Fools Rush In... Let's face it--a ratty interior can bring down a Vette owner's pride in his or her ride, even if the rest of the car is in good shape. Conversely, nice digs can send a Vette owner's spirit soaring, bringing a grin to their face every time they slip behind the wheel. It's like entering a nicely decorated room with nice, new furniture--it's a pleasing place to be, and you want to spend more time there. After spending as much as 20 years on the road, many early C4s--my own '84 included--are in desperate need of serious rehabilitation in the interior department. So, what's involved in transforming our Vettes' "office" into the nice, pleasant place to be that it used to be?
Quite a bit, actually, depending on how an individual chooses to handle the job. In my case, I chose the hard way. Let me explain. In doing this interior rehab story for VETTE, I could have easily enlisted a local Corvette or automotive upholstery shop to install all the pieces as I stood by with camera in hand to record the process. Rightly or wrongly (my opinion on this changed by the minute), I decided to jump in and re-do thecar's interior myself. Now, many of you may say, "Good god, man, why?" Well, the reason is pretty simple. Many of us early Fourth-Gen owners, often buying our first Vette, bought the best car we could--on a budget. Not too many of us can then afford to turn around and pay for a new interior and the cost of installing it.
So I chose to go the "Normal Vette Guy" route and did it myself. One reason for this decision was journalistic--I wanted to write this story from the viewpoint of a typical early C4 owner who does most of the work on his car himself. The other reason is personal. I am an early C4 owner, and I wanted take on the challenge of fixing up my own car. The rough spots were indeed frustrating, but the end result has turned out to be immensely satisfying, all the more so because I did it myself.
Well, make that most of it. Again, like most Normal Vette Guys, I had some help from my friends. Luckily for me, my friends happen to be better at this kind of thing than I am. Helper No. 1, Jason Walker, is a staffer on Street Rodder and a talented bodyman and fabricator to boot. Helper No. 2, Ryan Rivers, has appeared in VETTE before. Ryan works as a tech at Barry White's Street Rod Repair Company, and the experience he's gained working on his own '87 and '92 Corvettes was invaluable in this project. Their assistance was well worth the cost of all that pizza and beer I bought. Don't get me wrong, however--ol' Hamfisted John did plenty of the work as well (usually in the areas where mistakes wouldn't show).
The Big Teardown
After thoroughly going over the '84 and deciding what new pieces the car needed, we ordered all sorts of nice stuff from Corvette Central. We then found more parts that needed replacement as the job progressed--by the end, C Central's number was prominently listed in my cell phone's speed dial. Now, we figure that most people who tackle this job at home will do it in steps, rather than all at once. This will give the do-it-yourselfer a better chance to evaluate the job and order the necessary supplies along the way. For reference, the whole job took us the equivalent of a couple of weekends, including the time spent taking photos.
Most C4 interior pieces are available in replacement or reproduction form, and this makes most of the job a remove-and-replace affair. There is some cutting and gluing involved, but it's nothing major. If I can do it, you can do it. In fact, the entire job is doable, even for those who are only semi mechanically inclined. They'll also be a few "extras" in upcoming installments, all of which are well within the typical D.I.Y.er's abilities.
We recommend taking pictures as you go along, even if you're not writing a magazine article. The photos can be a great help as your Vette goes back together. We also suggest that you do a better job of keeping track of various bits of hardware than we did--plastic bags, labeled with a marker, are good for this. And finally, we suggest that you take your time and work deliberately. Be careful while removing those aging plastic panels, and take care while putting everything back together. At the end of this, Part One of our early C4 interior rehab, our subject '84's interior will essentially be gutted. But trust us--the results, and the resulting satisfaction in a job well done, are surely worth the effort.