It's the same old story: After years of fine service, your interior is looking a little shabby. The seat edges are starting to pull out and, worst of all, a few of your favorite electrical components, such as courtesy lights and temperature gauges, don't work, at least not all of the time. It's time for an interior makeover.
Our subject '69 Corvette roadster was showing its age, and had been for some time. With a major exterior upgrade recently completed, the interior was suffering from some serious problems, not the least of which was intermittent electrical failure throughout the interior. The clock and courtesy lights were the most glaring.
For help, we turned to Jerry Brown at Atlanta Corvette Center. He helped restore our interior, not only functionally, but cosmetically, by utilizing parts from Mid America Direct and others.
Electrical RestorationWith electrical problems, the old adage applies, with slight modification: If it isn't broken, don't fix it; if it is, replace it. A bad electrical system often means having to replace rather than repair because it's difficult to reach the wiring loom. This unfortunate challenge is compounded in the tight confines of a Corvette. Worst of all, you can't see a broken wire under the wiring insulation. Often, burned-out fusible links don't look bad even when they're burned to the core. This is especially troublesome when you attempt to inspect wires, which are bundled tightly under the dashboard or tucked away under panels.
The only positive is that a "regular" wire rarely goes bad; the problem generally occurs at the point of connection to the power source or component. Check these areas first before blaming the wiring.
In our case, there were a number of problems with electrical components that weren't working. Generally, if one or two components aren't working, replacement of the suspect wires would be in order. But, for us, because of the overall appearance and condition of the wiring, it was time to replace the entire interior wiring system.
We selected M&H Electric's interior dashboard loom. The harness is an exact replica of the original GM-produced loom with all of the appropriate plugs, clips, and connectors as well as properly color-coded wiring to match the original wiring diagram. For any restoration, an M&H Electric wiring loom is a must.
To complete the installation, knowledge is the most important ingredient. A wiring diagram is imperative when making a change to your car's electrical system. Like a road map, the wiring diagram is the only way to know what you're doing. One can be ordered from a variety of sources; we got ours from Mid America Direct.
Seating SurfacesThe first major "visible" changes were made to the seating. Long's Upholstery showed us how to install the seat and headrest covers properly. First, we removed the seats from the vehicle and inspected them for broken frame components. An assembly manual is advisable for any building project; Mid America Direct can help you there as well.
In our case, the seat-bottom frame was completely rotten; J&D Corvette helped us find a replacement. J&D is a terrific source of hard-to-find parts, especially when the new parts are not available. The Last Detail Corvette Parts helped locate not only seating parts, but small interior items such as door and window knobs, vent screws, and light bulb kits we would need later in the restoration.
While the news of the rotten seat framing was bad enough, the problem became worse as we inspected the floor under the seats. While the seats were on their way to improvement, it would have been fruitless to make the change without proper seat structure. Large, gaping holes were apparent on the flooring when we pulled back the carpet. To repair the problem, fiberglass matte and resin were used to fill the holes and improve the integrity of the floor.
The original vinyl seat covers are connected to the framing through "hog" rings, which feed through the material and attach to the seat framing. The rings can be removed in a variety of ways, but never reuse the old rings as they will not provide a dependable connection between the materials and framing. Hog-ring pliers are helpful when reinstalling the new rings, as they provide a nonslip way to make a complete connection. Regular pliers can do the job but are more difficult to use, and they don't provide that "pro look" if your friends catch you working on your restoration.
Our seat tracks were cleaned, restored, and lubricated prior to being fitted to the seat bottom. In our case, a lot of dirt and carpet debris was lodged in the tracks. The old carpeting was removed from the interior, the surfaces were scrubbed clean, and the original matting was scraped away. Mid America provided the new carpeting, which was glued in place with its recommended adhesive. Be sure to complete this task in a well-ventilated area and wear respiratory protection, as the fumes from the glue are toxic.
EpilogueObviously, there are a number of other modifications that are apparent in the final look of our interior. Next month we will detail the specific problems we encountered with the rest of the installation, including the fitment of interior components such as the console and dashboard.