There’s nothing finer than enjoying the driving experience in your Corvette, especially when your business office is factory-fresh. As your car ages so does its interior and many times it becomes perfectly comfortable for every cruise you take. But there comes a time, though, when everything really starts to show its age. Regardless if you decide to freshen up your interior or undertake a full restoration, it’s great to know that the team at Corvette America has you covered. Servicing the Corvette community since 1977, they have established themselves as one of the countries top suppliers of Corvette interior products and parts with over 24,000 items available in their catalogs.
Thanks to decades of research and development, their experts are able to finely craft Corvette interiors and related components to support your C1 through C6 models at their exclusive facility located in Reedsville, Pennsylvania. Looking to make updates to your interior? It’s as easy as opening a catalog to locate your Corvette America two-digit color code for the corresponding factory colors that follow your order to completion. Take, for example, your door panels. Do you ever take into consideration just how many times they are exposed to the elements or how many times they get pulled or pushed when opening and closing the doors? It’s easy to see the abuse they take just from normal use, let alone what the sun and weather do to them.
On a recent visit to Corvette America we followed the step-by-step process of how they create new factory-fresh door panels right in their factory. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, the process includes the use of thermoforming as well as a five-axis CNC automated router to create the panel base along with its vinyl coverings. From there the bonding processes, expert final trimming and attention to detail creates a restoration panel that is factory perfect with the utmost care given to quality control throughout the process. Let’s follow along while the team shows us just what it takes to make it happen. Vette
1. With an oven set to 370-390 degrees, sheet plastic is heated to a pliable forming temperature in preparation for thermoforming over the 1968 C3 Corvette inner door panel mold.
2. When the proper temperature has been reached for 2-3 minutes, the plastic is removed from the oven and set down on the mold where it begins to take its initial shape.
3. Within seconds a pedal is actuated, immediately vacuum-forming the heated plastic to its final form to create the inner door panel, which will later be trimmed.
4. Production moves onto the Thermwood five-axis CNC automated router to prepare the inner door panel for all cuts, trimming and mounting points.
5. Here you can see a close-up of the router fixture being used in this application. Different ones are available for C1 through C5 Corvettes.
6. The inner door panel is then placed onto the router fixture and held in place by vacuum throughout the procedure, which is completed in a few minutes. In this image the router has just started its run.
7. As the router continues on, it will cut, trim and drill various mounting points required in the assembly of the door panel.
8. When the procedure is complete, the panel is blown clean of all debris and inspected to ensure that it is perfect before moving onto the next step.
9. Once an order is received, it’s time to cut the stock to be used. Corvette America has all your factory trim colors in stock so getting an exact match is as easy as giving them a call to place your order.
10. The vinyl stock for the outer door panel is then set into a frame to prepare to be heated in the oven for thermoforming.
11. After being heated in the oven at 330-degrees for around a minute, the framed vinyl is then removed and set onto the C3 mold where it begins to take its initial shape.
12. After a few seconds the pedal is actuated and the form is instantaneously created. Once cooled, the initial trimming is done before moving onto the next step.
13. The inner and outer panels are then prepped to be bonded together. First, the outer panel is trimmed to accept a door pull.
14. Then the door pull is secured in the mold where it will be bonded into place to the outer and inner door panel.
15. A liberal coating of release agent is then sprayed onto the panel for easy removal once the procedure is completed.
16. To mate the outer and inner panels together, a layer of expansion foam is then poured in place onto the outer panel. The inner panel is then placed on top.
17. A layer of plastic is then set in place before the cover is closed on the mold to press-fit everything together for the bonding and curing process.
18. Fresh from the mold, the newly bonded panel is thoroughly cleaned of any release agents and inspected for quality control prior to being sent along for final trimming.
19. To begin the final trim process Velcro was first riveted in place on the inside of the door panel.
20. A generous coating of spray adhesive is applied to the excess vinyl material, which will be heated, stapled, trimmed and folded into place on the inner panel.
21. The vinyl is then warmed up with a heat gun, allowing it to be stretched and made wrinkle-free for the next step.
22. With the vinyl still warm, it is stretched and stapled in place, gradually working around the panel to create a perfect balance, which is visible especially around the corners.
23. A razor knife is then used to trim off any excess vinyl once the process is completed.
24. To prepare the panel for the installation of new deluxe trim, a number of holes are drilled into the unit for access.
25. A razor knife is then carefully used from the inside of the door panel to cut through the foam core for installation of the lock plate.
26. The door panel lock plate was then installed in place.
27. From inside the panel, the trim strip was then installed, making sure a soft pad was underneath to protect the exterior surface.
28. Finally, the armrest u-trim was installed to complete the panel.
29. Here you can see just how nice the new 1968 C3 door panel is from Corvette America, adding the perfect finishing touch to your interior freshening or restoration.
Photos by Chuck Vranas