As I write this, I'm making preparations to go to the winter regional NCRS meet in Florida to judge some beautiful, early Corvettes. The cars' scores will be based on their own merit and weigh heavily on parts or assemblies that don't appear the same way they did when they rolled off the assembly line back in the day. There will be deductions for over-restoration, paint materials that deviate in appearance from the original factory lacquer, reproduction parts that differ from the originals and generally reduce the scores on any car that doesn't appear to be as the factory produced it. The ones that will be awarded Top Flight are those that have few deviations from typical factory production but are no better and no worse. I think this is great stuff, and I'm pumped up. There's nothing like an early generation Corvette to get the heart beating.
By the same token, there's an effervescence in my soul when I pull down the shifter in my C5 from Sixth gear to Third gear on the highway and step hard on the long pedal as I take the connector curve on my way to work on a Saturday morning with the top down, the Corsa exhaust barking, and some classic rock in the 10-disc changer--especially if there's an M3 or a Shelby anywhere in the vicinity. On the way home, I may have the top up, the A/C on, and an easy-listening instrumental CD playing while I enjoy around 30 mpg. The difference between driving my earlier Corvettes and my C5 is certainly the level of comfort, but also that I might get a second look with a C5, but solid axles, midyears, and most sharks command attention wherever they go.
With your C4-C6, you can argue that this is your economy car with its impressive 30 mpg, has all the comforts you could ever want, and is just plain fast. With the early ones, though, you seem to rise to eminence when you're behind the wheel, which is something that can't quite be matched with the new ones. The downside is that they simply aren't as comfortable, they lack the amenities, the gas mileage sucks, and--I don't care what engine option you have that starts with an "L"--it's not as fast as the new ones that start with a "Z." If only there was a way to have it all, or at least blur the borders a little.
Welcome to Part 4 of my "Reconsidering Your Line in the Sand" series, written from the perspective of a longtime NCRS member. It's an exchange of information to describe and discuss possibilities that can be done through parts substitutions with your earlier Corvette to help you not only enjoy it, but to preserve it as well. It's written by someone who appreciates the historical significance of the Corvette marque but sees too many of them stored away like time capsules in germ-proof environments, with owners saying, "I don't want to risk the original drivetrain."
This is what inspired me to start writing about "bagging and tagging" the original large hardware so the car could be put back on the road, while at the same time eliminating the risk of losing an original engine. The "NCRS" in me has been performing these substitutions with one rule in mind: At any time, the car must be able to be put back to stock condition. This means we're seeking out the best engineered, least invasive replacement parts available to perform our substitutions.
We covered engines, transmission and chassis components in the earlier segments (July/Aug./Sept. '08), so now it's time to take a good look at the interior of your classic. How can it be improved? There are two seats in every Corvette, so jump in and take a ride with us.
Once upon a time there was a neat Rally Red/red interior Corvette convertible. It spent much of its life on day trips with the top down, so the bad ol' sun faded much of its pretty red interior. At some point, someone named Bubba saw what happened, so he dun got hisself some rattle-can "Red For All Occasions" interior dye and emptied four cans on the dashpads and carpeting. As the dashboard is fiberglass, he painted it with "Rosy Red" plastic paint, since fiberglass and plastic are the same--sort of. He didn't know what the rest of the interior was made of, so he left it alone.