Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Spirit of '76

As a teenager living in Milford, Utah back in 1976, I did not have the financial resources to own a Corvette. Even a beater. But for reasons unknown, I walked in the local Western Auto parts store one morning, and saw a new U.S.A. Bicentennial plate for sale.

Back in '76 there were tons of U.S. Bicentennial-related products available, but the commemorative tag was affordable and looked very cool in the eyes of a then, 16-year-old gearhead.

I can only imagine my plan was to use it for the car I was planning to purchase some day in the future, and it did grace the front bumper of my '71 Firebird Formula for a while. And after I sold that car, it sat on a shelf in my bedroom for many years.

But, unfortunately, after four decades and the many moves during that time, my U.S. Bicentennial plate was relegated to storage boxes and, eventually, lost.

A few days ago, by a fluke, I happened to come across one just like the one I used to own back in the day, or at least very similar, and I thought it would be great to have a period-correct accessory for my '76 Stingray. And for only twenty bucks, it was an easy decision.

Thank you for reading my '76 Corvette blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Adjusting the T-Top Panels

The gap between my T-tops was bugging the hell out of me. It was totally uneven being way wider at the front of the tops than at the rear.

I had to do something about it, and since I'd just replaced the weather rubber seals, what better opportunity to attempt this adjustment. I say "attempt" since it is not as easy as it seems.

The first thing was to determine the issues, which in my case was—as previously mentioned—an uneven gap between the tops as well as a height difference between them.

The photo below shows the huge gap, especially at the front of the T-tops, while the second pic shows the obvious height difference between them using the fluorescent light reflection as a guide (blue arrow).

The left panel is clearly higher than the one on the right.

I started by removing the headliner panel and then removed the two T-bar bayonet-style pins, which are held by three bolts each. Once the bolts are loosened, they can be repositioned a bit. Not a whole lot, but enough to get the tops to fit properly. Also, the pins are usually shimmed in order to adjust the height of the tops relative to each other.

In addition to the T-bar bayonet pins, there are locating pins in the front corners. One on each side (right photo), which do not appear to be adjustable.

These "bullet" pins are secured by two 12-point star bolts which made me decide to wait and leave them alone for now, while I research the subject a bit more.

In the meantime, I removed the bayonet pins from the passenger's side panel first in order to clean everything, and also see how many shims they had under each tab.

The front one had no shims while the rear pin had three. This explained why the passenger's side T-top panel sat higher than the driver's side panel.

I removed the shims, cleaned the pins and reinstalled them, leaving the bolts loose in order to be able to adjust them. And by the way, the only way to do the adjustments properly, is with the tops on so you can tighten the bolts while sitting in the car.

Even after removing the shims, the passenger's side panel was higher than the driver's, so my only option was to shim the T-bar bayonet pins on the driver's side panel.

It took quite a bit of adding & removing shims but, finally, I was able to get the tops as close to perfect as possible. The only remaining issue is with the gap between the panels, which still is just too wide for my taste. But at least it is even now.

At some point I may have to seek professional help in order to get a perfect fit, but for the time being my adjustments are close enough.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Corvette by any Other Name...

A while back at a local cruise, I noticed a young boy and his dad admiring my Vette. Actually, the kid was the one doing the admiring (he was 8 or 10-years-old). His dad was busy looking at his smart phone.

Anyway, since the kid obviously liked my car, I asked him if he'd like to sit in the driver's seat so his dad could take a pic of him at the controls, to which he eagerly agreed.

By the way, whenever I get the chance to make a young kid's day by letting him or her sit in my Corvette at a car show or cruise, I am happy to oblige as long as the parents are cool with it, and most people are.

So I open the door and tell the kid to get in, and next thing you know the dad is half way in my car reaching under the seat trying to find the lever to adjust the seat.

Since the dude did not bother to ask me if it was okay for him to reconfigure my seat settings, I almost told him I was okay with the kid having his picture taken in the car, but that he was not allowed to drive it away. However, I bit my tongue since I did not want to embarrass him in front of his son, and (luckily) he stopped after he figured how to slide my seat forward. He then snapped a pic.

And I totally get it; the kid looked happy sitting in the car holding the steering wheel. But at least his dad could've asked.

The boy, who was grinning from ear to ear as he exited the vehicle, asked me what kind of car it was. But before I could answer "Corvette," his dad blurts out, "It's a Stingray." No kidding, Sherlock. The fender badges give that one away.

By now I'd had it and I just could not help it, so I added—doing my best Vincent Vega impression—"Well, except in Paris."

The dad looked at me not really knowing what the hell I was talking about, so I continued with my Vincent Vega routine:

"As you know," I said, "since they have the metric system over there, they can't just call it a Stingray. So they call it the Stingray Royale."

I was joking, of course, and frankly I thought he would get it and maybe even be amused, but instead,  "Mr. Self-Appointed Corvette Expert"—who obviously had never seen Pulp Fiction or really knew the first thing about Corvettes—not wanting to look stupid in front of his kid, I assume, just nodded and said "Oh yeah," as they walked away to go look at another car.

And that was that.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Replacing T-Top Panel Weatherstripping

Time, weather conditions, dirt and gravity will render any weatherstripping ineffective after a couple of decades, and the rubber seals on my '76's T-tops had hardened and become totally useless as far as keeping water out of the cabin.

And even though I do not drive my car when it's raining, you never know if you'll be caught in a downpour in Florida, so I want the seals to work properly.

Removing old weatherstripping is not difficult; as long as someone hasn't gone crazy with weatherstrip adhesive. Luckily, my T-tops only had some under the window top metal trim channel.

And since there's no use for old weather seals, I did not care if the stuff came off in pieces.

Before I tore off the old seals, I made sure that the replacement weatherstripping would fit right and that it had the right number of push pins (nineteen of them).

Also worth noting is that they are side-specific, so there's a left side and a right side.

After making sure the new seals were the right ones for my car, I ripped off the old stuff. The only way to remove the old push pins is with pliers, which is not that difficult. Just make sure you get all of them out. You don't want little plastic pieces rattling inside your T-tops.

The trim plate by the window is secured by four screws. Mine looked pretty ratty, so I bought new ones at the local ACE Hardware. For only 80 cents it would've been foolish not to.

Under the trim plate you will find four "floating" nuts, so you will want to make sure they are aligned properly when you screw in the trim plate.

Again, the only weatherstrip adhesive I found was in the trim plate channel. It wasn't a whole lot, but I still had to scrape seal remnants with a sharp wood chisel. I then sanded the trim plate and painted it with a couple coats of SEM Landau Black for a fresh look.

The push pins must be removed, lest you end up with rattles from your T-tops. Pliers make quick work of that process.

I then wiped all contact areas with a rag soaked in alcohol.

After all push pins had been removed and the area was clean, I test fitted the new seal to ensure everything lined up properly.

Once a proper fit was confirmed, I installed the seal on the trim plate. I did not use any adhesive for this since the channels keep the weatherstrip in place. Just make sure the screw slits in the rubber seal are aligned with the trim plate holes.

I also purchased a roll of self-adhesive, thin, medium-density foam at ACE Hardware which I attached to the contact face of the trim plate

I then screwed the trim plate in place.

The rest of the weatherstrip is secured by the nineteen push pins. Make sure they are all the way in so the seal will be tight.

The new rubber seal should be soft and supple, so you can stretch it as necessary (within reason) so all push pins align with the holes.

I added a screw to the front hole of the panel even though the original seal did not have one. This section of the weatherstripping was the only area where I applied a coat of adhesive in order to secure it in place.

Installing T-top weatherstripping is a do-it-yourself project that can be accomplished in a couple of hours per side, provided there are not gobs of adhesive and glued seals to remove.

You will need a phillips screwdriver and a thin scraping tool. The wood chisel I used on the trim plate worked great for this. You will also need a good pair of pliers in order to remove the old push pins. And if you want to repaint the trim plate, you will also need a can of satin black paint. I like SEM Landau Black.

Also, keep in mind that when I had my T-tops repainted recently, I had the body shop remove the chrome trim pieces, so yours will look a little different than mine. Otherwise, that should have no effect on the old weatherstrip removal and new seal installation process.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Front Bumper Alignment and Bodywork | DONE!

It took three weeks to get the front bumper cover aligned with the nose and fenders, plus getting the whole front end and hood repainted so everything matched properly.

While my Corvette was having the bodywork done, I took the opportunity to have the nose emblem and the alarm switch shaved, and I am very pleased with the results.

The only issue I still have to deal with is hood alignment, but since I am planning to have the motor rebuilt (which would require hood removal anyway), I will see if the shop can manage to get it to align—and close—properly.

Here are the before & after photos.



Thanks for following my Corvette restoration project.