Live Auctions

53 Genuine Miles! 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Cars like this 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 leave me torn. When these were new, there was simply no way that I could afford to own one. Now that I am older, I could probably justify buying it, but then, would I be game to drive it? With a genuine 53 miles showing on the odometer, this is as close as you can get to owning a new ’81 Z28. It is located in De Soto, Iowa, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $34,600, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

There probably isn’t a negative thing that can be said about the Camaro’s condition. it has been in the same family since new and has spent its entire life in a climate controlled showroom. As a result, the car looks as good as the day that it rolled off the production line. The owner claims that this is the lowest mileage ’81 Z28 in existence, and this is probably right. The Black paint appears to be faultless, while the graphics and wheels are also perfect. The Camaro features a glass T-Top, and once again, it appears to be perfect. I guess that this really is as close as anyone is likely to get to a brand new 1981 Z28 today.

The interior of the Camaro is interesting, but the seat upholstery isn’t to my taste. The optional Silver vinyl upholstery is immaculate and is contrasted by black piping on the seat edges and door trims. It looks exactly as it should if it were sitting in a showroom, and the car has been equipped with some nice optional equipment in addition to that upholstery. Throw air conditioning, tinted glass, power windows, power locks, cruise control, and a tilt wheel into the mix, and life would be pretty pleasant inside the Camaro.

Under the hood of the Camaro is the venerable 350ci V8, which is hooked to an automatic transmission. You also get power steering and power brakes. By the time this Camaro was built, emission laws had strangled the 350 somewhat, and it was only producing 175hp. This made the Z28 a shadow of its predecessors in the performance stakes, and also gave it a pretty healthy thirst. The engine bay surprises me a little bit because when you consider how immaculately clean the rest of the car is, the engine bay looks quite dusty. Still, that’s something that would be pretty easy to rectify.

If this was a pristine and original 1981 Camaro Z28, it could be expected to sell for anything up to $20,000, with $25,000 not being beyond the realms of possibility. That odometer reading puts it into another league entirely, but it does pose that eternal dilemma. Its ultimate value lies in that odometer reading, and every additional mile added will erode the vehicle’s potential value. Personally, I wouldn’t be game to drive it for that very reason, but it raises the question as to whether owning a car that you are not game to drive makes it worth owning the car at all. It will be interesting to see what our readers think.



  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Why buy it to hide it? Drive it like you stole it! Well, at least drive it anyway.
    Better yet buy a good one used more cheaply, give it more ummph so you CAN drive it to enjoy it as you drive it-and put the money into Road Trips.

    Like 16
    • Jimmy

      The interior is called Silver Moon.. I LOVE IT!

      Like 4
  2. Coventrycat

    Park it next to your 15 mile Grand National and 50 mile 78 Corvette Pace Car, maybe you could charge admission. Don’t forget to dust the cobwebs off ya while you’re waiting.

    Like 25
    • Will Fox

      People that buy these low-milers say, “I’ve got a Chevy! What have YOU got!!” As if they possess the Holy Grail…..LOL

      Like 2
  3. Skorzeny

    What’s the point? You can’t drive it. And it was ordered with an automatic? Lame. So lame. No thanks.

    Like 12
    • Marko

      Wasn’t the automatic trans mandatory in the US spec cars due to emissions? Seem to recall the manual trans cars were still available for Canadian spec cars. Think I read that here on BF a while ago.

      • Phillip

        I owned one with a manual transmission, and it was made in USA.

        Like 1
      • R Soul

        I believe the 350 only came with the automatic transmission in 1981 on Z28.

        Like 3
      • Marko

        Got my archaeologist’s shovel out, and found the BF article I read here about the Canadian 4 speed / 350V8 option.

        From Oct 1, 2016

  4. art

    Adam is spot on. A dilemma. I’m betting the reserve is @$50k or more so, yes a dilemma. Do you drop $50k-ish on a 28 year old Camaro and instantly begin it’s valuation decline or pass and buy a nice but not “new” Camaro and drive it without hesitation? Maybe this should remain a collector car for the fact that it would be the car to establish exactly what new looked like 28 years ago. Then one has to remember, the car is equipped with 28 year old (dry?) hoses, power steering lines, gaskets, seals, water pump, belts, A/C compressor seals, wiper blades, probably the oil filter, tires, master cylinder, wheel cylinders/calipers, power windows that have not been used, that and more, and all are a huge question mark once someone begins to drive it.
    Begin replacing all that and it is no longer new and untouched.
    But it looks very nice.

    Like 16
    • Jeremy

      28 years old? Better add 10 years to that number bub

      Like 8
  5. OhU8one2

    You only live once, and you cant take it with you. So if your head over heals a diehard Z fan, I would say drive it. That’s what I would do.

    Like 9
  6. Frank Sumatra

    No issue here. My spare $34K goes to a car I drive every day and take to Watkins Glen on Open Track days.And when I’m done with it, the scrap dealer wouldn’t want it. CARPE DM would be on the license plates. Each to his/her own.

    Like 5
  7. rustylink

    there’s a story I came across about Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan buying matching 81′ Z28’s during a recording stint in Florida and how they spent that summer flogging the every loving pi** out of them around the back rural roads.

    Like 6
    • Paul

      Love Steely Dan good to know they had good taste in cars and drove them hard like they were meant to be.

      Like 3
  8. 408interceptor

    Jeff Spicoli would know what to do with it.

    Like 10
    • Ben

      My dad is a tv repairman. He’s got an ultimate set of tools, he can fix it……….

      Like 6
  9. Anthony in RI

    If i had the funds i would buy this and a new camaro. Then take the powertrain out of the 2019 and put it in the 81. That would best of both worlds for me

    Like 3
    • Ike Onick

      Until you bend the frame and crack all the glass the first time you transfer a whole bunch of torque into that lily-livered 1981 frame.

      Like 4
  10. GomerP

    Except for that very questionable interior choice, a very nice Z but not worth even close to the money it’s bringing. ($40k right now!) Maybe 25k tops even with the mileage. ‘Art’ is right…being a 28 year old car and a Z28 with only 53 miles on it is unbelievable but all kinds of things are going to have to be replaced before it’s street-worthy I would guess. For that money, it needs to stay a museum piece. For $25k, I’d be replacing things and driving it!!

    Like 1
  11. CCFisher

    My guess is that the seller’s family owned a Chevrolet dealership. This car arrived late in the model year, and was unsold when the all-new ’82 Camaros hit the lot. It remained unsold long enough that it became a permanent showroom display.

    Like 7
    • Zapp

      Our local Ford dealer had a ’60s Thunderbird that met the same fate.

  12. Lynn Dockey Member

    Sorry but I can’t drive it anyplace that I would have to park it. I would cruise it but it would only be parked in my garage. I trust no one that parks in a lot or parking garage.

    Like 1
  13. John

    …now if it were a 69 Z/28 with 51 miles, I’d be very interested. (But then so would half the rest of the gearheads on Earth).

    Like 4
    • Frank Sumatra

      And the opening bid would be $134,000 with the reserve unmet.

      Like 4
  14. Bluehoneybee

    Math people… there’s a typo in here somewhere- or someone can’t do simple subtraction. A car released in 1981 would be 38 today.

    Like 5
  15. moosie moosie

    2019 -28 = 1991. 2019 -38 = 1981,
    Another thing is that Camaros never had a frame, they were all uni-bodies.

    Like 3
  16. 408interceptor

    The subframe used in second gen f-bodies is actually very strong. The rubber body mount bushings are too soft for my taste and contribute to that lack of structural integrity feeling you get when driving these cars on rough roads. If the car was in a showroom for too long the door bushings are probably shot from opening and closing thousands of times. The bushings cost next to nothing but the door has to be removed so the hinges can be accessed, not fun.

    Like 1
  17. Racer-X

    It’s all relative. Is the purchase primarily speculative or entertainment?
    Me, I’d buy it, swap in an LS variant with 6speed manual, and tear it up.
    Nobody lives forever.

    Like 5
  18. TimM

    To much money for a low hp car I don’t care how many miles are on it!!

    Like 2
  19. JEFF S.

    I do not know what the fascination with these low milage crap cars from the 80s, those of us who lived through some of the worst model years for American cars, are smart enough to not purchase one of them again. As my dad ( a mechanic and body man) would of said, if he were still alive – The guy who buys this one has STUPID MONEY! The write up says it all, 175 HP. Maybe, just the right ticket for a car museum, but nothing else.

    Like 3
  20. JoeNYWF64

    I wonder if the a/c still blows cold. & if there are any cracks in the tires.
    (Unless they are repros – very expensive … )
    Could never figure why most z28’s & t/a’s got such a narrow high profile radial tire.
    235-60r-15 would have been a better choice.
    I don’t believe paint was flawless on any 70’s or 80’s american car. lol

    Like 1
  21. George Mattar

    R Soul is correct. In 1981, only automatic available with 350 engine. It was an emissions thing. Beautiful car, but useless in today’s 95 mph morning commute traffic. A Honda 4 cyl has almost 100 more hp.

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.