Seatbelts have been in Corvettes since the C1. While we all have our opinions about whether or not we like to wear a seatbelt, many Corvette owners have to install them if they want their car to be correct. Since seatbelt use is now a federal law, many of us may install them for that reason alone. Whether or not the car originally came from the factory with seatbelts, if you do decide to install them, you might as well install the correct set that's applicable to your car, as the designs have changed drastically over the years.
During the first three years of Corvette production, seatbelts were not offered. Unless someone installed a set of aftermarket seatbelts later, a truly restored '53-'55 Corvette will never have a set of factory-installed belts. Beginning in 1956 and continuing through 1957, seatbelt-anchor provisions were utilized and installed at the factory for seatbelts that were dealer installed as an accessory. The '58 Corvette was the first to come equipped with seatbelts as standard equipment. The majority of the '58 seatbelts appeared to be a gray four-web design, while other color belts may appear. These seatbelts used a pull-release-type belt buckle, which was used through the early part of the '66 model year. The buckle handle, made of pot metal, was painted a blue "Hammertone" and carried no type of emblem. The Irving Air Chute Company, of Lexington, Kentucky, manufactured the belts. The label sewed on the belts read:Irving Air ChuteCo., Inc.Lexington, KentuckyModel Id-51-198-1Faa Spec TSO CC 22B
For the '59 and '60 model years, the seatbelt most prominently used was a six-web design with a painted buckle that was color-matched to the interior. The male end of the belt buckle may have had the number "235" stamped into the end of it. It may also appear with no stamping. The female buckle had "U.S. PATENT 2,458,810" stamped into it. In 1961, the six-web belt design continued until it was changed back to a four-web design for the '62 model year. Some late '61 cars possibly were built with the four-web design and some early '62 cars could have used the six-web design. There were several minute changes to the seatbelt label during this time. The pull-release type buckle was painted the color of the interior on all early to mid-'61 cars, while a mixture of painted and unpainted buckles on later '61 cars up through serial number 3000 in the '62 model year, and from '62 VIN 3000 through the end of the '62 model year used a non-painted buckle. The male end of the belt buckle continued to use the number 235 stamped into the end for all of the '61 through mid-year '62 production. Late '62 cars appeared without the 235 stamping.
For the '63 model year, seatbelts were produced in one of four colors: red, blue, saddle, or black, and were coordinated with the carpet color of the car. The Irving Air Chute Company continued to manufacture the seatbelts. The '63 seatbelt had three bands to the webbing, with all three bands equal length. The '63 model used two pull-release-type belt buckles. Both buckles were stamped "Irving Model IC 5000" with the early cars up to VIN 7000 using a smaller "IC 5000" stamping. The later '63 cars used a large "IC 5000" stamping. These belts had a sewed-on label that read:ChevroletModel ID-51-198-1Federal Spec JJ-B-185ASAE. STD. SBA-JAIrving Air Chute, Inc.Lexington, Kentucky
In 1964, seatbelts were produced in one of six colors: red, dark blue, saddle, black, silver, and white. All colors were coordinated with the carpet color, with the exception of white-interior cars, which received white seatbelts. These belts were still manufactured by the Irving Air Chute Co. The '64 seatbelt webbing continued to use three bands to the web, but the center band was twice the width of the two outside bands. For the '64 model year, a silver "Bowtie" emblem on a smooth, brushed-aluminum background was used on the center of the painted pull-release buckle. The buckle color was coordinated to the car's interior carpet color. The '64 buckles carried a "MODEL IC-8000" stamping. The seatbelt label was changed slightly from 1963, reading:ChevroletModel 771 Cor-CFederal Spec JJ-B-185ASAE. STD. J4Irving Air Chute, Inc.Lexington, Kentucky
For 1965, seatbelts were produced in one of seven colors: red, blue, saddle, black, silver, green, and maroon. All colors were coordinated with the carpet color of the car, with the exception of white-interior cars, which received either black, blue, or red seatbelts based on carpet color. The manufacturer of the belts continued to be The Irving Air Chute Co. The '65 seatbelt webbing matches the webbing from 1964.
The '65 buckle was carried over from 1964 and has the same silver "Bowtie" emblem on the painted pull-release buckle. The buckle color is coordinated to the car's interior carpet color. Early '65 buckles still carried the "MODEL IC-8000" stamping. The revised design of the IC-8000 buckle contained four numbered instructions followed by the manufacturer, model number, and patent information. The buckle instructions referenced the new retractors introduced in the mid-production year. Interestingly, the new retractors were used on the outboard belt only and were manufactured by Borg-Warner of Chicago.
In 1966, seatbelts were produced in one of seven colors: red, dark blue, saddle, bright blue, black, silver, and green, as all colors were coordinated with the car's carpet color, with the exception of white-interior cars, which received either black, blue, or red seatbelts based on carpet color. The Irving Air Chute Co. or Hamill was the manufacturer of the seatbelts. This was the first year Hamill was used as a seatbelt source. Once again, the '66 seatbelt webbing matches the webbing from 1965.
The early '66 buckle was the same buckle from 1965 and was again coordinated to the car's interior carpet color. Early '66 buckles still carry the "MODEL IC-8000" stamping, along with patent information. This buckle was used until approximately VIN 14000. The second-design belt buckle utilized the first pushbutton release system recessed in the center of the buckle. A blue Bow Tie with the word "Chevrolet" inside appeared in a raised outline on the pushbutton. Two belt retractors were used for 1966 on the outboard belt only. The first design was manufactured by Borg-Warner of Chicago, and was virtually identical to the late '65 design. The second design was an internal reel-type retractor covered by a plastic housing color-keyed to the interior. These retractors show no external identification.
Also introduced in limited quantities for 1966 was a shoulder-belt option, and only 37 cars were ordered with it for the model year. The option was introduced around VIN 15000. The buckle portion of the shoulder harness was attached to a plate riveted to each rear wheelwell. All cars with the shoulder-harness option have this special plate. Some cars could have the plate but not the shoulder-harness option.
In late 1966 and through 1967, another seatbelt-buckle design was used. These new buckles had a satin stainless steel finish with a recessed button. Again, a blue Bowtie was centered in the button with the word "Chevrolet" inscribed. The rest of the button was semigloss black. Early production cars up through VIN 100 might have the Fisher Body Carriage logo in the center of the release button. All seatbelt colors were coordinated with the carpet color of the car. This seatbelt webbing matches the multi-latitudinal webbing from 1965. There was also a new seatbelt tag that provided the date of manufacture such as "19 E 67" which decoded as the 19th week of 1967. Model C-10 denotes lap belts, while C-20 denotes a shoulder harness. From all indications, Hamill was the sole manufacturer of the seatbelts in 1967.
The shoulder-belt option continued for 1967, and 1,426 cars were ordered with the option. The buckle portion of the shoulder harness was attached to a plate riveted to each rear wheelwell. All cars with the shoulder-harness option have this special plate. As in 1966, some cars could have the plate but not the shoulder-harness option.
In 1968, the seatbelts again changed: The receiver side of the lap belt buckle had an adjustable design. It had a buffed, stainless steel receiver that used a square pushbutton release that now carried a chrome GM logo with a black background. While looking for the white manufacturer's label, it should be near the plastic protector at the base of the stitched seam. The date code only appears on the outboard label. The model number is either C11 or C12. The '68 shoulder belt was fully adjustable, anchored over the wheelwell. The manufacturer's label on the shoulder belt was near the anchor end of the belt and displayed the model number C20.
In 1969, the lap-belt-buckle receiver was surprisingly nonadjustable and was encased in a vinyl protector cover color-matched to the interior. For early '69 cars, the receiver had a square plastic cover with a round pushbutton release in the center of the receiver. The pushbutton had a GM logo with a turquoise background. In later '69 cars, the receiver was a stainless steel assembly with a square pushbutton release. This square release button also used a GM logo with a turquoise background. The shoulder belt for '69 was attached to a retractor, which was encased in a color-matched plastic cover that was bolted to the rear wheelwell. The date-code label and position are similar to the '68 cars. For both '68 and '69, shoulder belts were standard equipment on coupes and optional on convertibles. Also, '68 and '69 cars used a three-bar-pattern belt for both years
For '70-'82 Corvettes, the three-bar-pattern Hamill-manufactured belts were used for the '70-'74 model years, while Firestone provided the belts from '75 through '82. In fact, Hamill was purchased by Firestone, explaining the switch of manufacturers. Sometime during the '77 or '78 model year, the belt designs changed to a four-bar belt design, with the '78 through '82 model years using the four-bar design exclusively. In these cars, the receiver was a stainless steel assembly with a square pushbutton release. This square release button also used a GM logo with a black background.
While there was no retractor for the '70-'71 cars, the '72 and '73 cars used a spring-loaded retractor with a warning buzzer. In 1974, an ignition interlock connected to each retractor case. The shoulder belt for these cars was attached to a retractor. Beginning in 1974, the lap and shoulder belts were integrated for the first time and were used on the Corvette from that point forward. Shoulder belts remained optional on convertibles and, if so equipped, were separate from the lap belt. Also, the belt-locking system was changed from a pull-rate type to a swinging-weight type activated by the car's deceleration.
The date code label and position on the '70-'75 cars were similar to earlier cars. The lap-belt model code was C13 for '70-'71, C15 for '72-'73, and C30 for the '74 coupe and C35 for the '74 convertible. The shoulder-belt model code is C23 for '70, C24 for '71, C25 for '72-'73, and C40 for the '74 cars. In 1975, the new lap and shoulder belts carried a C45 model code, with '76 carrying a C65 model code. Beginning in 1978 and continuing through 1982, the model number code was C75. The '77 model code is unverified at this time. As in earlier cars, the shoulder belts were standard equipment on coupes and optional on convertible cars.
Now you have all the information you need to correctly identify or purchase your Corvette seatbelts. First, if the original seatbelts are still in your car, you can have them restored. Most seatbelt rebuilders have the capability to remove and replace the worn belt webbing, repair, replace, or re-chrome the buckle components, and replace the date code tags if necessary. Some of the belt fabric is not exactly correct in appearance to the original belt material and some clubs take points away when judging your car if the incorrect material is used. While this service doesn't come cheap, you can't leave worn-out and rusty seatbelts in a nicely restored car, can you?
Another option is to restore the seatbelts yourself. The major problem with this option is finding the correct belt material and locating the correct stitching machine to properly attach the material to the buckles.
You may also want to add seatbelts to a car that never came with them. Sometimes, parts dealers have N.O.S. seatbelts that were designed as dealer-installed accessories. But many times these belts were not the same as factory-installed equipment. If it's a daily driver, you probably don't want to invest thousands of dollars to restore the seatbelts as a first project. Many Corvette retailers, such as Paragon Reproductions, also carry reproduction seatbelt kits that are ready to install. These kits usually include all the attachment hardware, so the job is a virtual bolt-in on a Saturday afternoon. Either way, you can get a set of seatbelts that look correct. You can also buy an aftermarket set for added safety. If you go this route, use the original attaching points when installing the seatbelts. You don't want to drill unnecessary holes in the floorboards of your Corvette.