Perfect Compromise: 1981 Chevrolet Corvette

1981 Corvette

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

What do you do with an emissions choked Corvette? By 1981 things had gotten a little better, but 190 horsepower still wasn’t anything to get too excited about. Well, a previous owner of this Vette decided to take matters into their own hands. They rebuilt the engine making things breath and burn better and the 350 V8 now reportedly puts out around 300 horsepower! Now that makes this eighties Corvette seem a little more interesting, doesn’t it? It’s located in Reno, Nevada and is listed here on eBay with bidding starting at $6,000 with no reserve.

Stock Interior

Luckily, the owner rebuilt the suspension and brakes while they were at. No sense in going fast if you can’t turn or stop! The seller mentions that upgrades were made, but doesn’t give specifics. The transmission and air conditioning were also upgraded. The only thing that would make this better for me is if they had used a manual instead of an automatic. Perhaps they were just planning on doing some major burnouts? The seats look comfy and that cold a/c would really be nice right about now.

Upgraded 350

Normally we wouldn’t get too excited about a Corvette of this vintage, let alone a restromod, but this could represent an affordable path into quick Corvette territory. These cars hadn’t had this kind of power since the seventies, so it would cost you a lot more to get a comparable classic Corvette. The looks and overall experience are there, but with some added conveniences and safety features. Obviously, it’s not as desirable as an earlier car, but as far as a daily driver goes, it looks like the perfect compromise! What do you think?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. DirtyHarry

    A lot of people are looking for the “next-now-bargain” car that will go up in value, after wishing they had bought some of the cars that we see today. This won’t be one them. However, any nice sub 10k Corvette is truly bargain fun.

    Like 0
    • Doug M. (West Coast)Member

      DH LOL!! (this won’t be one of them) … that is not the ending I was thinking was coming!! :) But I do understand your point!

      Like 0
  2. Blindmarc

    The best 81 I’ve seen in along time at its current price. I’ll bet it will get close to 15k. Nice find.

    Like 0
  3. tirefriar

    DH, I wont argue with you there as I am not fully versed in the Corvette market. However,I have been keeping an eye out for a clean C3 preferably with manual transmission and a functioning a/c. All I can say is that the prices for clean ones keep rising, and I am not even talking about the pre-polyurethane bumper cars.

    If I may, an analogy can be made with whats happening in the Alfa Romeo market. 105/115 bodied cars have always been a bargain until lately. Of course, 100% original concours condition cars have always been at the top of the market but now cars with non-original power train and mods are getting lots of spotlight on them.

    I think the parallel here is with time desired models such as Corvette increase in price no matter what the condition of the car is – just look at the Porsche market. Years ago I had several opportunities to purchase 912. Both clean California cars for under $5k. I passed. Still kicking my self. ;-)

    Unfortunately I am in Commiefornia and looking at the headers I know there aint no way aint no how this car will pass smog LEGALLY.

    Like 0
    • Chuck

      I appreciate that comment. Wouldn’t have thought about the smog angle. I live in
      Green Bay WI and we have some of the worst air quality in the country. They let us drive those cars here. :)

      Like 0
  4. Zenaldo

    At least this one can get out of its own way..better than most from that looks really clean too..even the L-82 (?) version of this car was only like 205hp as I recall..lame for sure..this one would be fun to drive..

    Like 0
    • pperros

      By the time this car came out, the only engine available was the L81. Emissions-choked to be sure, but not the horror of the cross-fire injection used in the ’82 “Collectors Edition” and first-year C4 in ’84. In the mid-90s, I had a ’74 L82 4-speed which put out 250 hp through the last of the true dual exhaust systems. By the next year, the L82 had plunged to 205 hp; the poor L48 was good for only 165. The ’74, unloved because of its split rear bumper, still probably represents the sweet spot between price and performance in the C3 world.

      Like 0
  5. nighttrainx03

    I bought one of these in blue in the mid 90s with 60k on the clock for 4k thought I got a steal. well let me tell you the best day of my life was when I handed the keys over to the next guy. They have this factory alarm system built into them that I found to be what nightmares were made of. The alarm system left me stranded to many times. I took it to the dealer and a couple of the best Chevy techs I could find to try and fix the problem, it was to no avail. I see one off these things I look the other way. I am sure there are good ones out there but me Never again lol.

    Like 0
    • Kincer DaveMember

      Those factory alarms in this era of Corvettes can usually traced back to a bad ground somewhere, at least that was the case in my dad’s 76 once all the points of ground were dealt with it worked great. I’d buy this in a heartbeat if an in person inspection went good, It’s a good looking ride the only thing I’d change at first would be the rims. It needs something aftermarket since it’s already not stock.

      Like 0
    • dj

      I was the Corvette Tech during that time period and up until the early 90’s, These cars work backwards from what you think. The door lock switch was likely the problem on your car.

      Like 0
      • PRA4SNW

        The door switch was the problem in the after market alarm system installed in my ’70 Vette.

        Like 0
  6. nighttrainx03

    Dave if I remember correctly they did check that. It seemed to have to do more with the door locks than anything. You always had to go to the passenger side and lock and unlock the door with the key then back to the drivers side and do the same thing and then get in the car and pray it freaken started if not you would do that all over again, you see where im going? All yea I forgot the switch on the driver fender, you had to futz with that one two.

    Like 0
  7. Bob S

    I had quite a bit of seat time in an 81 Corvette. Always felt I was herding it down the road.

    Like 0
  8. Kent Pearson

    A great idea & a ggreat buy if it doesnt go through the roof $wise.

    Like 0
  9. ebt

    i like it very nice but not a barn find not even close should be on bring a trailer

    Like 0
  10. Kincer DaveMember

    I guess if those were the wide Corvette rally wheels I could live with them but I just figured out why they look wrong, they are the 15×7’s instead of the 15×8’s.

    Like 0
  11. Fred Mack

    Hello, I am the seller.

    I am selling my Vette to help fund patent legal costs for an invention I engineered. I have been asked for videos of the engine running, exhaust, and how the engine runs with AC.

    Here are those vids, posted to YouTube.

    Engine sound and exhaust:

    Engine sound with AC running:

    Like 0
  12. Julles

    If you want a corvette but you budget is low, the lowest prices are on the polyurethane nosed C3’s, C4’s and C5’s. I think that just by looking at body styles the C3’s are the best looking plus they are much easier to work on. If you want it to drive fast and corner, there are a plethora of parts you can get at reasonable prices to make it do that. Grab that 1981 now before the price goes up, drive it until you get the money and time to put a LS1 in it and enjoy the beauty of driving a beautiful iconic car.

    Like 0
  13. Fred Mack

    This is the seller again: There is no alarm system on this car, as per a concern of one commenter. The car fires right up.

    The car comes with a new starter, ignition switch and high-capacity battery.

    Take a look at the videos.

    Like 0
  14. PRA4SNW

    I sold my ’70 a couple of summers ago after 25 years of ownership. I had a lot of fun with it, but it was getting too valuable to enjoy. I figured that if I get back into Vettes, I would get a C4 but the more I think about it, the more I’m attracted back to the C3.
    There is just something about the look that is so unique – it doesn’t appeal to all, but that’s exactly the point.
    I am thinking that an 80 – 82 would be the ticket – not valuable enough to worry about messing with the originality. Something like this one with the upgraded engine would be right up my alley.
    Now all I have to do is finishing selling my house, buy another one, and hope for some leftover fun car money.

    Like 0
  15. Prowler

    Make mine yellow. Tan inside
    L 8 2. With a 4 speed

    Like 0
  16. wabbit1211

    Had One just like it but a burgandy color back in the day. But probably my shortest owner ship of a vette I ever had. I bought it at and auction on a wednesday and sold it the next night at another auction about 50 miles away and cleared a grand profit, by just changing its location, lol easy money. I Flipped a lot of cars back in the day but only 11 were corvettes.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds