1963 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster - Paint It Blue

Something Old, Something New, Mix Together

Rob Wallace III Jan 1, 2001 0 Comment(s)

Ron then began working to make the '96 dash fit within the mid-year's windshield contour. The dash was four inches too wide and about six inches to deep for the old roadster cockpit. Shaving two inches off each side required relocating the headlight/ASR switch to the console (underneath the armrest) and the fuse block to where the passenger-side airbag was originally located. Austin's ultimate goal was to be able to re-install as many components into their original positions as possible. This was a personal thing, as well as making it easier for him to perform any necessary future repairs with the aid of factory '96 shop manuals.

Next, Ron focused his attention on the frame. With the help of Ronny Wilson, he trimmed away all the cross supports from a mid-year frame. Then they reshaped the inside portions of the rails to straight vertical, instead of the original downward/inward wedge shape. This was required to pick up clearance for the 4-inch-wider '96 cockpit floor.

The wheelbase of a '96 Corvette is 96 inches, while a mid-year measures 98 inches. Because he wanted to maintain as many stock components as possible, and didn't want to lengthen the driveshaft, Austin set the entire 1996 powertrain back approximately two inches to retain the 63's stock wheelbase. Since Ron was using the '96 floor, he used the stock shifter hole in the tunnel, which dictated where his motor mounts and rearend would be. Sounds simple, right? Far from it!

With the wheelbase determined, Ron proceeded to graft in the entire '96 front suspension, including the front crossmember, steering, and brakes, onto the mid-year frame. Then, after positioning the C4 rear suspension and brackets to the frame, he began the initial fitting of the body. Things like the front end, doors, hood, and the lid over the convertible top's storage compartment, as well as the '96 radiator, were carefully fitted in place. With the initial fitting done, Ron took the entire car-what there was of it at that point-apart again and finish welded the modified frame.

Then he began fitting and installing all of the Grand Sport's system components; stuff like the brake lines, fuel lines, and Selective Real Time Damping. Ron had to fabricate a gas tank containing an internal fuel pump, pick-up, float, and sending unit, and the vapor recovery system. Since he wanted to keep the Vette "stock," he put all of the late-model smog gear into it, right down to the "cats." This car is 100 percent smog-legal as a 1996 vehicle, and when it was inspected at a California State Smog Referee station, it passed with flying colors!

Since he was a little concerned about frame flex, Ron added a set of factory C4 roadster cross braces. Surprisingly, that installation was relatively easy. Because of the 4-inch difference in cockpit width, there was no space for the '96 emergency brake handle. Instead, Ron fabricated a '63-style E-brake cable pivot on the C4 dash cross brace, and uses a small foot-brake system under the dash.

With the chassis work done, the many body modifications began. Ron replaced the rear floor and storage compartments with the C4's pieces, which were designed to accommodate the late braking and suspension components, as well as the Grand Sport's Bose stereo equipment. The engine compartment also required significant alterations to fit the late model A/C and cooling systems, and Ron completely reworked the internal portion of the cowl to accommodate the windshield wiper system, which utilizes the '96 wiper motor.


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