Many Corvette fans may not realize it, but the '81 Corvette stands out as a rather unique member of the C3 family. While it didn't have the most powerful engine (190 horsepower) or the highest sales numbers (40,606), it did have several unique claims to fame.
First, the '81 model was the only year the Corvette was built simultaneously at two assembly plants. Job one at the new Bowling Green plant was built June 1, 1981, and the last St. Louis-built Corvette rolled out on August 1, 1981. But while the St. Louis Corvettes were still painted in lacquer, the Bowling Green Vettes were painted in the new base-coat/clear-coat process.
The '81 Stingrays with automatic transmission were lighter than previous models. Much of this weight savings was thanks to a new fiberglass mono-leaf rear spring that shaved off 36 pounds. The addition of magnesium valve covers also contributed to saving a pound or two, and stainless-steel headers were now standard all '81 Corvettes.
To further reduce emissions, a computer-command controlled engine-management system was standard for all '81 models. The CCC system had first been used in 1980 for the Corvettes sold in California, and it adjusted mixture and ignition timing. This was the last time a carburetor would be used on a Corvette engine and the last C3 to have a manual transmission available.
The Corvette's paint pallet doubled in size for 1981 as Bowling Green and St. Louis each offered 11 different exterior colors, including Code 75 Red from St. Louis, the color of Steve Moran's C3. Steve, from Sarasota, Florida, has owned this '81 since 1983. At the time of purchase, the Corvette had 15,000 miles. Today, this St. Louis survivor has just 37,000 original miles and is one of the most original '81 Stingrays around. The only parts Steve has replaced in 21 years are the hoses, belts, tires, and battery. Everything else is as-installed at St. Louis in 1981. Do you think he's gotten his money's worth?
Steve's Corvette is a snapshot in time, recalling how these plastic fantastics looked new on the street in the early '80s. The paint is deep and glossy on the fiberglass body panels and a tad flatter on the front and rear Enduraflex fascias. This was typical on Corvettes of this era, and Steve's is in superb condition; it is a testament to his meticulous preservation of the car.
The red exterior is complemented nicely by the beautifully maintained camel leather interior. Options include cruise control, a rear window defogger, and an AM/FM/cassette with a power antenna. Before selling the Corvette to the first owner in 1981, Surf Chevrolet added gold pinstripping and factory aluminum wheels.
Steve has added roughly 1,000 miles per year since he bought his Corvette. At first, the miles were from summer cruising and going to shows as a spectator. His wife Carol suggested he think about entering the '81 instead of leaving it in the parking lot. At his first show, the '81 took Best Corvette, and Steve was hooked. Since then, his C3 has won 26 First and Second Place trophies in judged Corvette shows and 20 others in "show-and-shine" local events. That's tribute enough to this low-mileage '81 and the era it represents in Corvette history.