Dusty Barn Find: 1981 Chevrolet Corvette

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The most expensive Corvette is a project third generation Corvette! This car is sitting in a garage in Paso Robles, California about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The car is said to still be coated in its original brown paint but it looks almost maroon under all the dust. The car is listed for sale here on Craigslist for a price of $3,500.

The tan interior is trashed and will need to be completely redone. The dash is cracked, the carpet is toast and the seats are split and worn. The factory steering wheel has been replaced with some type of factory wheel. The car has power steering, T-top, cruise control, 4 wheel disc brakes, air conditioning and an automatic transmission.

The seller states that the body is straight and in good condition. The Corvette has reportedly been stored for over 20 years. I guess there are different ways to store cars and this one has not been maintained. The original engine and drive train is still in the car but it is not running. The car will need to be towed or pushed up on a trailer. The gas tank has been removed for cleaning.

In 1981, the only engine available was the 350 cubic inch V8 engine designated as the L81. This was basically the same as the L48 engine that was the base engine in the Corvette for many years. From the factory, the L81 was rated at 190 horsepower and was available with an automatic or manual transmission. Of note, 1981 was the last year for the manual transmission in a C3. The 1981 Corvette was also the first year for the fiberglass rear spring which saved 36 pounds but was only available on Corvette’s built with the base suspension and automatic transmission. I would like to see all the Barn Finds we report to be restored but this one is going to need some work but at least it appears to have good bones.

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  1. Steve R

    This is way overpriced. It’s a non-running 1981 Corvette that also needs paint and interior. Even if you assume the car has a non-op filed with the DMV to register it in California it will need to have a smog certificate, which means all of the original smog equipment must be present and operational. That is a reason late-70’s Z28’s, Trans Am’s and Corvettes are rarely seen on the roads of the state even though rust was not an issue. It is neither rare or desirable enough for someone to pay the asking price, then transport it to another state, an ask of between $1,000 and $1,500 would be more realistic.

    Steve R

    Like 17
    • Ike Onick

      This car actually has zero value. If restored to 100% factory original condition it is still a 1981 Corvette and the money put into it could never be recovered. If I am going to have a “Forever” Corvette, it sure as heck would not be a 1981.

      Like 10
    • G. Ivan

      Really the biggest problem this car has is that it’s in California.

      It’s not a restoration candidate, but it could be made into cheap fun for a kid willing to throw the junkyard at it outside the long arm of CARB.

      Like 3
  2. ruxvette

    Just me, but if the seller gave me the car AND $3500 I’d still be upside down. Pass.

    Like 13
  3. ccrvtt

    18 years after the iconic spit window Corvette we get the split dash version.

    I agree with the others that the cost of restoration far outweighs the resulting value, but this could be a fun project to just make it a runner (at a cheap price). Easy things like tires, brake pads, fluid changes, and hopefully not a stuck engine.

    As for the cranky old man rant – I’ve never tried to sell a car for any amount of money without at least washing it and vacuuming the interior. After all, isn’t the point to get the most money from the buyer?

    Like 1
  4. dogwater

    I’m a corvette lover but the late C3s 74 up are not worth much, maybe someday, but this is a parts car.

    Like 2
  5. Kelly Waldrop

    Simply put. Junk.

    Like 2

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