I 've always wanted to build a project car. The last time I was even close to doing one was 35 years ago, when I had a VW Bug drag car. I encountered a number of C1 Corvettes while racing my Bug, and consequently I developed a great affinity for the cars.
Three years ago I bought a '60 Corvette on eBay. The car was in Maryland, so I asked my dad to go see it. After he verified that it was in good shape, I had a brief phone conversation with the owner, and the Vette was mine. I went down the next weekend with a friend's borrowed truck and picked up a trailer at Hertz to haul it back home.
At first, we talked about restoring the car with a frame-off, but I knew the motor wasn't correct for the car, so I decided to make a hot rod instead. Initially, the plan was to install coilover shocks, front disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering. But as I started taking the car apart, one thing led to another, and I ended going for the full, frame-off approach.
Since I had never separated a body from a chassis before, a couple of guys from one of the Corvette forums came over to help me with the job. I had already built a wooden dolly for the body so it would have a place to sit when we removed it.
Having decided that I might never undertake such a complex project again, I resolved to do the job right the first time. I purchased a Ford 9-inch rear with a four-link and Panhard bar, coilover shocks, and disc brakes. I was now committed to a more serious project involving fabrication. Unfortunately, I hadn't welded anything since seventh-grade shop class.
The frame itself was actually quite easy. I removed the old parts, tacked on the new ones with my $50 stick welder, then took the whole thing to a real welder to finish the job. The body, however, was a completely different story. I hadn't known what to look for when I bought the car, but after a full media blast, all of its problems became painfully apparent.
I knew the body had a big crack through the right front fender. What I didn't realize was that the front valance had also been damaged, and the shop that "fixed" it had simply glassed another valance over the existing one. I was going to need an entire hood surround and front lower valance to perform the repair the right way.
Additionally, the rear passenger side of the body had been pushed in, requiring that the fiberglass be "pulled" about 0.75 inch. Fortunately, the shop that handled the bodywork for me did an excellent job, elevating the quality of the build to an even higher standard than I had originally planned
At one point during the teardown, when the car was completely disassembled, Sharon, my fiance, stuck her head in the garage and asked me, "Have you ever done this before?" When I replied in the negative, she quietly shut the door and left me to it. Her reference on car rebuilding is her dad's '74 Corvette, which remains in the same position and shape as when he first started taking it apart in the garage more than 20 years earlier. In her mind, the car was never going back together.
Now finished, the '60 is the long-awaited culmination of a dream I never thought I'd have the time, money, or support to achieve. I had a ton of fun working on the car and learned the crucial role of patience in ensuring that things get done the right way. I can now see why people build a car, then almost immediately start work on another. It really is very satisfying-and a lot of fun!
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