Dan Dempsey explains the development of Corvette fiberglass over the years.(copied with permission from www.glassmandan.com)
I do body and paint restoration on 1953 to 1967 Corvettes. My strongest interest is from 1953 to 1957. I categorize the years into four parts:
I call the years 1953 to 1954 First Generation Fiberglass for obvious reasons. For one thing, fiberglass cars were only an experiment back in the early fifties. The glasswork was an abomination. After nearly 50 years of sunlight and human interaction, Corvettes this old are always the worst. You can count on the car needing a lot of careful attention.
The years 1955 to 1957 are one step above the worst. You can still count on a lot of work needed, but not as much.
I’ll give you a breakdown of the work done on the 1953 to 1957 Corvettes. My main effort is to save the original body. If I cannot save the original body, factory reproduced body parts will be needed. (A full front or a nose clip “axle forward” I prefer not to do.) After all the major glass repairs have been completed, the 53 to 57 Corvettes usually have crazing cracks on top of the fenders and components: hood, trunk, doors, etc. I resurface these areas with a sheet of fiberglass mat. Then every body part is fitted with an even narrow gap. The windshield and all chrome pieces are fitted. (Fitting means, for instance, putting an even space between the door and the body.) The next step is to cover the entire Corvette with several coats of gel-coat. The gel-coat hardens and puts a protective “shield” over the entire car. The next step is to prime and block sand the body to get it straight. Then the Corvette is painted. This entire process can take up to 800 hours. It is a very BIG JOB.
1958 to 1962 Corvettes are much better and easier to work on. In 1958 General Motors began making better fiberglass, thus saving time and money restoring them.
1963 to l967 Corvettes are the best. The fiberglass on these cars has been perfected over the years and is remarkable. Little or no gel-coat is needed to bring these Corvettes to show-car quality.