1991 ZR1 Corvette Restoration

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Now that I am moving on to achieve a better work-life balance I am returning to a project I have been wanting to work on for years. First I am going to be setting up our garage with good lighting and electrical power, then I am going to start gutting the interior out of my ZR-1 as the first step in a total restoration - restomod actually.   Because of the demands of the business my ZR-1 has been parked since 2004, after some masshole backed into it with a duallie in a parking lot.  It has since become a rodent habitat - they got in through the lower shifter boot. It's a damned shame because when I parked it, the car still smelled new. :-(

My plans for the interior include gutting gutting it down to the firewall and floorboards, removing all the AC ductwork and bathing them in enzyme cleaner in an ultrasonic cleaner. The flooboards, dashboard, and firewall will all be washed with the enzyme cleaner, then hit with a Chlorine Dioxide bomb, then wash it again with isopropyl in preparation for an interior-wide application of sound deadener. The sound deadener will lower in-car sound levels on the highway by 15dB to 20dB, which should result in a quieter ride than my SAAB offers. I am then removing the Delco-BOSE wiring, patching the wiring harness where the company which installed my original alarm botched the install, then assembling a proper wire harness for a new, better alarm system.   While the interior is out I will be building speaker enclosures into the car and laying new cable for a 1,050 watt RMS stereo system, in preparation for installing in-dash GPS navigation and better speakers than the crappy BOSE. In addition, I'll be pulling all the windshield moulding off and installing power leads for a dashcam and possibly a Valentine One.  I've already sourced most of the parts - the only interior parts I cannot find are the ZR1-specific radio bezel (which I don't necessarily need) and the lower shifter boot - which as I mentioned how the mice got into the car. All interior mating surfaces will be lined with felt and cables running through channels will be lined with felt, eliminating typical C4 interior rattle sources. The rearview mirror will be upgraded to an auto-dimming mirror with an integrated compass. The car will be getting all new carpet and leather, which will hopefully result in the new car smell once again.

The body is going to be done by a shop I've already selected in Hanover, PA. The rear quarter will be repaired, or replaced if I can source a new one.  The whole body will be fully restored, including a new windshield. Sourcing some ZR1-specific exterior parts is a bit of a problem - with only 6,339 ZR-1s built over a period of six years, there isn't a whole lot of demand for reproduction parts. The car needs a new windshield, and the ZR-1 came with a metallic-laminated IR-rejecting windshield. I'll have to get the base-model windshield instead.   I also need an antenna - it is available for earlier years, and later years but for 1991-1992 models, the antenna is unavailable. Mine needs to be replaced because the motor is iffy. I might try to gut and rebuild it but the antennae are not designed to be serviceable.  The pop-up headlamps will be replaced in favor of fixed-position HID projector lamps, and a decent air dam will be installed, along with new weatherstripping and carpet.

Drivetrain - I'm still trying to figure out who to have do the drivetrain. Since The Vette Doctors reportedly farm out LT5 work now and the builds reputedly aren't as good any more, I'm still figuring out who should do the drivetrain. My friend John Potocki says I should build the LT5 myself, but it's a high-dollar quad-cam engine and cam timing is rather critical so I'd rather not assemble the long block myself. I've taken the engine apart down to the long block and had it back together in under three hours before (to replace the starter, service the injectors, etc.) but given the margin for error, I'd just as soon pay someone experienced in LT5 builds. I also plan a camshaft upgrade and having the top end extrude-honed because the current 435hp the mild tune makes just isn't nearly enough.

I've been asked why don't I just buy a low-mile example for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of restoring mine?  Simple: if I were to buy another one it would end up costing just as much. I'd have to gut the interior for the sound deadener and sound/infotainment system, so six of one, half dozen the other.   The sounds system I plan will have all the modern amenities: GPS navigation, bluetooth integration (including speakerphone), pandora control, DVD, etc.

Oh - I am eliminating the LTPWS (low tire pressure warning system). Two of the sensors were destroyed by tire shops DESPITE my warning them about the sensors, and of course they denied responsibility. Soo, I'm going to either totally eliminate it, or at least eliminate the indicator light (pre-OBD2, so it doesn't throw an error code).

No pics yet - when the garage is ready and I bring my car home (probably March or April, when the garage is ready), I'll post photos of the basket case (which is really what has become).

A word of advice: always maintain a reasonable work-life balance. I failed at that and put business above everything else. The tree limb falling onto the windshield and making the car worse was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I'm moving on so I can get back to my hobbies once again. :-)