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.
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.
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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.
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