by Chris Petris
(Taken from How to Restore Your Corvette: 1963-1967 by Chris Petris)
As I mentioned earlier, it is best to order the GM service and assembly manual before you remove the first bolt or nut. You also need to think about finding a GM parts manual, preferably an early edition 1953–1982 version. As General Motors revised its parts manual, early parts tended to disappear along with the illustrations. Finding a 1953–1970s GM parts manual yields the best part number and photographic details for a Midyear project. This allows you to figure out what the original GM part numbers were and the illustrations are sometimes good enough to help with assembly. Companies, such as Corvette Central, have a part number conversion service that cross references the GM part to its number, which is helpful when you are having a hard time finding an obscure, small part.
When shopping for parts, find a supplier that understands Corvettes. Corvette Central, for example, has a great catalog with exploded views. Many times, cheap parts may save you a few bucks initially but are likely to fail quickly. If you are lucky enough to get the project completed before the discount parts fail, they may leave you stranded by the side of the road in the future.
Restoring Corvettes has become a cottage industry because of all the components that require specialized attention. Corvette suppliers, such as Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation and Vette Brakes and Products, sell specialized products. These same products are available through Corvette Central, Mid America, and Zip Products, making these large Corvette parts retailers a true one-stop shopping experience. You can spend plenty of extra time hunting the parts from individual suppliers. Either way, keep a journal to document where and when to expect the parts.
OEM Versus Reproduction Parts
Many reproduction parts are available for Midyear Corvettes. Many of the components are good quality, but some are not. Many NCRS and Bloomington Gold restorers avoid reproduction parts if at all possible. Using original parts costs more because of limited availability, but the resale value is often greater. Use a reputable and established Corvette parts vendor.
Corvette Central not only sells parts, but researches and checks as many as possible. Zip Products, Mid-America, and Eckler’s are household names in the Corvette parts industry. Corvette Central, Crane Corvette Supply, Paragon, and Zip Products have a limited supply of NOS, original, and good used pieces for the NCRS or Bloomington Gold restorer. Also, Long Island Corvette Supply has been around almost 30 years and has dedicated an entire parts line to the Midyear Corvette.
Ebay, Craigslist, and swap meets are other sources for the pieces you need. Be wary, though because purchasing Corvette parts via the Internet can be risky. What “excellent,” “good,” and “poor” quality means to one person may not be the same to another. Ask for plenty of photos, especially of casting and part numbers because if you buy it from a private party often you cannot return it.
You can source parts from some Corvette events. Corvettes at Carlisle is a three-day event that starts on Friday for attendees. You can find anything Corvette related that your heart desires. Bloomington Gold is another must-attend event. Swap meet vendors are plentiful with all the major Corvette suppliers in one place. Many of the suppliers offer special deals for event attendees, including free shipping. Depending on the scope of your project, free shipping could add up to big savings. Local events may also have swap meet vendors who could have that difficult-to-find part.
Building an NCRS-judged car requires finding original parts from whatever source you can find. When you find a highly sought after part, you need to act quickly. In the time it takes to research whether the deal is good or not, someone else has scooped it up. Waiting until the last day of an event to purchase a tough-to-find part is not smart.
Do your homework and know what numbers to look for and the typical selling price before you leave home. Make a cheat sheet that you can refer to while you are on the hunt. This can be an enjoyable part of the project if you are well prepared. Happy hunting!
The table is loaded with my chassis assembly parts from Corvette Central. Organization is the key to a safe working environment for you and the project. If I have all the parts laid out that I need for a particular phase of the assembly it makes the task easier. Plus there is less chance of leaving something out of an assembly.