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2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS - Superstylin’

Our cinammon tic tac is about to get fresh

Jan 6, 2014 SHARE

We don’t mind a challenge. In fact, we welcome it. So when Chevy called us and proposed we build its latest Sonic hatchback for the ’13 SEMA Show, we responded emphatically with, “Let’s effin’ do it!” A couple months later we were on our way to the dealership to pick up our Sonic RS. On paper, our hot little hatch sounded decent with a slightly sportier styling compared to the standard model, plus rear disc brakes, a 1.4-liter turbo and six-speed manual. But after spending a month behind the wheel of the car, plus hours on the computer researching the Sonic’s aftermarket support (or lack thereof), we had our work cut out for us. It wasn’t going to be as easy as piecing together an FR-S where we could bolt-on one of many body kits along with a catalog of parts. Our Sonic was going to require nearly everything custom, starting from the bottom with the wheels and suspension.

Rotiform center 02 Photo 2/22   |  
These are our actual centers for our Sonic. They still need to be stripped and refinished but as you can see, they’re light as a feather!
Raw rotiform center 03 Photo 3/22   |  
A look at what a Rotiform center looks like before anything’s been done. Like it raw?
Rotiform presidents jason and brian 04 Photo 4/22   |  
Not just the presidents, Jason and Brian are working on the assembly line themselves!

Fresh Kicks

If you’ve ever tried building a project (which you all should have), you know that wheels make a car. And because we weren’t going to do too much with the Sonic’s body, we needed to hit a home run with our wheel selection right from the start. With that in mind, we asked for the help our friends Jason Whipple and Brian Henderson in Orange County—you know these two better by the name Rotiform. Jason and Brian are also no strangers to our mag, as we’ve featured their Ralliart project before as well as Brian’s mint 964 only a couple months ago.

We know Rotiform offers an awesome selection of affordable cast wheels, but we needed something fancy that would pop at SEMA. So we worked together to pick out a set of custom multi-piece wheels. Rotiform’s multi-piece rims are all built in-house and each set is made to order using exact offsets, sizes and colors the customer specifies—perfect for what we needed for our little tic tac! We also chose to go with Rotiform because they’re enthusiasts. Cars and wheels aren’t just a job but a way of life for them. When we had an idea of what we wanted, they took our idea and made it better. That’s what’s up!

So after several hours of debate and contemplating, we found our wheel—the Rotiform SNA. It’s a three-piece split five-spoke wheel that’ll measure 18x8.5" all around. It features enough dish and will be spec’d to sit flush with the fenders—no poking or tucking here. As for color, we’ve opted for gold centers, a classic color combo if we don’t mind saying!

Unfortunately we didn’t get our wheels done in time for this article, but we wanted to give you a brief look inside Rotiform’s headquarters and show you exactly how these multi-piece wheels are assembled.

Rotiform wheel inspection 06 Photo 5/22   |   2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS - Superstylin’
Rotiform wheel inspection 05 Photo 6/22   |   2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS - Superstylin’
Rotiform wheel inspection 07 Photo 7/22   |  
Once the wheel parts come back from the machine shop, Rotifom measures and checks each piece for correct specs. Then, they clean and prep them for assembly.
Rotiform wheel assembly 08 Photo 8/22   |   2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS - Superstylin’
Rotiform wheel assembly 09 Photo 9/22   |  
Rotiform uses screws to align pieces together before being secured.
Rotiform SNA wheel spec check 06 Photo 10/22   |   2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS - Superstylin’
Rotiform SNA wheel spec check 07 Photo 11/22   |  
This is a special machine that measures the circular shape of each wheel. It ensures both sections of the wheel are centered. Rotiform makes sure the wheel is perfect to 30 thousandths of an inch. If it’s slightly off, a wheel may need to be taken apart or have its screws adjusted. Not many companies do this but it’s just something Rotiform adds to their assembly giving customers quality assurance.
Rotiform SNA wheel sealant 01 Photo 12/22   |   2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS - Superstylin’
Rotiform SNA wheel bolt torque down Photo 13/22   |  
This is a special machine that measures the circular shape of each wheel. It ensures both sections of the wheel are centered. Rotiform makes sure the wheel is perfect to 30 thousandths of an inch. If it’s slightly off, a wheel may need to be taken apart or have its screws adjusted. Not many companies do this but it’s just something Rotiform adds to their assembly giving customers quality assurance.

Drop It Like It’s Hot

The next project up to bat is suspension. Some of y’all might hate the idea but we decided to drop our Sonic like it’s hot with air ride suspension. Having used Air Lift Company products on my own personal car, it was a no-brainer to go with them. Plus, the company has been around for more than 50 years and has supplied parts to everything from hot rods, trucks, lowriders and RVs. Their products are solid so we are in good hands with their universal air ride kit.

The Sonic comes with your standard MacPherson front struts and a trailing arm rear with separate springs and shocks. The universal kit from Air Lift is ready to go but required a few modifications for it to fit properly. We’re still in the mockup stages so these photos don’t show the final product. It’ll help give you an idea of what it takes to install a universal kit if you ever decide to build a car like the Sonic with limited aftermarket support.

Chevorelt Sonic front strut and air lift Photo 14/22   |   The difference in the front struts. You can already compare both heights.
Chevrolet Sonic air lift kit 01 Photo 15/22   |   Chevy Sonic Air Lift Kit
Chevrolet Sonic air lift kit 03 Photo 16/22   |   Chevy Sonic Air Lift kit
Chevrolet Sonic air lift kit 02 Photo 17/22   |  
As you can tell with the shock sleeve, we had to fabricate custom tabs so it can mount on the spindle. We also had to build a custom adapter ring which gives us the proper inner diameter to fit the thrust bearing and gives us clearance for the upper mount.
Chevrolet Sonic air lift front assembly Photo 18/22   |   The front suspension assembly semi-installed. We’ll still have some fine-tuning to do as well as run the lines.
Chevrolet Sonic air lift rear assembly Photo 19/22   |   The rear is a much simpler setup. We will most likely keep the stock dampers but in place of the springs are these universal bags.
Chevrolet Sonic air lift kit slammed Photo 20/22   |   Low enough? Just imagine when we get the Rotiforms on!
Chevrolet Sonic wheel gap test Photo 21/22   |   At max ride height, we’ll have a three-finger wheel gap to play around with—we also like to call this “the shocker.”
Chevrolet Sonic air lift kit ready Photo 22/22   |   Like we said, we’re still in the preliminary stages with the air ride since we still have to install the compressor, valves, tank and lines. We’ll also have more stages of the build to announce. Stay tuned next month and don’t forget to check out sonic-powered.com! Junk in the trunk? You’ll just have to wait and see next month!
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Sources

Air Lift Company
Lansing, MI 48908
800-248-0892
www.airliftcompany.com
Rotiform wheels
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
714-372-3622
http://www.rotiform.com
Sam Du
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