This Pony’s Dressed for Speed

Apr 1, 2011

A Restyling How-To: Body Kits

A vehicle customized with an aftermarket body kit, definitely has proven to be an effective way to attract customers to car dealer lots and vehicle accessory shops. It’s even better when you can sell these upgraded vehicles at a premium, and offer your customers the same body kit and installation, to help your bottom line.

An example is Murrieta, Calif.-based RK Sport’s new 2011 Mustang kit that dramatically changes the appearance of a stock V-6 or V-8 model. The company has been building body kits for years and installed one on their own project vehicle. The team there took it a step further by adding a performance suspension, custom wheels, performance tires and a Ford Racing supercharger.

Not all body kits are the same and installation times vary. So we thought it was a good idea to allow RK Sport to demonstrate what’s involved in a typical installation.

Like many other body kits from various manufacturers, RK Sport includes urethane side skirts and door panels, a three-piece deck lid spoiler, front air dam and a rear bumper valance. Some kits might use carbon fiber, some fiberglass. In fact, this particular kit also includes a fiberglass hood that features a carbon fiber overlay, scoop and louvers. The company also offers a carbon-fiber roof overlay and fiberglass fenders with brake vent cut-outs, which were already installed on the Mustang.

According to Mike Lozano of RK Sport, a typical kit like this one takes about four to six hours to install, not including prep and paint, and comes with high-quality self-adhesive tape and an adhesive primer to ensure adhesion where the pieces contact the vehicle’s sheet metal or urethane bumpers. Other pieces such as the front air dam and rear bumper valance, simply bolt together and use factory holes and clips. Because some shops prefer to use an adhesive paste, rather than the tape, this manufacturer’s parts also can be ordered without any adhesive.

No matter whose body kit you install, manufacturers like Lozano advise to first read the instructions and check the fit of all the pieces before sending them off to get painted. This might involve “installing them twice,” but can save you time and heartache in the long run. Once the body kit is installed, it’s easy to see how a base model car, can be transformed with a racy style that screams for attention and can lead customers to your door. Step by step instructions corresponding photos at the bottom.

1. Bolting on RK Sport’s fiberglass hood that replaces the factory unit using the original hinge bolts and hood latch.

2. The factory front valance is unbolted from the bottom corners of the bumper (inset) and pulled away from the retaining clips located along the bottom of the bumper cover.

3. Adhesive tape is used where the new air dam makes contact with the exterior surface of the bumper, while the mounting tab will meet up with the original valance bolt holes. NOTE: All of the surfaces of the vehicle should be cleaned prior to any piece going onto it. Here’s what I would recommend adding: RK Sport provides a water-soluble primer that should be added prior to the surface of the bumper where the tape will adhere to.

4. Once it’s painted, the new air dam is pushed into the retaining clips (inset) on the factory bumper and is bolted at each corner to the bumper, using the factory hardware.

5. The Mustang’s plastic rocker panels are held in place with push-in retainers. This will allow you to easily pull out the panels by gently prying them away.

6. With the door open, RK Sport’s rocker panels are fit into position. They are made to butt up against a lip in the panel (inset) to ensure it’s installed at the correct height.

7. Once the new rocker panel is in the correct position, self-tapping screws are used to secure the top to the vehicle’s door sill.

8. A trick used before installing any panel that uses adhesive tape is to pull away a small section of the tape’s backing and overlap it on the outside of the panel. This will allow you to position and hold the panel as you pull away the backing.

9. With the new rocker panel in position, the adhesive backing is pulled away and the piece is pressed firmly against the sheet metal.

10. Two self-tapping screws secure the ends of the rocker panel to the inner wheel wells. RK Sport says you can move the panel position in or out to give it more or less of an aggressive appearance.

11. The door panels are also carefully positioned before pulling away the backing of the adhesive tape.

12. There should be enough space at the front of the door panel that allows for clearance between it, and the fender when the door is opened.

13. Now, let’s move to the rear bumper valance. Here you see it unpainted. It’s designed to bolt directly in place of the factory valance underneath the bumper.

14.  The rear bumper cover must be removed from the vehicle by taking out the bolts in the wheel well and in the trunk. Then it can be pulled away from the factory push-in clips that secure it to the frame.

15. All of the taillights and rear parking light connections must also be removed before pulling away the factory bumper cover.

16. New diamond grille inserts are secured to the inside of the rear bumper valance.

17. Then the factory rear bumper cover and the new valance are bolted together.

18. Using the factory push-in clips and bolts, the bumper cover and new valance are reattached to the vehicle, and the wiring harness is plugged back in.

19. The factory spoiler is removed by unbolting it from underneath the deck lid (see arrows on inset photo) on both the driver’s and passenger sides.

20. The original spoiler holes are covered from the underside with electrical tape, and modeling clay fills the holes to prevent water from leaking into the trunk.

21. RK Sport designed the spoiler to be adhered to the deck lid, so it can be used on Mustangs that came with or without a factory spoiler. Its position on the deck lid is marked with masking tape.

22. A water-soluble adhesive primer is added to the sheet metal to ensure the tape on the spoiler adheres properly.

23. The spoiler is then placed in position and the backing on the adhesive tape is pulled away.

24. Once installed, the rear bumper valance and spoiler add a performance appearance to this Mustang.