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.
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.
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.