1981 Corvette

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Crono, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. Crono

    Crono Lifer

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    I'm thinking about getting a 1981 Corvette in the not-so-immediate future.
    And by "thinking" I really mean thinking about thinking, as I'm pretty comfortable with my current ride, but I may be moving to California next year and wouldn't mind buying a car over there (I live in NY now), and downgrading to an older used car would net me a little cash as well.

    Any major issues with the model/year in general? Anyone here actually own one or driven one? Would love any and all opinions. Open to buying a different year of the late 70s/early 80s (like that classic styling).
     
    #1 Crono, Dec 25, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  2. Arkaign

    Arkaign Lifer

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    Those are the absolute worst vehicles imaginable in terms of efficiency and maintenance in stock form. They also drive like garbage in stock form (very flexy body, garbage suspension, narrowish tires with huge sidewall, slower than a modern i4 econobox, etc).

    Now, even though I said all that, not all is lost. If this isn't a car you're going to care about restoring to all-original matching numbers kind of status, then you can actually build a nice little C3 *fairly* affordably if you do a lot of the work yourself.

    Step 0 : Research all this and make sure you have the time/money/patience for this.
    Step 1 : Find one that hasn't been mangled.
    Step 2 : Get a crate LS1 (or warrantied used one from a reputable vendor)
    Step 3 : Get a T56 tranny, probably from the same vendor.
    Step 4 : Get all the associated gear, wiring harness, mount adapters, gauges, BRAKES, etc. As a bonus, you may be able to skip A/C entirely depending on where in Cali you're moving. You will want to swap the rear end out as well of course.
    Step 5 : Work, work, and more work. And probably a few parts/etc that you hadn't considered at the beginning of the project. You may want to get some new but classic-looking wheels and some better shoes for the guy. If you want to go high-HP, then you must look at stiffening the chassis up a bit to avoid twisting. You may want to look at aftermarket suspension setups that will give a better ride and handling (as well as easier parts to find in the modern era).

    Done right, you'll have a bulletproof (LS1 + T56 = solid as it gets) car, built fresh from the chassis up, that you'll have a lot of fun with and a personal story behind. It's not super easy, but it's far better than those old carb'ed jobs in every aspect (perhaps other than the sound of a really well built one). Emissions, reliaiblity, fuel economy, weight (!!), HP, torque, availability of parts, etc, etc.

    You *could* deal with a stock L81 or similar, but gah. It's no fun getting 13mpg and getting stomped by a Camry in both handling and acceleration.

    For the fun of it, check the MT review (this was reposted online in '03, but is the original review of the 1980 model same gen as 81)

    http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-reviews/1980-chevrolet-corvette

    3 and 4 speed transmissions.
     
  3. JulesMaximus

    JulesMaximus No Lifer

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    He said he wanted to save money. Not spend money like there is no tomorrow.

    Oh, and keep in mind it would have to be smog legal for CA too. A quick search on Autotrader for the SoCal area (300 mile radius) turned up a number of 1981-82 models in various condition ranging in price from around $8k to ridiculously overpriced ($20k).

    For that money I think I'd look at a later model Corvette. Edit-I found a 1991 ZR1 for sale for $12,500. It has 149,000 miles on it but appears to be well maintained, clean carfax (or so the owner claims).
     
    #3 JulesMaximus, Dec 25, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  4. Throckmorton

    Throckmorton Lifer

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    Buy a C4 or C5. Everything before was just made to look cool cruising the boulevard
     
  5. Arkaign

    Arkaign Lifer

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    Brainfart lol I forgot those old corvettes were already fuel injection. Still much better with ls1, but I agree later models much cheaper overall to have in respectable shape. Pretty sweet when done right though.
     
  6. The Boston Dangler

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    buying a 1980's corvette is buying someone else's nightmare. among the worst cars ever.

    to begin with, get used to bell's palsy:
    [​IMG]
     
    #6 The Boston Dangler, Dec 25, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2012
  7. manimal

    manimal Lifer

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    They really arent bad cars for their age but they feel VERY dated when driven. Seats are decent, interior looks like its from a 70s opel. Engine sucks.

    if you want a cruiser with a little muscle you will spend what you pay for the car in upgrdes.

    Now if you want to JUST cruise and fart around its not too bad.

    I would throw some some Koni Classics or bilstein Hds and replace all the old bushing and soft parts.

    I did a really nice stingray for a friend last year that was basic suspension upgrades and exhaust. Sounded good, turned ok, still slow as piss.

    he got lit up by a crx a few weeks ago. Was kind of funny.
     
  8. Ben90

    Ben90 Platinum Member

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    The C1/2/3 vettes are the only ones worth buying. Stick a C3 next to a ZR1 and see which one the ladies want to get in.
     
  9. Arkaign

    Arkaign Lifer

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    Eh, I'd fully agree with the good C2s, they're bonafide classics with the meat to back it up. C1s are beautiful if a bit antiquated in terms of driving. Some early C3s are actually pretty boss. But the late C3s, for some reason they just seem way worse than the early ones in many many ways. I know they have that 'look', but man they're just built poorly. That MT review from 1980 (!!) commented on how poor the build quality was, and that was compared to a bunch of other mostly terrible cars from the same era.

    To make an 80/81/82 Vette good, it takes a lot of work. It can be worth it imho, but an average example one with stock drivetrain/suspension/rear end and original interior is probably going to sound, feel, look, and drive fairly horribly. Just a clunky, creaky, wobbly mess. Built out with a lot of love and patience (and the pocketbook to match the goals), absolutely stellar results can be had, particularly if you don't worry about keeping it all original, but that is not realistic for every buyer.

    On the flip side, a C4 ZR1 might not be the best buy either. You have a good and relatively robust engine in the LT5, but that's an exceedingly rare motor, I'm not sure how difficult it would be to maintain should you need to do a top end rebuild or something of that nature. If on a budget, I'd much rather see a LT1 or even the semi-rare LT4 which shares a good number of bits with the LT1. AFAIK, the LT5 was basically not a true member of the GM SBC motor family.
     
  10. phucheneh

    phucheneh Diamond Member

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    LOL.

    C3's are white trash mullet-mobiles. The only people who would lump them in with C1's and C2's are...well, probably C3 owners.
     
  11. Zap

    Zap Elite Member

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    CRX faster than a Stingray? Yeah, but which ride do the cougars hop in? :whiste:
     
  12. manimal

    manimal Lifer

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    hes a divorced dentist. He has his share of cougars. Funny thing is he actually owns a 1970 cougar with a small block. its slow as *** too lol
     
  13. ecox1

    ecox1 Junior Member

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    My parents have one that I have put the last 3k miles on (to a total of 10.3k miles). The mileage is really as bad as advertised with the 3 sped automatic with somewhere around 15mpg. The brake lines on many 81 Corvettes rust out and will probably eventually need replaced if they have not been. I don't have many other sporty cars to compare to but if you are over 6 ft make sure you can comfortably sit in one, the seats only go back so far.

    Also this is the lowest powered Corvette according to factory hp numbers. You are not going to get what I would want out of a corvette getting an 81.
     
  14. rommelrommel

    rommelrommel Platinum Member

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    LT5's have a reputation of simply never breaking. The motor was so ridiculously overbuilt that they just seem to last and last.
     
  15. Arkaign

    Arkaign Lifer

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    True, I acknowledge their well earned reputation, but sometimes stuff happens. I'd bet finding parts for an LT5 rebuild would be somewhat $$$. Who knows though :) I guess worst case scenario one could swap in a supercharged LS2 if it was too expensive to fix and even the partially broken LT5 should bring some good $$ as parts for rare cars like that are sought after even in imperfect condition.
     
  16. manimal

    manimal Lifer

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    http://forums.corvetteforum.com/c4-...-lt5-modifications-rebuild-tricks-500-hp.html
    heres a good writeup on rebuilding an LT5. Lots of those parts cost about as much as they do for ls1s exept for sleeve kits. Last I saw a sleeve kit for a lt5 it was about 2k. Suprisingly the same cost as darton sleeves for an SR.
     
  17. Ferzerp

    Ferzerp Diamond Member

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    Stay away from US 80's and 90's "performance" vehicles? ;)
     
  18. manimal

    manimal Lifer

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    I'll take a pantera detomaso from the 80s. Well at least it's a 351 cleveland.
     
  19. Ferzerp

    Ferzerp Diamond Member

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    neutered in '72 ;)
     
  20. AdamK47

    AdamK47 Lifer

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    That's a good test. If they pick the ZR1 then you know they aren't complete idiots.
     
  21. Throckmorton

    Throckmorton Lifer

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    Considering the ladies prefer a rich guy, they'll get in the ZR1
     
  22. BUTCH1

    BUTCH1 Lifer

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    With the execption of the Buick GN, otherwise, agree, feedback carbs are horrible to work with and once you start talking crate motors and such it's hard to justify the cost..
     
  23. AdamK47

    AdamK47 Lifer

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    And the Turbo TA
     
  24. Arkaign

    Arkaign Lifer

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    GM crate motors are pretty cheap, but yeah the whole project can be pretty expensive even if you do most of the work yourself. Shopping around on forums and junkyards for used parts that you need can help, but a decent restomod w/motor/tranny swap and all that entails (wiring, ecu, exhaust, suspension, gauges, etc, etc) will take a fair number of solid weekends dawn till dusk to get things perfect.

    $7k medicore C3 + $12k in parts/paint/etc will build a pretty nice car done right, but that ~$20k includes a huge number of hours. Very rewarding for those that love to turn a wrench and have a personal connection with the vehicle, very frustrating for most people though, particularly when you just know that you'll run into some unexpected delays and expenses along the way. No good project seems to be without at least one interesting hiccup.
     
  25. pauldun170

    pauldun170 Diamond Member

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    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't
    No, stop, don't


    Corvettes from the mid 70's to 82 serve 2 purposes.
    1. As a museum display model showing what happened between 1971 Corvette and 1984 Corvette
    2. Stunt Cars in B movies

    For your reading pleasure
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/03/400-miles-in-a-1981-corvette-part-1/
     
    #25 pauldun170, Dec 26, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012