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· Premium Member
5,762 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There is a low-mileage '81 Corvette for sale locally that caught my eye. I know there are at least a couple Corvette enthusiasts on this forum - what do you think, does this Vette seem like it might be worth it? See below for the write-up by the seller. He buys, sells, and trades Oldsmobiles but once in awhile he'll get a trade-in like this for sale, too.

1981 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
This great car came to me from a friend in Southern Indiana. He is a careful and deliberate buyer who knows quality and value well. Like myself, he is tall. He decided it was time to enjoy a car that was easier for him to get in and out of. So we traded and this car was part of the deal.
What drew me to this car is the combination of the low mileage, 20041, and the originality. On top of the originality is the fact that all features are functioning properly. This car didn’t get driven much, but is was maintained.
The paint, glass, upholstery, carpet, dash, gauges, and exhaust are original from the St. Louis factory. This car is a time capsule that is a resource for restorers and yet is in fantastic condition.
The Charcoal Gray paint has not been touched up or resprayed. It exhibits just a few areas of imperfection that are common with cars from this era. But it has never been damaged and looks remarkable for being original.
The glass is original to the car. A tint has been added to the side and rear window. The rear has a factory installed defogger.
The interior is amazing. Obviously this car has always been garage kept and adult driven. The black upholstery is great and shows just a few minor flaws. You have to inspect it very closely to see them. The carpet is original and is not worn. The kick panels are original as is the dash covering. It is amazing that all of this survived so well.
The gauges all work properly. Even the clock is still functional. In fact, every feature on this car is working properly. Even the underbody light that illuminates the area by the spare tire is working. The power windows run up and down at a fast pace. The air conditioning still provides cold air. The original radio plays well.
This car is not heavily optioned. It has power windows, air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering column, courtesy lamps and mirrored tee-tops. The proper wheels now have spinner center caps. An original style set is included.
The original 350 V8 is rated at 190HP. It starts and runs as it should. It performs better than I expected. The engine bay is clean and tidy. It shows in a very original fashion. This car has its original automatic transmission.
I was stunned to discover the original exhaust system to be in good condition. The undercarriage is in mint original condition and shows no corrosion. You might find a few spider webs and some road grime. All original!
A new set of raised white letter tires was recently installed. They have less than 1500 miles on them. As far as I can tell, this is the only non-original and visible part of the car. The battery has also been replaced. I didn’t inspect close enough to determine if the belts and hoses are original. The same goes for the spark plugs.
My friend had hoped to take this car to Bloomington Gold in 2020, but the event was cancelled. He was very much in tune to the criteria for the Survivor class and had prepared this car to that end. I believe he had tended to most of the details and that you will discover that most aspects of this car are indeed original and have survived.
While I am not a Corvette lover myself, I give this car a lot of respect for the low mileage and originality. As a person who enjoys a car that performs well, I am impressed. This car is ready to drive and display.

· Administrator
8,745 Posts
Those years are pretty much the Mk1 of Corvettes. Not really that desirable or super valuable (or fast). Price is about right for a dealer. Super low miles on Corvettes is pretty common. There are plenty of pace car 78s out there with plastic on the seats and delivery miles on them. For that price I'd just spend a little more for a C5Z and you'll run circles around that one.

· Founding Member
6,768 Posts
I have a 69 Corvette currently. I've also previously restored a 72 Corvette. The 81 was still a NEW car when I was starting high school but I fell in love with them because our next-door neighbor had one in the early to mid-70s. I was little kid. I didn't know they weren't fast. They were faster than my bicycle and faster than a lot of other stuff in the 70s and 80s. But it didn't matter. They looked cool and I've been hooked ever since.

With that low a mileage, you should be thinking NCRS. It could be a Bowtie candidate which would increase the value significantly. But there's work to do to earn that certification. First you go through Flight Judging at a regional meet to get a list of all the things that are right and wrong about the car.

The way it works is that five teams of judges inspect the car. At least two judges on each team, sometimes three if they are training. Plus the head judge spot checks a few things from each team and signs off as well as dispute resolution. Each team can spend as much time as they need, but on average its about an hour. One team inspects the undercarriage. A second team inspects the engine bay. A third team inspects the interior. A fourth team inspects the exterior. A fifth team tests all the functions of the car, beginning with a cold start. Now, everything has to work perfect, for example, the cigarette lighter has to pop up within a certain range of seconds or you lose 25 points. That's how detailed they get. As I recall its like 4,000 total points but every little flaw adds up quickly and its very hard to get that 95% for a Top Flight. The judges all literally go to school to learn how to judge Corvettes and can tell Chinese reproduction parts from the originals.

Bloomington mentioned in the ad uses some of the same judges, but has a time constraint and they may spend 30 minutes inspecting your Corvette and move on to the next. NCRS will spend literally all day if they need to, in some cases the different teams spread out over multiple days. You can generally expect about 10 to 15 man-hours of inspection and they won't miss the smallest detail.

Once you have your scoring sheets, you make a spreadsheet to calculate the cost per point for every item on the list to determine which items will get you comfortably over the 95% for the least cost. You spend the next year fixing things and then take it to the Nationals where they award Bowtie Certificates which is 95% perfect and ALSO unrestored. The good thing about Corvettes is there is tons of support not only in the aftermarket but in the community. Its really not that hard to find NOS and date-coded parts. So starting with such low miles, it may be 93% or better already and only need a few weekends worth of work to get ready for Bowtie certification.

I went through the Flight Judging with the 72 and it got Top Flight on the first try, but that was after a 5-year, body off restoration. Everybody was warning not to get upset if it got a 2nd or 3rd Flight the first time as apparently a lot people take it personally, can't take criticism, get frustrated at the judges and never come back. But I'm one of those obsessive-compulsive, detail-oriented people who relishes in perfection. The reason collectors pay a premium for Corvettes with NCRS certification is because its already been done and they can brag on it without having to actually go through it themselves.

I'd say the price seems reasonable. Unless you rack up a lot of miles on it, the value isn't going down. And there is potential as I've described to boost its value quickly with a little effort. The only risk is just whether the car is hiding any faults as with any classic car purchase.
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