1981 Chevrolet Corvette - Beauty And Beast

This Big-Block '81 Wasn't Built To Be A Trailer Queen

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As with any build that isn't a straight remove-and-replace job, some other problems cropped up, which Cagle solved. One had to do with the wiring, and how to connect a set of AutoMeter Phantom gauges to it. "As you know, the Corvette electrical system has all those ribbon cables with plug-in connectors," he says. "To put regular gauges in it, you have to cut the plug-wiring harnesses all off, then chase everything down-from turn signals to high-beams to everything you're gonna do-and then rewire the whole car, basically." Cagle also installed NASCAR-style switch gear for the electrics.

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For the exhaust system, Cagle wanted to run a set of side pipes, but ones that didn't look like the'69 Stingray's factory RPO N14 side-mounts-and he wanted them to match the "blackout" chrome trim he put on the body. He chose Hooker's 4-inch-diameter "Show Tubes," which needed some fabricating help to connect with the McJack's headers and their 21/2-inch collectors. "We had to do some sizing down, and I had to use an exhaust elbow from a tractor-trailer to make that turn up under that car." The exhaust system also has a set of Pypes electric cut-outs, controlled by a switch on the console where the emergency brake handle used to be.

Once complete, Cagle had a C3 that was ready to run. What's it like to drive? "Believe it or not, it drives absolutely marvelous," he says. "When you get out on the road, it's an absolute dream. I'm only running about 1,800-1,900 rpm at 75 [mph], and with the four-link keeping the rear tires straight and the Steeroids rack in the front, it drives like a dream. And it's extremely quick!"

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For too many people, the factory-equipped C3s from '72 onward weren't as quick as their midyear and early-shark predecessors. Cagle says that those much-maligned third-gens are worth a look as a project car. "Right now, the C3s are the next group of cars that people are going to be able to go out and purchase at a pretty good price, build back to a nice driver car, and still be able to make some money on it, and not get upside-down," he says. "Maybe not a numbers-matching restoration, but if you want to make a nice restomod out of a C3, that is the best-looking Corvette body style ever made."

Spec Sheet: '81 Coupe
Owner: Frank Cagle; Birmingham, AL
Block: GM Performance Parts Gen IV big-block, cast iron
Displacement: 540 ci
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Heads: All Pro aluminum
Valves: 2.19/1.88
Camshaft: Comp 11-246-3 (0.552/0.555-in lift, 230/236-deg duration, 110-deg LSA)
Rocker Arms: 1.7-ratio
Pistons: Probe forged aluminum
Crankshaft: RPM forged steel
Rods: RPM forged steel
Intake Manifold: Edelbrock Air Gap aluminum
Carburetor: Holley Street Avenger, 870-cfm
Fuel Pump: Holley
Ignition: MSD 6AL electronic
Exhaust System: McJack's custom headers, Performance Car Craft dual exhaust with electric cutouts and 4-in Hooker "Show Tubes" side pipes, Flowmaster mufflers on front-to-back pipes
Transmission: 700R4 automatic with Hurst Competition Plus shifter, built by Monster Transmission
Torque Converter: 3,600-rpm stall speed
Driveshaft: Custom
Front Suspension: Stock '81 Corvette
Rear Suspension: Custom RaceFab four-link with coilovers and QA1 shocks
Rearend: GM 12-bolt differential with Auburn Positraction differential, Moser axles, and Richmond Gear 3.73:1 gears
Brakes: Baer discs with slotted/cross-drilled rotors (front/rear)
Wheels: Centerline billet aluminum (17x8-in front, 18x10-in rear)
Front Tires: 17-in radials
Rear Tires: Mickey Thompson "street slicks"
Fuel Octane: Premium
Weight: Unknown
Best E.T./MPH: NA
Best 60-ft. Time: NA
Current Mileage: 278 since rebuild
Miles Driven Weekly: Approx. 50

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