The process of resurrecting a first-generation Corvette can lead to plenty of uncertainty, including the question of whether to go all-original or upgrade key parts with more-modern alternatives. Fortunately for the mod-happy crowd, the industry is rife with components designed specifically for the latter purpose. Even better, the installation of high-performance parts has proved to have little to no effect on resale value in most instances.
When it comes to C1 rearend upgrades, one of the most impressive kits on the market is the Jim Meyer Racing Products 9-inch kit with 4-link. Meyer put plenty of thought into this setup, and it shows: It's the same width as the original (optional widths are available), uses the stock driveshaft, offers the same wheel-bolt pattern (again, non-stock patterns are available), and places the tires in the stock position in the fender opening for an original look. The rearend housing, centered in the stock location under the chassis, features an adjustable, urethane-bushed Panhard bar; urethane-bushed, adjustable 4-link bars; and aluminum, adjustable coilover shocks with multi-position brackets.
As you look through the following installation photos, you'll notice there is some welding and grinding required. If you have a '53-'58, you'll need to remove both forward spring-stop brackets (found on the outside of the frame) to make room for the 4-link bars. On the '59-'62 (shown), you'll need to remove the upper traction-bar brackets on both outside framerails. A cut-off wheel, cutting torch, or Plasma cutter will work fine for this purpose. Grind the area clean and apply a little paint. You'll also need to remove the front and rear spring hangers from the outside of the rails.
The job is a relatively simple one if you have any rearend-swapping experience. The kit comes with 12 pages of instructions that feature large photos showing exactly what to do. And if the task still seems daunting, Meyer will even install the rear at his shop.
The first thing to do before starting the installation is to check the frame and make sure it isn't bent. You can do this with a tape measure by measuring from the rear crossmember to the body mounts where the forward 4-link brackets will go. Also measure in an "X" fashion (diagonally), from the two body mounts to the rear of the frame, to make sure the chassis is square.
If all looks good, start the installation by clamping the forward 4-link brackets to the frame-rails, just underneath the body mounts on the outside of the rails (see photos). Measure again. Next, grind to clean metal and weld the brackets on. Install the upper coilover-mount adapters next. Meyer's design uses the stock upper-shock-mounting hole to mount a specially designed adapter that fits the top of the coilovers.
Once the bolt and adapter have been installed in the crossmember, find the small support plates in the kit. These plates, which will be welded to the rear side of the crossmember, support the coilover-mounting bolts on both sides of the chassis. As you'll notice in the photos, the crossmember over the rearend had to be replaced. It appeared that the shock-mounting bracket inside the crossmember was positioned incorrectly from the factory. This was very unusual; in fact, Meyer had never seen another case like this one.
While the improper angle worked fine with the conventional OEM shocks, it would likely have affected the ride when used in conjunction with coilovers. The car probably wouldn't have sat level, either. Fortunately, our installer was able to make a quick-and-easy fix using a section of 2-inch box tube. A new crossmember was fabricated, and new upper-coilover brackets were welded into position.
With the brackets jig-welded to the rearend, place the housing under the chassis and start assembling the 4-link bars and the coilover shocks. The instructions describe exactly how to assemble, adjust, and lubricate the coilovers and the urethane bushings before assembly. Meyer includes nylon lock nuts for most applications.
Once the rearend is assembled and centered under the chassis, the Panhard bar can be installed. It has a small bracket on one end that will need to be welded to the frame. The stock driveshaft is next. It attaches to the Ford 9-inch pinion with the correct U-joint. Most 9-inch Ford rearends have a 1310 Spicer yoke, but Meyer recommends measuring the cup size on the yoke before heading to the parts house.
The rearend can be ordered a couple of ways. Perhaps the best option is to get the rearend in the correct width with all the brackets jig-welded to the housing, including new outer flanges and new Dutchman 31-spline alloy axles. Or, if you have your own 9-inch, Meyer can send just the brackets and instructions that show where to place the parts on the housing.
If your First-Gen Corvette is really in bad shape, Meyer offers a bolt-in IFS with rack-and-pinion steering, tubular A-arms, aluminum coilover shocks, GM disc brakes, and much more. He also builds a '53-'62 Corvette direct-replacement chassis, in both tubbed and stock versions and with a wide range of options and upgrades.
Unless you have a numbers-matching C1, there's no need to scratch your head and wonder what to do. Jim Meyer has all the chassis components you'll need to make a very nice-handling, -stopping, and -steering First-Gen.