1961 Chevrolet Corvette - Something Old, Something New

Tommy Vinciguerra's Pro Street '61 Blends Modern Performance In A Classic Package

Richard Prince Jul 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0807_06_z 1961_chevrolet_corvette Small_block_engine 1/16

At the time of our photo shoot, Tommy V.'s C1 was motivated by this carb-topped small-block. Since then, he's added a BDS fuel-injection system, pushing output to just under 400 hp at the rear wheels.

Once the parts came back from Action, the new crossmember was bolted up to the chassis using the bolts and locknuts included in the kit. The kit also comes with two steel brackets that bolt to the crossmember towers and are then welded to the top of the chassis rail. These provide much-needed extra rigidity for the towers.

Tommy V. installed the cross-bolts that hold each bracket to its tower and let the bracket sit atop the chassis. After notching the brackets where they contacted the factory mount bracket, he cleaned the area of the chassis to be welded with an abrasive disc and beveled the edges of the support brackets in order to achieve a better-quality weld. He then bolted the brackets back onto the towers and welded them to the rails.

Vemp_0807_05_z 1961_chevrolet_corvette Brake_kit 2/16

Although the Jim Meyer setup is compatible with '70-'81 Camaro brakes, Tommy V. elected to use a four-wheel-disc kit from Wilwood. It features a six/four-piston caliper setup and 13-inch rotors.

Next, Tommy V. turned his attention to the Jim Meyer Racing Products lower control arms. He pressed in new ball joints and then installed the pivot shaft and related bushings. The lower control arms look nearly identical to one another, but they are side-specific (right and left). Each arm is on its correct side when the steering stop faces the rear of the car and the sway-bar bracket faces the front.

Tommy V. then installed the upper ball joints in the upper control arms using the included Grade 8 hardware. Next, he threaded the locknuts and super-strong spherical rod ends into the arms' tubes. The precision rod ends and spherical bearings, sourced from FK Bearings, reduce friction and will provide many years of trouble-free service.

Vemp_0807_07_z 1961_chevrolet_corvette Coilover 3/16

Here's a close-up of the front suspension as installed. Note the stylish gloss-black finish on the Jim Meyer A-arms.

As with the lowers, the side-specific upper control arms look nearly identical. If you look closely, you'll see that one tube of each arm is slightly longer than the other. The arms install so that the longer tube goes toward the front of the car. The arms are held to the crossmember with a bolt that goes through each rod end and threads into a sleeve in the tower. Each bolt gets a spacer sleeve and a number of washers that function as shims. By altering the number and thickness of washers from one side of the arm to the other, Tommy V. was able to adjust the wheel caster.

The Jim Meyer kit is designed to work with coilover shock and spring assemblies. QA1 supplied super-high-quality shocks, springs, and all related hardware in unassembled form. Assembly was accomplished by installing a spherical bushing in each end of the shock and inserting a retaining clip in the groove machined into the shock housing on either side of the bushing. Then Tommy V. installed the lower collar/locknut onto the shock, seated the spring onto the collar, placed a stainless-steel washer between the lower collar and spring, compressed the spring using a hydraulic press, and inserted the upper collar onto the shock to hold the compressed spring in position.

Vemp_0807_08_z 1961_chevrolet_corvette Brake_rotor 4/16

Next come the 13-inch Wilwood front brake rotors. Note the arrow at the top of the rotor, which helps ensure that each unidirectional unit is installed on the proper side.

The position of the lower coilover collar plays a role in determining the car's ride height. QA1 suggests starting off with the collar positioned 3/4- to 1-inch up from the bottom of the threads. Tommy V. chose to go a little bit lower than this to begin with, in order to get the car lower to the ground. The kit comes with a spanner wrench that enables you to adjust ride height by turning the lower collar and locknut after the coilover is on the car.

With assembly complete, Tommy V. installed the coilovers onto the car. The upper mount bracket bolts to the crossmember tower using two hex-head cap screws. The coilovers then attach via a cross-bolt at the top and bottom. At the top, a thick washer needs to be inserted between the bushing sleeve and mount bracket on each side. On the bottom, the mount bolts get two long sleeves.

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