This is a lengthy and incredibly well documented journey of a 1971 Corvette chassis returning to it’s original factory glamor and beyond. Done and documented by Tim Cote, it is truly an inspiration as well as a very detailed guide for anyone undertaking a project like this. And best of all, it’s all done in just 4 months and he only had time to work on it every other weekend or so, so if you put your mind to it and have an awesome guide like this to go on, you could have it all done in two weeks.
So let’s jump into it! Here we’ve got the chassis separated from the body and halfway disassembled. Just be sure to keep track of all the parts you take off and take lots of pictures so that you know where things go when you go to put it back together again. And of course you can later share them with other car enthusiasts!
The shims from the upper control arm are removed and bagged upt separately. Upon reassembly this will help the wheel alignment be closer to origin and make the drive to the alignment shop easier. Strip down to the bare frame and give it a good pressure washing being generous with degreaser.
Try and keep your parts organized, even if you’re the only one that knows where what goes, this way you can better decide what you can restore and what must be replaced.
Sandblasting is the best and truly only right way to get all the rust off the frame and get it back to metal. For a small corvette frame 400 lbs was used. Sometimes you may want to take your parts to a mediablasting shop and rent out their equipment for a day. Big shop blasters will get the job done much faster and will probably cost less than doing it at home, plus no mess to clean up! But it can definitely be done at home, and here’s how.
Sandblasting outside is one option. Another option is to build a tent inside your garage to keep all the sand confined. You can simply wrap some trash bags around wooden poles to make a tent like the one below. When you are sandblasting, speed and strength of the job depends on your blaster as well as the compressor powering it. The larger the better is usually the way to go here as small compressors struggle to generate enough pressure to do the job effectively. As thes can be very expensive, you can rent one or just take your stuff to a shop.
With a small compressor and a small blaster this process can take a fair amount of time.
Almost all components of the chassis can be sandblasted to look like new again.
This cross member will certainly need some repairs.
Here the damaged area is cut out and clean up a bit from the inside. Also in a case like this a few metal ribs installed inside the frame should prevent this problem in the future. A good coating of rust killer paint like por15 and it can be welded shut again.
A little work with the grinder and you can’t even see the welds. Next are the frame gussets, these prevent frame flex and should be cut out of thick metal.
Here it is all done up, with the gussets welded in place, smoothed out and sandblasted over.
Por15 is a great product for this and when used right yields great results. First the surface is cleaned with Marine Clean degreaser and water, allowed to dry and sprayed with Metal Ready – a zinc phosphate solution, then pained with two coats of por15 and finished with a topcoat of chassis black. This will pretty much guarantee no rust for a loooong time.
The Metal Ready has a reaction with the metal giving it the tinges you see above, but once the por15 is on it looks impeccable.
Just look at the difference here!
The same deal basically applies to all the other chassis pieces, a good sandblasting and some por15 should get these looking better than they did out of the factory.
The rear wheel bearings don’t look to great and will have to be replaced. The damage in the spindle below gives a good indication why. It too will have to be replaced.
Here are all the chassis parts finished with por15. They can now be painted a different color if you want to stick to factory colors.
Now to replace the seals in the differential, it seems that everything inside is in good shape and show very minimal wear.
Side yoke bearing seals being pretty straightforward to replace, the pinion seal must be reassembled very close to its original position. Write down the number of turns it takes to remove the nut, when reassembling line up the marks for the pinion shaft and flange, and tighten the nut a bit past your mark to make sure it’s all snug.
With these parts all painted, the rusty gas tank is next.
You can use a wire brush wheel on a grinder to strip the rust. Use heavy zinc primer to permanently prevent rust.
the same procedure can be done on the rotor wheels
You can do the same for all your bolts and nuts. Buying new ones is tempting but the bill ads up fast for stuff like this.
Here are all the new parts that will be installed, a front and rear suspension upgrade kit, and a front end rebuilt kit that includes a new fiberglass monospring for the rear, new front coils, all new ball joins, bushings, etc.
What a difference!
Installing the new trailing arm bushings. As simple as Lego.
Here is the finished product. Now to put some stuff back together to save space. It’s nice seeing the differential back on the cross member.
The front suspension. Time for reassembly and to get this thing rolling once again.
This is why you should keep track and take pictures in the beginning, so that when it comes to putting it back together, things go smoothly. Also be sure to torque everything to specs. New springs and shocks will make this a smooth ride.
The frame gusset ended up getting in the way of the idler arm, so it had to be ground down to make room. The same problem occurred on the drivers side. This is why it’s important to measure things.
Completion of the steering components consisted of the dust shield, shield gasket, caliper bracket and steering knuckle at each side of the car.
Next bit was putting the tie rods together and installing them on the car. You can see the steering linkage coming together now in the slides below.
Without the weight of the vehicle compressing the front suspension the holes for the links that connect the sway bar ends to the lower control arms don’t align very well so this will have to be put on further down the road.
It’s now time to rebuild the steering box, this is what converts the rotational movement of the steering column into the left/right movement of the pitman arm.
Having stripped it with the wire brush and primered it up it becomes evident that there is a leak in a seal somewhere and that this thing will have to get opened up and fixed.
A hammer and a socket helped to remove the lock ring. The thrust bearing adjuster had come off next. The lubricant inside has turned into a thick sludge at this point and will need a good cleaning all throughout.
Here are all the parts laid out and cleaned up with carburetor cleaner, which also stripped all the primer.
Everything looks pretty good this far, but it’s good to dig deeper just to be sure and check out the worm gear assembly.
After a good cleaning and greasing everything was put back together the same way it was taken apart. The bearing races below seem fine too, so all it should take is some new seals and grease to put everything back perfectly.
Here a shim has been added between the head of the bolt and the existing washer. After adding the shim the end play was between 0.001″ and 0.002″, well within spec.
Taking out old seals and putting in new ones.
After applying generous amounts of grease the steering box was reassembled and the rebuild was complete.
Here it is back where it should be.
Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry and outsource some things to the professionals, these trailing arms have arrived back from the shop all rebuilt and ready to be put back into place.
Here are some rebuild photos from the shop.
In the meantime, the gas tank is another thing that can go back into place now. Placing some roofing felt over the frame will help to prevent it from squeaking. Tank straps will hold it in place.
Here the transmission mount and shifter bracket are installed back on the frame.
Now it’s time to move on to the rear suspension and drive line components. The half shaft has some extra paint in the grooves for the retainer clips and will have to be cleaned up a bit.
This is one of the universal joints, two of the caps have to be removed in order to install it into the flange.
The vice is to help center the universal joint in the flange once the caps are installed. After this snap rings can be installed on either side.
These will be installed a little later along with the trailing arms, in the mean time new brake and fuel lines can be put in. Here are the finished photos. It is good to take before photos because even though the pre-bent lines may be custom made to fit your car, the schematics are still tough to follow and having real pictures helps you visualize where everything goes.
All the lines took almost all day to install as there is a lot to do and you want to be sure it’s all tight and right. Also these new lines are stainless steel and will prevent any future rust problems.
It’s time to get to adjusting the brake rotor runout, and this is exactly what this dial indicator and shims are for.
The initial check showed the rotor runout to be about 0.007″, a bit more than the 0.005″ specified in the chassis overhaul manual, have to put those shims to use.
Between shimming, installing and removing the rotor about a half dozen times it took me about two hours to do each rotor.
Here are the new stainless steel trailing arm shims.
With the trailing arms installed it was possible to move on to the rest of the rear suspension and driveline.
Here the parking brake cable is installed on the rear brakes, it’s important to remember that this has to be done before the calipers go on.
Here are the calipers all painted up, loaded with break pads and ready to be installed. Also a good point to install new stainless steel flex hoses.
The rear shocks were next to be installed.
Above is the rear anti sway bar, it will also have to be linked once there is some more weight on the frame. Below is a better view of the front and back parking cables that were installed earlier, also pending final attachment until the body goes back onto the frame. The back end chassis is basically done and it is time to finish up the front.
First off, install the front hub and rotors and check the rotor runout similarly to the rear rotors. The front wheel bearings were in decent shape and were ok to put back onto the chassis.
After a good cleaning and a thorough greasing these were good to go back on. The runout turned out to be 0.002″ on both front rotors and that saved all the trouble of shimming and repeating the whole process on the front again. After this the front calipers and flex hoses were good to go back on.
So here it is, all done and in need of some wheels and maybe the body. Below are some before and after pictures of the frame.
So, all and all the whole process wasn’t too tough and didn’t take all that long either and the difference is just insane. And having done most of this at home, the expenses weren’t all that bad, mainly just some optional new parts, paint and a little shop work. But this is infinitely more rewarding than having paid someone else to do this.
Enjoy and good lick with your projects!