Though the ’66 was Farrell’s ideal Corvette, it still had to wait in line to receive its restoration—other car projects needed to be completed. He didn’t start the restoration until summer 2009. Beginning with the bodywork, the first step was to remove all of the trim pieces, molding and bumpers. Instead of separating the body from the chassis and placing it on a dolly at this point, as he had done with his previous restorations, Farrell decided to keep it attached. In addition to providing a more stable platform for all the heavy work to come, this approach would ensure that the body would line up correctly with the chassis after it was removed for painting.
The next step was to strip the paint. Not wanting to damage any of the fiberglass, Farrell employed a trick he learned back when he was doing body work full time. “The key is that the stripper only takes it down to the primer,” he says, “then you wash off the primer with lacquer thinner. It takes a lot of elbow grease.”
Though Farrell was committed to maintaining the Corvette’s originality, that commitment did not extend to the body’s imperfections. He filled the seams and leveled the gaps, resulting in panels that looked better than stock. He knew this additional work would not be seen favorably by the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), and that when he had the car judged it would lose points for “over-restoration.” But, says Farrell, “That was a hit I was willing to take.”
After he coated the body with primer, Farrell raised it off the chassis using his hydraulic lift. Once he pushed the chassis out of the way, Farrell carefully lowered the body onto a dolly. At this point his attention turned to completely dismantling the car. When it came to carefully sorting and labeling the multitude of parts he had just removed, Farrell had a bit of an unfair advantage given his work experience. He says that creating a photographic record of where the parts go is key.
Farrell pulled the engine so that it could be sent out and rebuilt, then removed everything else from the frame. It was sent out to be sand-blasted, as were large suspension pieces—basically anything that couldn’t fit into his sand-blasting cabinet. Farrell painted all of these pieces, however, including the frame.
In terms of painting the body, Farrell took a route that he thought would please the NCRS judges. Obviously, he kept the original Sunfire Yellow color, but he also elected to use lacquer, employing the same one-stage painting method used back in 1966. Most Corvettes are repainted using a two-stage process that involves first spraying a layer of base coat followed by a layer of clear coat, with both steps usually involving urethane paint. But what really makes Farrell’s route the less-travelled one is that all of this work was done in his own dedicated paint booth. And we’re not talking about some jury-rigged contraption, but a professional setup with full plastic skirting, extensive overhead lighting and an industrial-strength air-filtration system.
Though he used the original painting methodology, Farrell’s execution was different than that of the Chevrolet factory workers. Basically, he was a lot more thorough and consistent with his paint application. He had the time to bend down and carefully shoot harder-to-reach spots like the rocker panels and front valance; the circa-’66 painters didn’t. As with the panel gaps, Farrell just couldn’t bring himself to re-create past imperfections.