1963 Chevy Corvette Exterior Features - Split Personality, Part 6

Split Personality Part 6 - Exterior Features

Rich & Barb Lagasse Dec 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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Shown here are the front bumper filler plates installed prior to finishing work.

Side Fender Grilles :::
One feature of the '65-'67 midyears that most folks like is their functional side fender vents, as they help extract underhood heat and air pressure. We thought of several possible designs, but a key focus was to maintain the original design appearance as much as possible. Our approach was to cut the front, top, and bottom of the fender depressions (up to the point where you reach the firewall) and deepen them by 1 1/4 inches. (See photo 8: side fender vent cutouts) New pieces were fabricated to box them in, and outlet holes were cut into the forward areas. Grilles were designed to fit the openings as well as to achieve the proper angles that would fit each area. That was another aspect more involved than you would think, as the vertical and horizontal angles differ from top to bottom as does the side angle of the fender. We laid out a design and templates which were machined by Mark's Machine. When viewed from the side, it's hard to distinguish from stock, but as you move toward the rear, you can see the grilles and deepened recesses. (See photo 9: finished side fender vents and grilles)

Bumpers and Grille :::
We wanted to do something different with both the front and rear bumpers but not so much that they wouldn't retain their stock appearance from a normal viewing angle. Two areas we thought could be improved were on the backside of the front bumpers and underside of the rears. For the rear bumpers, templates were made and metal cut and welded in place to enclose the underside of the bumpers following the body contour, which would fill the normal gap between the bumper and body. That also meant that permanent nuts had to be welded in place to bolt the bumper in place from the backside. (See photo10: rear bumper filler plates and photo 11: finished rear bumper)

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This is the backside of the driver's front bumper.

The fronts were a bit more involved as templates were made to enclose the entire backside; metal was cut to size, shaped to their curvature, and welded in place. That also meant a new means to mount the upper center bumper bracket would have to be made while also hiding the bolt mount. We made a slot in the rear of the bumper large enough for the bumper bracket to slide through and mate with the original bolt location. A snap-in cover was made to cover the bolt access hole. The welding job was handled by Twin Brooks Restoration in Suffield, Connecticut. (See photo 12: front bumper fillers and photo 13: finished bumper) It's tough to get a good shot of the rear side of the front bumper once installed, but hopefully you get the idea.

Chroming those pieces was more of an involved process than we had imagined-just ask the chromer! Chroming original bumpers is involved enough, but getting an even finish on an enclosed bumper was something else. One major issue was making sure that any holes were plugged to avoid the chemicals used in chroming from getting inside the bumper and forming a sludge, as it can leak out and discolor the chrome and also has the potential of ruining the contents of their tank (ask us how we know). After several tries, it was finally done, and we wouldn't want to have to tell the chromer that we had more like these to do. Allied Metal Finishing in South Windsor, Connecticut, did that work as well as all of our chroming.

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The lower front bumper braces to the chassis and grille.

We also had to make new lower brackets to mount the bottom of the front bumpers to the tube chassis. Believe it or not, we used 1-inch flex exhaust tubing as a template to get the shape and length needed. Inserts were machined from billet aluminum to make the mount at the frame and at the rear of the bumpers. (See photo 14: lower front bumper braces) In that photo, you can also see the grille. We wanted to use a stock '63 grille and were able to buy one unassembled. We then chromed the brackets and grille bars and assembled the grille with 6/32" x 1/4" stainless button head screws instead of rivets.

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