- Page 10: 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe Project -
We had been contemplating what our next "Pro-Classic" style project would be and decided to do one of our favorite body styles. We searched for several months before finding the right car for this type of project. The car we found had a decent body from the windshield back but the nose has signs of many prior repairs and will be replaced by original style parts from Corvette Image. This picture makes the body look better than it really is as, once the body had been media blasted, many areas appeared which would need to be redone or replaced including the entire nose. The Corvette Center in Newington, Ct. will handle the body and paintwork.
The body is just a shell as it didn't have any interior, glass, moldings, bumpers, trim or drivetrain but it does have a VIN and clear title which are two of the things we look for.
The frame that came with the car had been restored but had already been converted to disc brakes and a complete Vette Brakes Products suspension setup. We sold it to a fellow who had a completely rusted frame on his car. It's good to know that it will be put to good use. The original frame is being replaced with a new custom tube frame from SRIII Motorsports shown below.
The interior of the car is awfully rough. Someone had even installed "shag" carpeting at some point with a type of glue that looked like cement. It took several hours to remove the carpeting and glue compound.
We have had to find all the interior moldings and will have to replace everything as well as repair the fiberglass.
Since the car we purchased for the project was mainly a body our list of restoration parts was seven pages long! We've now received most of these parts from Corvette America who has great products and quick service. You can find them at the link below or call them at 800-458-3475 and ask for Doug at extension 214.
Since the objective for these projects is to upgrade the car's handling, braking and drivetrain we researched all the various chassis builders in this market. Since we have built two other cars using different suspension components, and like to do something different each time, we felt the SR III Motorsports tube frame was the way to go this time. Mike Stockdale has completed the frame and did an outstanding job on the design and construction.
The frame uses C5 front suspension components and a C4 rear in order to retain the transmission in the stock location. It also uses QA 1 coil-overs on all four corners which have tweleve shock adjustment settings and full ride height adjustment.
Click on the link below to be taken to the SRIII web site for more information.
If you are interested in pursuing a project like this we wrote an article which appeared in the December, 2004 issue of Corvette Fever called "Pro-Classic Project Planning" which provides many insights on undertaking a project of this type. Back issues may still be available by calling 866-601-5199. The February, 2006 issue of Corvette Fever is devoted to this type of car and there is an article entitled "Vette-Rod Basics" which is a high level view of what's involved and some of the decisions you will have to make. There is also an extensive Resource List for suppliers of chassis, suspension and component parts which should be of help. Click on the link below for the Vette-Rod basics article.
One of the most difficult to find missing parts for this car were all the window moldings especially those for the rear windows. Reproductions aren't available although Americas Finest Corvetes does make the corner moldings. Usually you end up with originals that will need to be refinished. For some tips on restoring the stainless trim click on the link below for an article on this subject.
The end result of these projects can be a car with the classic styling of the early Corvette combined with the modern components to improve handling, ride, braking, comfort and performance and can be well worth the effort if that is your vision of the Corvette you want.
Here is what the body looks like as of 10/15/2004 - a pretty sore looking piece! We decided to replace the entire nose because of previously poorly done repairs to damaged areas. After researching the sources for fiberglass replacement panels we decided to use the pre-assembled nose from Corvette Image which is assembled in a jig using press molded original style panels.
The rear compartment is also receiving quite a bit of work to make the changes necessary to that area to fit the new chassis.
The bodywork on the car is being done at the Corvette Center in Newington, Ct. (860-953-2994) Their web site is at the link below.
In this picture Jason is working, with great skill :-)) in the rear compartment to widen the wheel wells and remove the two storage compartments behind the seats. The wheel wells need to be modified somewhat to accept the larger wheels and tires and the storage compartments are being removed to clear the tube chassis. A new panel will be added to the rear compartment floor and the wheel wells will be rebonded.
This is a picture of the "Body Tilter" made to gain easier access to the underside of the body. It was built using the same square tubing as the body dolly itself and made to be removeable. It can also be mounted on either side. It turned out unbelievably stable and the whole assembly can easily be lifted by just two people.
As often happens, the further we look at things, the more repair work we can see. At least the Tilter will make it easier to do that work and the finished product will be better.
We plan to take our time and enjoy this project but please check back for further updates.
You can always count on a few surprises during a project. You don't know what they will be but you will usually run into a few. After the media blasting was completed we found rust in the drip rails in two places. In this picture the spot welds are being drilled out at the Corvette Center. Rather than try to repair them we found replacement pieces at America's Finest Corvettes. Click on the link to their web site below.
Thanks for following the progress. We'll be adding more as things move forward.
This is a picture of the changes needed to the inner rear wheel wells and storage compartments to clear the chassis and larger wheels and tires. You can see how far they have been moved inward. These gaps will now be filled with new fiberglass panels and the new flat floor panel (which covers the original rear compartments) will also be installed.
The body was test fit on 1-27-2005 and this is the side view. We'll have to work on getting the stance just right when we get to that point. From here the new nose will be installed, the inner fender wells and floor will be finished and the 6-speed transmission will be test fit for mods needed to the tunnel and shifter location.
We are using a Tremec T-56 transmission from Keisler Engineering. Click on the link below for more information about their products.
On 3/10/2005 the new nose was test fit. We were really impressed by how well the jig assembled nose from Corvette Image fit. Even the hood clearance with the original hood was near perfect. Below is a link to the Corvette Image web site.
Now the nose will be bonded into it's final position and all the clearances set. There is also finishing work to be done on the drip rails and door striker area of the birdcage and the finish work on the rear inner fenders and floor. Once that is finished the body will go back onto the body dolly for finishing and I can get started on finishing the chassis and suspension.
August 13, 2005: It's been a while since the last update. While many things have been going on such as designing the interior, finding and designing custom parts such as the radiator, gauges, driveshaft, etc., there hasn't been much I could show in pictures.
We now have the chassis back home so we can work on the frame and suspension as it had been needed to bond the new nose in place, align the doors and hood and make the necessary mods. to the body to fit the chassis. The two pictures above show the grinding and smoothing of the welds and joints on the frame. I lost count of the number of welds at 427 and it's a tedious process but will be worth it. We had Mike Stockdale TIG weld the frame and are glad we did as he did a great job on them and they are easier to smooth. Some folks have asked if this is necessary and it certainly isn't but it's something I wanted to do to give the frame a finishing touch. Once everything is smoothed it will be expoxy primed and painted. Then we can begin grinding, smoothing and polishing of all the suspension and drivetrain components.
Finishing the frame continues with sanding and dressing of the welds. I would never have thought there were so many surfaces on a frame! Our son came over to help with that job and I thought I would post a picture of him working as well as to show that we really do work in here. :-))
The prep work on the frame was finished in early November and a coat of epoxy primer and sealer was applied by the Corvette Center. We will now do another test fit of the body and lay out several components in the engine compartment before applying the final paint finish.
We purchased a chassis rotisserie from Accessible Systems to make painting the chassis a little easier. Being able to rotate the chassis provides for better access and coverage for painting a tube frame.
I'll post more pictues as there are things of interest. There are also articles planned for future issues of Corvette Fever magazine which will get into more details of each major phase of the project beginning later this year.
Last week Barbara came home to find that I been busy at polishing suspension pieces and insisted on taking this picture. It almost looks like I had been in a small explosion but a session at the buffer can produce the same results..... And that's even with wearing all the safety gear - full face shield, respirator, hat, gloves and wind-breaker coat.
You have to be well rested, really concentrate and have the Biz Bag ready and shower running after one of these sessions. :-))
Since Barb insisted on a picture of me working I thought it was only fair to post one of her. Here she is sorting, organizing and bagging an estimated 1,800 bolts, nuts, washers, etc. for each area of the car. She spent almost three days with this job. This sure made it easier to find things and help with the assembly.
Here is a picture of the bare frame after painting by the Corvette Center with our mix of red in a base and clear coat RM Diamont urethane. The frame was polished and waxed with Zaino prior to assembling the suspension. It turned out to be so slippery that we had to strap the frame to the lift.... :-))
After we took this picture we thought the title of "Some Assembly Required" was fitting..... It sure brought home just how much work lay ahead of us to complete the project.
Here is a picture of the chassis with the front and rear suspension installed. The time it takes to assemble the finished components really multiplies as you need to protect everything from getting damaged.
This is a shot of the front drivers side suspension. Each component was ground, smoothed, polished and then chromed. Polished stainless bolts were used throughout along with urethane bushings.
The chroming for all the suspension components, bumpers and custom pieces was done at Allied Metal Finishing in South Windsor, Connecticut. They did a great job especially on parts such as the differential carrier which needed custom sacrificial lead anodes to achieve an even coverage. Click on the link below to be taken to their web site.
This is a picture of the drivers side rear suspension prior to the half-shafts and brakes being installed. Again, stainless hardware, urethane bushings along with QA1 adjustable coil-overs were used.
Since we wanted to retain the original body lines without having to widen the fenders the rear toe-rods, camber rods, differential carrier and half-shafts were narrowed. The toe-rods, camber rods and sway bar are custom units.
Here's a view of the rear suspension and differential. You can better see the custom toe-rods and camber rods along with the work done on the differential carrier.
The differential is a Dana 44 with 3:90 gearing which works well with the Tremec 6-speed transmission.
Sure was nice to get to finally get to the point of being able to install the engine and transmission. Frenchy Bernier and Ray Zisa from the Corvette Center made a house call to help with the installation (Frenchy is on the left and Ray on the right) and it sure was great to have extra eyes and hands for that job.
Front top view of the differential with the half-shafts installed. Spicer universals were used and the center sections were powder coated. Also shown are the differential torque arm and the rear sway bar setup.
Rear drivers side view of the T-56 transmission from Keisler Engineering. The transmission and bell-housing were polished and coated with POR 15 "Glisten" clear coat to help keep it looking good.
In this picture you can also see the two lower mounts for the dry sump tank. An additional mount will be used to secure the top of the tank which will mount to the firewall.
Shot of the completed chassis with the engine, drive-train and brakes installed.
Also shown is the custom dry sump reservoir built by Line Precision who is the OEM supplier. Since the stock tank was too tall for a good fit a new shorter but wider center section was fabricated which retained the upper and lower cast sections of the stock tank. For mounting, two brackets were welded to the frame which hold the two lower mounts I made from aluminum. I also had to make a top bracket which mounts to the firewall. The supply and return lines between the engine and tank were made using adapters which convert the lines to 12 AN braided hoses.
Part of our interior upgrade involved changing the seats and we decided to install C5 Sport seats which have been custom upholstered. Since the stock C5 power seat mechanism places the seat higher than we wanted I decided to remove them to lower the seat. It also eliminates about twenty pounds per seat. After looking at various options to retain foward and aft adjustment I found that seat tracks from a C3 could be made to work. To obtain the right seat rake billet aluminum risers were made for the front and rear. With this approach we achieved the right seat height, rake and also the fore and aft adjustment along with the rear seat back angle adjustment.
This picture shows the seat risers used to obtain the seat rake along with the dimensions we used. The risers were made by Tom Henderson who is a friend of ours from Canada.
This picture (see the arrows) shows the seat risers installed.
A full article covering the installation details appeared in the June, 2007 issue of Corvette Fever magazine. See pages 64-71.
Ken Kleitz from Patten Cycles in Manchester, Ct. is shown taking the measurements which were input into a CAD system. Those dimensions were used to mandrel bend the pipes, along with a little manual tweaking, to follow the route chosen and clear components such as the transmission tunnel and cross-member, floor, differential and chassis cross-members. A link to the Patten Cycle web site is shown below.
All the exhaust components were prepared for polishing by first grinding any welds and then using finer and finer grits of sandpaper to remove any scratches or marks. I found that much of the work had to be done by hand. While smaller pieces could be polished on a stationary buffer the larger pieces were given their final polish using a Porta-Cable random orbit buffer.
It seems there is no end to polishing on this project and in this picture you can see the mess in our woodworking shop from the polishing residue which seems to cover every possible surface.
We are writing a series of articles for Corvette Fever Magazine which will cover each phase of the project. The first installment covered the planning and research phase and appeared in the February, 2007 issue. The chassis and suspension installment appeared in the March issue and the engine, drivetrain and brakes appeared in the April issue. In the June, 2007 issue we covered the installation of C5 seats in a Mid-Year. An upcoming installment will cover the exhaust, fuel, engine electronics and later installments will address the interior and exterior features.
The first four project installments are now on the Corvette Fever web site. Click on the links below to view them.
We hope the articles are helpful to those contemplating similar projects and are happy to help if anyone has specific questions.
You might call this picture "Family Time". The car was finished just in time to head to the first showing at the Detroit Autorama with the help of family and friends. We loaded the car at 6am, headed in for three hours of sleep and left at 9am that morning. We never would have made it without their help. One of the things we'll remember most about this project were the friends and family who stayed with it through the 5 and 6am days.
In this picture Barb is preparing the wheels, our oldest son Chris is detailing the rear suspension and our youngest son Mike is underneath out of sight.
The car was first shown in Detroit and was fortunate enough to receive four awards. It was a great (and once in a life-time) experience to be amongst all the Ridler contenders. It's impossible to describe the quality of cars there as well as the size of Cobo Hall. The Michigan Hot Rod Association, ISCA and all the folks who run the show do an outstanding job. We had a great time speaking with all the folks who stopped by to chat.
View of the drivers rear side and display.
Here's a view of the front interior. The upholstery is done in a two-tone grey leather in the stock style but with many subtle custom changes.
View of the rear compartment which has a flattened floor and custom side panels which house the eight rear speakers and sub-woofer. The rear panel trim was made from reversed door panel trim moldings.
The custom emblem in the rear, as were all the emblems, was made by Austin Barnett of VettoRama. His work is outstanding. Click on the link below for their web site.
View of the engine compartment and LS7 engine. Also shown are the custom Be Cool radiator and expansion tank, the dry sump tank, custom intake cover and serpentine belt system from Street & Performance.
Our "Split Personality" crew, and great friends, who came to help us at the Detroit Show. From left to right in the back row are Matt Devlin, Jim Dawes, myself, our son Chris and Dave Laney. In the front row are: Barbara, our son Mike and Janet Dawes.
We couldn't have done the show without their help and we'll have great memories of our experience.
Split Personality Project Series - Corvette Fever Magazine - Part 4 (Installing C5 Seats in a Mid-Year)