When restoring a Corvette (or any other car), nothing looks worse than a fresh paint job with a chipped windshield and old, rubber weatherstrip that's sun-hardened and cracked. It looks like a half-hearted effort, and it will probably leak anyway. If the current windshield still looks good, at least give it new rubber. Although installing a new windshield and weatherstrip is a pretty straightforward job on an early Corvette, it's a little different than most cars. Instead of setting the windshield in a fixed frame that's permanently attached to the car, the windshield actually mounts inside a removable frame that bolts to the cowl section of the car once the frame is assembled. It's not that much more difficult than the usual way, but things must be done in a specific order. Also, extra care must be taken during assembly, because some of the components involved are cast-iron and can be brittle. They aren't very forgiving of mistakes (see the sidebar titled "How Not to Do It."). If any parts are omitted, there's no slipping them in-you'll have to take the frame apart and begin again. You don't want to risk damaging or breaking parts, since many of them are expensive to replace, if not irreplaceable.
We learned that lesson while installing a new windshield on Don Nosse's '61 Vette. Don's labor of love is nearing completion, and the installation of the windshield would really help his Corvette to look more like a complete car. We used Corvette Rubber's windshield seal kit, which included the seal around the windshield and the seal between the window frame and body. Rufino Jemenec of RJ Glass in Anaheim, California, performed the work, with Don assisting where needed. A second person is essential for bolting the frame to the car, but the real key to the install is that the trim on the top of the windshield must be attached to the windshield frame before anything else is bolted up. Corvette Rubber's kit worked great and was the easiest part of the installation. Once the job was complete, Don had good news and bad news. The good news was that with the windshield all bolted up, his project was another step closer to completion. The bad news was that he still has a a garage full of parts, and a lot of work to do!
How Not to Do It. The School of Hard Knocks is a harsh, yet effective teacher. We've all had to learn things the hard way. When our window guy was assembling the windshield frame, we all learned a lesson. Take nothing away from Rufino Jemeec-he is very competent in what he does-he simply made a mistake, as all of us have at one time or another. He assembled the frame without the upper trim piece, obviously thinking that he could slip it in later. When the time came to install it, he slid the trim onto the frame on the left side, leaving the right side sticking up (Photo A). Remember that the trim overlaps the end frame by about an inch (Photo B), and since stainless steel isn't very "springy," Rufino removed the screws that held the right side of the upper frame to the right-side end frame, and proceeded to "tweak" the frame slightly to allow the trim to slip on.
It was right about then that I heard a snap, and saw the end frame break away and fall to the side-oops! Don picked up the fallen end frame (which can't be purchased new!), sans the end, which was still attached to the lower frame. "Looks like I'm gonna have to get that welded up," he said. Fortunately, Don had someone who could weld up the broken part (Photo C-part on right). The lesson learned was that if it takes 10 extra steps to do something right, do it-you may not be as fortunate and optimistic as Don is.