Starting a Corvette Restoration Project

Restoring a Classic Sports Car

1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Car Culture / Getty Images

If you are looking to attempt a Corvette restoration, take it from someone who's been there. One restoration involved a finback C3. Due to the fact that the buyer wanted it to run from the get-go and be under $5,000, the project wound up being a 1977 T-top coupe.

After finding the vehicle online, it was time to make sure the car could run. Without an inspection, this Corvette restoration project became a reality -- the car was purchased for $4,000.

During the search, the purchaser met with plenty of prospective sellers and looked at many that had extensive body damage from previous accidents. The T-top coupe was love at first sight.

Beginning a Corvette Restoration

The first thing to do with a new project when you get it home is to explore the vehicle in detail. You may want to pull in a few other Corvette restoration experts to assist with the process, as they can point out things you may miss. In this case, one expert was able to identify that the front fenders on the car were factory-original, which means the car had never taken a front-end hit. Experts also helped the mechanic determine that the engine in the car is not original.

The most interesting episode in the process of carefully evaluating the car was noticing that the VIN number of the car did not match the "L-82" badges on the hood. There were 6,148 Corvettes built with the 210-horsepower L-82 option in 1977, but the VIN number specifies that the Corvette was a base 180-horsepower car when it left the factory in St.

Louis.

On the flip side, the car had a lot of great features such as 8-track tape, cruise control and air conditioning. 

Looking at the car, it was obvious that the original paint color was Silver; the Corvette came with Smoke Grey leather interior. But somewhere along the line, someone replaced the original leather seats with the optional Smoke Grey cloth seats.

Because the restoration was not going to be completely original, the purchaser decided to change the car's exterior color. If this was a truly collectible and valuable Corvette, that would be an insane decision, but the project was a "driving restoration" so it was okay to bend the rules.

Support for Your Corvette Restoration

The buyer talked to teachers at a local community college to see if they would take on the body painting as a project. It's a good alternative to doing it yourself. 

The buyer also scheduled an appointment with an expert in carbureted engines. The Corvette was put on a chassis dynamometer to get a baseline reading of horsepower and torque, and make sure that the car would pass the pollution test. They discussed engine upgrade issues for the future. 

The Corvette also needed a front-end wheel alignment. The right-front tire was noticeably out of alignment, which affected the handling and fuel economy. A front suspension restoration kit with upgraded polyurethane bushings cost just $279.99. 

The Corvette restoration began by rebuilding the front and rear suspensions, and then and replacing the shock absorbers followed by a brake inspection. Between the shocks and the front and rear suspension and steering rebuilds, the buyer spent about $500 to get the iconic Corvette handling like new before going back to the engine and paint projects.

Overall, though, the vehicle was a successful rebuild and gives you some good tips to take on your own Corvette restoration, even if you aren't an experienced mechanic.

The next hurdle that Mistress Quickly and I will face is the emissions test when the license registration comes up for renewal in June. So I have scheduled an appointment with an expert in carbureted engines. We'll put this Corvette on a chassis dynamometer and get a baseline reading of horsepower and torque, and make sure that she'll pass the pollution test. While I'm there, we'll talk about some basic engine upgrade options for the future, such as a high-flow intake manifold and carburetor.

The car already has a true dual exhaust, replacing the original 2-into-1-into-2 design that GM used.

The other thing that needs to be done right away is a front-end wheel alignment. The right-front tire is noticeably out of alignment, and that will have an effect on both the handling and fuel economy. Hopefully, no suspension parts have been damaged, but a little bit of shopping online shows me that a front suspension restoration kit with upgraded polyurethane bushings will cost me just $279.99. Take it from a guy who's done a lot of suspension work on Italian cars - that's a phenomenal price.

I will begin the actual work of this restoration by completely rebuilding the front and rear suspensions, and I'll document that process in detail in a future article. I'll replace the shock absorbers while I'm working, and give the brakes a close inspection, too. Between the shocks and the front and rear suspension and steering rebuilds, I'll probably spend about $500 to get this Corvette handling like new.

Then I can go to work on the engine and paint.

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Zurschmeide, Jeffrey. "Starting a Corvette Restoration Project." ThoughtCo, Sep. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/starting-a-corvette-restoration-project-916416. Zurschmeide, Jeffrey. (2017, September 29). Starting a Corvette Restoration Project. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/starting-a-corvette-restoration-project-916416 Zurschmeide, Jeffrey. "Starting a Corvette Restoration Project." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/starting-a-corvette-restoration-project-916416 (accessed November 20, 2017).