One thousand pounds. Half a ton. Way more than any strongman contestant can lift. That’s how much weight Finale Speed has been able to cut out of a 1969 Camaro by replacing its steel body with carbon fiber. And the company’s aiming to bring that supercar technology to pretty much any American muscle car.
“Carbon fiber’s been around for years,” said JD Rudisill, who founded Finale Speed in Yukon, Oklahoma, in April 2022. “It’s what they use in Formula 1, all the hypercars, because it’s just a fraction of the weight of steel. Half the weight and double the strength, is what they say. It’s just that nobody had used it on the classics.”
Other aftermarket companies have offered ready-made carbon-fiber components, Rudisill noted, and a handful do offer full carbon-fiber bodies, but Rudisill said that as far as he knows, Finale is the first company to offer full carbon-fiber bodies for 1968-1970 Dodge Chargers and first-generation Chevrolet Camaros.
The latter made its debut this past week at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction as a complete car dubbed Viral, powered by a 650hp LT4 6.2-liter crate engine. The former has had a far more eventful few months. From the start, Rudisill wanted to work with Dodge representatives to license the second-generation Charger’s design, and even before those agreements were in place, he got an invitation to unveil the Charger’s bare carbon-fiber body at Dodge’s Speed Week event in August – the same event at which the company debuted its all-electric Charger Daytona SRT Concept.
“We just got there, and we’ve got Tom Sacoman (Director of Dodge Product and Motorsports) and Ralph Gilles (Stellantis Head of Design) crawling all over it,” Rudisill said. “I’m in shock. Then Tim Kuniskis sees it and says he wants it at SEMA, still unfinished and with a Hellcrate in it.
According to Rudisill and Finale’s Chris Jacobs, the company has been able to make such great strides in less than a year due to a number of factors. While Rudisill gives credit to the eight guys in the shop who came to the company from Rudisill’s prior venture (“The eight best guys you want working on carbon fiber cars,” he said), he also has 15 years of experience working with carbon fiber in automotive applications. Finale has also partnered with Brothers Carbon in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, which supplies the dozen or so pieces that Finale then pieces together into bodies.
(For what it’s worth, Brothers displays a complete carbon-fiber Bumpside F-100 body on its website. Speedkore has also built full carbon-fiber Dodge Chargers, but does not appear to offer the bodies separately. Kindig-It Design offers 1953 Corvettes with full carbon fiber bodies. Classic Recreations, which was already building carbon-fiber Shelby G.T.500s, also announced a full carbon-fiber Shelby Cobra body last year.)
Perhaps just as important, Finale employs a straightforward, old-school method for building carbon fiber bodies that dispenses with the time-consuming process of CAD modeling, 3D printing, and other high-tech prototyping solutions normally associated with carbon fiber. More like creating fiberglass body panels, the process starts with sourcing a body from which Finale can pull fiberglass molds, which then go to Brothers for laying up with prepreg (carbon fiber sheets with the resin already embedded in the carbon fiber weave) and curing in an autoclave. “With the prepreg, they just roll it out and trim it to fit,” Jacobs said. “It looks just like they’re installing Dynamat.