A War Paint Session

or, Investigating Chassis Assembly Color Codes

July 2006

Hosted by our SoCalSACC Coordinator: Chip Werstein

Slide11This So. Cal. SACC Tech Session was advertised to inform interested members about the many assembly color codes found on early C-1 Vettes.  The vehicle selected for this exhibit was a 1960 C1 owned by So. Cal. SACC Member Vic Preisler.  The day was organized by the Tech Session organizer for our So. Cal. Chapter, Chip Werstein.  Much of the restoration work is being performed at Chip’s Garage.  The interesting past history (discussed later) of this ’60 makes the car a unique topic.  The was originally intended as a race car and is being restored as such, but much of the color coding is still consistent with the standard production C-1’s.

Color coding, or as Chip and others refer to it as, War Paint, consists of placing various colored paint “swipes/codes” on assembled chassis parts to provide a quick reference to assemblers/inspectors for verification that a process has been performed, the correct part is installed, a correct RPO has been included according to a “Build Sheet”, and on and on.  Color coding permits easy references to any person involved in the assembly to recognize what part or process has been performed.  It was mentioned by Chip, and some in the audience, that prior to delivering the car, many war paint markings disappear because a “black out” covering is applied to the chassis.  However, many of today’s C-1 owners, with verified “original and untouched” cars, have found these markings after carefully cleaning and removing the blackout.  Many members (and many more now have become more knowledgeable) also know where to look for these markings.



Above is the teaching tool, a mostly complete ’60 chassis.  Clearly visible are several of the war paint indicators: A circle around the differential drain plug, a paint stripe on top of the differential, white stripes on the rear spring ends, the letters “OK” upside down on the rear frame member, and other color stripes on the brakes/backing plate areas, etc.

Prior to entering into the chassis details, Vic Preisler (below) provided the audience with some car history.

The car was manufactured with a build date of early 1960 and assigned the Serial Number of 4420 (last 4-digits of the S/N).  The target for the car delivery was the March 1960 Sebring race.  It was ordered and always intended to be a race car. Features incorporated into the car are “big” air-cooled brakes, a large 24 gallon fuel tank, and a fuel-injected engine.  A picture appears below of the original car configuration at the Sebring race in March 1960.

 Car Mag Picture 1w

The above picture, and subsequent pictures were extracted from a racing book currently displayed at our meeting.  The words from the book associated with the above picture are: “Six Corvettes were entered at Sebring in March 1960, and this car, having its wheels aligned, was driven by Chuck Hall and Bill Fritts to 16th overall and first in class, the Best finish that year”.  The picture below shows #6 on its way to a class win.  This scene is while chasing a Bill Milliken/Cameron Argetsinger Alfa Romeo Veloce (#48).

Car Mag Picture

The placard at the left describes the early history of what brought the car into existence and how it appeared at the March 1960 Sebring Event.

The car is currently owned by Vic and Stacey Preisler and will be shown, and raced when completed.

Several local SACC members are participating in the restoration: Chip Werstein, Doug Prince and Euro Body, QMP Racing Engines and J&D Corvette are participating.

Below, shows a part of over 20 individuals who attended the seminar.  Very Good Turnout!

(Below) The paint stripe on the axle-end  indicates L and R as the axles are of different lengths (yellow stripe is on other axle).  Stenciled part numbers appear on the big-brake brake shoe. The shoe’s were also labeled Pri and Sec, (primary and secondary shoe’s)

Below is the Front Cross-member and associated suspension. Clearly the writing on this front member is obvious and consists of the car Build # (364A)  and the body color.  It was also indicated that as the completed chassis was coming down the assembly line, and the body was coming from above, an individual stood in front of the car and verified the build # was the same on both frame and body and that the body color matched what was printed on the frame (in this case white).  Most build #’s are sequenced from 1 to 500 and after the higher number is attained, the number reverts back to 1.  In the case of this car, the suffix “A” indicates a mod to the standard car and as mentioned before, that the larger 24-gal. fuel tank was a difference.


Also noted in the above picture are the gray stripes on the springs and the colors on the spindles.  Different colors are also evident on the tie rods (not seen in this picture) indicating which side of the car they are to be installed and which rods have right and left hand threads.

Above is a stenciled on frame number along with a date of January 28, 1960.  The car S/N (final 4 digits) is 4420 which indicates the car was being assembled during the first part of March 1960.  The frame date does indicate manufacturing prior to the March 1960 build date.

This stenciling appears on the drivers side of the frame about in the middle.  As you stand next to the car the stenciling is upside down and two theory’s follow: 1) when the stenciling was performed the frame was in its first orientation on the assembly line(upside down) while assembling the suspension and associated hardware, or 2) when the stencil is applied after the frame is flipped to its final orientation, the assembler, while bending over, places the stencil on the frame so he can read it and thereby it appears upside down to someone standing beside the car.

The Body

The Body on this car is quite standard with other C1 Corvettes.  It does contain some modifications for the RPO and LPO (Limited Production Order) features ordered.  In 1960 there was only a single LPO and that was the 24-gal. fuel tank.  A further trivia fact was that only 10 cars were produced with this LPO. 

Since the car contains the large fuel tank it is obvious that it is a Hardtop (HT) only car.  Also noted on the racetrack above, it has its HT.  There was no evidence of a roll-bar configuration but two small tabs were welded to the frame behind the seat location and the speculation was that this was to strengthen the seat belt mounting.  Other items noted are some crude openings (see picture) to increase air flow to the big brake ducts. 



The above pP1010084wictures document the possible locations you might find indications of assembly body notes.  Since this car had the large fuel tank, it only had a HT but it also did not have the cover under the lid housing for the convertible top.  The 24-gal. fuel tank requires most all the room behind the seat.  The fuel tank appears below.


Above is pictured the “Top Tank” Aluminum radiator which was a standard part on the 1960 solid lifter (270 & 290 hp) cars.  Reproduction radiators of this type can be ordered from DeWitt Radiator.  Note the special mounting configuration used to adapt this radiator into the car.  These adapters are also available when purchasing the DeWitt radiator.

Below: This view is of the holes cut into the body to provide more air flow to the big brake air ducts on the front wheels.

This was another Great Tech Session and a terrific opportunity to view the “body-off” process in restoring a car.  It was also a further treat to understand the unique history of this car and view how it is coming together.  Below, is a picture that was taken in the Spring of 2005 at Tech Session #1, also at Chip’s garage and off to the left the Sebring ’60 is visible in a stripped down state.

Thank you to Chip Werstein, Vic Preisler and all other members who contributed to this informative day.  To many of us amateurs in the audience who may not have even been aware of War Paint, it has increased our knowledge of our C1’s immensely.  Now when we are performing the simple procedures of cleaning or just laying under our C1, we will begin looking for our own War Paint.


Southern California Solid Axle Corvette Club