4 door Chevette restoration and 16V conversion
Project Undertaken 1st September 2009 & Completed 1st Feb 2010
Richard Barratt from Lincoln delivered two Chevettes to us with instructions to make one good car from both and convert it to 16v 'Red-Top' power with suitable suspension and brake upgrades. We decided on the Blue shell (the other is Green) because although the arches and sills are worse than the Green car, there are fewer areas of corrosion elsewhere, and the sills and arches would have needed doing on the Green car anyway. As you can tell from the following photos the car has been stood for a while - not often you find a birds nest complete with egg behind your headlight!!
A small section of inner-sill seam was replaced, and the reinforcing section repaired, before fitting the new skin sill. Also below you can see an area of corrosion at the bottom of the a-panel/footwell area that was repaired by butt-welding in new metal.
Now for the fun part! 4-door arch repairs are no longer available, so we had to make do with a 2-door panel and some careful fabrication. The arch repair was cut down and butt-welded to the rear section, and plug welded to the inner-arch lip. A rear door was then fitted, and the front section of the arch panel cut down to the right size to give the correct shut line. A small infill piece was then cut and tacked in place in the door shut area, before the entire joint was lead-loaded and sanded to shape. All that will be required will be a very small skim of filler to achieve the final finish.
With the metalwork complete on the shell, it was time to turn attention to the engine installation, and get all the running gear 'dummy' fitted so any alterations to the shell could be made before the prep & paint stage.
Here you can see the engine in place. The crossmember was modified to hold the engine in a suitable position using the standard Manta 1800 engine mounts. The engine has been positioned as far back as possible whilst still allowing the standard heater-box to be fitted with only minor modification. The battery tray area has been refabricated and de-seamed to allow fitment of a compact master cylinder and servo much closer to the bulkhead than standard, in order to clear the inlet manifold.
Having 'dummy' fitted all the running gear and satisfied ourselves with the fit everything was removed ready to be blasted/cleaned and refinished as appropriate. The axle casing, trailing arms, panhard rod, upper and lower wishbones, crossmember and front uprights were all stripped and grit blasted before being zinc primed and finished in 2k Gloss black for a tough, long-lasting finish.
The axle is an Opel Manta 'a' series item, which is the correct width for the Chevette and stronger than the original. The torque-tube crossmember is different on the Manta, so the bearing cradle was de-spot welded from the Manta crossmember and re-welded to the Chevette crossmember. The panhard rod mount also required relocating to the opposite side.
Next job was to sandblast the engine bay. The following photos show the bare metal straight after blasting. this was swiftly followed by a good coat of zinc primer to protect against corrosion.
The whole shell was then treated to a coat of zinc primer, and the engine bay 'resurfaced' with polyester spray filler.
Here we can see the car after being sprayed with the metallic base coats, but before clear coats. Meanwhile, the crossmember has been grit blasted and painted (note the modified mounts for the 16V engine) and the engine has been cleaned, the block painted, and the inlet manifold (and various other components, not photographed) has been bead blasted.
Next on the job list was to fit the interior Richard had supplied. This consisits of a new carpet in dark red, and Green leather seats from a Rover 400. Fitting the seats involved some modification of the floor structure, and fabrication of brackets which were welded in place before fitting the carpet. At this stage the wiring was also installed. This involved a lot of extra wiring and modification of the old loom to include extra gauges, Thatcham Cat 1 security system, provision for an audio system and of course the extra connections associated with the fuel injected engine. Below you can see the instrument binnacle which has had a rev counter added (made to look as an original equipment fitment). The fuel and temp gauges that used to occupy that space will be joined by oil pressure and volt meters in the centre console.
'GLS' spec (all together now.... "ooooh.... aaaaaah") chrome trims have been fitted around the windows, and 'Chevette GT' badging. The audio system is also going in, with Alpine speakers in a custom rear 'armrest' installation as well as in the front kick-panels.
Getting close to completion now, the majority of the running gear installed, all brake, fuel and water plumbing completed. Underneath you can see the new pipe work, Golf GTI Fuel pump/swirl pot unit, vented disc brake conversion with braided flexi lines, and the battery positive cable for the boot mounted battery. Prop shaft and exhaust system still to be fitted, but that is about it underneath.
Under the bonnet is starting to look very smart indeed (infact these pics don't really do it justice!). Here you can see the fabricated stainless intake pipe, remote mounted brake fluid reservoir (which feeds a compact Peugeot 106 master cylinder), Header tank etc. The radiator is a new VW polo item, with thermostatically controlled electric fan mounted in front. The aim was to make it look as much like an original Vauxhall installation as possible, and I think we have achieved that.
And finally, following a period of finishing the details, the car is complete.... I'll let the pictures say the rest!