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C3 Interior Restoration - Inside Job

Restoring Our Stingray's Interior For Functional Good Looks

Dave Young Sep 19, 2010
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If you've been following the progress of Project C3 Triple-Ex, you've no doubt noticed that we've spent a considerable amount of effort on our Stingray's chassis, suspension, and steering, and have made the car far more aesthetically appealing with a new Cyber Gray paintjob and SLP aluminum wheels. As we've stated, our plan is to complete the car and upgrade all of its systems, prepping it for an upcoming transmission swap and ultimately readying it for a far more powerful engine than the warmed-over 350 now installed. This month, we'll attack the interior, replacing worn and broken items with new parts from Corvette Central, and installing more-modern seats and safety harnesses from Summit Racing Equipment.

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When it comes to the interior of a Corvette, especially a classic one, one has to decide whether to restore it to factory standards or upgrade it with more-modern parts. And while we definitely agree that the interior of a rare, historically significant Corvette should be treated to a stock-style restoration, the fact is our Stingray is simply a base-model small-block car, and the original engine is long gone. While it would have been nice to discover that our car was a rarer LS4 or Z07 model, the way it's configured actually benefits us, as it allows us to upgrade the Vette to our liking without any guilt. So while an all-out C6 interior swap is tempting, we opted instead for a nice blend of stock and lightly modified, with modern conveniences such as bolstered bucket seats, accurate and easy-to-read gauges, and upgraded safety harnesses. And while we won't be restoring this car to factory specs, we also won't change anything that can't be returned to stock in the future.

As a foundation for a good-looking interior, the basics need to be addressed first. Since our Stingray's interior was mostly original when we purchased it, much of the plastic trim lining the cockpit was cracked and broken. The carpet had been replaced at some point, but since it was stained and starting to show wear, we chose to replace it as well. Fortunately, we located all of the necessary parts in Corvette Central's catalog and had everything on the way with a quick phone call. Central, which carries all of the necessary items to completely rebuild your C3's interior, supplied us with the A-pillar pads, door-lock knobs, sun visors, carpeting, and even a new shift console to replace our cracked unit. We also ordered a dash-pad cover, as an alternative to replacing the entire dash. These covers are economically priced, look great, and are a good choice if your dash pad is structurally sound but has a couple of unsightly cracks.

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When it came to choosing seats for C3 Triple-Ex, the choices were virtually unlimited. We knew we'd need buckets that sat low, with more side bolstering and support than the factory units could offer; they'd also need provisions for dual shoulder harnesses. Checking all our options, our research led us to Summit Racing's new Sport Seat. This seat offers both lumbar and shoulder supports, reclines and tilts forward, and is covered in good-looking, soft, simulated leather. Dimensionally, it is nearly a perfect fit for the C3, fitting nicely between the console and door panels with enough room for seatbelts or safety harnesses on either side. The Sport Seat is available in several colors, but we chose basic black to match the rest of our interior. With our parts on the way, we began disassembling the car's interior in preparation for our upgrades.

While we had the seats and carpeting out of the car, we decided to install some modern sound and heat-proofing insulation. Corvettes, especially early models, have a tendency to get hot inside, and adding insulation like the Dynamat we utilized is a good way to keep the interior cooler and quieter. We'd picked up our Dynamat insulation at the local car-audio store for a previous project and had enough left for C3 Triple-Ex. (Dynamat and similar insulation products are also available from Corvette Central or Summit Racing). Installing this dense insulation under the carpet should yield a noticeable difference and make the car more enjoyable to drive.

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There are no special tools needed to disassemble a Corvette's interior; just simple handtools and screwdrivers. A cordless screwdriver does make the job go quicker, as virtually all of the pieces are held in with Phillips screws. We also used a soldering iron to burn the necessary holes in the carpet for the harnesses. Once the interior and carpeting are removed, we suggest you take advantage of the opportunity to vacuum and clean the car thoroughly before installing your new components. It's amazing how much dust, sand, and even trash ends up imbedded in the carpet and under the seats of an old car, and who knows when you'll get the opportunity again?

This month we'll show you how we installed all of C3 Triple-Ex's periphery trim, as well as the insulation, carpeting, seats, and safety harnesses. In a future issue, we'll tackle the dash, install new Autometer gauges, and then rebuild the T-tops to complete our Stingray's cockpit.


Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Corvette Central
Sawyer, MI 49125



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