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Classic Corvette Interior - Reconsidering Your Line In The Sand
No Way Would I Ever Change My Classic Corvette, But If I Did...
May 14, 2009
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Classic Corvette Interior - Reconsidering Your Line In The Sand
So you have a vision, a concept, or just a mere inclination of what you'd like to do with the interior of your Corvette. You have an appreciation for the classic nature of your car, so a drafting table isn't necessary, but you'd like to incorporate into the mix some of today's advances, such as high-back buckets, a tilt steering wheel, and a sound system that rocks. Jump in the passenger seat, and take a ride with us.
The high-back buckets in our '67 are standard Corvette seats from 1994 to 1996, with new foam and coverings. They're a bolt-in proposition, sort of. Once the '67 seat-reinforcement plates below the floor were relocated, we sectioned some metal out of the forward '96 seat brackets to correct the seat angle.
This car gets a new interior along with new wiring and a fresh restoration of the gauge cluster, so we started by removing everything that had anything to do with the interior. Shown is our new firewall insulation. The hoses and ductwork are from a previously installed aftermarket A/C system.
We mounted the fiberglass dash to our dash stand and scrubbed the years of Armor-all off it with acetone. If this stuff really does protect from sun damage, this dash had an effective SPF of 116. We then repainted all the hard interior pieces.
The whole idea of this part of the restoration was to freshen up everything and have it all match in the interior. Now the dash matches the new dashpads nicely. A clamp with a rubber block helps in the process of installing the dashpads by pushing the pads flush with the dash prior to the installation of the clips.
The dashpad clips work on the fulcrum principal. When these ears are squeezed together, the "feet" of the clips are spread apart, which holds the dashpad captive on the other side of the dash hole. We retain and reuse the original clips whenever possible, and use the reproductions for fill-ins if the originals break.
The gauge cluster and new wiring are installed to the dash, which will be installed into the car as a completed unit. This makes it easier to debug any issues that may come up, such as harness retainer pins in the new harness that aren't spaced properly. Naw, couldn't happen.
There's a fuel-injected crate motor in our project, so we have an electronic tachometer that has its own small harness exiting the back of the cluster. This, along with the full cluster restoration, was done by Rick Stotler of Rick's Restoration in Joppa, Maryland.
Rick also transformed our ammeter to a voltmeter, which makes much more sense with today's cars. The back of the gauge has a single wire hookup that connects to switched 12V. The front of the gauge still says "battery," and looks totally stock except for the different numbers.
Here's our "new" gauge cluster installed in the dash. This is the time to test all the new lights in the cluster. It's 10 times easier to tend to a high-beam indicator light now than after everything is installed in the car. Have the wiring diagram in front of you as you run through the circuit tests.
This project is as much about comfort and amenities as it is aesthetics, so we installed Mid America Motorworks' sound and heat barrier under the carpeting. With headers and a chambered exhaust running under the floorboard, this will certainly add a level of comfort to the driving experience of this classic.
Installing Mid America's carpet is a cinch and transforms a dismal interior into something beautiful. It's amazing how much sun-fade, water stains, and general dirt accumulate over the years, which you may not realize until you compare the new carpeting with your tired, old carpeting.
Since our computer and ignition-control module now reside in the space that the battery used to, the jack and storage compartment has become a jack and battery compartment. We fabricated brackets to raise the fiberboard cover to fit over the battery, and installed a set of '68 spring-ring battery cables to make the connections.
With the dashboard out of the way, it's definitely easier to work the carpeting into the forward area of the toe pan and to install the kick panel speakers, which we'll cover in a bit. If you were thinking of installing an aftermarket air-conditioning system, boy oh boy, now's the time to do it with everything out of the way.
Remember our "vision"? It called for tilt steering in this classic Corvette, something it never came with. It must look like it was factory installed or we don't want it. It must work like a factory unit or we don't want it. We put the call in to Flaming River.
Begin by removing the stock steering column. If you're going to remove the gauge cluster for restoration, pull the column. If you're only installing a new wiring harness, pull the column. Certainly if you're going to the extent we are here, pull the column, and get it out of the way. It's only a few bolts and a few minutes, and it will save you a lot of grief and net a much better job.
We're replacing the column with a Flaming River tilt steering column for midyear Corvettes. We want it to look like it was original equipment with this car, so we need this bracket, which is "button-welded" to the original column.
We begin by center-punching the button welds to locate the best center for our drill bit to cut away the weld. We could use a spot-weld cutter, but we don't want the center locating bit to pierce through the original column mast jacket. We could sublet the cutting job to a machine-shop end mill, but in the interest of keeping this job "common tool friendly," we're using a 3/8-inch drill bit to do the job.
We want to remove the weld only and not drill all the way through. The tip of the drill bit will pass all the way though the thickness of our bracket and just into the mast jacket below, but the remaining face of the drill won't go that far. This removes the majority of the weld, but not all of it. The remainder will be left up to a cold chisel and some hands-on finesse.
This is the bracket once it's removed from the original column (without the aluminum mounting pads). It will be attached to a brand-new stainless steel steering column, so you'll probably want to media blast it, paint it, and make it presentable. After all, if you don't do it now, you never will.
Here's the original steering column where the mounting bracket used to be welded. We've got small divots where the welds were, but they're minor. We haven't burned any bridges here, as the mounting bracket could always be rewelded in the same spots someday if you wanted to.
We won't, however, try to weld our mild steel mounting bracket to our new stainless steel tilt column. Instead, we'll screw it in place with No. 10-32 screws, external tooth lock washers, and Loc-tite. We measured and laid out the mounting bracket in the same location as it was on the original column. We then did a little bodywork on the original button welds of the bracket, drilled three new holes just for the screws, and tapped the threads in the column. Don't forget to slide the dash cluster escutcheon onto the column before installing the bracket.
This is the finished column painted, the mounting bracket installed, and the mounting pads in place on the bracket. This new tilt steering column will now bolt up the same way as the original column, with the same mounting bracket as the original column.
Mission accomplished, as the new Flaming River tilt steering column looks factory-installed, with the dash cluster escutcheon fitting over the mast jacket the same way it did on the original column. We chose the paintable "mill finish" stainless column as opposed to the polished one, thinking the polished stainless might be more appropriate in a street-rod application.
This is Flaming River's "waterfall" steering wheel, which is nothing short of awesome. It has a comfortable grip, just enough bling with its polished spokes, and a center horn button that matches the dash knobs of our '67 Corvette, almost as if it was meant to be.
Part of the ambience in the cockpit of a classic Corvette comes from the music that fills the cabin, and this is what we turned to: the Custom Autosound Corvette USA-6 with C/D controller and optional iPod interface. Custom Autosound's radios fit Corvette dashboards with zero modifications necessary, which is one reason we chose it.
We decided to run the iPod cord to the (non-smoker's) ashtray for convenience. All he has to do is open the ashtray door, connect his iPod, and enjoy hours and hours of music.
This is Custom Autosound's 60-watt dual dash speaker as it's installed under the dash in the stock speaker location. Custom Autosound has different fitments for factory air-conditioned cars as opposed to non-air cars.
The big news is Custom Autosound's answer to kick-panel speakers. The company has its own midyear Corvette kick panels with the speakers built in (KCV63/67). Here, we're test-fitting them before we paint them to match the rest of the interior.
They look great once installed, fit beautifully, and look like they belong. With these two kick-panel speakers and the dual-speaker in the dash, the house now rocks. The camera flash shows the speaker beneath the kick-panel mesh, which is not visible normally.
The finished project looks great. It's not over the top, but fresh, tasteful, and nicely updated. We increased the comfort level and upgraded the technology but didn't remove the classic aura of this beauty. Most importantly, everything looks at home in the overall package.
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