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From Ratty To Natty: Part One

Do-It-Yourself Adventures In Replacing An Early C4 Interior

John Nelson May 7, 2003

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'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.


Is this the halfway point, or the beginning of the end? Before our early C4 interior can be refurbished the worn and faded parts must be removed, in essence, gutting the car

This particular '84 has numerous ugly spots in the cockpit, most notably the driver's seat.

The center console and the carpet (arrow) also showed wear.

While the door panels were coming apart...

...and the rear hatch area was faded and worn.

The first step is to remove the seats. Be careful with the fasteners that hold on the plastic bolt covers so they can be re-used. After removing all four bolts and unplugging the driver-side power seat harness, the seat can be removed. Four bolts is all it takes to remove the co-pilot's seat.

It's then time to remove the center gauge console and the shifter console (which helps hold the carpet in place). The shift knob on our automatic trans car is held on by a snap ring; having the proper snap-ring pliers is a big help here.

The center console comes out first, followed by the shifter console. Both are held in place with small Phillips-head screws.

Removing the parking brake cover...

...and the seatbelt mechanism cover...

...allows the doorsill trim plate to be unscrewed and removed.

After removing the center console lid, these two small bolts can be removed.

On the driver side, you'll also need to remove the console lid latch.

There are also four screws holding the console strip to the trans tunnel. Two of them are easy to see; you'll have to dig for the other two, as pictured here.

At this point, the console strip lifts out...

...followed by the driver-side carpet. Don't forget the screws that hold in the plastic pad behind the gas pedal. The drill is essentially the same on the passenger side.

After the lower trim pad cluster is unscrewed and unplugged...

...the driverside "dash piece" can be removed. Actually, since this piece was both glued and stapled to the car at the factory, it's more accurate to say that the piece must be torn off. Ditto the passenger side.

After unclipping their plastic covers, it takes a Torx bit to undo the seat belt anchors.

The "halo" trim is held in place with several screws, including this little sucker, hiding behind the hatch light. There's one on each side.

We then unscrewed and removed the rear window package tray trim. At this point, we've also removed the top storage bracket covers and the speaker grilles.

To remove the rear window shade, Jason compressed the end, then stuck an Allen key into the small hole in the curtain rod. The entire shade mechanism then popped right out.

Once these two fasteners are removed from the rear storage compartment doors...

...the lock mechanisms can be removed.

The "behind the seat" carpet section is held in place by the rear compartment, so these screws will have to be removed.

After carefully undoing the plastic fasteners found on either side of the rear window latch, the hatch carpet can be removed.

The wheelwell carpet follows. Note how the carpet still looks new where it was covered by the speaker grilles.

At this point, the last piece of carpet can be lifted out. The factory insulation was also removed from the hatch area, the behind-seat area, and the footwell area. In Part Two, we'll line this Vette with Accumat (a noise damping material) and begin putting in its brand-spanking-new interior. See you then!


Corvette Central
Sawyer, MI 49125

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