Power Trip: Adding power windows to a C2 adds convenience and value
When you run the numbers year by year, the RPO A31 Power Windows option wasn’t checked on most customers’ option sheets during the C2 years, with an average “take” rate of around 16.5 percent for 1963-’67.
It’s easy to understand the reluctance. It was a small car with only two doors and the $60 cost for the convenience features was comparatively high. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, it is the equivalent of a $455 add-on in 2016 dollars. Ordering a Posi rear axle was cheaper, while more sumptuous leather seats were only $80. Power windows simply seemed superfluous.
Half a century later, however, and cars are all about power accessories, and building them into vintage cars is becoming increasingly popular. Fortunately, they can be added to C2 models relatively easily. And the best part is the swap can look completely factory-installed thanks to kits that use production-style equipment and console-mounted switches.
We followed the swap procedure on a midyear car in for a complete restomod overhaul at Corvette specialist Masterworks Automotive Services (Madison Heights, Michigan) and came away with a few notes and caveats. First and foremost, the basic installation procedures for the project are easy and even the wiring is about as straightforward as you’re going to get on an electrical-based job because even the electrical harness/fuse box is equipped for the feature. It simply plugs in. Nothing to worry about there.
The prep work for the swap, however, is where the hours pile onto the project. The door panels have to be removed, the carpet has to be pulled up and the center console has to be removed. Pulling up the carpet means removing the seats, which is another way of saying the interior pretty much has to be stripped out of the car. That, and removing the assorted fasteners, clips and channels to pull out the window glass is tedious work.
It’s not difficult, but it’s a chore for the DIYer and adds to the labor cost when farming it out to a shop such as Masterworks. And take our advice: If you’ve never removed the door glass from a midyear car, review online guides and videos before you get started.
On the backside of our project are the door panels. The originals, with their holes for the window cranks, can’t be re-used. So in addition to the roughly $600 it will cost for the conversion kit itself, a pair of door panels will add perhaps $800 or more to the bottom line. The conversion kit used in this story listed for $619 on Corvette Central’s website.
That makes this conversion a selective project in our evaluation. It’s a worthy addition to a midyear car but its cost may be better realized when baked into an overall interior restoration where new carpet and new door panels are already on the docket. That’s because adding the power windows is quick and easy when the interior is already dismantled, but tearing it down solely to add them isn’t an efficient use of time or money.
We’ve outlined the basics of the installation in the accompanying photos, focusing on the details and tips from Masterworks that will help make it a quicker, easier conversion. After that, the rush of fresh air on the highway will only be the push of a button away.
01. The conversion kit for this project was sourced from Corvette Central (PN 282042), which listed for $619 on their website. The complete kit included the regulators, electric motors, switches, wiring harness and factory-style conduits for the doors.
02. Removing the door panels kicks off the project, starting with the manual window cranks. A removal tool such as the one seen here is necessary to push and release the clip holding the handle in place. They’re easy to find at just about any auto parts store.
03. There’s another clip holding on the door-lock switch; a small hook tool does the trick for removing it. Additionally, fasteners for the door pulls and armrest must be removed and the door-panel clips must be released before the door panels can be pulled off the doors.
04. Here’s a look at the back of the door-lock switch and how the hook is used to grab the clip for removal.
05. After the door panel is removed, an access panel on the door is also removed to provide access to the window regulator and door glass. The glass is easily unbolted from the regulator but it takes time and patience to remove the surrounding window channel, particularly on coupes, and carefully pull the glass up through the door. After that, the regulator simply unbolts from the door panel and pulls through the access hole.
06. Slots must be cut into the front doorframe to make room for wiring conduits. Instructions provided with the kit indicated the position and dimensions for them. A template for the passenger-side doorframe is shown here.
07. The slot was cut out per the template and the edges ground smooth. It’s always a little nerve-wracking to cut holes in the body, but it’s a must for this project.
08. Next, the new regulator/motor assembly is slipped into the door. The size of the motor makes it a tight squeeze, but it finds its way with only minor fiddling.
09. Because it’s a factory-style conversion, the regulator bolts right up using the original mounting holes in the door panel. It couldn’t be easier.
10. More holes need to be added to the fiberglass; this time it’s a hole at the front of each door, opposite the slot cut into the doorframe. The wiring from the window motor will pass through this hole.
11. For each door, a conduit protects the wiring’s routing from the switch to the window motor. The problem is the terminal ends are too large to pass through the conduit.
12. Pulling off the terminal ends allows the wires to slip through the conduit.
13. In the car, the wiring is routed through the doorframe slot and conduits before the terminal ends are reinstalled.
14. Next, the wiring is routed through the new hole at the front of the inner door and connected to the window motor.
15. The conduit is then bolted to the door. It’s easy to understand from this image why slots are required in the doorframes, because the conduit moves widely when the door is opened or closed, but always keeping the wiring from chafing on the body.
16. Note the wiring at the far left. It simply runs down the side of the body that will be covered by the kick panel and is routed along the floor to the center console area.
17. The switch panel is mocked in place on the transmission tunnel to provide a reference for routing the wiring from both doors. The switches are actually mounted on the console panel.
18. The factory wiring harness/fuse panel is equipped and even labeled for the A31 Power Windows option, which makes the power connection for the conversion a no-brainer. After plugging into the harness, the wiring simply plugs into the switch panel at the other end.
19. Another hole is required in the shifter console to mount the switch panel. Putting it in the factory-correct location requires careful measurements, starting with a centerline between the two fastener posts on the backside of the console. From there, the dimensions are scribed per the notes on the tape: 1 5/8-inch wide and 1 1/8-inch tall. A little dye was added to the metal here to make the scribe lines stand out.
20. A drill is used to start the hole, providing room for more precise tools to square-off the edges.
21. After the hole is carefully cut into the console, the edges are cleaned up with a file. This entire part of the project can be eliminated with the purchase of a replacement console that’s already prepped for power windows; although a new reproduction costs around $700.
22. Here’s what the modified console should look like when it’s completed. The switch panel drops into the hole and is secured with screws to those mounting posts on the backside. Again, it couldn’t be simpler.
23. With the new regulators/motors in place and the wiring routed from the harness to the switches, it’s time to put it all back together, starting with the reinstallation of the door glass. Aligning the glass with the vent windows and the associated channels for each takes time and an eye for detail.
24. The factory-style power windows conversion looks absolutely factory installed with the production-style switches and stock mounting position for them. It’s a project that adds convenience and value to a midyear Corvette.