|C4 Corvette Chassis
|1957 Corvette RestoMod Project
Ever tackle a project that you knew was over your head? Me
too. These pages are a pictorial and descriptive history of my
Ten years in the making, this project will show beginners the
right and wrong ways to restore and customize your dream
car project (or at least my dream car project!). You will see
the do's and don'ts that I experienced without scraping a
Here's the best part - I'm a novice at vehicle restoration.
NOW! Available for purchase are the first completed
chapters of my book on this project. Written for the less
experienced (like me), it goes in to great detail with loads of
photos. Click on E-chapter Descriptions for more info.
|In 1997 I bought my first Corvette - a 1957 roadster. It was what is sometimes called a
20/20 car. It looks good going 20 miles per hour at 20 feet away. I drove it around a little
while, but it had a nasty habit of running too hot. I took it to Phoenix International Raceway
for a Corvette club function that allowed us Corvette owners to drive the road course. I had to
stop less than halfway through due to overheating problems - that sucked.
My wife and I would drive it to get ice cream. The car always brought a lot of attention from
other ice cream lovers. One Christmas day, I gave rides to all my relatives around our
neighborhood. Each one had a big smile on their face the entire ride. Then one day, backing
it out of the driveway, the brakes ceased to work. There was a leak in the master cylinder and
all the brake fluid had run out. So I decided that was a good time to take it apart and start the
restoration. Little did I know...
For those who do not know, a roadster is a convertible. Chevy did not include a hardtop,
but it was available as an option for purchase. If you bought the hardtop, you needed at least
two strong people to lift it and set it into place on the car. It was then bolted to the body and
voila - a Corvette hardtop.
Anyway, back to my baby. The car had been worked on before I bought it, but it was far from a
top-level restoration. I decided to restore the 'Vette to showroom standards. But, the more I
took it apart the less original parts I found. So to bring this car icon back to original condition
would be extremely expensive, and I changed my plans. I had been reading and hearing other
owners say that before you begin any restoration, you first need to decide on what you want
the car to be. Sounds easy enough, but there's more to it than first meets the eye.
I wanted to drive the car. No overheating, no braking problems, just a reliable and beautiful
Corvette to drive. I wanted my wife and me to take it out on the open roads of Arizona, up in
the mountains and away from the stifling heat of Phoenix in the summer. I didn't want a "trailer
queen". That's what restored classic cars are called when they are rebuilt to exact show-room
standards and trailered to car shows and competitions. Only to maybe get a trophy and some
kind of bragging rights. Sorry, that's not my style. I want to be the guy in the Corvette blowing
by the trailered cars with the top down and my hair on fire (or what's left of my hair).
In 2000 I changed the rebuild of my dream car to a restomod. This term is used in the car
hobby to mean a car that looks stock but has late-model mechanical components. First, I
bought a 1999 Corvette LS1 engine. Next was a 1995 Corvette rear axle assembly.
Finally, in late 2008 I purchased a 1996 Corvette Grand Sport front suspension and
steering assembly. These late-model components would be mated to a re-engineered 1956
Corvette frame to form the foundation of the car. The frame re-engineering was not my doing
- no, no, way too advanced for me. I drove the frame to Newman Car Creations in
Templeton, California. Paul and his wife Michelle have been doing this kind of quality upgrade
since 1990. And as of January 19th, 2009, my frame was finished by Newman's. I'll drive up
there in early February and pick it up.
By the way, if you think you can do what Newman does, think again. Years of experience in
engineering the angles, dimensions and geometry of frames is why Paul is the best.
Without his knowledge, you or I should not even attempt this type of work. It's well worth the
price to let the expert handle it. And the price is not expensive considering what you get in
As of February 2009, the build part of the project is just beginning. The actual beginning of this
project started about ten years ago. Read on and check out the pictures as I traverse this
|Here's my Corvette before disassembly started. I am trying to clean the rear
axle - very greasy!
I dismantled the car the next year to start the restoration.
|Pictured at right is the dash and interior after
disassembly began. The windshield is gone as
are the instruments, radio and speaker. The
steering wheel was original and has been sold
Also notice that I have removed the fiberglass
tunnel to expose the aftermarket Powerglide
transmission. Powerglide was a two speed
automatic Chevy used on many 1950's era
vehicles. Somehow it just doesn't seem right in
A very good book on how to disassemble C1
and C2 Corvettes was written by Noland Adams
and Bill King. Adams is something of a legend
in restoration circles for the C1.
|The Body Lift Workbook and Video by Noland Adams is the bible for not only how to lift the Corvette's
fiberglass body off its frame, but also how to build a body dolly, vendor lists, a chassis checklist to make
sure all mechanicals are detached from the body, and a DVD that shows it all. Corvette Central sells this
book and DVD package for around $40. Trust me, it is money well spent. I found the "Pre-Body Lift Checklist"
especially valuable because it gives you a comprehensive list of all the things that need to be removed or
disconnected before the body can be safely lifted off the frame. The plans on how to build a body dolly out
of lumber are extremely well presented with tools and hardware specifics.
Another Adams book, The Complete Corvette Restoration & Technical Guide - Vol. 1 is known as the de facto
standard for any restorer of early Corvettes - this book you must have!
The organization that has more documentation on Corvettes than anyone is the National Corvette Restorers
Society (NCRS). Dedicated to the preservation and restoration of all Corvettes up to 1982, membership in
this organization is well worth the $35/year dues.
|The rear bumperette
are removed at left.
The middle of the
vertical spear is
where an exhaust
hole should be, but
is not there. Either
someone filled it in,
or these rear
quarter panels are
At right, is the
|At left are the fender vent
screens - and are not
functional on the C1 -
maybe I'll make them
At right is the removed
speedometer. The shape
is unmistakable as a 1957
Corvette speedo. I'm going
to have this restored by
Classic Instruments. All
other instruments will be