A series of blue-collared workshops line an industrial parkway. The off-white brick walls and gray metal doors receive contrast only by the signage airing out the current tenant’s name and focus. One particular sign read “Auer Auto Body” in red letters with a white background. It was another wreck repair facility to the unsuspecting eye, but entering those brick walls was like entering NASCAR Narnia for a young Richard Auer.
On any given weekend, the sound of a V8 engine roaring to life would shake the walls. The exhaust would echo through the open bay doors—the NASCAR Modifieds exiting the building destined for Islip Speedway in New York. The wild chassis only resembled its production counterpart by the carcass laid over the tubular frame. In comparison, a set of four extremely wide wheels jut from each corner seeking maximum grip.
Inside the brick-walled building, between the paint fumes and fiberglass dust, an unfinished race chassis straddled the rafters strung upside down. Richard’s father saw the chassis as nothing more than a relic of his racing days, something that could be traded off in the future. Richard, however, viewed the chassis as his dream build.
The center of Richard’s life was his father, Billy. Billy was a tall, thin man with a skillset that encompassed all things automotive. Living before a time of mail-order parts, Billy fabricated all his race parts. He even customized the family’s K5 Blazer to include a TV and Nintendo to keep Richard and his brothers, BJ and Jonny, occupied.
In the early 1980s, Billy decided to hang the racing jacket up. He had already won several events and raced against greats like Richie Evans. It was now time to focus more on the shop and building cars with his three sons. His sons were all ready to take the leap, following their father’s footsteps.
As long as progress was being made, a shop space was available to us no matter the financial loss to the business. – Richard Auer
Almost genetic-like, the three brothers quickly produced the craft learned from years spent helping at the auto body shop. Billy required each son to procure their first car. He guaranteed that if progress were being made, a shop space would be available. No matter what Billy was doing, he always made time for his son’s projects, and shop space was available no matter the financial loss to the business.
The oldest brother purchased a 1971 Chevelle Malibu from an older lady, and they resprayed the exterior from “puke green” to Ferrari red. The original powertrain was converted to a small-block Chevrolet mated to a Turbo 350. A pair of 295 wide tires assisted in putting the newfound power down. The next brother decided on a 1953 Ford Pickup, and the father-son combo decided to do a complete frame-off restoration, including body and paint.
With an eye for potential, Richard decided to up the ante and outdo his two brothers with the purchase of two wrecked 1984 Chevrolet Camaros. One Camaro had taken a significant hit in the front, the other was slammed into from behind. Richard and his father poured hours into frame alignment and bodywork until the final product could be painted.
Revisiting The Dream
As the years progressed and the family had built a stable of cars ranging from restorations to restomods, one car was still left on Richard’s bucket list. The clear childhood memory of the chassis hanging upside down remained heavy on his mind. It was time to put his skills to the ultimate test, making a street-legal NASCAR Modified.
Unfortunately, the original chassis sold long before Richard could use it. The search began for a new chassis, and the first stop was Racing Junk. A few clicks in, Richard had found the Troyer Asphalt NASCAR Modified Chassis he wanted. The chassis raced on the North East NASCAR Modified circuit and was being sold without an engine — perfect for Richard’s preplanned build.
Excited to get the project off the ground, Richard threw an old Chevrolet 350 in the tubular engine bay. The siblings all took turns ripping up the street and doing burnouts. Even though the engine was nothing special, the 2,400-pound feather-light chassis made everything feel quick. This was Richard’s first time behind an actual racecar, one that mimicked the exact one hanging in the rafters and the ones his father raced for years.
Remaking The NASCAR Chassis
Once the cloud of smoke cleared and the thrill of driving an oversized go-cart dwindled, Richard set into motion remaking the chassis. Richard wanted to share the experience with others, so a passenger seat would have to be installed. This was not an easy task, that required the right-side framerail to be moved and the door bars to be removed and welded back around the passenger seating area. Once complete, Richard mocked up the modified race body.
The first attempt failed, as the right-side bodywork stuck out past the point of symmetry. Deciding not to settle, Richard tucked the tubular bars even tighter toward the passenger’s personal space. Richard found himself having to change out the transmission tunnel and dashboard to accommodate the now narrowed right side but feeling much more satisfied with the product.
As the chassis finally started to come together, it was time to address the handling. While American NASCAR oval tracks prefer the counterclockwise method, that is not the case with American streets. Cruising down the road resulted in a strong-armed battle of counter-steering to go straight. Letting go of the steering wheel was a sure-fire shot at veering into oncoming traffic so Richard had to re-align the chassis to create a neutral steering feel.
Enter The LS
The final step was to remove the antiqued 350 cubic-inch lump and install a proper engine. Richard wanted something that would provide excellent power, a smooth torque curve, and street mannerisms. An LS3 ticked off all the boxes.
The stock LS3 received a minor bump in horsepower via an LS6 camshaft. ARP studs replaced the factory head and main bolts. Richard wanted to keep the simplicity and racecar aesthetics, opting to reject the fuel injection in favor of a carburetor with an air cleaner poking through the NASCAR race bodywork’s hood. Richard then mated a Tremec Magnum six-speed with a C6 Z06 flywheel and clutch to keep the third pedal feel alive.
Once the chassis and powertrain were running properly, Richard tore the entire chassis back down and sent it off to powdercoating. Billy began trying to influence Richard to replace the NASCAR race body kit with a 1930’s coupe chassis. The race body front end with the vintage coupe would blend the styles and be a tip of the hat towards his father’s 1935 and 1937 vehicles.
Finding A Coupe
Richard finally gave into his father’s suggestion and found a 1937 Plymouth Coupe in Pennsylvania. Once destined for the scrapyard, the clean-titled shell was now headed to New York for a new life. Plymouth never designed the coupe to fit over the tubular chassis, so the body would have to be cut multiple times to attain the desired results. Most people would have made custom brackets for the overhang; this is where the Auer family sets themselves apart from the rest.
Richard prepped the new body for surgery by drawing incision cut marks along the top and sides. The center section was then channeled and pinched 5-inches in the rear and 10- inches in the front, creating a triangular and aggressive body shape. The high brim hat top was chopped, and the body lowered onto the chassis at an angle. The body panels were made into skins allowing perfect refitting. The car’s rear was then bobbed to create a free-flowing tail with a Lexan spoiler mounted to the trunk.
Richard crafted an aluminum interior to surround the tubular chassis. Kirkey seats were mounted to the floor to keep all occupants secured in the car. Richard installed a removable steering wheel, assisting in entering the cramped cockpit. A custom-mounted center gauge panel keeps track of all engine vitals.
Finally, the car was ready to visit Narnia. Billy had since retired, but the man behind the spray gun was none other than Richard’s brother, who inherited the business. Richard chose House of Kolors Brandywine to complement the black powder-coated chassis.
Dreams Become A Reality
After a seven-year adventure, Richard Auer’s childhood dream had finally become a reality. The final product is not only an example of one man’s street-legal racecar, but the effort that the senior Auer put into his sons. The hard work, skills, and can-do attitude shine brighter than the cars brandy wine-colored exterior ever could.