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Just got my dream car, where do I start?

ladams

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Messages
105
Location
Brampton, Ontario
Corvette
1981 White
Hi everyone,
I just got my dream car ('81 Corvette) after bugging my wife for ten years. Now, where do I begin to learn about restoring it? I have only ever done basic repairs on my own vehicles (brakes, alternators, etc.). I know only the very basics about the internal workings of an automobile engine, so could anyone tell me where would be a good place to start?
The areas I need to focus on first are engine, emmissions systems and heating systems (specifically vacuum routing).
I basically just want to get the car to look and behave as it was designed. I don't want a high performance show car.
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks,
ladams
 

ratflinger

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 4, 2005
Messages
74
Location
South Central Texas
Corvette
1979 Black Coupe, 396 SBC
You need the AIM (assembly manual) for your model year. A general auto manual like Chilton's. The service manual is very good to have. Sometimes you can find the original electrical diagrams also. Ebay is a good place to look for these. The 2 Motorworks books 'Corvette 1968-1982 Restoration Guide' & 'How to Restore and Modify your Corvette 1968-1982'. These last 2 are still in print, the Resto book is ISBN 0-7603-0657-5 & the How To is 0-7603-0052-6.

I really consider all these books as 'must haves' & I am sure there are others, but so far these books have answered a lot of my questions during the rebuild of my '79.

Welcome to The Machine. :upthumbs
 

fine69

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2004
Messages
975
Location
Maryland / D.C.
Corvette
'69 Convertible Vette; '72 Z28 Camaro Rally Sport
Hi everyone,
I just got my dream car ('81 Corvette) after bugging my wife for ten years. Now, where do I begin to learn about restoring it? I have only ever done basic repairs on my own vehicles (brakes, alternators, etc.). I know only the very basics about the internal workings of an automobile engine, so could anyone tell me where would be a good place to start?
The areas I need to focus on first are engine, emmissions systems and heating systems (specifically vacuum routing).
I basically just want to get the car to look and behave as it was designed. I don't want a high performance show car.
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks,
ladams

First, Welcome to CAC.

I'm sure you'll be able to get most if not all of your questions answered here.

Get yourself a shop manual and assembly manual. For a refresher (or general info) on the mechincals of automobiles, you can also check out the following: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/

Ralph
 

ladams

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Messages
105
Location
Brampton, Ontario
Corvette
1981 White
Thanks very much. I actually just finished ordering the shop manual, assembly manual and restoration guide just by coincidence!

ladams
 

fine69

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2004
Messages
975
Location
Maryland / D.C.
Corvette
'69 Convertible Vette; '72 Z28 Camaro Rally Sport
Thanks very much. I actually just finished ordering the shop manual, assembly manual and restoration guide just by coincidence!

ladams

Do yourself a favor... I know it's difficult, but pace yourself. BE SURE TO DRIVE YOUR CAR for a while before jumping into all the upgrades, restoration.

Give yourself a year, enjoy your car - and get to know her.

Just my two cents... :soapbox
 

fine69

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2004
Messages
975
Location
Maryland / D.C.
Corvette
'69 Convertible Vette; '72 Z28 Camaro Rally Sport
It'll be hard to to but I know you are right.

I'm speaking from experience. I once lost a whole spring and summer... not good.
 

Wayne robson

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 24, 2007
Messages
169
Location
australia
Corvette
sold my last corvette.
Agree

Hello Ladams, a big welcome agree with fine 69, thats probably the most immportant thing,,, before jumping into all aspects of restoration , detail, tune ups, electonics, etc etc, a mistake often done by many , and my self years ago, is try and do to much at once example, tune up,, remove plugs, plug wires,distributer, coil , and then before completing that stage pull say the carburator and then after putting all back together car will not start so you are in a worse situation then when before you started., regards wayne ,
 

minifridge1138

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 2, 2007
Messages
908
Location
USA
Corvette
1982 Black Fastback
I have to agree with everything that has been said.
Here are 7 tips I have found since I bought my dream car.
1) Get the right manuals.
2) Drive the care before you tear it apart
3) If you want to start working, start small. (oil change, filters (air, oil, fuel), spark plugs.
4) Try to only change 1 thing at a time. If you work on 5 different areas, and performance decreases, then you're not sure what caused it.
5) Wait a while. The car is 26 years old. It is only a matter of time before something happens (the timing chain in my 1982 slipped 2 weeks after i bought it) and then you will have a nice long project.
6) the big rule (and one I still have trouble with): If it isn't broken, then don't fix it. It is easy to cause more problems than you fix. For example, if the car idles smooth and performs well, then there is no reason to adjust the carburetor.
7) the biggest rule: HAVE FUN!!

Good luck, and feel free to ask questions!!!
 

corvette66

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 3, 2003
Messages
519
Location
Mattawan MI
Corvette
1969 427
Welcome

These guys have given you some really good tips, but What is the current condition of your vehicle? Is it even road worthy? There is no reason to drive a sluggish car and get yourself stuck on the side of the interstate. If it's worth driving, its worth driving right.
Nothing wrong with changing oil and plugs, wires, right off the bat. Just fix what needs fix'd. Slow and steady wins the race.

good luck
 
T

TMPJoe

Guest
I agree drive it first.. get to know the car.

While you are doing that.. don't do restoration "in season".. enjoy the car shows.. cruise ins etc...

while doing that take some time to make a plan... what do i want out of this car>>?

1) A collector? Numbers matching everything pristine showroom looking?
2) A fun daily driver?
3) high performance?
4) all out hot rodding?

and all the in between stuff.... once you have a plan.. then you can start toward reaching that goal you set

you will find the car does not frustrate you when you have a clear goal in mind and a logical, affordable (that is why you budget the plan) way to get there...

then its fun....

otherwise you stand there at some point going what a money pit and nothing is working....!

:W
 

Vette79

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 23, 2007
Messages
1,392
Location
Millersville, MD
Corvette
1979 L-48 Black Coupe
otherwise you stand there at some point going what a money pit and nothing is working....!

I have said this a few times even with a plan...ROTFL. But seriously, definately have a plan first and when you do be patient. Patience is one thing my Vette has taught me.
 

L48

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 16, 2005
Messages
247
Location
Wadsworth OH
I have had mine for over two years, and put in over $2000 in parts so far. My focus points have been to get the car in good mechanical condition and bring it back to stock. I definitely agree that you want to plan ahead and take on one project at a time, taking time to drive/enjoy it in between. My latest round of improvements started with a leaky caliper and ended up replacing a caliper, rebuilding one, all new brake hoses, new shocks, rear spring, rear bushings, leaf spring, new radiator hoses and thermostat, etc. Once I got it online again the master cylinder, starter and heater core all went out in a week or two adding more small projects.

I had planned to do most of this stuff anyway but doing the work in May-July cost me precious driving time. For larger endeavors, a winter project in a heated garage is probably the best way to go.

You can read all about my projects in the link in my signature.
 

red70vette

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 22, 2003
Messages
328
Location
Cortlandt Manor,NY
Corvette
1970 red cpe 350/300
The previous posters have the right idea "Drive It" then see what it needs to be safe and work on those first. I see you live in Ontario, that means you will have plenty of time to work on it over the winter. The more you drive it the more you will be motivated to finish repairs for the spring and summer driving season. If you never drive it you will not know what you are misssing and can lose interest in the restoration.
 

ladams

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Messages
105
Location
Brampton, Ontario
Corvette
1981 White
Thanks for advice

You guys obviously speak from experience. I will certainly follow the advice. Right now the car is a good driver. It runs well but it seems as though all of the emissions stuff is unhooked, the heater flaps are not working, the horns don't work, the alt/batt. light stays on but dims when revving and the radio is on the fritz. But in the mean time, I am enjoying it alot.
 
T

TMPJoe

Guest
well if you have low voltage issues you may find all sorts of little electrical things going on. First thing you can do is start slow on the electrical. I would check the tension on the alternator belt. If you have a haynes manual it will help you at last get started with some simple things. When tensioned properly it should only depress about 1/2inch. No squealing either! ha ha

Anyway make sure the battery terminals are corrision free and clean. Then measure the voltage output with the car running. 13.7 to 14.5 is acceptable. (For vettes the 14 up I hope you have as we tend to let them sit a lot on bad weather days!)

Once that checks out... if the battery looks old.. I would just replace it and then start working your way to the horns....

the radio may be power issues but lots of times the person who had it before you had an aftermarket in it and when they stuffed the original back in to sell it they either did not hook up the atenna lead or they did not wire it very well....

let us know how you are doing... this forum has a lot of talent in it.. most of us have been there done that after 30 years with the car....
 

ladams

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Messages
105
Location
Brampton, Ontario
Corvette
1981 White
Thanks, I checked the tension first thing and tightened it a bit. I tried unplugging the lead going into the alt. and the light went out. I assume that means a bad alt.? If not, where exactly do I take a voltage output, at the battery?
The radio was not working when I got it, then I replaced the speakers and after putting it back in the console it worked. I started the car a couple of days later and nothing. I'm pretty sure it's is just a bad connection.
 
T

TMPJoe

Guest
Thanks, I checked the tension first thing and tightened it a bit. I tried unplugging the lead going into the alt. and the light went out. I assume that means a bad alt.? If not, where exactly do I take a voltage output, at the battery?
The radio was not working when I got it, then I replaced the speakers and after putting it back in the console it worked. I started the car a couple of days later and nothing. I'm pretty sure it's is just a bad connection.

Across the terminals with a decent voltmeter combo... sears sells decent ones so does Harbor Freight if you have one of those around... otherwise Pepboys, the Zone... etc.

there will be directions with it how to set the readings... I suggest you buy a good multi purpose tester... having a 26 year old car is cool but having electrical test equipment is a MUST if you ask me! Little glitches ....

you don't want to know what we went through last night with my sons car ha!:bash

here is a link to sears .. any of these are good... also the little $10 tester is good to have

http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/search.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&keyword=mutli+purpose+tester
 

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