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C3 Corvette Interior Restoration - Department of the Interior

Project Homewrecker gets its insides out and its outsides in

Dan Ryder Sep 27, 2007
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Whether you're in the market for a project vehicle or not, many of us cross paths with a deal that cannot be passed up. At first you shake it off, but later that evening you're left sleepless thinking of the never-ending possibilities. The following day, the heat-seeking missile instinct takes over as you go for a second look. Although you see some imperfections that went unnoticed during the first encounter, the pros outweigh the cons. In your mind the decision has been made, but the deal isn't sealed at this time.

On the way home the seller's script begins to collectively flow through your head. "Seller's script?" Yes, you must rehearse ahead of time to sell the idea to your significant other when you get home. Need I go further? Whether the outcome is good, bad, or indifferent, you eventually become the new owner, and your project can now be labeled as a bona fide homewrecker.

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The first thing is to develop a plan of attack. We employed the help of Tom Keiling, retired from a career as a classic car restoration specialist. We conspired to first remove the seats, emergency brake console, and then to start tearing out the dreadful, faded, 35-year-old carpet.

This magazine's Project Homewrecker was introduced in the July '07 issue of Super Chevy. It kicked off at Motor City Auto Body in Newark, New Jersey, where the Vette was stripped of its hideous brown paint, prepped, and then covered in beautiful Targa Blue. We then installed an extensive amount of new exterior components from Mid America Motorworks (Effingham, Illinois). In the August issue we provided enhanced coverage on how to restore your vintage Corvette seats.

Consider the life of your car. Most sit outside to brave the elements such as the sun, snow, and rain. Even the most sacred Z/28s, Tri-Fives and big-block Vettes of yore usually started life as daily drivers. The life expectancy of your car is determined by the owner-yes, you! Is the maintenance done according to schedule? Is the interior conditioned and cared for? When was the last time a protective coat of wax was applied? Ask yourself these simple questions the next time you stare at your ripped seats, cracked dashboard, faded paint, and oil-consuming engine. We all have busy lives, and sometimes our cars pay the price.

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The next step was to remove the rear storage compartment door and frame assembly. A Phillips head screwdriver is all that's needed to accomplish this step.

Thankfully, the aftermarket has stepped up with solutions to our raggedy cars. As we noted last month, Corvettes have interiors that tend to wear out quickly, and our '72 LT-1 coupe was no exception. In fact, despite numerous tears, the seats in our project car were not the worst part of the cockpit. No. It was the faded, dried-out carpeting, cracked door, trim panels and console. These practically made the torn-up buckets seem nice. We were fortunate that the dashpad was in perfect condition, but pretty much everything else was junk.

For help, we turned again to Mid America Motorworks, which carries everything you'll need to revitalize your Corvette's innards-and at prices well within reason. Follow along as we turn our dungeon-like interior into a pleasant place to burn some rubber.

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Once the compartment was removed, the rear sections of carpet were carefully peeled away.

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First you must remove the shoulder belt units, the rear quarter trim panels, and the light housing.

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After the rear carpeting was removed, we removed the driver- and passenger-side kick panels, sill plates, and seatbelt covers.

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We then proceeded to remove the remainder of the carpeting.

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Considering the many years of abuse, the carpets were still in one piece, yet very dried out and musty.

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Our next mission was to scrape any loose glue or debris, and then to vacuum out the entire vehicle before beginning the installation of the new carpet.

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Next on the agenda was to start installing the foil-backed, sound deadener/heat-shield material. This can be obtained as a complete kit from Mid America Motorworks. Some trimming is required. Once proper fitment has been achieved, a liberal amount of spray adhesive is applied to aid in the installation. The early (pre-'73) Mako Shark era Corvettes were a lot less civilized than later versions. There was little in the way of sound-deadening/heat shielding. Just adding a set of headers makes the cockpit of these cars oven-like and loud, so don't skimp when it comes to sound deadener and heat shielding. It'll make the car a lot more pleasant to drive.

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Once the sound deadener/heat-shield material is installed, the process is repeated with the carpeting. It's helpful to use a punch of some sort, in order to locate positions where screws are to be installed.

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Once the carpet is laid out, a good amount of trimming is required to gain perfect alignment. Scissors and/or a razorblade will aid in the process.

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Once all the rear carpet was installed, a new compartment door and frame assembly was installed. It was shipped assembled; only the compartment door release buttons need to be swapped over. The rear section is pretty much complete, but to keep the car looking factory original, we're going to get reproduction decals for inside the compartments. This is one thing Mid America Motorworks does not sell. We'll be adding new shoulder harnesses at a later date.

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Next we installed the front carpets. These units came pre-molded and fit like the proverbial glove (trimming along sides and top is required, though). We were amazed at the factory-specific design of the heel pad.

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Now that we're all insulated and carpeted up, we'll move to the shifter console, which needed replacing. We first removed the front extensions on both sides. Once the extensions are removed, a hidden screw will be revealed that also needs removal.

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Moving to the top, take out the four screws retaining the console shift plate. Unscrew the shifter knob and pull up on the shifter T-handle in order to remove (take caution not to lose the return spring).

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Next, remove the vent knobs by unscrewing a small Allen head set screw. Once they are taken out, pull off the shift plate.

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We now have access to the heater control head, which, once dispatched, will allow room for the removal of the console.

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Before removing the console from the vehicle, it's flipped over and the vent cables are unfastened.

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We then proceeded to switch this support bracket from the old console onto the new one.

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We installed the new console by reversing our previous steps. The next item to be installed is the rear portion of the console.

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As this car does not come with a factory glovebox, we opted for this custom unit from Mid America Motorworks with a built-in armrest and additional storage. We were required to swap the emergency brake handle seal assembly as shown.

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Next, the rear quarter trim panels were installed, along with the cross trim that links the two.

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At this time we also installed the new T-top center panel shown here.

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Here are the new sunvisors. We were required to install the swing brackets.

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Conveniently, all brackets are stamped with info on where they should be installed.

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Pictured here are the new pillar-post trim moldings.

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The old ones were in poor condition and needed replacement. Removal was as easy as removing one screw, and pulling up.

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Pictured here are the new shift console, shift knob, and custom console. It's all starting to come together.

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As the doors were off of the car for some paint detailing, we didn't install the new door panels provided by Mid America Motorworks. However, shown here is the old versus the new. The new panels are exact reproductions of the originals, available in correct interior colors. Since we have manual windows, a hole will have to be properly cut into the panel.

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Even though we have upgraded to factory leather seats, we didn't opt for the Custom Interior wood-grain door panels, which we feel are a bit cheesy and detract from the sporty nature of the cockpit.

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As previously mentioned, Mid America Motorworks' in-house service restored our seats. After installing the seats, our interior makeover was complete-for now. We have a cutting edge stereo on order to replace the (God help us) 35-year-old aftermarket AM/FM/8-track player the Vette came with.

Stay tuned, as we'll keep rolling on Project Homewrecker in upcoming issues.


Mid America Motorworks
Effingham, IL
Motor City Auto Body
Newark, NJ 07105



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