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1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


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Ben

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Sat 05 Jan 08 01:54

1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


This has grown to become a long thread so here's a table of contents of the main events:
1. Removing rear body mount bolts and front bumper (this page)
2. Removing front body mount bolts (page 2)
3. Disconnecting steering, clutch, radiator etc.; Removing back bumper; Checklist of things to disconnect (page 2)
4. More disconnections; Chassis is lowered from raised body (page 4)
5. First photos of chassis with body removed (page 7)
6. Lifting the body (page 8 )
7. Chassis: removing rear crossmembers and bumper (page 8 )
8. Looking into the differential (page 10)
9. Pressing universal joints out of the driveshaft (page 13)
10. Dismantling front hub (page 15)
11. Splitting a brake caliper (page 15)
12. Taking headlight units out of body (page 16)
13. Blasting and painting the chassis (page 17)
14. Removing rear mount reinforcements from body (page 18 )
15. Cleaning/cataloguing nuts and bolts (page 19)
16. Refurbished rear bumper reinforcement beam (page 21)
17. Installing seals and pistons in a brake caliper (page 22)
18. Dismantling brake master cylinder and greasing steering box (page 23)
19. Dismantling brake balance switch (page 24)
20. Fasteners plated. Rear bumper beam assembled. Handbrake cable seals installed (page 24)
21. Brake caliper halves joined (page 24)
22. Left-hand chassis pipes installed. Upper A-arms fitted (page 25)
23. Differential installed; Crossmembers installed (page 27)
24. Removing/replacing caliper dust seals (page 27)
25. Assembly of front spindle (page 28 )
26. Installation of rear strut rods (page 28 )
27. Fitting front brake rotor and bearings to spindle (page 29)
28. Measuring and setting rear camber and toe-in with string (page 33)
29. Chassis complete and outdoors (page 34)
30. Assembling splash shields and spare tyre carrier (page 34)
31. Fuel tank connections (page 35)
32. Gearbox side cover removed (page 37)
33. Saga of rusty floorpans begins (page 38)
34. Removing windscreen trim and screen (page 48)
35. Floorpan welding begins (page 50)
36. Floorpans finished. Body clean-up begins (page 55)

======


This evening I started something that I might well regret. Without much planning, forethought or preparation I began a body-off chassis restoration. Surprised

Wev's thread has inspired me to bite the bullet and start something that's been bugging me for ages. Every time I do any work on my car that requires me to get underneath it I get irritated at the state of the paint on my chassis. In the past I've toyed with the idea of paying someone to do a body-off restoration of my chassis but the cost has always been prohibitive and my chassis really isn't in bad condition. There are patches of surface rust but nothing significant. There's a variety of paint finishes, however, and it ain't pretty. When I rebuilt the front suspension last summer I had a go at repainting the visible areas of the front of the chassis with black Hammerite but I wasn't pleased with the outcome. I hate Hammerite.

Time for something more drastic.

Theo and I have been chatting for the last few weeks about refurbishing my trailing arms and last night I removed the driver's side arm. It came off relatively easily, but I was reminded while sitting in the wheel arch that before the next MOT in September I need to replace the no.4 body mount reinforcements, which have rusted through and will fail the MOT next time:

Image
[Driver's side no.4 body mount]

Apparently this can be done with the body on the car just by loosening the mounts and lifting the body a few inches, but as Wev pointed out earlier today, this will be a tricky job. Removing the body altogether makes that job easier and gives me all sorts of other possibilities. It's balls-out-of-the-bath time. silly

After two pints of Hoegaarden and a strong cup of coffee, tonight I made a start before I changed my mind. I'm lucky enough to have a double garage to work in and before beginning the trailing arm job I'd parked the car at an angle to give access to both sides. This might make life tricky when trying to get the chassis out from under the body (especially since the chassis now only has three wheels Laughing ) but we'll see.

Image

Image

With the trailing arm gone I gazed wistfully at the rusty areas on the chassis at the kick-up in front of the rear wheel. I also wondered how the bloody hell I was hoping to get the new trailing arm bolt back into the t/a pivot hole without a degree in gynaecology:

Image
[Driver's side trailing arm mounting pocket - note the loose shims and their original position by the trailing arm pivot bolt]

I can't even get my hand into the hole by the brake pipe to touch the bolt hole. Banghead
Remembering the body mount reinforcement problem I also thought I'd have a go at the body mount bolts. Most bolts on my car seem pretty robust and I don't usually have problems loosening them - few are siezed.

The no.4 bolt came out easily enough:

Image
[No. 4 body mount bolt removed - note corrosion near the bolt head!]

And after chipping off the underseal and getting the no.3 mount cover plate off the wheel arch liner, the no.3 bolt was also easy to loosen:

Image
[Driver's side no.3 body mount exposed]

After getting the reassurance that the driver's side mount bolts weren't going to be a problem, I switched to the passenger side:

Image

I'd already botched a repair to the no.4 mount reinforcement to pass an MOT three years ago, but the reinforcement plate was clearly not going to allow a quick fix this time:

Image
[Pass. side no.4 body mount]

The bolt came out easily enough. Note the reduced bolt shaft diameter due to corrosion, and the poor state of the body mount rubber above:

Image

Let's hope the chassis mounting plate isn't too badly corroded...

The no.3 cover plate was problematic. The top screws came out OK but I had to cut screwdriver slots in the bottom ones before I could get a purchase on them and loosen them:

Image

Image
[Screwdriver slots cut in bottom screws of pass. side no.3 mount cover plate]

But once off, the bolt came out easily. This one was covered in cobwebs but came out looking pretty uncorroded. The rubber isn't great though:

Image
[No.3 mount bolt removed]

So that's four of the eight body mounting bolts loosened and straightforward. I thought I'd start investigating the front mounts next. The no.2 mounts are at the bottom of the 'birdcage' structure behind the kick panels in front of the doors, but I'm not 100% sure where the no.1 mounts are. I began investigating the front of the car, checking the relationship between the radiator frame, chassis extension/vacuum reservoir, and bumper support.

On a rubber-bumper C3 the body will only lift vertically if the bumpers are removed so knowing this was the case I set about removing the front bumper. There isn't a lot to show you here since on my car (which doesn't have the proper bumper support structure below the headlights) it's just a case of removing the lower valance piece and spoiler, then fiddling around at the joint between the bumper and the body to remove all the fiddly little screws. Mech-Spray had my bumpers off when they did the respray last spring so I knew the bolts would be in good condition.

It didn't take long, really. I raised the headlights to give myself better access:

Image

Image

Image

I think that the black bolt in the right of this picture releases the very front of the body from the chassis extension arms, but I'm not sure. Further investigation needed tomorrow:

Image

Having removed the bumper there's now nothing at the front to prevent the body lifting vertically off the chassis. In theory all I'd need to do is remove the bolts securing the bottom of the radiator support to the chassis extension/vacuum reservoir and it'd lift clear, but it's a bad idea to leave too much weight in the front of the body when lifting, since the front clip is relatively weak and could snap off Surprised if it's unsupported. I'll remove the radiator + support and possibly re-install the support alone to brace the front clip before I lift it, but I need advice about this.

The bumper looked really odd lying on the floor of the garage:

Image

Next job:
I think I might remove the rear bumper next. That'll also be fiddly but hopefully not too hard. Before I can lift the body I also need to disconnect:
- battery cables (I think)
- headlight vacuum hoses from vacuum reservoir
- clutch linkage
- engine wiring
- engine cooling hoses
- steering flexible coupling (rag joint)
- brake master cylinder pipes
- handbrake cable
- and anything else that I discover I've forgotten to do Laughing

During this job I don't plan to do anything except blast and repaint the chassis & ancilliaries, replace the brake and fuel lines and clean up the underside of the body. The engine and gearbox can wait for another day, the front suspension is done, and the rear suspension refurb is already under way. The body is perfect and the interior I can live with.

Well, that's the plan. We'll see just how bad this While-I'm-At-It-itis is as things progress. silly



Last edited by Ben on Sun 26 Oct 14 18:55; edited 6 times in total. [43 %]
--------------------
Blue-with-white-stripes 1976 manual L82 since 1995
"A stiff upper lip is always well dressed when accompanied by mountains of torque and an indomitable will." -unsprung

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kentvette

Club Member

Sat 05 Jan 08 12:04

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


Good Grief Ben, that's a pretty major task to start, in an evening! Surprised

Now you see, this is the sort of post I hate, cos I know now that Iím going to be looking at the state of various bit of our car and thinking Oh Oh! Crying or Very sad

Iím interested in the T/A bolts though. If you canít get in to put in a new one, did you just cut out the old ones, and if so, how?

Iím also amazed at how far youíve got in what I guess is a short time? How long did it take?

I guess youíll end up with rear T/As of the incredible finish of Theoís?

I look forward to seeing how it goes.


--------------------
Stephen J Irons
CCCUK Lifetime Member
Corvette Club France
Corvettes of Southern California
NCM Family Member
Stephen & June's Web Site
Red Corvettes Have More Fun!

Apple IS Genisys!
The "Born-Again Greenies" are killing the planet! It's time to wake up and smell the rain-forest burning!

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agent kronus

Addict

Sat 05 Jan 08 12:06


nice work, thanks for all the pics and info, goodman!!, keep it up

dave


--------------------
My 1st project 78 Corvette, lots of work needed!

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Rich

Club Member

Sat 05 Jan 08 12:15

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


ImageImageWhat a brave man ImageImage

I doff my cap to you in total awe and admiration (same goes for Wev, who seems to be working his magic in his garden!!).

Have you finished it yet, Ben?? Laughing Laughing


--------------------
Rich Rogers
CCCUK Lifetime Member
2017 Yellow SS Camaro

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Ben

Webmaster

Sat 05 Jan 08 12:56

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


kentvette wrote (View Post):Good Grief Ben, that's a pretty major task to start, in an evening! Surprised If I stop and think about it I get all scared so I'm just barging ahead in ignorant bliss.

kentvette wrote (View Post):Now you see, this is the sort of post I hate, cos I know now that Iím going to be looking at the state of various bit of our car and thinking Oh Oh! Crying or Very sad Your car is one of the ones that I see in pictures and feel jealous of, so don't feel bad about yours! Smile

kentvette wrote (View Post):Iím interested in the T/A bolts though. If you canít get in to put in a new one, did you just cut out the old ones, and if so, how?
I knocked the t/a bolt out using a long drift. It didn't need much persuasion - a small screwdriver would have worked too. Once it was out far enough for the arm to come loose I reached into the space past the brake fitting with some long-nose pliers and wriggled it out. Re-installing would be a whole lot more tricky though - I spent five minutes trying and got nowhere.

I'm lucky in that all the bolts loosen relatively easily. I'm a big chicken when it comes to heavy remedial stuff and if I hadn't previously tested the t/a bolts to know that they'll come out without an argument then I don't think I'd have started the job. I've previously loosened both of the castle nuts and tested the bolts for seizing and I know they'll come out OK, so I'm hoping it's not going to be too difficult. I'd hate to have to cut them out like people in the US forums report doing. Surprised

kentvette wrote (View Post):Iím also amazed at how far youíve got in what I guess is a short time? How long did it take? I took the trailing arm off in about three hours on Thursday night and spent only another couple of hours last night on the body mount bolts and the front bumper. When I stopped and went into the house I expected it to be a lot later than midnight.

I've seen reports that it only takes a day's work to remove the body if there are no complications, and I'm hoping this is realistic. I honestly believe (in my ignorance) that it's not going to be too complicated. I still need to find a crane/lifting solution and build a dolly for the body so I'm some way off being ready, but I'm feeling positive.

And this is just the beginning of Stage 1: body off. After that I've got a chassis to dismantle, blast/repaint, and rebuild. And then a body to re-install. I've got a long way to go. I've got a wildly optimistic completion target in my head of June, since Amanda is pregnant with our second child, which is due in July. If I run into July then it'll be months before I finish it. I wouldn't place bets on my being finished by June though. Sad

kentvette wrote (View Post):I guess youíll end up with rear T/As of the incredible finish of Theoís?I hope so Wink

kentvette wrote (View Post):I look forward to seeing how it goes.Thanks Cheers

C5RagTop wrote (View Post):
ImageImageWhat a brave man ImageImage

I doff my cap to you in total awe and admiration (same goes for Wev, who seems to be working his magic in his garden!!).

Have you finished it yet, Ben?? Laughing Laughing
Wev is my inspiration and is tackling something that is way beyond my skills. If he hadn't documented his project I wouldn't have tackled this, so he deserves all the credit. Yes I couldn't imagine doing what he's doing, especially without a nice comfortable double garage to rely on.

Haven't done any more today (yet). Amanda said she'd like us to spend some time together as a family today and I've learnt to listen to subtle signals like that. Wink


--------------------
Blue-with-white-stripes 1976 manual L82 since 1995
"A stiff upper lip is always well dressed when accompanied by mountains of torque and an indomitable will." -unsprung

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phild

Club Member

Sat 05 Jan 08 13:25

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


As has been said, you're a brave man Ben. My best wishes its going to be an amazing car when you've finished. When mine was rebuilt (not by me, i'm not that brave) i was amazed at the transformation in handling with everything new or as new. Also peace of mind knowing there was nothing nasty to worry about. I had stainless fuel and brake lines put in whilst the body was off as well, so they'll outlast me and some I would think.

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wev

Awww... join the CCCUK!

Sat 05 Jan 08 16:53

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


Thats great Ben, im really glad your going for it, its not easy, but the rewards of seeing your own work come together has no comparison.

You seem to have it sussed, the only tips i would give you are:

Research each and every stage of the resto, i can forward some links i have used to aid materials and tools (see bottom of post), this helps your confidence knowing your doing it right (something i suffered from initially being a novice)


Plan a week ahead, this helps ordering new parts and them arriving before you loose motivation.


Break the work into stages, this help with focusing on the job in hand (its too easy to get side tracked when you have multiple parts to the project).


Also before you remove the body, lift alittle, there are at least two very small consealed earth straps/wires, near the firewall to tranny and one to body mount 1 (drivers side) they nearly caught me out Very Happy


Links:
http://www.corvette-restoration.com/Tech_Papers/Body_Removal... (body off checklist) i think you have that Scratchchin

http://www.corvette-restoration.com/photos/body_removal/doll...
(Dolly) beware if you remove the front clip, the centre of gravity moves to behind body mount 3

http://forums.corvetteforum.com/showthread.php?t=1107000
This link is a full resto, the guy seems to go the whole way and no bodging (i like his style Smile )


As far as lifting the body off goes, ive seen numerous ways, engine hoist, block and tackle and (like i did) jacking each side slowley until you have enough clearance to roll the chassis out, if your suffering for height, remove the fuel tank first (as this is the highest point).

I think you will find that body off opens numerous doors for repair and replacing parts and life is so much easier woking where the body should be Very Happy


I'll post more when i find them all.

Good luck and please ask if you think i can help Smile

Wev


--------------------
Corvette 1977 coupe
She LIVES Driving
Now 383ci Headbang

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wev

Awww... join the CCCUK!

Sat 05 Jan 08 17:06

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


Body mounts 1 & 8


--------------------
Corvette 1977 coupe
She LIVES Driving
Now 383ci Headbang

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Ben

Webmaster

Sat 05 Jan 08 19:56

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


wev wrote (View Post):Links:
http://www.corvette-restoration.com/Tech_Papers/Body_Removal... (body off checklist) i think you have that Scratchchin

http://www.corvette-restoration.com/photos/body_removal/doll...
(Dolly) beware if you remove the front clip, the centre of gravity moves to behind body mount 3

Front clip is definitely staying on the body! Surprised
wev wrote (View Post):http://forums.corvetteforum.com/showthread.php?t=1107000
This link is a full resto, the guy seems to go the whole way and no bodging (i like his style Smile )

Thanks for the tips and the links, Wev. I've been following kortensi's rebuild too but it's gone awfully quiet lately. Wonder why?

wev wrote (View Post):As far as lifting the body off goes, ive seen numerous ways, engine hoist, block and tackle and (like i did) jacking each side slowley until you have enough clearance to roll the chassis out, if your suffering for height, remove the fuel tank first (as this is the highest point).
I think I'll jack gradually for the first few inches until I'm sure it's clear and then perhaps borrow some friends to help lift it higher. We'll see. I've got limited height clearance in my garage. I don't need to lift it far since the chassis is already up on axle stands, so I can lower that with the wheels off to create more of a gap. In fact, I think I'll jack the chassis/body assembly up even higher now before I start separating them, then there will be even less additional height required for the body. I'll lower the chassis from the body onto a low wooden frame on castors, then assess how much more the body needs to be raised after that.

How did you jack the body the first time? (I.e. before it was separated from the chassis.) There isn't access to the body mount locations until it's clear, so did you just lay some wooden beams across under the floor pan to spread the load until you could get a beam between the chassis and body?

wev wrote (View Post):Good luck and please ask if you think i can help Smile
Thanks Wev. Cheers There is one other small thing at this stage: how heavy is the chassis once the engine, transmission and suspension are off it? Could two/ four/ six men lift it OK? I notice you've got yours resting on two wheely bins so it can't be too bad.


--------------------
Blue-with-white-stripes 1976 manual L82 since 1995
"A stiff upper lip is always well dressed when accompanied by mountains of torque and an indomitable will." -unsprung

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wev

Awww... join the CCCUK!

Sun 06 Jan 08 00:00

Re: 1976 Corvette body-off chassis restoration (long post / lots of pics)


You might not believe how i did it................. i jacked one side of the body just clear of teh chassis and body/birdcage enough to get my hands in between mounts 2 & 3, then with the aid of my 12 year old some armed with a 4x4 3m long fence post, i picked up the side of teh body while he slid it under, i then went to the other side and lifted while he kept pushing it thro, i was then able to pick up the body high enough to slide the 4x2 under the rocker plates/birdcage to spread the load uniformly along the sides.

The first lift was easy, the second was just about the full weight, which was heavy, i thought the 20 years pushing large weights in the gym would come in handy one day, but wasnt expecting it to be this Very Happy

i would suggest the jacking of both sides enough to put in some timbers like i did, then get 4 guys to lift it up, its the safest way.

The chassis again was lifted 1 end at a time, the lift when the diff was fitted was heavy, due to the size and shape and quite poss the weight the chassis isnt a 1 man job.

I would estimate the body as around 20 stones when stripped of clip and the chassis possibly the same if not a bit more.

Hope that helps,

Wev


--------------------
Corvette 1977 coupe
She LIVES Driving
Now 383ci Headbang

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