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C3 Interior Restoration - Inside Job
Restoring Our Stingray's Interior For Functional Good Looks
Sep 19, 2010
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Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Sawyer, MI 49125
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C3 Interior Restoration - Inside Job
Early Corvette interiors were built for performance, but there's always room for improvement. This month we'll restore and upgrade the interior of our C3 project car to optimize comfort, aesthetics, and functionality.
Mostly original, our Corvette's interior was showing its nearly four decades of age. Mindful of Editor Heath's critical eye, we decided to restore it with parts from Corvette Central and Summit Racing.
It's amazing how many items comprise the interior of the C3 two-seater, and it seemed that most of ours were cracked, broken, or missing. Fortunately we found all the replacement parts we needed in Corvette Central's C3 catalog.
When performing a major interior overhaul, it's best to remove all of the car's interior items, including the seats, console, kick panels, and periphery molding. The car can then be cleaned and prepped for reassembly with the new parts.
There's no doubt you'll encounter a few corroded fasteners in a car this old. We simply used a drill to drill the heads off stripped screws; once the panel is out, the remainder of the screw can usually be removed with vice grips. We got a whole interior fastener kit from Corvette Central, so we don't have to worry about reusing fasteners.
With the interior gutted, we cleaned up the floors with a shop-vac, then soap and water.
To provide a sound and heat barrier, we used automotive undercoating on the floors before adding our insulation and carpeting.
Adding modern thermal and sound barriers such as Dynamat to the floors, firewall, and behind the seats really helps keep the heat out of the cockpit, and reduces road noise as well. Yes, it adds a little weight, but we feel the benefits are worth it. And besides, the weight is low on the chassis.
Before installing carpeting, be sure to run speaker wires and RCA cables if you plan to install stereo equipment in the rear compartment.
The Corvette Central carpeting is pre-cut and molded to fit the contours of the C3 floors. The carpeting also has insulation bonded to the underside, so along with the Dynamat, it should provide a very quiet, comfortable ride. We replaced our doorsill plates when we painted the car, but if yours are worn, it's a good idea to replace them with the carpet.
Since we had access, we chose to replace our car's stock speakers with upgraded Pioneer units from the local audio store. We had to make a metal tab so they'd fit, but the improvement in sound quality is worth the effort.
All of the trim items we ordered from Corvette Central were of the highest quality, the proper color...
...and had all of the fastener holes pre-drilled where applicable.
While nearly all of the interior fasteners require a Phillips-head screwdriver, the lengths and types are varied.
We ordered a kit from Corvette Central that included all of the fasteners in clearly marked individual bags, so there's no mistake.
Even small items like the shifter boot...
...and door-lock knobs can make a big difference in the appearance of your car's interior. An ugly item next to all of these new parts can stand out and detract from the rest of the car, so we recommend replacing any parts that are questionable.
Knowing aftermarket seats were the best option for a performance car, we ordered a pair of Summit Racing's new Sport model buckets. These seats fit properly, and the simulated leather covering actually matches the stitched look of the rest of the cockpit. More importantly, these seats will be safer, with extra bolstering and provisions for a four-point safety harness.
Aftermarket safety harnesses are generally a requirement if you plan to race your Corvette at sanctioned events, and they're certainly safer than the OEM seatbelts. Summit Racing has a wide variety of harnesses with multiple colors, mounting, and release options, so finding the right set for your car is easy.
After marking the location of the seat- and harness-mounting holes, we use a soldering iron to melt holes in the carpet at the appropriate points. This method avoids the hazard of sharp blades and singes the carpet around the hole so it won't unravel later.
The seat tracks on the Summit Sport seats utilized spacers...
...which we removed to get the seat to sit lower in the cockpit. These seats are comfortable, provide great support for aggressive driving, and are economically priced.
To ensure our new parts don't succumb to the same fate as our old ones, we'll use Mother's Interior Protectant. This product enhances the luster of vinyl and plastic interior trim, and protects the interior from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
We accomplished a lot on our project car this month, gutting the interior and installing new parts from Corvette Central and Summit Racing. The cockpit is beginning to take shape, and we can't wait to drive it. Be sure to watch future issues of VETTE, as we completely rebuild the dash and add aftermarket gauges, then overhaul the T-tops to complete C3 Triple-Ex's interior modifications.
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