In our quest to see Corvette owners driving their cars, we know the challenges of restoring a straight-axle fuel system.
When this '62 Corvette arrived, it was obvious it had not been driven in quite a while. While the car was still running, it smelled like an outboard motor that had been sitting for many years in Grandpa's garage. Amazingly, the engine ran fairly well despite the terrible fuel quality. But before starting an engine that has been idle for years, it's wise to pull the spark plugs, then pump a few squirts of motor oil into the cylinders. Then, while the spark plugs are out, turn over the engine so oil pressure can build, sending some lubricant to the rocker arms before startup.
Before turning over the engine, check the oil to see if it's full of fuel. To do this, remove the engine-oil dipstick and light it with a lighter or match away from the car in a safe location. If it lights the fuel on the dipstick, an oil change is a good idea before spinning over the engine.
Once the shop was cleared of the smoke and foul exhaust odor, the entire fuel system was checked. Clearly, poor repair techniques were used. For example, the fuel tank was retained with a plumber's strap, and none of the original fuel-tank-strap retaining hardware was in the body. The front fuel-tank-strap reinforcements were missing and the rear reinforcements were corroded badly. The fuel tank was barely held in place by the compartment cover. All the fuel lines were corroded internally and externally, and the retaining hardware was in terrible shape. The fuel pump was incorrect, requiring a conglomeration of fittings to connect it to the fuel lines. On the bright side, the carburetor was in good shape, showing minimal wear with only minor corrosion in the fuel bowl.
Once we inspected all of the fuel-system components, we put together a list of necessary replacement pieces. Straight-axle parts are not always easy to find, so we ordered them before doing the preparation work. Quanta Products provided a replacement fuel tank and fuel-tank sending unit. The fuel tank was a perfect fit, and the company supplied us with an ACDelco fuel-sending unit. Fine Lines supplied the stainless steel fuel lines (and retaining clips) from fuel tank to carburetor. We found a carburetor rebuild kit and a serviceable fuel pump (not NCRS correct) from NAPA. While the parts were on the way, we started the cleanup and prep.
The straight-axle fuel tank and fuel line were easier to replace than the mid-year fuel system covered in our January issue. The fuel pump was also easier to access, so the parts-replacement process was simple once the corrosion and years of dirt were eliminated. Then, a rust treatment was applied to the frame. We applied a coat of PPG DP90 to all metal components that required a coat of semi-flat black paint. Once the paint was dry, we installed the fuel-tank-strap reinforcements and fuel tank. We then installed all the fuel lines and fuel pump.
The carburetor bowl required a cleanup with a Dremel tool to remove the corrosion. After soaking the carburetor in carburetor cleaner, a film of light corrosion was found in the fuel bowl. We removed it with a wire-cup brush attached to the Dremel tool. Once the corrosion was removed, the fuel bowl had to be rinsed thoroughly. We then sprayed a coating of LPS marine lubricant over the entire carburetor to prevent corrosion until the car was started; however, the best fuel preservative is to run the fuel out of the tank and keep driving.
When all the fuel system components were replaced or repaired, we proceeded to get our '62 roadworthy by servicing the ignition system, brakes, cooling system, and suspension. We had to replace the rear crossmember and repair the frame at the left-side kick-up. It's common to see corrosion at the rear crossmember on a straight-axle car. The crossmember holds up the rear springs, which can cause a sticky situation if a spring shackle punctures the trunk. Obviously, the brake system is a critical area to inspect, but all systems should be checked for integrity. Wiring woes can be a frustrating problem.
Many times, rodents enjoy nibbling wire insulation when the vehicle is in deep hibernation. Steering components corrode, causing tough steering by preventing lubricants from penetrating the rotation joints. When lubricating the steering components, the steering wheel should be rotated while pumping the grease to get complete lubricant coverage.
Straight-axle Corvettes are very driveable, especially when equipped with radial tires. Driving an early Corvette gets attention because they are like mobile pieces of Art Deco. But as great as they are to look at, they are equally great to drive. Let other people enjoy the sight of your straight-axle. Get out there and beautify America!.