Restore An Old Corvette

Every old car has a story to tell, and this 1966 Corvette Stingray is no exception.

Restore an old Corvette

The Back Story

In the early eighties, the previous owner began a complete frame-up restoration of this car. The body was taken off the frame, and the motor and transmission were removed. He also removed the front and rear suspension and brakes, painted the frame, then re-installed the suspension and brakes with all new parts.

While he was doing all this work to the chassis, the engine and transmission were being professionally rebuilt. Once done, they were then re-installed on the frame.

After the body was back on the frame, the bodywork was done and put in primer. Sadly, the owner passed away before finishing the restoration. The car was kept in storage by his family for 26 years before they decided to sell it.

1966 Corvette Sting Ray restoration

The Purchase

Once the family decided to sell it, they offered it to me, since I had helped them with other family vehicles. They also knew me as a Corvette guy. At the time I owned and had restored a 1982 Corvette.

1966 Corvette Sting Ray restoration

Corvette Documentation

More so than most other cars, correct documentation will increase the value of a classic Corvette. There's several places to look for vehicle ID on old Corvettes. The body and trim plate will be on the left-side door pillar, and there's a VIN plate behind the glove box door.

1966 Corvette Stingray Production Figures:

  • Coupes: 9,958
  • Roadsters: 17,762
  • Total Production: 27,720
  • All 1966 Corvettes were built in St. Louis, Missouri

Most classic Corvettes came with factory build sheets found on top of the gas tank. The VIN plate on this Corvette showed that it was built in November 1965, making it an early, low serial number 1966 model. Chevrolet did not start equipping Corvettes with factory build sheets until late 1966 production.

There are several Corvette sites that will help you decipher the VIN code. One of the easiest to navigate through is VetteFacts.com

1966 Corvette Stingray Roadster

The original exterior color of this Corvette was Ermine White. The fiberglass body panels were straight and had not been modified. Inside, the roadster had standard black vinyl seats. The door panels and seats were in good condition, the dash had not been hacked, and all the original factory gauges were still there.

Restore an old Corvette

This 1966 Corvette Stingray roadster is very original and has seen little use in fifty years. Last registered in 1983, the odometer shows just 44,553 miles.

As far as factory options, this Corvette had just four; automatic transmission, power steering, AM/FM radio, and an auxiliary hardtop. The removable hardtop was in place when I bought the car. Rolling stands like the one pictured are offered by many aftermarket suppliers.

1966 Corvette hardtop on rolling stand

1966 Corvette Restoration

As soon as we winched the Corvette out from the garage where it sat for 26 years, the front caliper seals began leaking brake fluid all over the tires and brake rotors.

1966 Corvette caliper leaking

Although rebuilding a vintage Chevy small-block was far more rewarding than rebuilding calipers, it's the brake system where this restoration began. Every brake component on the car was rebuilt or replaced.

Corvette Brake System Rebuild


Rebuild Corvette Calipers

Rebuild Corvette Calipers-Reassembly

Lip Seal vs O-Ring Calipers

Removing Riveted Brake Rotors

One of the safety upgrades will be replacing the original single-reservoir master cylinder with a dual master cylinder. This has become a popular choice with owners of 1963-66 Corvettes who wish to upgrade to the safer, 1967-style dual reservoir master cylinder.

327 Chevy Small Block

This Corvette still had it's original L75 motor, a 327ci small-block rated at 300 horsepower. With the exception of the aluminum valve covers, it is all original. The numbers on the VIN plate match the engine block, cylinder heads, intake and exhaust manifolds, and carburetor. They all have the correct date-code castings.

Read: 327 Corvette Engine Build

1966 Corvette Restoration

Corvette Engine Before and After Rebuild
spray painting engine

read 327 Bottom End Build

Install Camshaft in 327 Chevy

327 Chevy Cylinder Head Rebuild

327 Chevy Valve-Train Assembly

Corvette Steering System Rebuild

Power steering was an option on Corvettes from 1963 to 1976, and became standard equipment in 1977. Although the pumps and gearboxes changed several times, the power steering control valve and cylinder remained pretty much the same. Rebuild kits for the P/S cylinder are the same for all C2 and C3 Corvettes (1963-1982).

corvette ps cylinder rebuild

read Corvette Steering Cylinder Rebuild

After rebuilding the control valve and steering cylinder, I replaced the four power steering hoses. Procedures for 1963-1982 Corvettes are virtually the same.

read Corvette P/S Hose Replacement

If you plan to restore an old Corvette, a little homework can save you a lot of frustration. A large part of any old car restoration is research. Factory manuals like these are invaluable.

1966 Corvette assembly manual

Selling A Classic Corvette

After five years of restoring the Corvette in my spare time, I met a classic car collector from a nearby city. My '66 was the exact year and model he was looking for, and he offered me a good deal of cash for the car, as is.

Although the 1966 Corvette restoration was not finished, I did have engine in running condition, and the entire brake system and steering system completely rebuilt. I made a nice profit from my work, it allowed me to get caught up on household bills, and buy some shop tools and equipment I was lacking. Now on to the next project !!

restore an old Corvette

Classic cars can be a great investment, but before you spend your money, read Investing In Classic Cars

Corvette engine parts

Find Classic Corvette Parts at Ecklers Corvette