Original Owner: 1981 Chevrolet Corvette 4-Speed 12K Survivor – SOLD!
January 7, 2022 Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.
December 12, 2021 Update – The original owner just replaced their expiring Craigslist ad with a new listing in which the pictures, description, and asking price of $22,500 all remain the same.
While we have a fondness for the nicely integrated exterior looks of the 1980-1982 C3 Corvette, that great-looking outward appearance gets muddied somewhat by other factors. In our humble opinion, the sweet spot of these three model years was 1981 as there was only one 49-state 350 V8 engine that buyers had their choice of ordering either a four-speed manual or TurboHydramatic with. On the negative side, GM’s Bean Counter efforts were on full display inside the car as the cool, fold-flat bucket seat design was overshadowed by a Federally mandated 85 MPG speedometer and door armrests and locks lifted from the Chevrolet Monza. Despite the downsides, we’d still take one in a heartbeat, and this red-over-tan leather 1981 Chevrolet Corvette L48/4-Speed originally listed in November 2021 on Craigslist in Collegeville, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) has just under 12K original miles that’s being offered by the original owner.
The original owner is currently asking $22,500 for their C3 Corvette. Comparing that price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms the private seller has their Corvette priced between this guide’s #2 “Excellent” estimate of $20,200 and its #1 “Concours” appraisal of $32,800. Similarly, the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #2 “Very Good” estimate of $16,400 and its #1 “Excellent appraisal of $25,300.
The aging C3 Corvette went on a diet for the 1980 model year in an effort to improve performance and fuel economy. For a start, engineers developed attractively restyled front and rear bumper covers that were not only better integrated but resulted in a significant reduction in drag and increased radiator airflow. The hood was also restyled as well. The crossed-flag emblems disappeared from the front fenders and were revised to a more elongated style on the nose and fuel door. L-82 emblems moved from the hood to the front fenders on cars ordered with the optional high-performance engine. This was the finale for the L-82 Corvette emblem, now producing 230 horsepower but it could not be mated to a 4-speed manual, consequently, the manual gearbox was offered only with the standard L48 engine. The speedometer in all cars read to a maximum of 85 mph, mandated by a new and controversial federal law. Air conditioning became standard, as did the tilt-telescopic steering column, power windows, exterior sport mirrors, and the convenience group. New was an optional roof panel carrier that would mount to the rear fastback deck. Many weight-saving components were introduced including thinner body panels and an aluminum Dana 44 IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) differential and cross member. The new lighter unit replaced the arguably stronger cast-iron GM 10 bolt IRS differential. In line with further weight savings, the aluminum intake manifold associated with L-82 engines since 1978 was now installed in all cars, as well as an aluminum lower alternator mounting bracket replacing the cast iron piece used since 1972. For the first time, due to California emission considerations, a unique engine application was installed in cars delivered to that state and was mandatory. This motor was a 305 cubic inch V8 rated at 180 horsepower, fitted with new tubular 409 stainless steel exhaust manifolds that were far lighter than the cast iron pieces they replaced, and mated to an automatic transmission, also mandatory. The carburetor and ignition timing were controlled by Chevrolet’s new Computer Command Control system. The smaller displacement engine was not available in any other state. California buyers were credited $50 as consolation but had to pay for the California emissions certification which was $250. For comparison, the L-48 350 cubic inch engine, standard in the other 49 states, was rated at 190 horsepower. The base price increased four times during the model year raising the cost of the car by more than $1,200 to $14,345.24.
In 1981, there was only one powerplant available, a 350 cubic inch engine that, like the L-48 base engine the previous year, produced 190 horsepower but was now designated the L81. The motor was certified in all states and available with manual or automatic transmissions. Chrome air cleaner lids and cast magnesium valve covers dressed up all engines. The lightweight four into one stainless steel exhaust manifolds and computer control system introduced on the 305 V8 California engines the previous year were now standard, as was an auxiliary electric engine cooling fan. This, the last C3 available with a manual transmission, so equipped, had a published 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds. This model year was the first Corvette to use a fiberglass rear leaf spring, now a Corvette trademark. The spring saved thirty-six pounds but was limited to base suspensions with automatic transmission. When equipped with Delco’s brand new optional ETR (Electronically Tuned Receiver) radio with a digital clock, the quartz analog instrument panel clock was replaced with an oil temperature gauge. The cast-aluminum wheels, optional since ’76, were now ordered on 90 percent of the cars at a cost of $428. New options included a power-adjustable driver’s seat and power remote outside mirrors. In mid-1981 production relocated from St. Louis to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and several two-tone paint options were offered.
The LiLRed Corvette YouTube Channel features this rarely found 1981 Chevrolet Dealer Promo video highlighting all of the features and benefits of the 1981 C3:
Corvettes are only original once and when you can buy one from the original owner, chances are good you’ll get the complete history. With the original owner mentioning he has every document since this Corvette was new, this is the late-model C3 Corvette to buy.
Here’s the seller’s description:
“1981 Corvette, 4 speed, 1 Owner, Yes I purchased it new 40 years ago! 11,964 original miles. Glass and painted T-Tops, Gymkhana suspension, Very good original condition, New tires. I have every document from new. Price is firm and I don’t need help to sell it.“
Show or go: what would you do with this survivor C3 Corvette? Comment below and let us know!