If you’re interested in classic Corvette restoration, you have two primary options for body materials – fiberglass and steel. While almost all cars from the 1920s and 30s were made from steel, classic Corvette restoration enthusiasts often opt for newer fiberglass bodies. Each option has its pros and cons, and what is best for one hobbyist may not work so well for another. Here are some of the things you need to consider when picking your materials for classic Corvette restoration.
Although fiberglass bodies are often more practical, collectors typically view steel as the gold standard for classic Corvettes. It has that authentic look, feel, and heavy weight reminiscent of pre-WWII American cars. Even steel reproductions of old Corvette bodies are seen as “more authentic” than the fiberglass models.
In almost every situation, a fiberglass body is going to be cheaper than its metal counterpart. Counting the body work and classic car paint jobs often necessary with metal originals, restoring Corvettes with steel bodies can cost over ten thousand dollars more than with fiberglass.
The difference in price doesn’t necessarily reflect a difference in quality, however. Although fiberglass used to be seen as a cheap imitation material, companies are now making glass bodies which look and feel almost exactly like the originals. This value is the main reason for the widespread use of fiberglass among the classic Corvette community.
The availability of fiberglass reproductions usually depends on current trends in the restoration market. While it is generally easier to find a given car body made from fiberglass than from steel, a lack of demand for a certain year’s model can make it difficult to acquire.
On the other hand, the availability of steel originals is unaffected by market trends. While most steel Corvette bodies are hard to come by, certain models may not exist at all in fiberglass. For classic Corvette restorers interested in rarer models, steel may be the only viable option.
Steel and fiberglass are both subject to wear and tear from certain elements. Steel is resilient under a wide range of temperatures, but it corrodes easily. People who live in wet or snowy areas will thus find it easier to maintain fiberglass Corvettes.
However, fiberglass can easily warp in hot environments. When this happens, it also releases chemicals into the air and can turn a dingy green color. If available, steel may be a better option for enthusiasts who will have to store their cars in hot areas.
For amateur restorers, steel can be much easier to work with than fiberglass. It requires little special equipment or training, and simple cutting, grinding, and welding techniques are often sufficient for restorations and repairs. Making repairs to fiberglass requires the precise mixing, cutting, and laying of new glass. Overall, the material is much less forgiving than steel.
Of course, these concerns are only important to those who plan on doing their own body work. For classic Corvette restoration enthusiasts who want bodies already in excellent repair, reproductions – most often fiberglass – may be the best option.
If you have a classic Corvette restoration project that is languishing because you insist that it be done right and with zero tolerance for substandard work, then call a professional now for a free, confidential consultation about your project, how much it will cost and how long it will take to complete.