Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (2023)

The rebuilding of your Corvette’s critical components has been a long process. After the body was repaired, painted, and sprayed with clear coat, the new paint was wet sanded and buffed with compound. The entire interior was cleaned and refitted with its new interior. Once the work was finished the completed body was stored in a safe, low-traffic area. You properly supported the body to avoid putting any unnecessary stress on it and cracking any of its fiberglass body panels. You left the completed and painted body on a dolly because that provides the most secure support.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (1)This Tech Tip is From the Full Book “HOW TO RESTORE YOUR C3 CORVETTE: 1968-1982“. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:

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You are now ready to place the body onto the refurbished frame.

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Once the body has been painted and the trim has been reinstalled, it is time to reunite it with your restored frame. Be very careful when you mount the body on a lift and make sure you leave plenty of room to lower it onto the frame rails. Be patient as you are getting close to completing your project.

Power Brake Booster Installation

The power brake booster is mounted onto the firewall on Corvettes equipped with this option. Four nuts hold the booster in place and the master cylinder is attached to the front of the booster.

Master Cylinder Installation

Bench bleed the master cylinder before installing it to the firewall. First clamp the cylinder to a vise by using one of the two ears that are used to attach the unit to the firewall. Then remove the cover and fill it with clean brake fluid. Work the pushrod back and forth to force air from the outlets. Be careful not to damage the piston during this operation.

Remove all of the air before installing it into the car; using vacuum is the most effective way to do this. You can buy a master cylinder bleeder tool at your local auto parts store. With your tool in hand remove about 2 tablespoons of brake fluid from one of the discharge ports. Be sure to keep the reservoir full during this operation. When you are finished, seal off the ports with a cap or bolt to keep dirt out and fluid in during installation.

Mount the master cylinder onto the brake booster. If you do not have power brakes attach the master cylinder directly to the firewall.

The master cylinder is operated when the brake pedal is pushed. Force is transferred via a pushrod to the master cylinder piston, which moves forward. This force is applied to the primary piston spring, which moves a secondary piston forward at the same time. When these pistons move forward they cover the bypass holes and hydraulic pressure builds up actuating the pistons in the brake calipers. When the brakes are released the piston return springs force the fluid back through the brake lines into the master cylinder. At the end of the brake release excess brake fluid is returned to the reservoir through the bypass ports inside the master cylinder.

Steel lines connect the brass block to both sides of the master cylinder. A distribution block is not a proportioning valve; its function is to distribute the master cylinder fluid to all four wheels. It also measures line pressure difference under braking conditions to two separate braking systems. A warning light is connected to the block that illuminates a warning lamp on the dash if one of the braking systems fails.

Body and Frame Preparation

The frame has now been completely repaired and is free of damage and rust. The powdercoat finish will keep it this way for many miles. The suspension, brakes, and driveline components have all received attention and have been refurbished or replaced. All of the brake and fuel lines are new. With proper care, such as yearly flushing, they should provide excellent service. The gas tank and steering system have been installed, which completes the frame preparation process.

The frame is now ready for its Corvette body. This is where the industrial steel casters that were installed onto the dolly pay off. They rotate 360 degrees and make moving the body a breeze.

If you don’t have a lift, it is time to get some friends to help maneuver the body. One person at each corner of the car should have enough muscle power to lift the body and guide it into the correct position on the frame.

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Work on the body, engine, frame, suspension, and paint on this 1980 Corvette has been completed. While the frame was being restored, the body was repaired, sanded, and given a new paint job. After the trim and interior were reinstalled the body was stored on a floor dolly. Great care was taken to support the long nose to avoid putting it under stress.

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The frame measurements Were checked to make sure it meets factory specifications. All rust and road damage was fixed. After the frame was powder coated, new or refurbished suspension components were installed. The frame received all new brake and fuel lines. The front and rear suspensions were completely refurbished. The original engine and automatic transmission on this car were in excellent mechanical condition. Both were returned to the frame without any service. The gas tank was inspected and no rust or damage was found so it was reinstalled. The completed unit is now ready to accept the body installation. It will be removed from the lift area and set aside until the body is in place and secured onto the lift.

As I mentioned, both the coupe and convertible bodies are fitted with a steel frame called the birdcage. The fiberglass body panels are attached to this frame. The coupe is more rigid because a steel hoop is installed behind the passenger compartment that is secured to the windshield frame with a center steel support. This support is used to attach the twin roof panels.

Convertibles do not have this feature and great care must be taken when lifting these bodies. Having the doors installed on a convertible does provide some additional body support, but it’s best to take extra care.

At Van Steel the body was rolled into the lift area to begin the reassembly of the body to the frame. We used a four-point lift to complete this procedure. The four pads on the lift provide enough support to the birdcage to safely raise the body high enough to roll the frame under it.

It’s very important to position the lift pads on the very outside edges of the birdcage because there must be enough room for the frame rails to fit when the body is lowered onto the frame. Once the body is firmly resting on the lift pads, slowly lift it off its dolly. At this time, closely inspect the body to make sure it is sitting securely on the lift. If it is not secure, lower it back onto the dolly and reposition the lift pads until you are satisfied that it is secure.

After the dolly has been removed, roll the completed frame under the body. Double-check to make sure it is lined up correctly as you do not want to damage the newly painted fiberglass during the lowering procedure. Once the frame is in its correct position, place the body mount doughnuts into their correct location onto the frame.

Step-1: Move Body into Assembly Area

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (5)The steel casters that support the car are very maneuverable. It is always good to have friends on alert during your restoration process because you may need some help from time to time. Make sure the body is properly positioned and equally balanced on the dolly. Carefully and cautiously move the body across the shop floor on the dolly; everyone needs to work as a team. Be sure that the body does not slip off the dolly because you would not want to damage the body and crack the body work or the paint surface. Use extreme caution when using this method because of safety concerns.

Step-2: Locate Lift Arms

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (6)If using a lift, place the four lift arms onto the steel birdcage that surround the body. This birdcage is strong enough to support the body as long as the lift arms are placed correctly. It is important to lift the body evenly to eliminate any stress to the body panels during this procedure.

Step-3: Position Body Over Chassis

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (7)The bottom of the Corvette’s steel birdcage is under a lower panel that is usually covered with a trim piece or side pipes. This panel must be removed prior to lifting the body back onto the frame. Notice how close to the edge of the birdcage the lifting pads are placed. This was done to leave enough room to allow the body to be lowered onto the frame. If the pads are moved too far inward they hit the frame and have to be repositioned.

Step-4: Check Body Position

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (8)Make a final check to ensure that the body does not shift when it is lifted and to leave enough room to roll the frame under it. Once you are satisfied, roll the completed chassis into place beneath the body.

Body Installation

Confirm the body is securely sitting on the lift pads and then slowly raise the body high enough to clear the frame. Position the frame under the body and make sure all of the wires are out of the way. If a wire gets snagged, reassembly becomes more troublesome as you try to locate the broken connection. Make sure the body-mount doughnuts are still in the correct location. After this has been rechecked and everything is in order you can start lowering the body onto the frame.

Step-1: Identify Body Mounts

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (9)This diagram explains where each individual C3 body mount is fitted on all coupes. (Convertibles have an additional connection between mount No. 2 and No. 3 that is indicated by View A on the drawing.) Pay close attention to how the doughnuts and shims are located as each one is slightly different. The correct torque specifications are also indicated here. (Photo Courtesy Van Steel)

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (10)This 1973–1982 Van Steel bodymount kit includes all necessary partsand instructions to safely secure thebody to the frame. Van Steel alsooffers a 1968–1972 body mount kit.

Step-2: Connect Electrical Wires

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (11)It is very important to follow the GM body diagram when placing the mounts into their correctlocation on the frame. Some have their washers on the top while others do not. It all depends on the location. All of them must be installed onto the frame correctly prior to lowering the body. This body mount is fitted to the driver-side front bracket located under the front door. The attachment bolt is installed inside the body foot well where it is secured to the frame bracket after the body is lowered onto the frame. During the lowering process it is a good idea to routinely check to make sure that these doughnuts have not shifted. If they do, raise the body and reset the doughnuts. The left center body mount is identical to the one that is located in front of the door. If you have a convertible you need to install one additional doughnut on the frame. This one is located under the center of the door between mounts #2 and #3. Review Step No. 1 on page 161.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (12)When the frame is in the correct location, lower the bodyslowly onto the frame. Only lift the body high enough toclear the highest obstacle on the frame to minimize therisk of the body falling off the lift pads.

(Video) Body Lift Off Frame - C3 1972 Corvette

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (13)As the body is being lowered onto the frame pay particular attention to the clearance in the engine compartment. The engine compartment on this generation Corvette is a very tight fit and any contact with an inner fender or firewall could cause extensive damage. Make sure no wires are hanging or have gotten caught on something that might rip or tear them from their mountings. We used a long-handle broom to snag the transmission shift cable that was laying underneath the car. We wanted to make sure it was on the driver’s side of the transmission as the body was lowered onto the frame. Failure to do this can crush or bend the cable so it is unusable. Do not be in a rush to complete this step. It is a good idea to lower the body a few inches and then stop to make sure the wiring and mechanical parts are clear.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (14)Make room in the tight engine compartment by removing the air cleaner assembly. If you do, make sure the air intake on the carburetor is sealed so no stray part falls into it. This would be costly and time consuming to fix.

Connect the Steering

As the body is lowered onto the frame, pay particular attention to installing the steering column flexible coupling onto the steering gear. When the steering column reaches the steering gear, stop the drop while you line up each end of the steering column and the steering gear.

The shaft on the steering gear has a fl at flange on one side. It must be lined up to the flange inside the flexible coupling on the steering column. Work the two flanges back and forth until they are matched. Use a small hammer to gently tap the steering gear flange onto the steering gear shaft. When both units are coupled correctly tighten the bolts and resume lowering the body onto the frame.

Step-1: Align Steering Collar to Spline

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (15)Line up the steering column collar so it can be attached to the steering box spline. In addition position the brake lines to be installed onto the master cylinder.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (16)It helps to have two people working on this task. One can turn the steering wheel while the other lines up the steering box with the steering column. These two parts need to be matched up as the body is being lowered onto the frame. The steering box spline has a fl at spot that helps it line up with the steering column collar.

Step-2: Seat Column on Spline

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (17)Once everything is lined up correctly, lightly tap on the steering column to seat it on the steering box spline. Make sure the fl at spot on the steering box spline is lined up correctly with the steering box collar before tightening the four bolts. These are 12-point 7/16-inch bolts that require the use of a 12-point socket to tighten them. Turn them until they stop. You want them tight, but be careful to not snap the heads off the bolts.

Install the Headlight Doors

Every C3 Corvette utilizes vacuum-operated headlight doors that retract into the nose when they are not in use. The engine provides pressure to the actuators. A manual override system is located underneath the steering column and the doors can be kept in the open position at the driver’s command. The vacuum system requires many lengthy rubber hoses to operate and a cracked or broken hose or connector can cause a vacuum leak in the engine.

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This exploded view diagram shows the headlight actuator system. (Photo Courtesy Lonestar Caliper Co.)

Aftermarket Corvette suppliers, such as Lonestar Caliper Company, sell replacement headlight door parts.

Remove the Front Bumper Cover

If the bumper cover was installed onto your 1973–1982 car after it was painted to prevent it from wrinkling, remove it now. You need this extra working room to install the front bumper assembly that is hidden by this outside cover.

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If your car is a 1973–1982 model, remove the front rubber bumper cover and then remove the bumper bar that is secured to the sub frame. If you have painted the Corvette, leave the bumper covers off until the body has been attached to the frame. This bumper cover was left in place during storage so it would not distort. But now is a good time to remove it. Put the front bumper cover in a safe location until it is time to reinstall it. Keep this part away from any excessive heat because it might warp, making it difficult to reinstall.

This step is not necessary for 1968–1972 Corvettes as they are equipped with a small bolt-on chrome bumper that can be installed easily.

Align Frame to Body

The frame and body have holes that are located near body mount #2 (see step 1 on page 161). To aid alignment place a rod through the hole in the lower door jamb and into the hole in the frame. This procedure keeps the body and frame in their correct front and rear locations. It also helps prevent any mechanical components from hitting various parts on the body as it is lowered onto the frame.

Once the body is on the frame measure the gap between the body and the frame. Both front and rear measurements should be the same on both sides of the car. You can shift the body by gently pushing on it until all of the measurements are the same.

Step-1: Lower Body onto Frame

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (20)Once the front bumper is removed, finish lowering the body onto the frame. Make sure that none of the rubber doughnuts have shifted out of place. If they have, slightly raise the body, readjust them, and lower the body back onto the frame.

Step-2: Align Body and Frame

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (21)Every frame has an alignment hole located behind mount #2 (see illustration on page 161). Its purpose is to line up the body, front to the back. (It also enables the fan and gas tank to align correctly during the body installation.) When these holes cleanly align, the body is properly aligned. Insert a socket extension into the hole to move the body forward and back or left and right depending on the adjustment required.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (22)Measure the body/frame gap behind each wheel on both sides of the car. This helps verify that the body is square on the frame. The right and left sides should have the same measurements. They do not have to be precise but they should be very close.

Front Bumper Installation

As federal crash standards became progressively more stringent during the 1970s, Corvette engineers had to make the 5-mph crash bumper stronger. The 1973–1974 models are the lightest, while later models are stronger because they are fitted with more material.

The front bumper plays a vital role in securing the fiberglass nose to the frame. A metal support on the bumper is bolted to the nose on the underside of the body. This part of the front body is very heavy because it supports the weight of the headlights. The bumper brace helps to prevent cracks in the fiberglass. You might be tempted to omit this heavy metal part, but that is not recommended for street use as it does provide effective front-end protection in case of an accident.

Step-1: Assemble Crash Bumper

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (23)Corvettes built from 1973 to 1982 have some form of crash bumper attached to the front frame rails ahead of the engine and suspension. The bumper is concealed under a rubber cover. This 1980 Corvette uses a rubber egg crate material that serves as an energy absorption barrier in case of a sudden impact. It is attached to a steel frame with four bolts. Use a 5/8-inch socket to tighten and torque them to 60 ft-lbs. This unit bolts directly to the front of the frame to provide maximum strength. The center of the fiberglass nose is secured to the large black piece of metal in the center of the front bumper. Do not forget this bolt because the front overhang on these Corvettes is very long and breaks quickly if it is not attached to the bumper.

Step-2: Position FrontBumper

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (24)The bumper is an awkward component to install. It might be helpful to have a third person available to install the frame bolts while two people hold the bumper in place.

Step-3: Attach Front Bumper Brackets

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (25)Secure the bumper brackets to the frame with six bolts; use a 3/4-inch socket to attach them.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (26)Here, two of the three 3/4-inch bolts and nuts per side are installed into the front frame rail. The missing third bolt will be inserted into the round black hole. Each one should be torqued to 75 ft-lbs.

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Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (28)One bolt attaches to the front bumper bracket from beneath the nose of the car. Be sure to include the rubber doughnut on top and a washer under the bolt. This bolt is very important to install because it prevents the nose from shifting or sagging. Use a 5/8-inch socket to secure to the body and torque it to 60 ft-lbs.

Secure the Body

When the body is resting on the frame and you have confirmed that the alignment is correct, insert the body bolts. (See step 1 on page 161 for the correct placements and torque specifications.) Before tightening them, it is a good idea to insert each one and turn it several times into the nut to make sure it lines up correctly. Once all bolts are started, tighten them beginning with No. 1 and moving toward the rear on each side of the car until they are all secured.

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This is what the passenger-side rear No. 3 mount bolt looks like prior to being tightened into the frame (see step 1 on page 161). Torque each bolt to 45 ft-lbs.

(Video) Installing the body on the frame - C3 Corvette restoration PT. 14

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This body mount bolt can be reached through the removable panel inside the rear fenderwell. The mount should be torqued to 45 ft-lbs, which is enough to secure the body to the frame. This spec helps reduce body fl ex and minimize frame-to-body squeaks. All 8 coupe bolts (10 for convertibles) should be secured the same way.

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A good time to check your notes is when you are filling fluids and hooking up vital components. Before proceeding check and double-check each item on your startup list, such as fluids and correct hose hookups.

Fluid Level Check

You want to add the right fluid/ oils to the radiator, power steering, engine, brakes, automatic or manual transmission, differential, etc. Make sure these are all filled to factory specifications before you attempt to start your engine. This is also a good time to revisit your checklist to verify that all hose attachments and electrical fittings are connected correctly.

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Start adding necessary fluids, such as coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid. This is also a good time to check the engine oil level to make sure none drained out during storage.

Brake Bleeding

The most common method to bleed your brakes is gravity (manual) bleeding. It is simple and effective but it requires two people.

The other method is pressure (or pedal) bleeding. This requires using diaphragm-type, mechanical pressure bleeding equipment that is usually found in repair shops.

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This 1980 exhaust features a catalytic converter for emissions control. The long tube is attached to the air pump in the engine compartment that blows air into the converter to make it more efficient. It’s a very restrictive system, but many states have emissions inspections and this equipment must be installed to pass the test. The exhaust is connected to the two front headers on the engine. The rear pipe is connected to a pipe that is routed to both mufflers.

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Start the brake bleeding process by removing the brake master cylinder cover. Raise the car into the air and remove the wheels. Keep the fluid topped off during the procedure

All 1968–1982 Corvette are fitted with four-piston brake calipers that have bleeder valves on each side of the rear and one on the front caliper. Always be sure to use the correct brake fluid and never let the master cylinder run out of fluid or you will have to start the process all over again. When the system is finished bleeding, the pedal should be firm and not drop when you push it down.

Exhaust System Installation

All 1968–1974 Corvettes came from the factory with true dual exhausts. Each side of the engine had its own dedicated exhaust system that feeds into two large mufflers underneath the bumpers. Only 1969 Corvettes were available with the optional factory side-mounted exhaust system (N14) that exited under each door. Each of these pipes had a built-in muffler to help reduce the exhaust noise. You will know if sidepipes are installed on any other year except a 1969; they are not factory original. However, these pipes are very popular with C3 owners and a lot of cars have them installed. If the noise doesn’t bother you and your car is not being judged at an NCRS meet, enjoy them!

Corvettes built from 1975 to 1982 have two pipes that feed into one catalytic converter under the passenger compartment and then split back into two pipes that lead to the mufflers. These cars are equipped with an air pump that feeds air into the converter to help emissions. If you live in a state with emissions inspections, this system is necessary to pass the annual test.

Vacuum Line Connections

It is very important to carefully inspect every vacuum line that exits the engine. These lines should be soft and flexible when squeezed. If they are hard and brittle, they are old and prone to fail, so you need to replace them.

The basic system is fairly simple to troubleshoot. It uses vacuum from the engine to open and close the headlight doors. If your car is a 1968 to 1972 this system also operates the hideaway windshield wiper door.

Both doors actually have two subsystems: control and operating. After your car is reassembled and these systems do not work, troubleshoot each one separately. The control system opens and closes the headlight and windshield wiper door. The wiper door system (which was eliminated starting in 1973) contains the wiper door safety switch that is between the override and the wiper actuator relay. This relay prevents the door from closing until the wiper blades are in their parked position.

Wiper Doors

The wiper door system is very similar to headlight door operation. The main difference is that the headlight door system has two actuator relays and actuators compared to one for the wiper door. The other difference is that the headlight system does not need a safety switch to protect another system in case of failure.

Operation of the wiper system begins at the vacuum source, which is located on the intake manifold. The line goes through a filter and a check valve, then out of the lower fitting on the valve to the windshield wiper switch that is in the off position. When the wiper door is opened, vacuum is not allowed to reach the wiper actuator relay valve without vacuum present. A spring in the actuator valve pushes a diaphragm to open the wiper door. In effect all it is doing is routing the vacuum from the intake manifold to the actuators (vacuum motors) to open and close the doors.

If you have a vacuum leak that does not allow you to open your headlights or operate the wiper door your engine is probably running rough. You will have to find the leak and repair it.


This system consists of vacuum hoses, vacuum hose filter, one-way check valve, headlight switch, manual override switch under the steering wheel, vacuum accumulator (storage tank), relays, and two actuators (vacuum motors). You need a vacuum gauge to troubleshoot the system.

Disconnect the headlight/wiper door vacuum line where it connects to the intake manifold with the engine running. Connect a vacuum gauge directly to the manifold outlet. The engine should produce 18 to 20 inches of mercury according to the gauge. If you discover a 2- to 3-inch drop anywhere in the system, you have a leaking hose. If your car has a high-performance cam with excessive valve overlap, your vacuum reading is much lower; as a result the headlights slowly open if they are working correctly.

If your lights or wiper door is not opening, isolate the system to find the leak. If you have both wiper and headlight systems unhook the wiper door circuit and plug it with a golf tee or something similar. If it is too hard to reach, lower the panel under your steering column and plug the wiper override hose by disconnecting it from the switch.

Be sure to check the amount of vacuum coming into and out of this switch before proceeding. Make sure there is only one path back to the source of the vacuum (intake manifold) when testing an individual line.

(Video) How To Install Car/Auto Body Mounts On A C3 Corvette By Corvette Hop

If a reading is within 2 to 3 inches, that particular vacuum line is fine. If there is a significant drop, troubleshoot that line to find the leak. If all the vacuum lines are close to specifications and the doors are staying open, it indicates that a diaphragm has a hole in it and is leaking.

The actuators have a springloaded diaphragm inside and operate with vacuum. If the actuator is not getting vacuum, that relay stays in the up position at all times. A C3 Corvette with one light up and the other one down has a leaking diaphragm.

Reservoir and Actuators

The reservoir is easy to test. Remove both of the lines that go to the actuators. Plug one of the outlets where you just removed the lines and put your vacuum gauge on the other side and check the reading. If it is below the normal operational range, the reservoir is leaking.

On all 1973–1979 Corvettes the vacuum reservoir is in the round cross member underneath the headlights. This cross member has three fittings: one on the driver’s side and two in the center to provide vacuum to the headlight relays.

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The 1968 included many of the power-operated features that were first installed onto the 1965 Mako Shark GM show car. This was the first car equipped with vacuumoperated headlights and wiper doors. Be prepared to replace these hoses because they cause rough idle and poorly operating equipment. (Drawing Courtesy Zip Products)

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Here is the early 1969 system. (Drawing Courtesy Zip Products)

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This is the late 1969 system, which used a different kind of actuator for the windshield wiper door. (Drawing Courtesy Zip Products)

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The vacuum system stayed unchanged from 1970 to 1972. (Drawing Courtesy Zip Products)

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A new hood design eliminated the need for a windshield wiper door in 1973, much to the relief of Corvette mechanics and owners. The doors were prone to not opening on time and snagging the windshield wiper arms and burning out the motor. I always used the manual override that was located below the steering wheel to leave the door open if I saw any hint of rain. I never replaced a motor. This Corvette vacuum system remained unchanged from 1973 to 1979. (Drawing Courtesy Zip Products)

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The simplest vacuum system installed on a C3 Corvette was used from 1980 to 1982. The engineers used a large fruit can to serve as a vacuum can to operate the lights and it proved to be pretty trouble free. (Drawing Courtesy Zip Products)

If the reservoir is within specification, check the two headlight actuators. Test them the same way you checked the rest of the system until the part that failed is located.

Air Conditioning System

If your car is equipped with air conditioning and no seals were broken during disassembly, return the compressor to its bracket on the engine. Take the system to a shop that specializes in air-conditioning services and repairs if you are not familiar with it.

Most of the parts are available from Corvette aftermarket supply houses. Many auto parts stores stock rebuilt compressors at a reduced price. You can even buy duplicate factory stickers to paste onto rebuilt compressors.

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This 1969 Corvette air conditioning system has been converted from R-12 to R-134 to comply with new environmental regulations.

C3 Corvettes were produced with two types of air conditioning systems. The original A6 compressor was an axial-flow unit that used R-12 freon for refrigerant. R-12 was banned due to environmental concerns and was replaced with R-134 refrigerant.

Later C3 Corvettes began using a rotary A/C compressor that was lighter and more efficient but still used R-12 as refrigerant. If the system was left intact when the car was dismantled, it can be quickly reinstalled onto the engine.

However, if the system was removed and has been open to the atmosphere for an extended time, a number of parts must be replaced before it is recharged. Some of these parts include the drier/accumulator, expansion valve, condenser, and maybe even the compressor. Older C3 Corvette A/C systems must be converted to use the new R-134 refrigerant.

Odds and Ends

Now it is time to connect the battery and turn on the electrical system. It is a good idea to test anything that is powered by electricity by turning it on. This includes dash lights, interior lights, headlights, taillights, and radio. You need to make sure your tunes work.

Look closely at all hoses to make sure they are tight and all fluids are filled to factory specifications. Leave the hood off until you have run the engine for a while so you can check for leaks or loose connections.

Add some gasoline and turn the engine over a few times to make sure no gas is leaking anywhere.

(Video) The C3 Corvette goes from a bare frame to wheels on the ground!

The only remaining items to be installed are the rear bumper, hood, and the trim rings on the wheels.

T-Top Adjustments

C3 Corvette coupes were fitted with two removable T-tops. They were designed to be stored behind the seats or on an optional luggage rack. From 1968 to 1977 only fiberglass roof panels were available. In 1978 new laminated glass roof panels were introduced (option code CC1) and became a popular addition.

The 1968–1977 T-tops had dual pull-down latches to hold them in place. One latch was located at the front of the top and one was at the rear. Two pins were inserted into the T-bar and the outside latches secured the tops to the birdcage. In 1978 the rear latch was eliminated and replaced with a movable pin that was part of the standard anti theft alarm system.

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Now it is time to reconnect the various wiring harnesses marked during disassembly with stickers or tape. By matching the numbers or writing on each side of the wiring harness the reconnection process should go very smoothly. Check each connector carefully to make sure none are missed during reassembly. Each connector plays a vital role in the smooth operation of your Corvette. Check and double-check this part of the installation.

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Carefully check all of the various hoses to make sure they are not leaking before the engine is started.

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With the hood off, start the engine and recheck all the hose connections. Leave the engine running for a few minutes to make sure nothing is leaking. Check all lights and accessories to be sure they operate normally.

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The rear suspension on this 1980 Corvette has been completely refurbished. Some of the new parts include brakes, trailing arms, spring, universal joints, brake lines, strut rods, differential, and halfshafts.

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The back bumper has been reattached and adjusted to minimize the seam between the body and the bumper. The trim has been mounted on the wheels and the hood is the only remaining part that needs to be installed to complete this body/frame procedure. All of the mechanical and electrical checks were passed and after the hood is installed this Corvette will be road tested.

The roof panel gap (down the center of the T-bar) should be no more than 1/2 inch wide. The tops should sit 1/16 to 1/8 inch from the roof behind the seats. Loosen the retaining bolts and move both tops until you get the correct measurements. Tighten the attaching points with the roof in place.

The glass roofs are designed to sit 1/8 inch higher than the rear roof. They should not be adjusted lower than this as they might break from stress.

Use an 8 x 10-inch sheet of paper to determine if your tops are fitting snugly onto their gaskets. Put the paper on the gasket and install the roof. If the paper slides out easily from between the two, the top needs adjustment. Repeat this process until the paper cannot easily be pulled out.

Road Test

Art Dorsett’s completed 1980 Corvette was given a 20-minute road test to check its brakes and fluid levels, and to verify that the transmission shifts correctly. The engine temperatures and oil pressure were all normal. This car passed the road test successfully and it was sent to the alignment shop to receive a fourwheel alignment.

Final Cleaning

You are joining a unique club as a Corvette owner. The majority of owners take pride in how their car looks, and it is not unusual to see them cleaning their cars on a Saturday afternoon. Detailing your Corvette can be a very complex task, starting with deciding which products to use. There are a large number of brands being sold over the counter, and each one claims that it is the best on the market. The final decision on the best one to pick rests on you. Talk to your friends and other Corvette owners to get their opinion on the best products. Today simple waxes have expanded to glazes, cleaners, polishes, sealers, etc.

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (47)

The hood has been installed and the Corvette has passed its road test successfully. The completed car was sent to the alignment shop to have its suspension set to factory specifications. It is now ready to do what it was designed to do: put a smile on the owner’s face.

Written by Walt Thurn and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (48)

Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (49)


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Body Installation: C3 Corvette Restoration Guide (50)


What is the most sought after C3 Corvette? ›

For serious Corvette collectors, the 1968 to 1972 model years contain some of the most sought-after Corvettes in the brand's history. These models, which include the L88 and ZL1 Corvettes, are considered to be the “holy grail” of the third-generation production run.

Why is the C3 Corvette so cheap? ›

As to why there are affordable C3s to be found, in simple terms one reason is that GM built more than half a million of these cars. Many were taken care of since new, while others have some degree of restoration work on them. That means there's still ample supply of good examples.

What year was the fastest C3 Corvette? ›

1972 Stingray C3 Corvette Is Fastest in Track Test.

What is a good price for a C3 Corvette? ›

Those looking for a daily driver in fair condition can expect to find a C3 Corvette for sale, starting around $12,000 with some super rare models going for as much as $500,000.

What year Corvette is most collectable? ›

The 1963 Corvette, with its classic look and performance, is a nearly unanimous pick as the best Corvette Chevy ever sold. You'll see it come up time and time again in the 'best' Corvette lists, almost always ranking in at number one.

What are common C3 Corvette problems? ›

Over time, the door hinges on all C3 Corvettes fatigue and begin to fail, causing the doors to sag and other alignment issues including broken door seals, water leaks, and road noise.

What does the C stand for in C3 Corvette? ›

The C-number combination is used to denote specific Corvette generations. The original Corvette, C1, was built from 1953-1962; the model has gone through 6 major revisions since then, yielding todays C7, or seventh-generation Corvette. You can probably guess what the upcoming mid-engine Corvette will be known as: C8.

Do C3 Corvettes rust? ›

If you own a C3 Corvette, the most common area for rust are the frame and the 'birdcage'. Third generation Corvettes have been known to see heavy rust areas in the sections just forward of the rear wheels and the front cross member.

What was the slowest Corvette? ›

Naturally, the slowest was the 1954 Corvette: Its 235-cubic-inch 150-hp Blue Flame inline-six and two-speed automatic required 11.5 seconds to sprint to 60 mph. The fastest was the 1962, with a 327-cubic-inch 360-hp V-8 and four-speed manual, which dropped the 0-60 time to 5.9 seconds.

What is the most beautiful Corvette? ›

The C2 Corvette is also widely regarded as the most beautiful Corvette generation ever.

Is a Corvette faster than a police car? ›

The final results? The Corvette Z06 did the quarter-mile in an impressive 11.55 seconds, with a top speed of 121.35 mph. Sadly, the cop car was way behind, doing the same in a laggy 15.78 seconds, at a top speed of 89.50 mph. Makes us wonder, was the cop car holding back?

How many miles does a C3 Corvette last? ›

Chevrolet Corvette C3: on the road

Well-maintained V8s will easily cover 150-200,000 miles before needing major work, and are cheaper to rebuild than most European engines.

Are Corvettes appreciating in value? ›

Get this: After 60 months of ownership, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette is expected to retain 49.5 percent of its value, which means this 2-seater has once again claimed the title of top Sports Car in KBB's annual Best Resale Value Awards.

What is the least popular Corvette color? ›

Caffeine Metallic was the least popular option with just 385 2022 Corvettes carrying the color, a take rate of just 1.5 percent. There were three new paint colors introduced for the 2022 model year.

What color Corvette has the highest resale value? ›

“Within this category yellow is the best color for retained value, likely because it's common for Porsche models and the Chevrolet Corvette, which all hold their value well,” said Brauer. Conversely, the common grayscale colors have the highest depreciation within the convertible segment.

What color car looks the cleanest? ›

White is the easiest color to keep clean over time.

It's the best color for hiding imperfections and scratches, as well as water spots. White also hides dirt easily, so you don't have to worry about black or grey making it look like you have a dirty car.

What is the holy grail of Corvettes? ›

A 'Holy Grail' 1969 Corvette Could Become The Most Expensive Ever Sold. The only 1969 Corvette ZL1 convertible in existence is expected to fetch up to $3 million at auction. An immaculately restored 1969 Chevrolet Corvette with an outrageous amount of factory horsepower may become the most expensive ever sold.

What does owning a Corvette say about you? ›

“You will find that Corvette owners are more sensitive and refined than you would think. They're not into hoarding it over other people the way that the Hummer owners are,” he said. The other emotional need that can be fulfilled by a sports car like a Corvette is a desire for immortality.

What is the most wanted Corvette? ›

The most valuable Corvettes from C1 to C6
  • C1 (1953–62): 1953 Corvette Roadster. ...
  • C2 (1963–67): 1967 Corvette 427/430-hp L88 Coupe. ...
  • C3 (1968–82): 1969 Corvette 427/430-hp L88 Convertible. ...
  • C4 (1984–96): 1996 Corvette GS Convertible. ...
  • C5 (1997–2004): 2003 Corvette 50th Anniversary Pace Car Convertible.
Jun 30, 2021

What makes C3 less efficient? ›

The lower photosynthetic efficiency in C3 plants is due to a dual activity in the enzyme that fixes CO2, Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO; Brown et al., 2011).

What Corvette have the least mechanical problems? ›

The 6 Most Reliable Corvettes By Year
  1. 1956 Corvette. Although it may not match the reliability of today's Corvettes, the 1956 model was an impressive addition to the lineup, as it smoothed over many of the issues of the previous design. ...
  2. 2009 ZR1. ...
  3. 1990 ZR1. ...
  4. 2019 ZR1. ...
  5. 2020 Corvette. ...
  6. 1963 Corvette.
Sep 30, 2022

Is C3 or C4 more common? ›

The majority of plants and crop plants are C3 plants, referring to the fact that the first carbon compound produced during photosynthesis contains three carbon atoms.

What is the most powerful C3 Corvette engine? ›

Despite the many engine innovations over the generation, that 435 hp Big-Block 427 was the most powerful engine the C3 saw.

What is the best Corvette ever made? ›

These Are 6 Of The Best Corvette Ever Made
  • CORVETTE L72 (1966) The second generation – aptly named C2 – still boasts one of the most unmistakable lines in automotive history. ...
  • CORVETTE C3 STINGRAY (1973) ...
  • CORVETTE C4 ZR1 (1990) ...
  • CORVETTE C5 Z06 (2002) ...
  • CORVETTE C6 ZR1 (2009) ...
  • CORVETTE C7 ZR1 (2019)
Sep 10, 2022

How much HP does a C3 Corvette have? ›

The 350 cu in (5.7 L) base engine (ZQ3) remained at 300 hp (224 kW) and the L46 was again offered as a 350 hp (261 kW) high performance upgrade. New was the LT-1, a 350 cu in (5.7 L) small-block V8 engine delivering a factory rated 370 hp (276 kW).

Can a Corvette go through a carwash? ›

You could take your ride through an automated car wash if you wanted to make things easier on yourself. But if you want things done right, a little hands-on love and care can make your Corvette or Camaro look its best. Below, you'll find some tips you can use to wash your Camaro or Corvette like a professional.

Can C3 Corvette handle well? ›

Great value, great car

The Chevrolet small-block V-8 is a consistent performer that is inexpensive to maintain, and while the C3 is perhaps a little nose heavy, it still handles reasonably well. With independent rear suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, the C3 also has excellent stopping power in stock form.

How do you check a C3 Corvette for rust? ›

When you see the frame rail holes, put a mini-scope in there or use a finger to feel for rust particles, which are a sure sign of further rusting. Next, the frame rails can rust from the top down, ala rain water flowing from the top to inside the door area and down via the front A pillar.

Which Corvette holds the most value? ›

Well, the C8 Corvette is a great-looking car with a fantastic lineage dating back to 1953. What's more, with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) still less than $60,000, the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette represents one of the best values in today's market.

Which Corvette holds its value the best? ›

Through their statistical model, KBB found the 2022 Corvette to be the top-rated sports car with the highest percentage of overall resale value. Over the years, Chevrolet has provided the Corvette with the best of the best in terms of style and performance.

What is the rarest Corvette color? ›

The potential buyer of a new Corvette in 1964 could choose from an array of seven different paint colors. Of these, cars finished in Saddle Tan were the rarest. Chevrolet sold 22,229 Corvettes in the 1964 model year, and a mere 1,765 wore that color.

What was the best Corvette ever built? ›

These Are 6 Of The Best Corvette Ever Made
  • CORVETTE L72 (1966) The second generation – aptly named C2 – still boasts one of the most unmistakable lines in automotive history. ...
  • CORVETTE C3 STINGRAY (1973) ...
  • CORVETTE C4 ZR1 (1990) ...
  • CORVETTE C5 Z06 (2002) ...
  • CORVETTE C6 ZR1 (2009) ...
  • CORVETTE C7 ZR1 (2019)
Sep 10, 2022

What is the least desirable Corvette? ›

The 10 Worst Corvette Years
  • 1953 C1.
  • 1975 Base Model.
  • 1979 Corvette L48.
  • 1980 California 305.
  • 1982 C3.
  • 1988 Commemorative Edition.
  • 1987 Callaway Twin Turbo.
  • 1984 C4 Corvette.
Mar 10, 2022

Will Corvette go up in value? ›

The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is getting a $1,000 price boost for its birthday. Prices are up across the board, according to the Corvette Action Center, which got a hold of the price sheet for the 'Vette's 70th year. Chevy is keeping the price increase simple.

What is the best performing Corvette? ›

The C6-generation ZR1 was unveiled with a supercharged, 6.2-liter LS9 V8 that generated 638 hp, 133 hp more than the Z06. It was also the quickest Corvette, reaching 60 mph in only 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph, another record for a Corvette.

What is considered high mileage for a Corvette? ›

According to Motor and Wheels, owners can expect their new Corvette to last for 150,000 to 200,000 miles. For most drivers, that's probably about 10 to 13 years minimum.


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