Over the past three issues, we've covered the major aspects of our '60 Corvette project named "3G." Suspension, drivetrain, and braking were put together to produce a package that equaled that of a modern-day sports car. In this episode, it was time to make the 3G look more like a modern-day sports car and to set up the suspension for full potential. The lines of the 1960 Corvette were sporty for its time and had plenty of eye appeal. Working with designers Jason Rushforth and Eric Brockmeyer, we drew inspiration from many different sources and set about to update the style of this fantastic design.
The most visible change from an original Corvette was the set of roll hoops. Inspired by Ferrari's 550 Barchetta Pininfarina, the hoops not only made a dramatic statement but also were a functional safety device. Encapsulating the fuel tank, there was a steel cage that mounted to the chassis, and the hoops were then attached to this cage. The hoops themselves were bent on a 3.5-inch radius with three bends making up the hoop, rather than just doing a single 180-degree bend. The hoops were chrome-plated, and bezels were fabbed to match the OE trim. This cage structure also provided the anchor points for the shoulder straps on the Crow Enterprises seatbelt harnesses.
Because the roll-hoop structure had to be made removable for fuel cell access, all mountin
Before the 3G Vette went to the paint and body shop, the car needed to be fully assembled for final body fit and finish. There were a few more body modifications to be done, the biggest being the elimination of the side glass, thus creating a true roadster. While this may sound like an easy task, it sent us down a road of numerous and often very difficult ancillary modifications, just to make everything look like it was a factory option.
The fiberglass work was a fairly straightforward operation, building small molds, laying glass, and capping off the tops of the doors. Then we needed to fabricate trim to match the original pieces that wrapped around the seats. First, Art ran a piece of 1.5-inch aluminum bar stock through a table saw to create the rough trim. This was then bent to match the curve of the door. Finally, it was tapered to match the width of the windshield frame at one end and the width of the seat trim at the other. Because we eliminated the side glass, we also needed to eliminate the notch in the windshield frame. This part of the project involved having the windshield posts metal-sprayed, then hand-finished, copper-plated, hand-sanded, and trial-fit a bunch of times. This continued to the top of the windshield frame where a billet aluminum piece was made to replace the OE stainless. Fortunately, not all the trim was as time-consuming as this. Most of the other pieces were off-the-shelf items from Year One, saving us from restoring the original items that came off the car.
This interior rendering by Eric Brockmeyer gave us a clear-cut vision of how the car was g
Rolling the car outside for the first time with all the trim attached was pretty spectacular. It gave us a great boost of excitement and motivated us toward finishing the project and getting some miles on the odometer. At this point, the car was taken down to the guys at Byers Custom & Restoration, a shop that has done the paint and bodywork on some of the rarest sports cars in the world. While the original scheme was going to be for a silver body with white coves, Jon Byers suggested a metallic combination, gray for the body of the car and silver for the coves. After flipping through the PPG color books, we found Volkswagen's Urban Gray and Reflex Silver. To make sure that these colors would work, Jon sprayed a test panel and examined how they looked with upholstery and trim samples. Everything looked great, so the paint was ordered from PPG.
With the materials ordered, Jon and his talented crew began the tedious assignment of smoothing out a 46-year-old fiberglass body. In all, close to 600 hours were put into the 3G's paint and bodywork-you could definitely see the attention to detail. Like with the rest of the project, the paint finish and bodywork was a drastic improvement over the original. The great thing about working with a professional shop like Byers was that the car was turned out in about 9 weeks, so we could move on to final assembly and firing the car.
The entirety of the interior door skins were remade out of fiberglass-the tops of the door
The next step of creating a more modern sports car was to update the look of the interior. Drawing inspiration from the latest Italian supercars, we were looking to do something modern, high-tech, and down-to-business. The main focal point of the interior, besides the spectacular upholstery, had to be the gauge cluster. The challenge was to add cutting-edge styling to early 1960s components. Classic Instruments worked its magic on the gauges, converting them to electronic units and color-matching them to the upholstery. But Rhys Sanderson of www.carbonguy.com performed the most dramatic transformation. Using the stock two-piece die-cast cluster, Rhys bonded the pieces together and wrapped the entire unit in carbon fiber, finishing it in numerous clearcoats to give it a deep, rich look. The final sports car touch was the addition of a Honda S2000 starter button wired into the ignition system. The overall look of this new gauge cluster was nothing short of phenomenal.
Carbon fiber was used extensively throughout the interior. Door panel inserts, the console insert, and the grab handle were all made out of this high-tech material and provided a great contrast to the upholstery, trim, and body color. Sourced from Paul Atkins of Paul Atkins Interiors, the red leather and matching red carpet were stitched up by Jamie McFarland of McFarland Custom Upholstery. Using Eric Brockmeyer's rendering as a guide, Jamie and his skilled staff handmade the bolstered seats and created an interior that was very comfortable and modern. Handling all of the heat and noise insulation duties was Dynamat, which gave the resonance-prone fiberglass body some much needed help. While Jamie and crew did all of the stitching and seat fab work, Art custom-made all of the trim for the interior, fabricating it out of quarter-inch brass bar stock, which was then chrome-plated.
Cutting round bar stock on a table saw was definitely not for the faint of heart, but with
The final high-tech item was the steering wheel. Designed for European road racing, the SPA Technique wheel featured 9 LED rpm shift lights in a panel at the top of the wheel. Through a tiny controller that hid under the dash, the programmable LEDs came on in groups of three (yellow, green, red) and then flashed when it was time to shift. It was the last detail needed to complete the interior package.
Now that we had the look we were going for, it was time to set up the car so that its performance would match. While the steps to doing this weren't exactly complicated, it did take time and is often a missed step in the final stages of a project's completion.
After squaring the rear end and aligning the front end, it was time to scale the car. While it was an expensive piece of equipment, this was probably one of the most important tool a hardcore car guy could have. Scaling a car would give you the opportunity to tune the vehicle so it performs its best in both day-to-day driving and road-course action and help wring out that last little bit of performance from the suspension. Because these cars were never symmetrical weight-wise, it was important to make the necessary adjustments to balance the car from front to back and side to side. This process can be time-consuming, but with the right tools it can usually be done in a few hours. With some persistence, we were able to get the corner weights of the car within 5 pounds of each other. From the very beginning, our focus had been on the overall balance of the car. This focus had now paid off.
Now that the setup was complete, the car was put back on the lift and every bolt from front to rear was checked for tightness. Once we were assured that everything was snug, we began putting some miles on the car. The brake pads were broken in, and we were acutely listening for any sort of unusual mechanical noise. Thankfully, there was none, and our trips slowly began to get further and further away from our home base. After about 200 miles had been put onto the odometer, fluids were changed, and the bumper-to-bumper inspection was done once more for loose fasteners, leaky hoses, or anything else that could cause an accident. The car was then taken down to Blood Performance and run on the chassis dyno to fine-tune the FAST XFI fuel-injection system.
Our project was done. The car was now finished and streetworthy. There was just one more thing to do with it: beat on it at the test track like it was stolen. Next month, we'll hammer the 3G Vette at Fontana Speedway, summarize the performance and all specifications, and show you the finished car in all its glory.
Art Morrison Enterprises Inc. would like to thank the following companies for helping make the 3G Vette such a success:
Nearly ready for chrome, the metal-sprayed windshield frame and door-top trim was mocked u
BMW headlights were 5 inches in diameter and fit inside the Year One reproduction Corvette
The headlight installation wasn't an easy one; approximately 70 hours went into fabricatio
Just before the 3G Vette went to Byers Custom & Restoration, all the body panels and trim
Stripped down once again, the entire body received a skim coat of body filler to ensure th
This door panel insert was constructed of two layers of carbon fiber and was final-fit int
We were absolutely blown away at how striking the gauge cluster was. Rhys Sanderson of www
Available at any Honda dealership, an S2000 starter button also helped give the interior a
The guys at McFarland Custom Upholstery did an amazing job with the upholstery. Here, Jami
One of the last steps in finishing the car was a final tune of the EFI system. As it was r
The final touch for the engine compartment was a pair of super trick "3G" emblems hand-cra
A set of scales had a pad for each wheel and the readout display. By weighing each wheel,
When scaling the car, it was important to tune it in the configuration the car was going t
Making adjustments to the spanner nut on the coilovers, it was possible to adjust the weig
This CAD drawing gives a breakdown of all the weights, ride height, and the Vette's alignm