Through the first five installments of our Split Personality project series, we've covered project planning, chassis and suspension, engine, drivetrain and brakes, installing C5 seats in a midyear, engine electronics, and exhaust and fuel systems. In this installment, we'll cover the various features of the body and exterior components. In the next installment, we'll cover the engine compartment and cooling system, and in Part 8, the key interior features including the A/C installation. Over the course of this project series, we'll feature each one in enough detail to give you a good idea of what's involved and the sources we used. Since each project is unique, and you'll have your own ideas on the approach to take and components to use, we'll just describe the approach we've taken and what has worked for us. At the very least, we hope it will stimulate some ideas and hopefully save you time.
Perhaps the most enjoyment we receive from these projects is being able to design our own features and see them come to life. The fun, and sometimes the pain, can lie in the details, and if that's a good measure, we've had more than our share of each with this project!
Our basic approach to the body is to retain the integrity of the original styling but take the original ideas further to improve function, performance, and appearance. In our minds, the styling is the feature that attracted folks to the car from the beginning, and it's an aspect that's hard to improve. Frankly, it's possible to go too far in making changes and potentially ending up with features that don't fit well with the original design. Our focus is to make subtle changes to enhance what's already there, with the objective of making only those changes that look like they belonged there from the beginning. That doesn't mean there aren't many changes, but we know we've achieved our goal if they blend well with the original design and you have to look twice to notice most of them. Here are the major repairs and custom changes that were made to the Split Personality '63.
Body Exterior - Bodywork, Paintwork, and Polish
The first order of business was to repair or replace whatever fiberglass or metal needed restoration, which-no real surprise here-turned out to be much more involved than we had hoped. We fully realized the extent of repairs needed once the body was media blasted. First, the front end had more previous repairs than we liked, and we decided to replace it with a press-molded and jig-assembled nose from Corvette Image. Next was to replace the drip moldings, which had some rust, using reproduction pieces available from America's Finest Corvettes. We also found some weak areas just above the door striker areas and had pieces made by Twin Brooks Restoration using an English Wheel. Once the nose was removed, we also found some small rusting beneath the windshield area, which was rewelded and coated. Fortunately, the remainder of the birdcage structure was in great shape. (See photo 1: bare body/doorsill)
In addition to the repairs and custom touches made to the body, a great deal of time was spent by the Corvette Center in Newington, Connecticut, smoothing the body surfaces and gapping each seam and joint for the hood, doors, headlight doors, and valance panels, as well as fitting the door handles, locks, parking and taillights, grille, and moldings. Jason Bernier spent many painstaking hours getting both the top and underside of the body the way we wanted. He certainly put a lot of effort into it and did an outstanding job.