Cheap Wheels? 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta

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The 1981 model year was the swan song for the second-generation Chevy Camaro. After 12 years in production, the design had run its course (sales were down by more than half in just two years). The Berlinetta was the luxury edition of the Camaro, at the opposite end of the scale from the Z28. This ’81 Berlinetta looks to have been stored for a while and needs some work although the 4-speed manual transmission has been freshly rebuilt. This project is in Charlestown, New Hampshire, and is available here on craigslist for $4,000. Thanks for the heads up on this tip, Pat L.!

If you bought a new Camaro in 1981, it was virtually identical in appearance to the 1980. But mechanically, it was the first Camaro to come with something called Computer Command Control (CCC) which was a fancy emissions control system that was in charge of fuel mixture (carburetor) and other things. Also, a lockup was added to the torque converter, related to the CCC change. Of 182,000 Camaros built in 1981, just 20,000 or so were the Berlinetta and those came with either a V6 or tiny V8. The 350 V8 (except in Canada) was reserved for the Z28. Most Berlinettas had an automatic transmission.

From the looks of things, someone had intended to turn this Camaro into a performance car, but the effort stalled given the layer of dust and dirt on it in the garage photos. We’re thinking the powertrain is not numbers matching, but that’s a guess. Its 350 V8 has been tweaked and peaked above whatever factory settings may have been, and a Borg-Warner 4-speed is also along for the ride. The rear-end has been rebuilt, too, with 411 gears and a limited-slip differential.

The bucket seats have been swapped for something newer and “hotter” in appearance. But, apparently, more interior work is needed, and the paint has a flat finish which would not have been like that new. A cowl induction hood has been added, also not in character with the Berlinetta. The body is said to be mostly solid, but the to-do list on this 126,000-mile car will include the shifter linkage, brakes, radiator, and rear floor pans. So, this is a project car and the asking price reflects that. Who’s on board for one of the last of the second-gen Camaros?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Jack M.

    It won’t take much work or money to get this one back on the road. Nice find!

    Like 10
    • Nostromo

      That’s it. That is the attitude to have. Well stated, Jack.

      Like 6
  2. CCFisher

    The powertrain definitely isn’t numbers-matching. The most displacement you could get in a 1981 Berlinetta was 305 cid.

    Like 5
  3. Tbone

    4 speed and 4.11’s sound like a good time

    Like 8
  4. Nostromo

    Also the last year for the Hurst T-tops. If I’m wrong about that feel free to correct the record. How (I think) I know is that the ’82 F-bodies went on sale in late-’81. We were still in the grips of a recession/economic downturn at that time. I’d been shifted around out of my regular job on the rolling mills downstairs in Department 1. I went upstairs to Department 9 where I was the lead (I can make myself anything I want to be in these stories but I choose to hew close to the truth) assembler for T-top brace that sat in the center of the roof cutout on the brand new Firebirds and Camaros.

    I was the lead assembler because I was all by myself performing that work. Not to far away there was the CV Line which made the Commercial Vent windows for the big stuff like commercial trucks and GM’s pickups. That CV line was really something. One station had the person who was designated as ‘Glass Pusher’ which involved using pink soap, rubber weatherstripping and a roll-formed and bent steel channel into which the glass was mechanically pushed. Breaking a piece of glass, though a relative rarity, did happen once in a while and then everything would have to be vacuumed out. We had very powerful shop vacs for that. Rule of thumb, try very hard to not break that glass!

    Like 6
    • Al_Bundy Al_BundyMember

      Love stories like that ! Maybe not so glamorous at the time, but cool to hear about… Which plant ?

      Like 6
      • Nostromo

        Fisher Body, Ternstedt Div. of General Motors, West Trenton, NJ. Also was a war plant during WWII. It became an Eastern Aircraft Plant in ’42. They’d taxi Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers across the street to the airfield which is now Mercer County Airport (TTN). The Plant was a good place to work.

        Thank you!

        Like 7
  5. The Other Chris

    Looks like the best deal I’ve seen here for a project in a long time. Someone grab this one. I would if it were remotely close to me. Just think what a good power washing and a weekend of work could do with this.

    Like 5
  6. mrshred

    The 2nd Camaro listed on this site in the past month that is definitely NOT a Berlinetta despite being listed as such. No exterior badging. Silver grill and light bezels painted black? Upgraded interior not visible. Front seats replaced but standard sport coupe door panels are there.

    Like 1

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