1972 Chevrolet Corvette Project Car - Powertrain Swap Preparation

Down The Rabbit Hole - Gutting our '72 project car in preparation for a modern powertrain swap

Jeremy D. Clough Feb 7, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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While it's possible to pull the trans and motor as a single unit, we decided to drop the Turbo-400 automatic from the bottom and then remove the engine from the top. Among other things, this means less weight to deal with. To disconnect the transmission, we removed the driveshaft and its safety loop (which mounts to the transmission crossmember), as well as the exhaust pipes, which met the Sawzall. After supporting the trans with a jack, we unbolted the crossmember from both it and the frame and laid it aside.

When you get this "personal" with a car, you're going to find things that surprise you, and in this case we were surprised to find that the crossmember had been seriously caved in by an unidentified item I'd previously hit on I-985. (The 7/16-inch wrench we found in the fresh-air vent and the cigarette butts left over from someone using the recess below the shifter assembly as an ashtray are also worth noting.) I never knew what it was—perhaps an anvil from the indentation it left—but seeing the damage, I'm grateful it struck the crossmember and not the fiberglass floorpan.

After removing the fluid lines, speedometer cable, and shifter linkage from the trans, we unbolted it from the rear of the motor and slid it backwards and out. Next, with the car still raised, we used a wooden block and a ratchet strap to support the weight of the engine, then unbolted the motor mounts. With the fuel line already disconnected, we removed the headers, ground straps, and other wiring as well as the throttle cable, heater hoses, and upper radiator hose. Taking off the Holley carb let us bolt a lift plate to the intake, and after rolling the car beneath the crane, we hooked the chain to it and carefully guided the 350 up and out of the car. While many people lift the motor out with a cherry picker—and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that—the pushbutton ease of the electric motor on the crane was greatly appreciated.

With the two big parts out, myriad small things remained under the hood: unbolting the radiator and core support, stripping out the old wiring harness (as well as what little remained of the vacuum system), and pulling the original air-conditioning system, which had long ago ceased to cool anything but my enthusiasm for summer road trips. Once all that was done, we plugged the holes in the firewall, and Scarlett went back out under the sun for a good pressure washing, followed by some Scotch-Brite-and-black-paint work to neaten up the engine compartment a little.

The interior came next. After unbolting the Corbeau seats, we lifted them out and undid the interior screws to remove the dash components (which we'll cover in more detail later), as well as the steering column, brake and gas pedals, and shifter and emergency-brake consoles. Wiring and vacuum hoses were both cast away with the same reckless, gleeful abandon, and the firewall insulation—which looked a lot like home for Rizzo the Rat—went with it. With the interior stripped to the firewall, we found a little surface rust on part of the birdcage. We hit it with some neutralizer, then repainted it in a nominally correct pale green.

As I write this, about two months have passed since I pulled Scarlett into Street Shop under her own power. Reassembly is well underway, but you can still see clean through the car from many angles, and I can't help but feel a little like Wile E. Coyote after he strapped himself to a rocket and lit the fuse. With parts for the car scattered across about four states, we're well and truly down the rabbit hole, and it's been quite some time since I've seen an actual bunny.

I have, however, seen a pretty stout LS3 parked between Scarlett's frame rails. And next month, so will you.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Wiring 2/28

14 With the powertrain removed, it’s time to get to work on the little stuff—things like the wiring harness, the remnants of the vacuum system, and the factory A/C—as well as doing a little cleanup.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Twist 3/28

15 This photo sums up why we’re replacing the harness with a new one from Zip: Yes, that’s a twist nut. IT pro Phillip Price was particularly horrified by this, as well as the duct-tape “insulation” on a couple of the wires.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Car 4/28

16 Scarlett takes a trip outdoors for a little scrubbing and pressure washing. While we hadn’t removed all of the A/C components from the firewall at this point, we did make sure to plug all the holes in it to keep water out from under the dash.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Before 5/28

17a Before and after: Following the basic cleaning, it was time for a little Scotch-Brite-and-paint action in the engine compartment. After all, you won’t have this chance again for a while.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette After 6/28

17b Before and after: Following the basic cleaning, it was time for a little Scotch-Brite-and-paint action in the engine compartment. After all, you won’t have this chance again for a while.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette A C 7/28

18 The A/C box was next; removing it requires work to be done on both the interior and under the hood (shown). The factory system will be replaced with an aftermarket setup from Vintage Air.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Firewall 8/28

19 With the lower dash pads and A/C components removed, the disintegrating firewall insulation looked like an excellent nesting spot for rodents.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Dash 9/28

20 The wiring under the dash looked better than the wiring under the hood, but that’s not saying much. It’s all going away, as is the handle for the hood latch, which will be rendered unnecessary by the addition of a pinned hood.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Shift 10/28

21 With the dash and gauge cluster removed, the shift console came off next. Since Scarlett began life as an auto, we’ll be replacing the console with a manual-trans version provided by Paragon.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Remove Shifter 11/28

22 Removing the shifter assembly and the seal beneath it creates a hole through the bottom of the interior. Since we’ll be putting a T56 six-speed in the car, I expect even this relatively large opening to require additional clearancing.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Steering 12/28

23 We may never know why GM built some of the C3’s steering-column-assembly parts out of unpainted cast iron. Whatever the reason, these are coming out for a little bead blasting and paint. The column itself also came out, greatly easing the process of removing and reinstalling the pedal assembly.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Surface 13/28

24 After finding a little surface rust on part of the “birdcage,” we hit it with some neutralizer and repainted it in a nominally correct pale green. We’ll be replacing the factory dash pads with replacements from Corvette America, and the gauge console with one from Volunteer Vette Products.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette 14/28

25 A sign of some of the goodness yet to come. After the slightly dismaying sight of most of Scarlett’s insides being on the outside, we’re looking forward to the more exciting process of rebuilding.


Street Shop, Inc.
Athens, AL 35611


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