Corvette Project Guide - Weekend Warriors Unite

Simple Weekend Projects For Your Corvette

Tom Benford Jan 14, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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Weekends are meant for working on the Corvette of your choice!

When you own a Corvette, it seems like there is always something to do, whether it's keeping up the appearance, routine maintenance, modifications, or improvements of some sort. Fortunately, for most of us, it's a labor of love. And if you're fortunate enough to own more than one Vette, well then there's plenty to do with your cars on the weekend.

Here are 18 projects you can tackle and complete over a weekend. Most of them take under an hour or two from start to finish, and the nice thing about them is you don't have to be a master mechanic, or need a NASCAR toolbox full of tools, and you don't need a lot of cash, either.

In an effort to bring you the latest information, a listing of the top 20 custom auto parts purchased according to the SEMA 2006 Trends and Forecasts Quarterly Update for the third quarter of 2006 is on the next page.

Based on this newly released information, we selected projects that would be consistent (as much as possible) with the current industry trends as listed in this survey. For example:

* Custom wheels (No. 7)-We upgrade a midyear's stock "turbine" wheels with sexy, faux knock-off centers (you can also do this with sharks if you want to use midyear wheels).
* Exterior Lighting (No. 15)-We replace a C5's stock taillights with super-bright LED units.
* Ignition Wires/Spark Plugs (No. 9)-We upgrade to high-output E3 spark plugs.
* Stereo improvements (No. 10, 11, 13, 17, & 18)-We install a radio-noise suppressor.
* Battery/Battery Wraps (No. 20)-We install a battery quick disconnect, a computer memory-saver bypass circuit, refurbish a battery tray, and install a battery acid mat.

There are plenty of other projects that don't neatly fit into any particular pigeonhole, but are easy-to-do and worthwhile, nonetheless.

Some of these projects are generation-specific (e.g., midyear or C5), others, although shown on a particular car, apply to any year Corvette. Before we get started, however, there are a few things you may want to gather to make the going easier.

I, personally, am not crazy about getting my hands filthy, so I'm a big fan of disposable gloves whenever I'm doing "dirty" work. I also like to be comfortable, so a roll-about stool or bench to sit on may also be useful. good old WD-40, a perennial staple of my toolbox, always comes in handy for one thing or another, as well as a basic complement of tools, including screwdrivers and Torx drivers, wrenches, sockets, and ratchets. And if you enjoy listening to music, by all means turn on the radio, stereo, or iPod, and have a bottle of water or can of soda on hand. I don't advise imbibing alcoholic beverages any time you're working on your Corvette, using machinery, or anything else that requires your full attention and faculties. save the "brewskies" for when the job is done!

Trunk Screw Replacement
Applicable Years: C4/C5
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: No. 2 Phillips screwdriver, 1/8x1/2-inch stainless beveled-head screws, 1/2-inch od stainless beveled-finish washers
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Local hardware, fastener supply, or home improvement center

If you've owned a C4 or C5 that has sat outside in the weather for any length of time, you've probably noticed the black anodized screws around the lip of the trunk may be showing a bit of rust, especially if your car gets rained on and/or you live in a naturally moist area of the country. The solution is to upgrade the stock black screws with shiny stainless screws, and to add beveled stainless steel finish washers while you're at it. All that's required is to remove the factory screws and replace them, one at a time, with stainless screws and finish washers. It looks great, and you won't have any rusty-screw problems ever again.

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This trunk apron is a breeze to install and takes only minutes. Since Velcro is used to fasten it, no tools are required, and it rolls up compactly when not in use.

Trunk Apron Installation
Applicable Years: C5
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: None
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Mid America Motorworks

Anytime you access something in the trunk of a C5, there's a real possibility you're going to scratch the rear of the car, either with your belt buckle, jacket zipper, or whatever you're putting into or taking out of the trunk. But this does not have to be the case if you install a trunk apron.

Made of a black Naugahyde-like material with soft padding on the inside, the trunk apron rolls up and stows neatly out of the way inside the trunk with Velcro straps. Installing it couldn't be easier since Velcro is what keeps the apron attached to the C5. You simply unfold and drape the apron over the trunk, remove the large trunk compartment cover, peel the adhesive backing off the two supplied Velcro strips, attach them to the inside of the compartment, then stick the mating Velcro strips on the apron to those you just installed inside the compartment. Replace the compartment cover and you are 75 percent done.

Next, attach the two square Velcro pieces to the upper vertical wall of the trunk to attach the upper section of the apron, and you're done. To stow the apron, you simply fold in the sides and roll it up; the Velcro straps sewn into the apron keep it neatly rolled and out of your way in the trunk when you're not using it. Nice, inexpensive, easy-to-install protection for the trunk of your C5.

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The first task is to remove the two Torx screws that retain each stock taillight. With these screws removed, the entire taillight assembly can be pulled out of the car.

LED Taillight Installation
Applicable Years: C4/C5
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: No. 15 Torx driver, WD-40
Time: 1-1 1/2 hours
Parts source: Mid America Motorworks

It never hurts to pump up the brightness of your taillights and brake lights, and if you can add some style at the same time, what's not to love? That's what I thought when I decided to upgrade my C5's stock rear lights to some cool LED units from Mid America. This is an easy installation that should have taken well under an hour to complete, but it actually took about an hour and a half. it took longer because a good amount of time was spent trying to remove the gummy residue left by the "R" and "L" stickers affixed to the new lights to indicate their orientation. The red plastic lens of the light is covered in what could best be described as Saran wrap-it is a super-clinging plastic wrap that takes a bit of doing to peel off the lenses. To compound and complicate things, there are round adhesive stickers also applied with the aforementioned "R" and "L" designations, and these, too, are real buggers to remove. WD-40 ultimately came to the rescue. I soaked the still-clinging residue from the stickers with WD-40, waited about 5 minutes, then proceeded to use my fingernail to scrape the gooey mess off. A second application of WD-40 removed any remaining goop. With that out of the way, I was ready to proceed with the installation.

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Close examination of this original '67 rear script reveals pitting and general weather wear. Additionally, this emblem caused an annoying rattle at idle speed due to vibration since it wasn't properly mounted. apparently, a previous owner of this car had removed it and didn't replace it correctly.

Rear Script/Letter Replacement
Applicable Years: C2/C3
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: ratchet, 5/16-, 3/8-, 7/16- & 1/2-inch sockets, screwdrivers, ramps, or jackstands
Time: 1 hour
Parts source: Zip Products

The rear script on midyears and the chrome letters that spell out Corvette on early C3s, along with virtually all other decorative trim and insignias, are made of chrome-plated pot metal. Over time, due to exposure to moisture and the elements, the chrome plating develops pits and pocks as the pot metal underneath the plating reacts to changes in moisture content and air-borne chemicals. When this happens, there's no bringing the pot metal back-replacement is the only option for restoring a pristine appearance. Whether you're replacing midyear script or early shark lettering, the procedures are pretty much identical.

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It's necessary to remove the rear valance panel to reach upward for access to the script or letter-mounting speed nuts. The first step in removing the valance panel is to remove the nut, bolt, and washers on the inside of each quarter-panel that secure the lower end of the valance panel. The project car shown has side exhausts, however, if your car has rear-exiting exhausts, it will be necessary to disconnect the muffler hangers from the mufflers so they can drop down for panel removal later. The rear license plate must also be removed for access to the two remaining 7/16-inch bolts located behind it, then the lower license plate mounting bracket screws are removed next. When these are out, the valance panel can be removed by pulling down gently on it. Here's the rear of the car with the license plate and the valance panel removed. The stainless steel tray at the bottom is a magnetic unit that's very handy for holding screws, bolts, washers, and nuts that will be used again for reassembly. At this point, I reached my arm up into the rear deck area next to the gas tank and used a 5/16-inch gear wrench to loosen the speed nuts holding the rear script on the car. On early C3s, the speed nuts will be located on the back of the vertical panel in front of the gas tank holding the C-O-R-V-E-T-T-E letters in place. it's close quarters here, so small hands are an asset for this job.

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Along with the rear script, a speed-nut kit was also ordered from Zip Products. Five of the smallest speed nuts are required for mounting the script, and they're shown here positioned on the mounting spikes. When ordering letters for an early C3, be sure to also order the appropriate speed-nut kit, too.

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Use a 5/16-inch socket to thread the speed nuts all the way down on the spikes. this is necessary since the speed nuts actually cut their own threads into the spike. I ran each nut down and back up again about three times for each spike so the threads were cut in nicely. This makes threading the speed nuts onto the spikes considerably easier when you're securing the script and you can't see what you're doing.

Radio Noise Suppression
Applicable Years: C2/C3
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: 1/2-inch and 3/8-inch wrenches
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Corvette Central

If you have an early alternator-equipped Corvette ('63-'82), and you're plagued by whining or other engine noise polluting the sweet sounds coming from your stereo (usually due to removing the ignition shielding or using upgraded audio components), the cure will only set you back about $20 and takes less than a half-hour to administer. It comes in the form of a noise-suppression kit from Corvette Central that consists of a large capacitor with two leads already outfitted with terminals and a black nylon cable wrap. To install it, you simply connect the red lead to the "hot" terminal of your alternator and, attach the black lead to the alternator's ground connection. Then find a discrete, out-of-sight location to tuck away the capacitor (or leave it in plain sight if you prefer), and use the cable tie to secure it. That's all it takes to get rid of that annoying radio interference and start enjoying your tunes again.

Hood Emblem Replacement
Applicable Years: C2/C3
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: 5/16-inch socket and ratchet
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Paragon Reproductions

If you have a big-block C2 or C3 with engine designation numbers on the hood (or L-88 designators, for that matter), they are made of pot metal, and, as is the case with all pot-metal parts, they'll start to show their age due to pitting and oxidation over a period of time. Take heart, however, for replacing them is easy and quick.

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The FilterMag is a heavy-duty magnet that simply sticks right onto the side of your oil filter. Just pull your Vette up onto ramps or jack it up and support it with jackstands, slap the FilterMag onto the side of the filter (or filter canister for the early-year Corvettes), and that's all there is to it. I strongly suggest you let your engine cool before installing it to avoid any burns from hot exhaust components.

Oil Filter Magnet Installation
Applicable Years: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: ramps or jackstands
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: www.filtermag.com

If you're looking for a little peace of mind that there are no nasty metal particles circulating around in the engine of your Corvette, then investing in an oil filter magnet is a good idea, and it's easy to install. Log onto www.filtermag.com and enter the year, make, and model of your car to see which models are right for you. most years give you a choice of standard, SS, or heavy-duty magnets, and they simply stick right onto the side of your oil filter.

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E3 claims their plugs with Diamond Fire technology deliver more power, better fuel economy, and they last longer. What I like best about them is they don't need to be gapped-they're ready to use right out of the box. The Sidewinder Speed Wrench, available from Corvette Central, makes plug removal and installation a snap. E3 plugs are available at numerous retailers nationwide.

Spark Plug Upgrade
Applicable Years: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: Spark-plug socket, wrench
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Nationwide retailers; Corvette Central

Spark plugs have to be replaced periodically regardless of what year your Corvette is or how often you use it. But the next time you're due to change your plugs, instead of using stock units, why not upgrade to a better spark plug? E3's plugs have a unique multi-surface electrode that produces a bigger, better spark and doesn't degrade with use the way normal plug electrodes do. The company web site, www.e3sparkplugs.com, has a a lot of technical data and test results if you're skeptical about the performance improvements; you can also find which model is right for your Corvette on the site.

If you don't already have one, I recommend using a Sidewinder Speed Wrench available from Corvette Central for making plug removal easier. it makes getting into tight spots (such as a big-block engine bay) a whole lot easier and helps you avoid busted knuckles to boot.

E3 claims their plugs with Diamond Fire technology deliver more power, better fuel economy, and they last longer. What I like best about them is they don't need to be gapped-they're ready to use right out of the box. The Sidewinder Speed Wrench, available from Corvette Central, makes plug removal and installation a snap. E3 plugs are available at numerous retailers nationwide.

Shifter Knob Upgrade
Applicable Years: C5
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: small flat-blade screwdriver
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Mid America Motorworks

While the leather-wrapped shifter knob on my automatic C5 was perfectly utilitarian and looked OK, it lacked that extra panache I wanted, so I decided that upgrading to a brushed-aluminum shifter knob from Mid America Motorworks was just the ticket, and it's a snap to install.

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As you can see, this 40-year-old original gas door on my '67 has seen better days. I decided to replace it with the beautiful gas door from the '63 Corvette instead.

Midyear Gas Door/Bezel Replacement
Applicable Years: C2 (1963-1967)
Difficulty Level:
Tools: No. 2 Phillips screwdriver
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Paragon Reproductions

The fuel-filler door on my '67 coupe was looking a bit ratty, with faded paint, scratches on the chrome, and pitting on the pot-metal crossed-flag emblem. I've always thought the nicest midyear fuel-filler door design was on the '63, so instead of replacing the stock '67 door, I decided to replace it with a '63 fuel-filler door and bezel from Paragon Reproductions.

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The Eastwood Company's Flexi-Black aerosol rubberized coating is great for refurbishing battery trays, and their acid-neutralizing battery mat helps keep the tray looking clean and new for a long, long time.

Battery Cut-Off Switch/Bypass Circuit Installation
Applicable Years: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: 1/2-inch wrench (top terminal) or 5/16-inch wrench (side terminal)
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Mid America Motorworks

If you store your Corvette for any period of time, it's a good idea to disconnect the battery to avoid draining it and having it go dead. But you don't actually have to remove the terminal cable, not if you take a few minutes to install a battery cut-off switch. as an added bonus, you can take the switch's contact knob with you to foil any would-be thieves, since they won't be able to start the car without the battery making full contact to power the starter. You can get a cut-off switch in either top- or side-terminal configuration from Mid America Motorworks, and you can also get a by-pass circuit with an in-line fuse to keep things, such as your clock and radio stations/seat memory from "forgetting" their settings.

Battery Tray Refurb/Battery Mat
Applicable Years: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: steel wool or wire brush, newspaper, masking tape
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: The Eastwood Company

The battery tray generally starts looking ratty after a few years due to water drips, rust, dirt, and grime. If that's the case with your battery tray, take a half hour on a weekend and refurbish it. All you have to do is disconnect and remove the battery, and use steel wool or a wire brush to knock off any caked-on rust or other crud on the tray. Then use some newspaper to mask off all areas you don't want to get any overspray on, shake up the aerosol can of Eastwood's Flexi-Black durable black rubberized coating, and spray your tray. As is always good practice with aerosols, give it three or four light coats rather than one heavy coat for better coverage and to avoid any drips or runs. Then, when the tray is thoroughly dry, place an acid-neutralizing battery mat (also from Eastwood) in the bottom of the tray to keep it looking good. Reinstall your battery, reconnect the cables, and you're done.

Aluminum Dead Pedal Installation
Applicable Years: C5
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: electric or cordless drill, 1/8-inch drill bit, 2mm Allen wrench, Vice-Grip clamp or Vice-Grip pliers or C-clamp, 10mm socket and ratchet or 10mm nut-driver
Time: 1 hour
Parts source: Mid America Motorworks

The aluminum brake pedal in my C5 looks cool, so I wanted to install a matching dead pedal (also known as a left footrest) and an aluminum accelerator pedal, so I gave Mid America Motorworks a shout to get the goodies. Installation isn't hard, but you'll be kneeling a lot to do this project, so a soft mat or knee protectors are items you'll be glad to have and use.

Aluminum Accelerator Pedal Installation
Applicable Years: C5
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: flat-blade screwdriver, cable tie (optional)
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Mid America Motorworks

To match the aluminum brake pedal and the aluminum dead pedal I just installed in the previous project, an aluminum accelerator pedal was certainly in order. This is another project you'll be kneeling for, so knee protectors or a cushion/mat of some sort will make working a bit more comfortable. Also, I should tell you that this is one of those "blind" projects-you won't be able to see in back of the accelerator pedal, so you'll be working strictly by feel, but it's not really all that difficult in the final analysis.

Wheel Detailing
Applicable Years: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: electric or cordless drill, PowerBall and/or Mini PowerBall, metal polish
Time: 1 hour (4 wheels)
Parts source: Corvette Central

Here's an easy weekend project with results you'll be able to see immediately. The PowerBall and Mini Powerball, along with a bottle of Mothers PowerMetal polish from Corvette Central, are just the ticket to clean those dirty wheels. The PowerBall is a soft, spongy appliance you insert in the chuck of your drill (AC or cordless) to polish your Corvette using either liquid or paste polish. The Mini Powerball is specially designed for wheels, and it comes with a nice 12-inch extension shaft so you can get in between the spokes to do a spiffy job. While the Mini Powerball is made for wheels, it also does a great job on wheel covers, trim rings, and center caps if your Corvette happens to be equipped with these.

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Padded Glovebox/Center Console Cushion
Applicable Years: C5
Difficulty Level: 1
Tools: No.2 Phillips screwdriver, hair dryer
Time: 1 hour
Parts source: Corvette Central

When I first saw Corvette Central's padded-leather C5 glovebox/center console cushion with an embroidered C5 emblem, I decided that's just the look I wanted for my Corvette. While you won't need any special tools, a considerable amount of hand strength is required to stretch the cover to get it to fit properly, and a hair dryer will help to soften the material and make it a bit more pliable. Be sure to do this installation where it's at least 70 degrees-the colder the environment, the more you'll have to struggle to make things fit properly.

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The '67 big-block Stinger from Paragon Reproductions comes complete with the speed nuts, screws, and retainer clips-everything you'll need for the replacement.

Big-Block Hood Stinger Grill Replacement
Applicable Years: C2 (1967)
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: No. 2 Phillips screwdriver, 5/16-inch socket, ratchet
Time: 30 minutes
Parts source: Paragon Reproductions

What can I say? After 40 years, that bad-boy stinger on the hood of my big-block '67 Corvette was showing its age with pockmark pitting of the pot metal and flaked, peeling black accent paint. All in all, the old warhorse wasn't looking all that bad, however, so I decided that a little sprucing up here and there was all it really needed. I had already put on new "427" numbers, fitted a new fuel-filler door, and replaced the rear script in earlier projects, so replacing the original stinger with an exact reproduction from Paragon was the next logical step.

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Here's a single-wheel setup from Corvette America. The cone is at the left, the wheel adapter at the upper center, the spinner at the right, the center cap below it, the mounting bolts, lock washers, and the antitheft pin above them. Multiply this stuff by four, and you have the whole setup. It's important to note the adapters are threaded for left and right sides-the threading goes counter-directionally to the wheel's rotation to help keep the spinners from coming loose.

Direct Bolt-On Knock-Off Spinner Installation
Applicable Years: C2
Difficulty Level: 2
Tools: 1/2-inch socket, ratchet, flat-blade screwdriver, block of 2x4, hammer, antiseize compound
Time: 1 hour (all 4 wheels)
Parts source: Corvette America

My '67 coupe has the optional "turbine" wheels on it with the "starburst" centers. While these are certainly a bit more stylish than the standard steel rally wheels, I always wanted the classy look of the knock-off wheels of my '63 SWC. However, the original Kelsey-Hayes knock-offs can be downright dangerous since they have a nasty habit of working their way loose from road bumps and vibration if you don't keep them tightened on a regular basis (which is why the DOT outlawed them-1966 was the last year you could order them on your Corvette). So the solution, therefore, was to order DBO-KO (direct bolt-on knock-off) centers from Corvette America. The company sells complete sets of DBO-KO wheels with all the requisite hardware as well, so you can mount these puppies on any year C2 (or even a C3, if you're so inclined). But since I already had the wheels, all I needed was the adapters, cones, spinners, center caps, and mounting bolts/washers. It took only about 15 minutes per wheel to go from starburst center to knock-off spinners and achieve that real "competition sports car" look in the process.

So that pretty much wraps it up for our Weekend Projects issue this year. If you're like me, you'll always find something that needs to be done to your Corvette, but that's what makes owning them so much fun. Now go out to the garage and spend some quality time with your car!

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