It is interesting to note that Whitaker and Irwin really expected to sell a lot of basic body skeletons, but that has not necessarily been the case. It seems most customers see the body with all the new outer skins installed and decide to go for the complete body.

The complete body is manufactured while the car is still on the fixture. The quarter-panel skins are aligned and spot-welded in place just like the factory process. The fixture has locating pegs for the new outer quarter-panels so placement is precise. The panel between the quarters is then clamped in place. This panel incorporates the front of the driprail for the trunk area and is clamped to the new quarter-panels. Before this panel is welded in place, the new decklid is carefully fitted to the quarters and the forward panel. Once the decklid fits perfectly the spot welding continues to permanently attach all the panels. It should be noted that throughout the build there are approximately 25 percent more spot welds holding the body together than the original ’57 bodies.

The final panel to be installed is the lower tail pan and it too is fitted to the decklid prior to welding, along with the small inner quarter-panel pieces. This completes the body shell and the inner fixtures are removed from the body and the body is carefully lifted off the main fixture with a fork truck. If the customer has ordered doors, they are bolted in place at this time completing the body. Of course the hood, front fenders, inner braces, and brackets are all available in the complete package.

Different Stages of Completion

After watching the assembly process it is no real mystery to us why most people opt for the complete body package. Only the very best metalworkers could hang the quarters, rockers, and other panels with the precision that Real Deal Steel does. The fixture they use is just a huge advantage for alignment and the OEM-style spot welder makes it all look very original. While these bodies are manufactured by Real Deal Steel, they do not sell direct to consumers as they maintain their focus on manufacturing.

Woody’s Hot Rodz is the primary dealer for Real Deal Steel. Chris Sondles, owner of Woody’s, and the owners of Real Deal Steel have a working relationship that began over 20 years ago. They have spent the last two decades deeply involved with Tri-Fives and the bodies drop ship directly from the manufacturing facility in central Florida. You can purchase bodies from Woody’s Hot Rodz in virtually any state of completion and they also offer three different chassis to mount the Tri-Five Chevrolet: Woody’s straight-axle gasser style, a stock-like A-arm (upper and lower control arms) chassis, and of course an Art Morrison Enterprises chassis. Woody’s Hot Rodz is fast becoming the place for all your Tri-Five needs. They can provide the basic skeleton, a complete body, a complete body and frame kit, and even a complete painted body.

What it Means to the Hobby

The introduction of all-new steel bodies for the wildly popular Tri-Five Chevrolets will obviously increase the number of ’55-57 Chevrolet hot rods. The Real Deal Steel ’55 and ’57 body through Woody’s will be available in a “post car” sedan model by the middle of the summer and the hardtop and convertible models are available now. After they complete the full line of ’57 Chevrolets (sorry, no Nomads) Real Deal Steel will begin assembling ’55 bodies in convertible, hardtop, and post styles. All ’56 models (sedan, hardtop, convertible) will be available by the spring of 2012.