Classic Corvette Interior - Reconsidering Your Line In The Sand

No Way Would I Ever Change My Classic Corvette, But If I Did...

Jeff Bernhardt May 14, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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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.

Fast forward to the time this car entered my shop--the dash was "red," the dashpads were "just off red," the console and side covers were "just a little more off red," and so on. You get the idea. The gauge-cluster needles and colorings were faded, the steering column a little scratched, the console and quarter trim just a little more scratched. So, there was just one thing to do--gut it. We decided to start from square one with the dash removed and restore everything from the birdcage up, but with a twist. We're going to improve this car and walk it into the 21st century with some pretty cool hardware (and software) that is now available. We'll follow my rule of "burn no bridges," and we'll document everything in Corvette Fever.

As always, it's important to know where you need to end up before you get started. We listed all of the upgrades we wanted to do and added this list to the restoration operations list. Then we looked for any overlapping. For example, we won't restore a steering column that's going to be replaced. The same goes for the radio, kick panels and seats. Once the gauges are restored, they need to fit the needs of our current drivetrain, namely a voltmeter instead of an ammeter and an electronic tachometer instead of the original cable-drive. We want the clock to be quartz drive and a new face on the glovebox door. With everything listed on a spreadsheet, we knew how to proceed. Research into the aftermarket upgrades answered many questions before we got started, such as the kick-panel speakers from Custom Autosound. Having a four-speaker sound system in a convertible isn't easy to do, but Custom Autosound has the package. The tilt column was a no-brainer since we've used Flaming River components before, as was the case of the carpeting from Mid America Motorworks, and seat covers and foam from Al Knoch. But it's the smallest details that sometimes cause the most headaches. Finding the correct red interior paint was something of a challenge, but we were never tempted to give Bubba a call.

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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.

With all of the hard interior pieces prepped, primed, and laid out in the paint booth, we set out to repaint them. We didn't have enough '65-'67 interior red on the shelf to do this job, so we ordered another quart from the same supplier of our dashpads. We began dusting the color on each piece, and once everything was in good color, we increased the feed of the gun and laid out one more "cover-coat" to melt in the overspray and remove any texture. It looked great. The next day, we gathered all of the interior parts for the job and put them on the shelf together--when we noticed a problem. The newly painted red parts had a "brickish red" look to them when they were next to the new red dashpads. And this wasn't just the dash; this was the dash, console, side covers, quarter trim pieces, speaker bezel and screen, and the new kick panels. "Do you think he'll notice?" asked one of my guys, referring to the car's owner. "Naw, he won't notice," I replied. The next day, the car's owner came in to check on our progress. "Did you get the interior painted?" he asked. "Yes, it's in the other room on the interior shelf. I'll go get it," I answered. When we brought out the interior pieces and laid them all out, he said to us, "That's all nice, but it's not mine." Damn, he noticed.

As always, it's important to know where you need to end up before you get started. We listed all of the upgrades we wanted to do and added this list to the restoration operations list. Then we looked for any overlapping. For example, we won't restore a steering column that's going to be replaced. The same goes for the radio, kick panels and seats. Once the gauges are restored, they need to fit the needs of our current drivetrain, namely a voltmeter instead of an ammeter and an electronic tachometer instead of the original cable-drive. We want the clock to be quartz drive and a new face on the glovebox door. With everything listed on a spreadsheet, we knew how to proceed. Research into the aftermarket upgrades answered many questions before we got started, such as the kick-panel speakers from Custom Autosound. Having a four-speaker sound system in a convertible isn't easy to do, but Custom Autosound has the package. The tilt column was a no-brainer since we've used Flaming River components before, as was the case of the carpeting from Mid America Motorworks, and seat covers and foam from Al Knoch. But it's the smallest details that sometimes cause the most headaches. Finding the correct red interior paint was something of a challenge, but we were never tempted to give Bubba a call.

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