Shaun Carlson: Build Retrospective

While the industry as a whole is mourning the loss of master fabricator Shaun Carlson I decided before I get the ball rolling on MotorworldHype again I’d go through some of his high profile builds a little bit, just incase you weren’t familar with just how far his influence goes back.

This is the first build that I’ve ever seen from Shaun’s NuFormz shop.  He built this Honda CRX with Jason Whitfield more than 10 years ago.  While it was a beautiful car to look at this thing was serious business.  Back in the day this was the fastest 1/4 mile single cam Honda in the country…probably the world.

The yellow beast you see above is probably Shaun’s most famous build.  This was the car that re-wrote sport compact drag racing, made history, and put Steph Papadakis on the map and on AEM’s radar.  That’s a lot for one car isn’t it?  This was the first FWD car to break 9’s and then 8’s in the quarter mile.  It also started the tube chassis “trend” which is now pretty much the norm in sport compact drag racing today.  This car was so ground breaking it even did some time at the Peterson Automotive Museum!

Ah, the Meguiar’s Ford Focus.  Even though the Nuformz/AEM Civic is probably the most “important” of Shaun’s builds I have to say that the Ford Focus is my favorite.  When this car hit the scene I was powerfully anti-Ford but this car was so damn cool that I put my distaste for the blue oval aside.  This was easily one of the most technologically advanced FWD drag car in the world at the time.  The body was full carbon fiber, it had an Esslinger/Ford crate engine featuring a huge Garrett turbocharger which was the same type used in Champ Cars, and it was the first FWD drag car to use a sequential transmission.  I was in love with this thing!  It was also the debut of Shaun as a professional driver.  Although when the car made its debut in Bud’s Creek MD Shaun stalled it on the line twice.  He was kind of pissed at the time but looking back it was pretty funny.  Once they got the bugs worked out he was a force to be reckoned with in this car.  You can read more about the car HERE.

This was one of the last high-profile FWD drag cars that Shaun built and symbolic of the begining of his relationship with Mopar.  Everything that Shaun had learned, invented, and discovered about FWD drag racing technology went into this car.  Although Shaun never really thought he would ever be piloting a Neon down the drag strip.  In fact, this car almost didn’t happen but things just happend to align.  You can actually get the story from the man himself in an article he wrote for Super Street back in 2003.  Check it out HERE.

Here we have the infamous Mopar Dodge Charger.  This car wasn’t the begining of NuFormz in drifting as they started off with a few Dodge Vipers.  However this is the first car Shaun got to build from scratch.  It was also the first attempt at turning a Dodge Charger into a motorsport platform.  Shaun had a little help from Detroit but he still had his work cut out for him on this one.  It is difficult for anyone to make a heavy, long wheel based beheamoth into a competitive platform in a sport where car’s are supposed to be quick and graceful but Shaun and the NuFormz team tried their hardest.  The Challenger season was rough but the car got better as time went on.


Here we have the final build by Shaun Carlson and the NuFormz team.  The results they had with the Mopar Challenger were less than desirable but with the Dodge’s release of the new Challenger Shaun had a chance to start with a more sports-oriented platform.  This car was going to be to Drifting what the AEM Civic was to drag racing. All the body pannels were carbon fiber and were all removable.  No more welding or pounding quarter pannels for Shaun!  If Sam managed to bust up the body work on this bad boy the pannels could simply be popped off and replaced.  Another innovation that proved to be quite controversial was the addition of “rollerblade” wheels to the rear pannels of the car.  Shaun believed these wheels would help Sam ride the wall at tracks like Irwindale and Long Beach.  Unfortunately Shaun’s theory was never tested.  Before they were able to begin campaigning the new Challenger the NuFormz team lost their Mopar title sponsorship due to the economic climate and the issues that the big three were dealing with.  The decision was made to finish out this season in the Viper but there were rumors that NuFormz found a new sponsor for 2010 and we would see the Challenger after all.  Hopefully that will remain true despite Shaun’s passing.

Well, I hope that this was as fun for you to read as it was for me to write.  Even though I am still saddend by what’s happend it felt good to go through all of the awesome builds that I’ve seen come from Shaun over the years.

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