C1 Corvette Interior - Overhauling A Friend's '59 Vette, The Finale

Rob Sutter's '59 Gets A New Interior Plus Other Goodies To Finish Off What Started As A Simple Engine Swap

Dick Moritz Aug 4, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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It appeared that the original seat covers had been replaced a long time ago, and the years had not been kind to the seams. However, the last 30 years have seen substantial improvements in many parts, including reproduction upholstery, and the new covers seemed to be heavier and better built.

If you've been following the story about Rob Sutter's '59, you'll know that his friend and business partner Bob Yeoman "stole" Rob's car out from under him to repay a large favor and replace the way-too-radical former dragster engine with a perfectly-streetable crate 350 from GM Performance Parts. The project escalated, as these things so often do, into a wholesale transformation into a resto-mod C1, complete with state-of-the-art steering, suspension, and brakes. In our last installment we detailed the installation of a trick monoleaf fiberglass rear spring from Vette Brakes & Products, adjustable QA1 rear shocks, rear sway bar courtesy of Jim Meyer Racing, and the crowning glory, a rear disc brake setup from Stainless Steel Brakes Corp. to match those they supplied for the front.

With all of the drivetrain and steering and suspension upgrades, Bob just couldn't return the car to Rob with tattered upholstery, inoperative gauges, and other time-worn interior parts. So the call went out to long-time CF advertisers for the pieces and services needed to make the '59 look as good as it runs.

Our friends at Corvette Central stepped up to the plate and provided a full interior kit-pretty much everything except a dash pad cover, since the replacement installed some 30 years ago was still in as-new condition. Corvette Central supplied new seat covers, carpets, interior door trim with door reflectors and kick panel inserts, even new door and lock handles. Plus, they were kind enough to supply a full set of weatherstrips for the convertible top, and a new trunk weatherstrip for good measure.

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The seats lift right out of their frames on C1 Corvettes. Installation of replacement covers can be a do-it-yourself job, especially if you have a friend who has done the job before. It can be difficult for a first-timer to get a perfect installation, but the results can be entirely adequate for a driver-quality installation. But if you're doing a show car, installation is best left to a pro.

Brian Tilles and his team at Corvette Specialties of Maryland eagerly took on the task of restoring the gauge cluster since gauge restoration is one of their, well, specialties. They've got years and years of experience, along with special tools and procedures for rebuilding, refinishing, and calibrating Corvette gauges, and you can see some of the steps they take in the accompanying sidebar.

A complement of carefully-crafted wiring harnesses came courtesy of M & H Electric Fabricators, including a new main dash harness, an engine compartment harness, a rear lighting harness, plus headlight extension and generator harnesses as well. These excellent reproduction harnesses fit like factory, and were a welcome replacement for the 50 year-old originals that had suffered the pocket knife-and-electrical tape fate so common in older Vettes. The new main harness included a new, nicely-integrated fuse block so there was no need to re-use the potentially problematic original with all of our nice, new harnesses. And with our newly-reconditioned gauge cluster, we didn't want to risk damage, or smoke-or worse-with the original, oft-repaired harness. The new wiring was cheap insurance, and offered great peace of mind.

To complete the IFS/R&P setup from Flaming River Products which was covered in a previous story in this series, Gary Gardner and his crew at Gardner's Automotive installed Flaming River's steering column kit, which includes a column complete with turn signal switch and wiring, along with a heavy-duty steering shaft with beautiful billet U-joints, and machined firewall cover plates for both the engine compartment and cockpit sides. A machined adapter allows for installation of a reduced-diameter look-alike steering wheel from Corvette Central that simulates the look of the factory wheel but with a smaller diameter that allows for more leg room while enhancing the feel of the wheel. Plus, the reduced diameter wheel works in perfect harmony with the lower steering effort required by the R&P setup.

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