Guide for the 1981 Corvette

The 1981 Corvette marked important changes in the historic car’s timeline.
Written by Matthew Lynaugh
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Mar 23, 2023
Although the plan for the 1981 Corvette was to remain fairly similar to the previous year’s model, the production of this car would change the future of its lineage forever.
The 1981
Chevrolet Corvette
was the first model to be simultaneously built in two locations. What started in St. Louis would be continued and eventually relocated to a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Only the finest for Chevy’s prized Corvette as this new dream facility utilized the latest manufacturing processes to improve the car’s quality control.
The new Bowling Green palace would expand to over one million square feet to meet the lavish needs of the lavish sportscar. More space allowed for more efficient production, allowing Bowling Green to produce 15 Vettes per hour. For reference, the best output in St. Louis was 10 per hour.  
here to transfer you back in time on a speedy trip down the Corvette’s timeline. Stops on the 1981 route include its ownership costs, as well as its strengths and weaknesses.

Ownership costs for a 1981 Corvette

The original MSRP for the 1981 Corvette was $16,259, which, if adjusted for inflation, would be approximately $50,000 today. This helps put in perspective the league of cars the Vette was in 30 years ago—and makes it all the more impressive that it has held its status for so long.
More 1981 Corvettes are available for purchase than you may realize. Most of these Stingrays can be purchased from dealerships with prices varying on condition and mileage. The average ask is $20,800, with a low retail of $14,600 and a high retail of $35,600. 
For the true Corvette diehard, the limited Phillips Berlina Edition sits at a staggering $106,000

Where to buy a 1981 Corvette

Locating a 1981 Corvette will most likely require some research, as Chevrolet dealers are unlikely to be carrying this specific inventory. 
Classic Cars
is a good starting point to get a feel for the current market. If something catches your eye, communication can be established directly on the site.
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever

What does the 1981 Corvette bring to the table?

Despite the plan for the 1981 Corvette to remain as a carryover of the 1980, this year’s model would see enhancements both under the hood and on its interior. GM set forth a new emphasis on their prized motor’s efficiency when their Corvette fell under the progressively rising Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

Strengths and weaknesses of the 1981 Corvette

If you are considering purchasing a 1981 Corvette, here are a few things to know before you buy.

The good: power

The engines of the predecessor would be ruled out in favor of the L81 – a new, single, reworked engine. The latest V8 engine was rated at 190 brake horsepower at 4,000rpm and 280 lb/ft peak torque at 1,600rpm.

The good: fuel compliance

The most drastic change came with the introduction of the engine’s Computer Command Control (CCC). With this new system, smog and fuel consumption were reduced, all linking back to GM’s new fuel efficiency initiative.

The good: modernized interior

A reimagined dashboard brought riders a new quartz clock that would become the standard. And in keeping with computer upgrades, all radios were electronically tuned. 
Many drivers also got their wish of a seat that finally reclined—an oversight of previous models.

The bad: gas mileage

Something tells us you aren’t thinking of buying a 1981 Corvette because it can save you trips to the pump. That certainly is not the case, as the average mileage is a measly 12 per gallon.

The bad: quiet engine

A quiet engine can be a bad thing depending on who you ask. If you hoped to rev your engine and let your neighbors know you bought a vintage Vette, the 1981 may not be for you.
Loud noise equals fast speeds—it’s a mantra that certainly predates 1981. This year’s Vette took a different approach, however, with its auxiliary electric cooling fan that aided in the reduction of such noise.

The bottom line

The 1981 Corvette continued the classic lineage of this storied car, adding improvements where appropriate. With a more efficient mindset, GM revamped the Corvette’s engine in a more green direction without compromising its power.
The L81 coupe is the only trim you will find on this version of the Vette, and it is sure to bring any enthusiast right back to the days of the C3 generation.

How to save money on car insurance for the 1981 Corvette

Affordable and reliable car insurance is something every Corvette enthusiast can appreciate.
is the licensed broker and car super app here to help find you the insurance that best fits all of your needs. 
Jerry makes it so simple—just download the app, take one minute to enter your information, and Jerry will analyze quotes from over 50 top-name providers in under 45 seconds. 
Don’t worry about any paperwork or talking to agents on the phone unless you want to. Jerry handles everything, and can even help cancel your old policy!
Jerry customers save an average of $887 per year on their
car insurance
is a super straightforward process, and at each step, you can see exactly what coverage you’re paying for. Thanks to Jerry, I’m paying $900 less each year while keeping full coverage for my new car!” —Martin H.
Haven’t shopped for insurance in the last six months? There might be hundreds $$$ in savings waiting for you.
Judith switched to Progressive
icon savingsSaved $725 annually
Alexander switched to Travelers
icon savingsSaved $834 annually
Annie switched to Nationwide
icon savingsSaved $668 annually
Compare Car Insurance Quotes For Free
Jerry automatically shops for your insurance before every renewal. Members save $872/year.
rating primary
Rating on App Store
Start saving money!
12,000+ Reviews
Trusted by 3.5M car owners like you

You might also be interested

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings — it's 100% free