Revitalizing the interior of a vintage Corvette can be a costly process. Between carpet, seats, door panels and dash-related items, you’re looking at thousands of dollars, even if you handle the installation in your home garage. We’re always looking for ways to save a few bucks, especially in the midst of an interior makeover in our 1964 Corvette coupe project car. It had some outdated items and the carpet needed to be replaced, so we took the opportunity to restore the console while it was out of the car for the carpet install.
Of course, we weighed out the options and found that restoring an original Corvette console is far less expensive than buying a new one. And as it turns out, the labor aspect of the restoration is pretty straightforward, so it was a no-brainer for our situation. If you’re dealing with a car that has lots of missing parts then a new console assembly might be the solution for you, but ours just needed some freshening to look new.
We opted for the Zip Products Console Repair Kit (PN ST-207), a Center Arm Rest Assembly (PN I-166), a Shifter Boot (PN WS-444) and a Console Screw Kit (PN ZI-642). We spent a few bucks at the local parts store on Dupli-Color Acrylic Enamel semi-gloss black spray paint (one can) and a couple sheets of 400-grit sandpaper. We also used 3M 3/4-inch masking tape, a couple of household soap pads and some basic handtools to complete the job. It’s definitely something you can accomplish over the course of a weekend.
What’s not to like about an affordable restoration project that doesn’t require a major dedication of time? Take a look at our $150 Corvette console restoration and add more detail to your Corvette interior with ease.
01. First, we remove the original console. To do so, we take off the shift knob, pull the shifter back into Second gear and then remove the eight screws that hold the console in place.
02. With the console out of the way, we can then remove the center armrest assembly. Our original armrest had a split in the material so we’re replacing this piece as well. Zip Products offers this as a complete assembly or you can buy a new vinyl cover for the original assembly.
03. Our console trim had seen better days, as years of heat cycles caused the adhesive to let go. The black paint had also rubbed off in spots so it was a good time to revitalize this original Corvette console.
04. The Console Repair Kit from Zip is inexpensive ($30) and it contains a new brushed-finish shifter surround, a new shift pattern plate and a new ashtray sliding door with chrome-plated pull tab.
05. To remove the ashtray door, we take a small screwdriver and hammer to bend the aluminum tabs down. This allows the ashtray door and the plastic sliders to slide completely out.
06. Before the door can come out, the pull tab must be removed. It is held in place with rivets, so we use a small drill bit to make easy work of the disassembly process.
07. Next on the list is to remove the shifter surround laminate. This metal is extremely thin and very sharp so we wore gloves while wrestling it away from the console. Even though some areas had delaminated over time, the glue is tough stuff, so you may need to gently pry it loose with a small screwdriver.
08. Solvents didn’t help remove the original adhesive from the console shifter surround. We eventually resorted to an angle grinder with a ScotchBrite wheel. To protect the raised chrome plating at the edges covered them with tape.
09. Speaking of chrome plating, now would be a good time to do some rehab on the chrome finishes. Some of the areas are hard to reach while the console is installed in the car, so they rarely get cleaned. We remove the oxidation with a soap pad and rinse with water.
10. It is important to mask all of the chrome plating before you start sanding the painted areas. In this case, 400-grit works best, and we use a light amount of water to keep the paper from clogging up. The black paint sands easily, so it’s OK to sand until the only black remaining is inside the crevices of the textured metal.
11. Now, it’s time to tape again. This is a crucial step in making this console look like a factory piece so take your time. We use green 3M 3/4-inch masking tape, as it bends around the corners easily and sticks to just about anything.
12. You should be aware that interior pieces are always susceptible to “fisheye,” a phenomenon where underlying contaminants cause the paint materials to form craters that look like water drops or fish eyes, as the name suggests. Prior to painting, always wipe down the part with wax and grease remover to remove any contaminants.
13. Yes, we’re using a spray can! Dupli-Color makes acrylic enamel spray paint that works very well for small projects like our console restoration. We chose semi-gloss black, and started with a very light coat. If you start with a heavy first coat, it is more likely to fisheye. Two medium coats follow the initial “tack coat.”
14. After the paint dried for a few minutes, we removed the masking tape to reveal the new finish. We’re very pleased with the result, as the paint looks uniform and the tape lines are super crisp.
15. We let the paint dry for a couple of days and reverse-masked the shifter surround area so we could spray adhesive to the surface. We used 3M Contact Adhesive and applied one light coat.
16. The new laminate with the Console Repair Kit has an adhesive back, so we removed the paper backing and carefully stuck the laminate into place. The adhesive is strong, so this is a crucial moment. Take it slow when aligning the laminate.
17. Now it’s time to reassemble the ashtray by sliding the new ashtray sliding door into place, re-using the original plastic sliders. Once the door is in place, you can use pliers to bend the aluminum retaining tabs into the original position. The ashtray pull tab can now be installed.
18. While the console was out of the car, we decided it was a good time to replace the shifter boot. After removing the screws from the mounting plate, the old boot slides over the shifter handle.
19. We re-used the plate and hardware to hold the shifter boot. This would’ve been a good time to paint the plate and install new hardware, but we know that this area will never be visible once our refurbished console is in place.
20. Before we slide the console into its resting place, we install a new center armrest assembly from Zip. The armrest assembly has a locating pin at the rear and a single bolt up front, which makes for a quick and easy installation.
21. And now for the moment of truth, as we install the refreshed shifter console. It slides over the shifter handle and then we work it into place, making sure all of the mounting holes line up.
22. A new Console Screw Kit is just a few bucks so we added that to our order from Zip. The new hardware consists of eight screws, all with the original size and style.
23. You’ll have to use a very short screwdriver for the console screws that are buried deep beneath the dash. In our case, we simply used a 1/4-inch driver bit with a Phillips head to install the final screws.
24. With just a few hours of work and less than $150, we added another level of detail to our 1964 Corvette coupe interior. The refurbished console is a quick and simple restoration project that any Corvette owner can handle.