past dares, such as combining a golf cart with a Legends Car in less than 96 hours, have resulted in entertaining, educational and interactive displays at the world's largest automotive extravaganza.
Jim Jewell, a longtime friend of VanDervort, volunteered his 1940 Ford convertible for the exercise. Jewell, who recently retired from the auto parts business, has owned the car for 26 years and intends to use the finished hot rod to promote a project involving prison ministries.
A four-person Fatman crew will spend the first day of the show assembling the chassis, which is being upgraded with power four-wheel disc brakes and a trick suspension.
On Friday, the team will install a 5.0-liter fuel-injected V-8 engine, four-speed automatic overdrive transmission and a Fatman 9.0-inch rear axle. By Saturday, the rolling chassis will be ready to receive major body components such as the radiator and air conditioning system. The final day will see the fenders, hood and doors attached and aligned.
"We will do all of the body work at the shop before AutoFair," VanDervort said. "There is minimal rust in Jim's car, so we've had an easier time getting the body perfect than you might expect on a 67-year-old vehicle.
"When we get the Ford back to the shop after the show, the body will get a final prep to get it ready for the paint booth. Jim is still deciding between black and dark maroon."
Other attractions scheduled for the Food Lion AutoFair include Atlanta Braves outfielder Andruw Jones' 2007 Cadillac ESV; 75 years of the '32 Ford "Deuce" coupe; an Evolution of the Stock Car exhibit; prized rides of NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart; and a pair of futuristic bubbletop show cars from the early 1960s.
Food Lion AutoFair attracts more than 160,000 visitors and features 50-plus car club displays, more than 10,000 vendor spaces and a collector car auction conducted by Tom Mack. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.
For information, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or click here.