I'm not exactly a code-correct-overspray kind of guy, and if you've read any of the previous articles on “Scarlett,” our '72 coupe project car, that should be pretty clear by now. While I appreciate that aspect of the Corvette hobby, it's simply not my bag, and an abiding respect for what a numbers-matching car represents explains why I've never bought one.
All that aside, there are still some things that belong on a Corvette simply because it came that way, and one of them is the emblems. I'm not talking about add-on bling (like the “Chopper Edition” lettering glued to a pale-blue Crown Vic I once borrowed for an ill-fated dive trip to Florida), but the chrome emblems the car came with from the factory. Consider them jewelry for your Vette.
In Scarlett's case, the previous owner had the car painted, and in the process shaved the emblems on the front half. While the rear gas-filler emblem holes were still there, and the rear “C-O-R-V-E-T-T-E” letters were mercifully installed, the side Stingray emblems and the crossed flags from the nose were removed, and the holes were filled in and painted over. Perhaps it's a cleaner look, but I'm too used to those little flashes of chrome to not see a huge blank space when they're not there.
With that in mind, I contacted Volunteer Vette Products. Based in East Tennessee, not terribly far from where I wasted my undergrad years fly fishing and driving mountain roads, Volunteer has been manufacturing and selling Corvette parts for about 24 years, and they were happy to provide a new set of emblems for this project. Since we've already replaced the fuel-filler door with a chrome Le Mans–style filler from Mustalgia, the only ones we needed were the crossed flags for the nose and the two Stingray emblems from either side of the front fender. With these in hand, it was up to me to locate and re-drill the holes for them. Time to get your ears pierced, Scarlett.
The nose emblem was by far the easier of the two, partially because there was a pair of small dimples where the material used to fill the mounting holes had sunken back in. Employing a template that I made using the emblem itself, I placed a small black dot in the middle of each of the two dimples to check the alignment.
I refer to the assembly manual for most projects, but unfortunately it casts no light on the nose-emblem install. While the side-emblem sheet does have dimensions for where the holes should be drilled (more on their laughable errancy later), the only relevant information it offers on the nose emblem is the torque value for the nuts that hold it in place. So, back to making a template.
For that, I took a white sheet of paper and laid it on top of a cardboard box, then punched the two mounting studs on the back of the emblem through the paper and cardboard, leaving a round hole in the paper from each stud. This is the template. I then laid that over the nose of the car and aligned it with the two black dots I had made in the original holes, and enlarged the dots to match the hole layout on the template.
For reference, when I drew a line between the center of each of the two holes, it crossed the center ridge of the nose approximately 63⁄8-inch from where the nose steps down for the front bumper. Your mileage may vary, especially if you're dealing with a car outside of the '68-'72 year range, where the front crossed flags are interchangeable ('73 and later models are dramatically different).
While I started making the hole markings with a Sharpie, I later switched to a black dry-erase marker, which proved a better choice. Also, be aware that when you put the template on the nose of the car, it has to be bent in the middle, along the nose's center ridge. That will necessarily move the two holes on the template closer to one another than they are on the actual emblem, so you'll need to adjust accordingly when you locate them.
In my case, I did that by gently holding the emblem against the nose, with the two studs aligned with the black dots. This allowed me to see what adjustment needed to be made to make sure the studs would fit in the holes once drilled. With that checked, I then used the finest bit that would fit in the chuck of my 3⁄8-inch drill and drilled the two holes. Make sure you drill them at the angle at which the emblem will be installed: If you square the bit up with the angled surface on either side of the center ridge, the parallel posts won't be able to slip down into place.
With the first pilot holes drilled, check them again against the emblem studs, ovaling the hole if necessary to make them line up. That's pretty much the process: Drill the hole larger one bit size at a time, checking alignment and opening up the hole as necessary to one side or the other. It's a tedious process, but if you skip straight to the largest-size bit you'll need, there's a good chance it will chip the paint around the edges of the hole. (Ask me how I know.) It'll be covered by the emblem once installed, but it's worth avoiding if possible.
Next, I used a dial caliper to select the final hole size. After measuring the base of the stud, which came out to 0.155-inch, I chose the next-largest bit size. Once the emblem will slip easily in and out of the holes, clean behind it and use the included nuts to install it permanently. No doubt, you'll have noticed by now that the studs aren't threaded. The nuts cut their own threads, and it's something of a trick to align one and hold it against the stud while turning it to get the initial “bite.” I first tried to come in from beneath in the license-plate bracket area, where we previous mounted a pair of Cibié driving lights, but that proved pretty much impossible. Raising the hood and accessing the area from above works much better, but you'll be working blind. Remember to hold the emblem down while you're trying to get the nut on; if it slips up and out of the hole, it can scratch your paint.
With the nose done, it was time to add the scripted “Stingray” logos that go above the fender vents. These came on '69-'76 Corvettes, and could theoretically be added to later models if you're unconcerned with originality. Locating them on the car proved far more difficult than the nose emblem. Since neither the hole spacing nor the final hole diameter for the front crossed flags is in the assembly manual, measuring the emblem itself is the only way. It's also the best way with the side emblems.
While the manual includes a series of grid-like measurements that show where the holes relate to one another and to the body line, let me be frank: It's wrong, on both counts. In my case, the hole spacing varied between the two emblems, and when I used them to create a template, as I did with the nose emblem, aligning that with the body line put them about a half-inch lower than they should have been.
With that in mind, I fell back to using the dimples left when the original holes were filled in—after all, it may not be the way every car came, but it's the way this one did—then compared their location with close-up emblem photos of other Corvettes in the appropriate model-year range.
I also mocked up the emblems in place and sent a photo to painter Darrin Wood of Wood's Body Shop (whose work has appeared in these pages) for his opinion. When I was as confident that the dots were in the right place, I drilled them as before. After drilling the right-side holes, I was able to slip my hand inside the fender where I had removed the vent and feel where they passed roughly through the center of the filler material. Bingo. Since I could only see the dimples on the right (passenger) side of the car, I did my best to reverse those measurements, mirror-image style, for the left.
Here's how the process played out on my '72: First, I drew a straight line through the middle of the two lowest emblem holes and forward toward the front of the car. On the right side, this line intersected the wheelwell (at an angle) about 13-inch from the center of the nearest hole (the one behind the “y” in Stingray). On the left side, it was 123⁄16-inch.
Returning to the right side, after drawing a line at right angles to the original one between the two lowest holes, the center of both the front and rear holes was about 2.55-inch above the line where the body squares off for the fender vent. While I then transposed these measurements to the left side of the car, I did so incorrectly, which resulted in the rear of the emblem canting upwards. That's the opposite orientation of the emblems in my stock of photos, which are either parallel to the body line, or if they're at an angle, seem to be higher at the front than at the rear.
Again, your car may vary. Accordingly, when you lay out the holes, mock up what you're doing, and if you have any questions, consult an expert before punching holes in the fiberglass. While Darrin Wood was kind enough to provide an opinion on the right-side emblem, I simply did the math backwards and drilled for the left side one—without having anyone verify my calculations. This mistake could very well cost me down the road.
I also departed (in this case, properly so) from the assembly-manual dimensions for the size of the mounting holes. While the manual said to drill them 0.164-inch, that was substantially larger than the studs, so I simply picked the drill bit that was the next size larger than the stud diameter. Unlike the nuts that hold the nose emblem in place, these studs are only there to locate the side emblems, which are actually held in place by adhesive. (In fact, you could theoretically grind off the studs and just stick them in place.)
Once the emblem slipped easily into its holes, and I had cleaned the area behind it, I peeled the white backing from the adhesive on the rear of the emblem and held it in place (the manual says to apply 10 pounds of pressure for 15 seconds). Since this is a flat emblem going on a curved surface, you're not going to get 100 percent contact, so just go for the most you can.
Done. Clean everything up and go see how pretty that chrome looks in the light.