Anticipating Problem Areas in Restoring a Classic Corvette

There it sits. Your classic Corvette. Sexy, fast -- and at the moment a total wreck. You’ve got a guy who can get the engine purring like a big cat, but can you handle the cosmetics on a do-it-yourself basis? There’s plenty of available reference material, but before anyone touches a classic Vette, there are some problems areas that need to be considered.

Body Off or On?

There’s no question that more money is involved in doing a body-off restoration, but it may be the only way to get at corrosive damage, especially that caused by road salt used in colder climates in the winter. The real issue is getting all the shims back in the right place to avoid vibration and noise once the job is done. Corvettes use shims made of metal, cardboard, and rubber. The key to a good body fit is exactly duplicating their original position and composition.

Key Interior Issues

Working on the interior of a vintage Corvette, restorers generally encounter problems in the following areas:
  • Matching Color and Texture: Get all your parts from one supplier and don’t pay for anything until you’ve laid it all out and looked at the pieces side by side. Even the slightest difference in shade is going to stick out and look terrible.
  • Reupholstering the Seats: This is a huge headache because it’s so difficult to get the material to fit well and look original. (Vinyl, which can be machine shrunk, actually works better than leather.) Don’t scrimp in this area. Get a pro if you want the seats to look good.
  • Carpet: Go all or nothing with the carpet. The only way you can guarantee consistent color and weave is to get a complete carpet. Replacement isn’t complicated, just time consuming.
  • Instrumentation: Leave the dash alone. It’s full of wires and in some models you’ll have to drop the steering column to get full access. Chances are good you’ll create more problems than you solve, which can lead to higher car insurance quotes. If one of the instruments is malfunctioning, try to diagnose the issue without pulling the dash. If you can’t, get a mechanic who specializes in vintage Corvettes.

    Basically, the only easy cosmetic job on your treasure will be the paint coat. The real beauty of a classic Vette lies in its powerful performance and the coherence of its aesthetic appeal. You want everything to match and to appear seamless. A do-it-yourselfer with some know-how and an eye for detail will be fine, otherwise, start looking for someone who has done this before.

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