For disassembly, the trim and interior can be removed before or after removing the frame and mechanical components. Your choice depends on your access to a trailer and towing vehicle. If one is available, I recommend removing the frame first, which allows you to disassemble the body, interior, and frame at the same time in separate locations.
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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Once the frame and body are separate, work can begin to disassemble the body and remove the frame’s mechanical components.
Remember to always bag and tag all removed parts.
Removing the frame from a C3 body is a critical part of the restoration process. Over the years these frames have accumulated a lot of wear and tear. Some might even have rust damage or be bent from a previous accident or abuse.
C3 coupe and convertible bodies are bolted to a steel ladder frame with 8 (coupe) or 10 bolts (convertible). Newer Corvettes have their frames molded into the body structure and are not easily removed without extensive work. This C3 design feature makes the body very heavy and requires care not to damage it during the removal process. It is important to ensure the body is properly supported to prevent damage or cause any personal injury during removal.
While many enthusiasts remove the body and frame in their home garage, I turned to Van Steel to perform the task for this book. To illustrate 1980 coupe that has served as their project car for the past 30 years. It only has a little more than 40,000 miles on it, but age has faded its interior and exterior. This car and others in Van Steel’s shop were used to illustrate the proper disassembly method described here.
Remove the rubber or steel bumpers and brackets.
Disconnect the battery cables and remove the battery.
Remove the hood. This provides better access to engine components that need to be disconnected.
Disconnect the fl exible steering joint coupling from the steering box.
Remove the two 7/16-inch steering shaft spline bolts from the steering box. Use a deep-well 12-point socket to aid in loosening these bolts.
Disconnect the transmission lock-out cable next to the firewall on the steering column. Great care must be taken when the body is lifted off the frame to prevent damage to this connector. Tapping it with a mallet helps break it free from the steering box as the body is raised off the frame. The three steering box bolts that secure it to the frame should be loosened before the frame lift can begin.
All wiring that is connected to the body must be unplugged. Bright-colored stickers should be affixed to each side of all engine wiring connectors and numbered with a black marker. Do this before unplugging any connectors. This greatly eases the burden of reassembly. how to remove a C3 frame, Van Steel offered the well-maintained.
Move the car to a suitable jacking area. A four-point lift has two towers on each side that support adjustable legs on each tower. Hydraulic pressure lifts the legs by turning a worm gear. A four-point lift is very handy for this kind of project.
Remove the rocker arm covers or side pipe covers if equipped.
Disconnect the master cylinder brake lines.
For cars with a standard transmission, disconnect the wire clip on the clutch pedal.
Drain all fluids including the radiator and gas tank.
Disconnect any vacuum hoses that are attached to the body and frame.
Disconnect the accelerator rod from the carburetor throttle lever by removing the cotter key. Remove the accelerator rod and ground strap.
Disconnect the oil pressure line from the engine block.
Undo the distributor tachometer drive unit.
Remove the shifter ball and T-handle if equipped.
Remove the license plate an trim cover.
Take the rear exhaust panel off the car if so equipped.
Disconnect the gas tank sending unit and mark with a sticker and number.
Remove the antenna ground strap.
Undo the emergency brake cable located on the driver’s side of the transmission crossover. Removal of the adjusting nuts allows the cable to be disconnected.
Take off the rear access body mount doors on the front side of each rear wheel well.
Remove the ground strap from the left front body mount.
Take off the lower radiator core support bolts.
Remove all 5/8-inch body mount bolts and rubber doughnuts (8 for 1968–1982 coupes, 10 for convertibles 1968–1975).
Two are located in the engine compartment. One is under the master cylinder and the other is under the heater box.
Two are at the bottom of each windshield post. To access them remove the interior kick panels from each side of the front lower cabin. Two are located in the rear inner fender wells behind the doors and covers provide access to these frame bolts. Finally, two are located behind each rear wheel well.
Convertibles have two additional body bolts located under the door trim panels.
Both coupe and convertible bodies are constructed with a steel birdcage frame. (See photo on page 28 in Chapter 2 to review the construction of a birdcage frame.) The fiber glass panels were bonded to this frame when the car was originally built. It is strong enough to support lifting the body off the frame if it is not badly rusted. This is the advantage of using a four point hydraulic lift. It allows the pads to be placed where they support the body behind the front and rear wheel wells. The birdcage is very narrow and correct pad placement is critical so that the body is not damaged. Other removal methods are available but I chose the four-point lift for safety and speed.
After double-checking the correct placement of the pads, slowly raise the lift while someone checks to make sure the frame is clearing the body. Check for electrical plugs and connections that have not been disconnected and confirm that the steering gear is free from the steering box. Also check the engine compartment to make sure everything is disconnected and all components have enough clearance.
When everything is clear, raise the body high enough to allow the frame to be rolled away. The frame can be moved out of the way and replaced with a wooden body dolly.
When the dolly is in place lower the body onto the dolly and remove the lift pads. The body is now free and can be moved as necessary. Before moving the body make sure all of the loose hanging wires are secured with plastic zip ties or tape. If they are not secured properly they could be ripped or damaged during transit.
Return the body to your work area to remove its components.
The body can now be transported to the paint facility.
The fiberglass body has always been a unique and consistent design aspect of the Corvette. Along with the fiberglass body panels, the Corvette also has a steel birdcage frame and other plastic panels that must be inspected. The fiberglass body is much lighter and less expensive to repair than a sheet-metal body, but it is also somewhat fragile.
You need to closely evaluate the condition of the body before buying a particular car and certainly before you restore one. Significant damage to these areas can be quite expensive. Large cracks, holes, and other damage take substantial time and effort to repair. Replacing a heavily damaged body panel comes at a significant price.
Inspecting Exterior Body Panels
Now is the time to carefully examine the exterior body panels for damage to be added to your repair list. The 1968–1972 Corvette body panels were formed with a looser weave of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, and require a layer of gel coat to prevent the fiberglass weave from showing through the paint. The 1973-1982 panels were formed with a tighter compression process using sheet molded composites (SMC), which eliminated the need for gel coat.
Cracking is common around the front and rear upper fender seams. This is also a problem around the headlights and upper front fenders. Body cracks must be repaired prior to any paint preparation. Grind them out and then fill them in with the correct body filler. (See Chapter 4 for more details.)
Inspecting the Inner Body
At this time, raise your Corvette up on a four-point lift and carefully inspect all of the body panels from underneath. A strong flashlight is the perfect tool for this task. Factory body panels are smooth on the underside and are held together with bonding strips. If you find large swaths of fiberglass over an area, it is strong evidence of a crash repair. To prevent cracking a new paint job, repair these areas before any final paint is applied.
If you spot obvious damage such as a broken or badly cracked panel it might be cheaper to replace it. However, until the exterior paint has been removed it is difficult to make the final decision on subtle damage that might be covered up by its exterior paint. (See Chapter 4 for more details.)
Evaluating Frame and Birdcage
Closely inspect the exposed steel birdcage components that have been uncovered by the frame and interior removal. Common rust spots are on the top and sides of the windshield header. The windshield header is hollow and any rust holes enable water to seep into this area and run into the bottom of the birdcage. Over an extended period of time the bottom of the birdcage rusts around the body mount area and breaks away from the frame. This is a critical inspection point that needs to be repaired before any reassembly of the car takes place.
The frame also needs to be closely evaluated for rust. The most common areas are behind the doors where the frame bends up over the rear wheels. Check all of the body mount areas for rust. (See Chapter 6 for more details.)
Most C3 Corvettes need some interior restoration because the cars have been subjected to wind, rain, and sunlight for more than 30 years. Plastic, cloth, and leather interior components simply deteriorate with age. Many parts can be cleaned, but torn seat cushions need to be replaced. Panels that are brittle should be replaced. If you are able to repaint these panels they should be stored where they are seldom touched to prevent scratches.
Dash panels are very similar on all 1968–1977 Corvettes. They feature a separate dash pad, passenger storage unit, auxiliary instrument panel in the center, and a speedometer/ tachometer cluster in front of the driver. The 1968 driver-side panel includes the ignition switch on the upper right. The fiber-optic light monitoring system was standard on all 1968–1971 models.
All 1978–1982 dashes are very similar in design and feature a one piece dash pad with a locking glove box.
All 1968–1977 manual windows and lock models have door panels with a door lock button and window crank handle.
Before beginning this removal process be sure to select a well-lit area with plenty of room to move around the car.
Once the frame had been removed from the 1980 Corvette at Van Steel, it was returned to the owner’s personal garage for interior disassembly. All of the screws and parts that had been removed were marked or tagged and then placed into bags or containers for ease of reassembly.
Remove the eight bolts under the front and rear of each seat that secures the seat to the floor.
Remove and disassemble the two door panels of the door assembly. If the car has manual windows use the window crank retaining spring tool to release the window crank from the door. The door lock on 1968–1977 Corvettes must be removed the same way.
Remove all attaching screws on the panel, including the three armrest screws (if equipped). If equipped with a remote mirror, remove the mirror retaining cover screws. Loosen the setscrew on the mirror adjustor. Carefully pull the door panel off the door by starting at the bottom and prying off the door clips.
Once everything is loose pull up on the panel to release it from the window opening on the door. If the Corvette is equipped with power door locks and windows, disconnect the switches from the panel prior to removal.
Remove the door kick plates that secure the driver- and passenger- side compartment carpets to the floor. Use a #45 Torx to remove the driver and passenger seat belt hardware. These must be taken out before the carpet can be removed.
The driver-side seat belt warning light is standard on all 1978–1982 Corvettes and must be unplugged under the console. Place stickers or tape on both sides of the plugs and write a brief description to ease reinstallation.
Three Phillips screws secure the side carpet to the console. They are located in the front, middle, and rear of the panel. They are buried in the carpet so you must feel around to locate them. The carpet is secured to fiberboard so it is important to remove the screws so the panels are not damaged.
The console cover and armrest can now be removed. The front of the console is secured by two 1/4-inch nuts that must be removed. Unscrew the accessory plug and unsnap the wire lead. Remove two screws that secure the armrest cover to the console cover.
The armrest cover can now be taken out of the car. Carefully lift the console cover; if the car has power windows carefully pry the connectors off the cover with a flat bladed screwdriver. The cover can now be lifted off, but if it has an automatic transmission the shift lever has a plastic hook that connects to a steel rod on the transmission tunnel. Be careful not to break this plastic retainer by lifting the cover too high.
Unplug the heater and A/C control wires and lift the cover clear of the tunnel. Turn the cover over and remove the three 9/32-inch bolts that secure the control unit to the console cover. After removing these three bolts, reinstall them into the cover.
Take out the rear cargo compartment carpet. (This car is equipped with optional rear speakers and brackets. Both must be removed before proceeding.) Remove the Phillips screws that fasten the cargo compartment cover. This cover also secures the carpet. The compartment houses the battery, jack, and storage tray. This plastic cover breaks easily so be careful when removing it from the carpet.
Unclip the rear carpet from the upper rear rod that runs horizontally under the rear window. If the car is equipped with optional rear speakers they must be removed prior to removing the cargo carpet. Start at one end and push up the end of the carpet to release it from the rod. Lift the rear carpet from behind the seats; it usually is not secured to the car with any connectors. Slowly pull the carpet out from under the rear cargo compartment trim, toward the passenger door, and out of the car.
In 1968–1977 Corvettes, the rear cargo compartment is partitioned into five separate pieces that must be removed individually.
Remove the passenger- and driver-side one-piece carpets out of the car.
Slip the sun visors off their rods. (This car was equipped with the optional passenger vanity mirror, which must be detached before removing the visor.) To release the mirror, place a reveal tool between the top of the visor and underneath the base of the plastic mirror. Use the tool to release the two tabs that secure the mirror and then remove it.
Remove the glove box, then disconnect the vanity mirror. The power source plug is not on the mirror. A single wire is connected to the mirror and snakes behind the windshield molding and ends underneath the dash. It has to be unplugged at this location; be careful not to damage it.
Remove the Phillips screws that secure the windshield trim pieces. At the upper rear part of the passenger compartment, remove the screws that secure the left and right roof trim pieces; when they are free, thread the seat belts through the openings.
Snap off the center light cover and remove the two bolts that secure the light assembly to the roof. The wire is usually soldered and cannot be unplugged. Work the light through the trim opening and resecure it to the roof T-bar with the two bolts.
Remove the headlight panel cover under the steering column. To do this, unplug the attached vacuum lines. The 1968–1972 Corvettes have two lines (one for the headlight door and the second for the headlights) on this panel. Cars built from 1973 to 1982 have only one headlight line.
The steering column is held in place with four bolts. Two 9/16-inch nuts are directly under the speedo/tach instrument panel. The other two 1/2-inch nuts are located on the firewall above the brake pedal. These two are difficult to remove, but a ratchet with a long extension is the best way to reach them.
Be careful when unplugging the steering column wires and be aware that various columns have minor wiring connector differences depending on the car’s optional equipment. This includes cruise control, tilt wheel, telescopic steering column, etc. However, the basic design of the column is the same.
This is a good time to tag and number each connector to help future reassembly. The 1968–1977 instruments are stamped with the correct color-coding that is visible on the metal on the back of each cluster.
Remove the steering column.
Remove the bracket on the firewall located inside the engine compartment.
Reinstall the two 1/2-inch nuts onto the bracket, and properly store this bracket until it is time to reassemble the interior.
When the steering column is out of the way, reach up behind the speedometer and push down on the retaining clip to release it. Take out all of the Phillips screws and remove the instruments from the dash.
On all 1968–1977 dash panels, remove both passenger and driver-side instrument panels as separate units. It is best to remove the passenger-side panel first, the center panel next, and the driverside panel last.
On all 1978–1982 panels, unscrew and remove the center console after unplugging the wiring harness.
Remove the two screws securing the glove box shell.
Leave the remaining dash panel in place until the windshield is removed.
Trim and Glass Removal
If the body needs complete restoration, and that includes repainting and body repair, it is necessary to remove all of the trim and body glass. This allows a thorough preparation and restoration of all painted surfaces on the body.
If the glass is reusable, it should be stored in an upright wooden rack that is lined with a soft felt material to avoid breakage. The rack should be stored in an out-of-the-way locationto prevent the glass from being damaged or broken.
All C3 windshields are held in place with a pliable rubber bond and chrome or black-painted reveal trim pieces. Both windshield wiper arms and blades must be removed or taped out of the way before beginning this procedure.
The windshield door seal is the first part to be removed. Starting at the bottom of the windshield frame check to see if the rubber is held in place with a Phillips screw. If so remove the screw.
Gently pry the rubber seal away from the windshield post starting at the bottom and working up to the top. When you reach the metal clip near the top, work the rubber from underneath the metal clip. The metal clip holds the door glass in place when the window is rolled up. If the rubber is reusable, try not to tear it. These seals are expensive. A dull plastic scraper can help release the rubber.
Once the rubber is clear of the clip, continue working it out of the top windshield frame.
Remove the Phillips screw located at the top of the windshield frame that secures the rubber gasket. Once the screw is released, the gasket can be removed. Store the gasket in a safe place, so it can be reinstalled. If it is torn or damaged this is a good time to replace it with a new gasket.
The windshield pillar post trim frame is held in place with four Phillips screws. Each has to be removed in order to pull the trim off the car. Once the screws have been removed, carefully pull the side trim piece away from the windshield. Store the trim and screws for reinstallation.
A series of clips attached to the windshield frame hold the top windshield reveal trim panel in place. Slide a reveal tool under the trim to release it from the clips. The roof panel or convertible top must be removed to perform this task. Take extra care during this process, as it is easy to break the windshield. Pop rivets secure the clips to the windshield frame. Replace them if they are rusty. If they are not rusty it is safe to reuse them for reinstallation.
Removing this glass can be very tricky. Try a professional windshield removal/replacement company. They perform this task daily, and use special tools to do it easily and safely.
After the trim is removed, a special cutting tool is used to separate the glass from the adhesive that holds it in place. Next they spray water around the lower part of the windshield. Then they use a motorized paddle to loosen the adhesive from the windshield. Once completed, two large suction cups are used to remove the glass from the car.
Side Window Glass
After the door panel is removed, lower the window to the full open position. Remove the plastic liner by peeling it along the edge of the adhesive bead.
Remove one weather strip screw and pry back the rubber in front of the window seal.
Remove the two screws that hold the window seal to the door. Remove the seal from the door.
Next remove the one hex bolt that secures the anti-rattle cushion.
Position the window to line up the two sash screws that hold the window in place. Remove the two sash bolts by holding the nuts with a wrench inside the door. Carefully pull up the window making certain to clear the roller assemblies by using the openings in the inner door panel to hold the glass.
Adjust the front and rear channels to their extreme outboard positions to allow clearance for the window.
Pull the window up and forward to remove it from the door.
Corvettes built from 1968 to 1972 are equipped with a flat, removable rear glass panel. These are easily removed. The 1973 1977 models are equipped with a flat, non-removable rear glass held in place with a urethane adhesive. The large one-piece rear window found in 1978–1982 Corvettes is also held in place with urethane adhesive. The only exception is the pop-up rear hatch found on the 1982 Anniversary Edition.
I used a professional glass company to remove the rear window. They followed the same removal procedure that they used to remove the windshield.
If you remove the window yourself, first take off the reveal molding. If you do not have a professional adhesive-cutting tool, use a piece of piano wire tied to two medium screwdrivers. Tie one end of the wire to one screwdriver. Push the other end of the wire through the lower end of the window adhesive. Secure this end to a second screwdriver. A helper can grab one end of the wire inside while you use a sawing motion to cut the adhesive around the window.
Attach two suction cups to the window and have your assistant help you carefully separate the window from the body. Be sure to properly store the window in a safe area.
At this point in the disassembly you should have a detailed list for each of the following areas:
- Replacement parts to be ordered
- Reusable parts that have been taken off and can be refurbished
- Reusable parts that have been taken off and do not require any action
- Photos taken during the disassembly process to be used for reassembly
Written by Walt Thurn and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks