No matter how nice the exterior of your Corvette is detailed without a complimenting interior the car just never looks finished. An interior makeover can do wonders for any year Corvette. It can make a good car look outstanding.
This 78 Corvette needed an interior makeover. The seat covers and dash looked excellent but the rest of the interior needed a lot of help. We started our interior restoration by contacting Zip Corvette Parts, 8067 Fast Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, (800) 962-9632. They were able to supply everything we needed from large items like the door panels and carpet right down to the smallest pieces like interior mounting screws.
Restoring an interior does not take a PhD. You do have to have some patience and a full set of common hand tools but the results are well worth the effort.
Let’s get out our tools and start that interior makeover.
Click on the images for expanded views – it’s much easier on the eyes.
01: These are just some of the items supplied: Carpet Set, door panels, rear compartment doors, weatherstrip kit, console plate, center console gauge face, console side panels, seat belts, sound deadener, seat backs, header trim, console armrest and sill plates, besides numerous other items used throughout this article.
02: Start the disassembly by disconnecting the battery. Remove the door panels and hardware completely.
03: Remove the door weatherstrip then use 3M’s General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner to clean off all the old glue residue.
04: Unbolt and remove both seats and the door sill plates.
05: The console side panels can be removed. This will now give you access to the gearshift surround plate, console armrest, and center gauge cluster.
06: Tag and disconnect all of the wiring to the gearshift surround plate. Remove the heater and air conditioning control panel as one piece from the plate and leave it connected in the car. If the car is an automatic, carefully remove the indicator needle from the gear lever tab. Turn the surround plate over and remove the power window switches, if so equipped. Remember to tag them for their respective sides.
07: Loosen the center gauge cluster and tilt it towards you. Reach on the backside and carefully unplug the main connector. Then unplug the light at the top of the cluster and remove it completely.
08: The seat and shoulder belts can now be removed. You will have to remove the rear part of the halo moulding to remove the shoulder belts.
09: Slide the belt retainer clip out of the rear side panel trim so that the belts can be totally removed.
10: Remove the rear storage compartment doors. Then drill out the rivets and remove the storage compartment doorframe. Also remove the glove box liner and storage box liner.
11: Disconnect and remove the T-Top retaining strap hold down loops.
12: Drill out and remove the right and left inner door diverters.
13: You should now be able to remove the entire carpet set. Keep each piece that you remove to give you an idea where and how they fit. The new carpet set does not come with instructions so these pieces can be very helpful when it comes to re-assembly. Note: Do not use the old carpet set as a pattern to locate and pre-cut holes. Use it only to show you the approximate location. Drill or cut holes after the carpet is installed.
14: After the carpet and padding are removed, thoroughly vacuum the floors. Now is also a good time to repair any holes or cracks in the floor pan that might be present.
15: First start the re-assembly by installing the sound deadener. Pre-fit each piece so that you are sure how it will lay on the floor. Spray contact cement on half of the sound deadener and the corresponding area on the floor. Cement this half down then spray the other half and cement it into place. Install all of the sound deadener in this way.
16: The carpet can now be installed. Start with the rear section first. Mount the beaded edge of the carpet onto the metal retaining strip at the rear. Do not glue the carpet to the rear bulkhead. The carpet has to be removable in case you have to get to any of the rear wiring for repairs. If you glue it into place you will not be able to remove it without damage.
17: First glue the carpet to the rear wheel wells. Use the same procedure as with the sound deadener. Do half of the area at a time. Spray the contact cement on the bottom half of the wheel well and then the corresponding carpet. Glue the bottom half into place. After this is done, proceed to the upper half. Work across to the other wheel well. Do this by gluing the flat area down next. When this is done, then glue the carpet onto the other wheel well.
18: Align and install the T-Top retaining strap footman loops. Use 2 awls or picks to find and align the holes. Then install the retaining screws.
19:You will have a lot of extra carpet that will cover the storage area opening. Cut the carpet so that it is just below the opening lip. Fit the storage compartment frame into place. You want the carpet to just be long enough to fit in behind the storage compartment frame and not be able to pull out. This will take a little time to do. We fit the frame five different times before we were happy with the fit. Remember that the framework must fit down onto the opening lip. Be very careful with the storage compartment frame and doors. If you try to force it, you could break the frame. NOTE: Before you install the storage compartment, be sure to install the lower latch for each storage compartment door. You will need to remove these from the old storage compartment framework. Also remember to install the center glove compartment liner. This cannot be installed with the framework in place. It must go in first.
20: With the storage compartment frame in place, align and install the supplied mounting screws. We use 2 awls to align the holes while installing one of the screws.
21: Install the storage compartment latch and pulls from the old doors onto the new doors. It is a good idea to polish the latches and refinish the pulls first. Now align each door and latch so that they open and close easily.
22: Glue the pre-cut carpet onto each rear compartment corner cover and then mount them into place. This will finish off the rear carpet areas.
23: Use a tap and clean the threads of all the seat and seat belt mounting holes. This helps make installation much easier.
24: Install each front section of carpet. The carpet was molded so well that we did not need to glue it into place. It fit perfectly.
25: After the carpet section is fit into place, use an awl to locate each of the seat bolt holes. Now use a soldering iron to make the hole. Push the hot iron through and then right back out of the hole. Using a solder iron in this way will melt the back of the carpet and also seal the carpet edge so that you will not get a run. Use this same procedure on the seat mounting holes.
26: Install the seat belts and connect the seat belt harness. Re-install the shoulder belt and roof halo mouldings. If you are going to replace the T-Top mounting plates, now is the time to do it.
27: Mount the front kick panels. The front carpet section should now be completely in place. NOTE: If you are installing new kick panels, as we did, you will have to remove the metal courtesy light retaining bracket from the old passenger side kick panel and install it onto the new kick panel. Use a pop rivet to mount this bracket onto the new kick panel.
28: With the carpet basically installed, we will now turn our attention to the center gauge cluster. Remove the set screw and knob for the clock. Remove the cluster retaining screws and separate the gauges from the bezel and lens. If you need to replace any of the gauges, now is the time to do it. Zip will be able to help if you need any gauges. Use a plastic cleaner to clean the lens and replace any broken or burned out bulbs.
29: Slide the retaining clips out and remove the air conditioner duct louvers. If the louvers are broken, Zip can supply you with new ones.
30: The new gauge cluster bezel does not come with a hole drilled for the clock stem. Drilling this is very easy to do. Use a 1/4″ drill and a 3/16″ drill bit. Align the drill bit in the center the decorative set screw and slowly drill the center of the set screw out. You may want to drill the hole in reverse. This will slow the drill down and not let the drill spin so fast that it melts the plastic.
31: To keep the air conditioner louvers from moving freely, use some adhesive backed foam tape. This is available at most hardware stores in 1/8″ and 1/4″ thickness. It is used to seal doors and windows. Place a piece at the bottom of the opening. This will keep the louver in place and also help to duct the air through the louver instead of under it.
32: Install the air conditioner louvers. Re-assemble the gauge cluster and then re-install the assembled bezel back into the dash. Make sure that the main harness is securely connected to the dash cluster.
33: The shift surround plate is next. Start by refinishing the shift dial plate and ashtray cover.
34: If your Corvette has power windows, you will have to cut out the power window switch openings. This is the most time consuming part of the whole project. The openings are pre-marked on the back of the plate. Use a utility knife to cut each opening. The plastic is very thick so it will take some time to do. Also make sure that you have plenty of utility knife blades. We used 8. Keep slowly cutting until you get all the way through. After the hole is opened, fit each switch and use a fine file to finish the opening.
35: If you have an automatic, install the indicator dial lense, transmission indicator lever, spring and dial plate. Then install the shift lever leather boot.
36: Re-install the ashtray cover using the new mounting bushings and pin. Also remember to re-install the ashtray cover spring.
37: If you look closely you can see the new lense that we installed over the air conditioner/heater control panel.
38: Slide the completed shift surround into place. Re-connect the power window switches, gearshift lever indicator arm, lighter element, and air conditioner/heater control panel. Now re-connect the fan switch, shift indicator light and air conditioner/heater control vacuum plug.
39: Install the shift knob, spring and button for an automatic or the rod, T-handle, spring and knob for a 4-speed.
40: If you use a new console armrest, mount it to the original steel shell. Now install it into place. When this is completed, the entire console, armrest and gauge cluster should be firmly in place.
41: Glue the carpet onto the console side covers. Align the mounting holes and install covers into place. NOTE: Before you install these side console covers, it is a good idea to re-connect the battery and check the gauges, switches, lights and heater/air conditioner operation. It is much easier to repair any problems now then after everything is re-assembled. If everything checks out, mount the side covers and disconnect the battery.
42: You will want to install new brake, clutch and accelerator pedals. They will compliment the new carpet. Here is a look at the accelerator pedal, spring and pin assembly.
43: We also installed a new windshield header moulding, rearview mirror and dome light lens. Each item made a big improvement to the overall look of the interior. Nothing looks worse than a cracked header moulding, broken mirror or yellow dome light lens.
44: The cockpit of the car should now be almost finished. We can now turn our attention to the doors. Start by replacing all of the door weatherstrips. First pre-fit the door weatherstrip. This will allow you to see how it mounts to the door. Remember to slightly stretch the weatherstrip as you install it. If you do not, it will not reach the end mounting point. Place a bead of 3M Black Weatherstrip Adhesive #8008 onto the door. Now take the door weatherstrip and clean it with 3Ms General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner #8984. Cut approximately 20 pieces of 3/4″ masking tape in 4″ lengths. Screw the weatherstrip to the front of the door at the top. Place a thin bead of weatherstrip cement about 12″ long onto the weatherstrip. Now press the weatherstrip into place. Use the masking tape to hold the weatherstrip in place. Continue slowly gluing, stretching and taping all around the door. Screw the rear door weatherstrip section onto the door and then slowly close the door. Let this set undisturbed for about 1 hour. This will allow the weatherstrip and glue to set. When the hour is up, open the door and remove the tape. Your weatherstrip should be firmly in place. After this is done, install the windshield pillar weatherstrip and rear door pillar weatherstrip.
45: Now the inside door handles can be installed. Also clean and lube the latch and lock assemblies. Make sure everything works correctly. It is easier to fix it now than after everything is assembled.
46: The new door panels are very nice but they didn’t come with the power door lock openings cut out. Carefully cut out the opening on the back of the panel. Cut the hard back panel first. Then the cardboard panel. Use the lock switch retainer as a guide.
47: Cut the door panel vinyl into an X and place the lock retainer into the opening. Bend the tabs back onto the door panel back. Now pre-fit the switch. It should firmly lock into place in the retainer.
48: Install the panel onto the door. Connect the power door lock switch and attach the armrest. Place the door handle bezel on the door panel and screw it into place. You will have to trim some of the vinyl and padding away from the handle, but this can be done with the door panel mounted. We also used 2 screws to secure the panel onto the door along the bottom.
49: Before you re-install the seats, refinish the mounting brackets and lube the tracks with white lithium grease. This will allow the seats to move much easier. Push the tracks either all the way forward or back and then place the seat into the car. Mount the 2 screws in one end. Then adjust the seat the other direction and mount the 2 remaining screws.
50: Place new adjusting bolts into the back of each seat. The rubber bumper is usually gone as it is here. Place the seat backs onto the seats. Ours were broken so Zip supplied us with new ones. They looked great and fit perfectly.
51: Now install the new sill plate mouldings. By installing these last, you will eliminate any chance of them getting damaged while you are working inside the car.
52: If you want to protect that new carpet, a set of floor mats will really help.
53: Here is the entire 78 interior restored and ready for the road. The interior makeover is complete and ready for the new owner.
1978-1982 Corvette Door Panel, Carpet & Console Restoration:
Corvette Interior Restoration
Source: Zip Corvette Parts
8067 Fast Lane | Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | (800) 962-9632
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