1981 C3 Corvette

1981 Corvette Overview

The 1981 model year marked a significant milestone in the history of the Corvette.  While the car itself would primarily be a carryover from the previous model year, it was announced that Corvette production would move from the old St. Louis plant to a brand-new, high-tech facility located in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Although originally developed as an air-conditioning plant, the new manufacturing facility was fully refurbished by General Motors, and would be dedicated solely to the production of Y-body Chevy Corvettes.  It would utilize the latest automated manufacturing processes, thereby improving quality control.  The new manufacturing plant would include an up-to-date paint shop that would utilize more automated paint processing standards, allowing Chevrolet to apply more durable enamels to the Corvette, as well as a new clear coat finishing process.

Model: 1981 Corvette
Generation: C3 Corvette
Type: 2 Door Coupe
Available Colors: Mahogany Metallic, White, Silver Metallic, Black, Bright Blue Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic, Silver Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic*, Charcoal Metallic, Beige, Yellow, Beige*, Dark Bronze, Red, Maroon Metallic, Autumn Red, Charcoal Metallic*, Dark Claret Metallic, Silver/Dark Blue, Silver/Charcoal, Beige/Dark Bronze, Autumn Red/Dark Claret
Engine: 350ci, 190HP Engine (standard)
VIN: 1G1AY8764BS400001 – 1G1AY8764BS431611 (St. Louis)
1G1AY8764B5100001 – 1G1AY8764B5108995 (Bowling Green)
Transmission: 4-speed manual transmission, 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission
Original Price: $16,258.52
Units Produced: 40,606
Specs: 1981 Corvette Spec List

Interestingly, rumors of a move to a larger, more modern manufacturing plant began circulating as early as 1973 – especially amongst the communities along the Mississippi River that drew their livelihood from GM’s St. Louis Manufacturing plant. Reportedly, the talk was the result of “bad blood” between the plant laborers and management.  General Motors vehemently denied the rumors that began to propagate.

Additionally, they shot down claims that they were looking for a way out of continuing production at the St. Louis plant.  Then GM Vice President Robert F. Magill, in a letter addressed to a Missouri Congressman in the early 1970’s, stated “We can say categorically that we have no plans for closing the assembly plant in St. Louis, and any rumors to that effect are without foundation.”  Despite these comments, many began to question the continuation of the St. Louis Plant.

Corvette Plant St Louis
The St. Louis Plant was the second General Motors plant to build/assemble Corvettes.

First there was the age of the plant itself.  Completed in 1920, Chevrolet’s St. Louis plant was not only outdated, it was also lacking in size and resource.

While in 1953, when GM officials were considering relocation of Corvette manufacturing from Flint, Michigan to St. Louis, Missouri, the latter market seemed to provide an ample supply of skilled tradesmen and laborers to staff such a large endeavor.

“We selected St. Louis as the exclusive source of Corvette manufacture because the city has a central location and excellent shipping facilities, and we have always found here an ample supply of competent labor” said Edward Kelley, Chevrolet Motor Division’s general manufacturing manager.

The Flint, Michigan line ceased operation on December 24, 1953.  After Christmas, workers on the new production line in Missouri began assembling their first Corvette just days later on December 28, 1953.

DID YOU KNOW:  The 1981 Chevrolet Corvette was the first model year to be built simultaneously in two locations. The first Corvette assembled at the new Bowling Green, Kentucky plant was completed on June 1, 1981. Conversely, the last Corvette to roll off the St. Louis assembly line did so on August 1, 1981. Also, there was a high number of color choices available for the 1981 Corvette. The reason for the increased number of colors (including some duplicate choices) was that different types of paint were used at each of the two assembling plants during production.

In 1979, just over a quarter century later, the rumor mill began murmuring that the paint facilities in the St. Louis plant were in violation of the federal air-quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Not long after, GM admitted that they were considering relocation of their Corvette manufacturing plant to a site that featured a roomier, modernized paint section.  On March 26, 1979, GM announced officially that an impending move was going to occur.

Corvette Plant
Production of the 1981 Corvette at the all-new Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant began on June 1st of that year. (Image courtesy of GM Media.)

What GM executives did not announce was that two of St. Louis’s plant managers had been sent to Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1978 to begin shopping for Corvette’s new home.  It was there that they found a 550,000 square-foot complex formerly used by the Fedders Corporation and the Air Temp Division of the Chrysler Corporation.

After a deal was negotiated, the manufacturing plant was expanded to approximately 1 million square feet, and improved state-of-the-art assembly equipment was installed.

Furthermore, the facility would be dedicated solely to the production of a single vehicle – the Chevy Corvette – unlike the St. Louis plant, which had been home to various Chevrolet models during its lifetime.

The announcement of the new Bowling Green Assembly Plant began an almost immediate barrage of gossip and rumors that Chevrolet was preparing for the arrival of an all-new Corvette.  For enthusiasts of the car, it clearly indicated that production of the Corvette would continue for the foreseeable future, but that a new model was imminent.  After all, why go through the trouble of tooling a brand-new plant to continue manufacturing a car that was thirteen years old?

1981 Corvette
The last 1981 Corvette assembled at the St. Louis Corvette Assembly Plant.

It was with a certain amount of irony, therefore, that production of some of the later model 1981 C3 Corvettes would be completed at the new manufacturing facility.  In fact, on June 1, 1981, production of the Corvette began its transition from eastern Missouri to southern Kentucky as the first Corvette was completed at the new Bowling Green Corvette plant.

At the same time, the Corvette assembly line in Chevrolet’s Fisher Mill Building, located on Natural Bridge Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri manufactured its last fiberglass-bodied two-seater Corvette on August 1, 1981.

As production at the St. Louis plant drew to a close, most of its 900 workers eventually relocated to continue working at the new plant.  Of the 40,606 Corvettes built for the 1981 model year, 8,995 were manufactured in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

1981 Corvette
The first 1981 Corvette assembled at the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant.

As for the car itself, the 1981 Corvette fell under the umbrella of the progressively rising CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.  Because of this, Corvette production was again evaluated, though in this instance it was to determine what steps could be taken to improve the Corvette’s fuel compliance rating as well as help to improve GM’s compliance as a whole.

It was on this basis that the previous L48 & L82 350 cubic inch engines (offered with the 1980 Corvette) were retired in favor of a single, reworked engine which carried the designation L81. The L81 featured magnesium rocker covers and a stainless steel exhaust manifold.

The new, 350 cubic inch V-8 engine was rated at 190 brake horsepower at 4,000rpm and 280 lbs/ft peak torque at just 1,600rpm.  The engine featured an auxiliary electric cooling fan that worked in conjunction with a smaller, engine driven cooling fan, which aided in the reduction of noise.

As a result, the 1981 model year was the first since Corvette’s earliest days to offer a single engine option for all models – including Corvettes built for sale in California.  Making the L81 engine legal for use in California was simply a matter of incorporating the lightweight tube headers (with oxygen-sensor smog controls) and computer controls used by the LG4 V-8 in 1980.

What was even more significant for California consumers was that the L81 could be mated to a four-speed manual transmission, meaning that manual-trans Corvettes could be sold in that state for the first time since 1975.  This is also ironic because the 1981 Corvette was the last third-generation model to be offered with a manual transmission. The 1982 Corvette would only be offered with an automatic.

However, the most substantial improvement to the 1981 Corvette over earlier models was the introduction of Computer Command Control (CCC).  Though not unique only to the 1981 Corvette, Computer Command Control used electronics to integrate the emissions and fuel systems in order to reduce smog and fuel consumption.  Similarly, CCC was tied into the automatic transmission’s new lockup torque-converter clutch.  This provided a direct mechanical linkage between the flywheel and the propshaft in second and third gears at steady-state speed, thus eliminating gas-eating frictional losses through the converter.

Elsewhere on the car, a few weight savings measures were introduced to further help with the improvement of gas mileage.  The aforementioned magnesium valve covers used on the L81 were actually incorporated as a weight savings measure.  Additionally, Chevrolet introduced a mono-leaf fiberglass rear spring.  Added to automatic-transmission Corvettes with standard suspensions, this plastic spring weighed only 8 pounds, compared to the 44-pound steel leaf springs used in 1980.

Cosmetically, the most notable changes to the car’s physical appearance occurred to its interior.  The dashboard in the 1981 Corvette received a more modern and user-friendly makeover, including the introduction of a standard quartz clock and electronic tuning for all factory radios.  A new six-way power driver’s seat was also introduced (one which finally reclined (a notable shortcoming of the seats in earlier third-generation Corvettes).

Outwardly, the car remained virtually identical as it had in 1980, with the exception of a new paint option – RPO D84 – that was offered exclusively for the 1981 Corvette.  As Chevrolet officials were extremely proud of their new paint processes at the Bowling Green manufacturing plant, they chose to showcase them by featuring a two-tone paint option on almost all of the cars built that first year.  Four two-tone combinations were offered – Beige/Dark Red, Silver/Dark Blue, Silver/Charcoal, and Autumn Red/Dark Claret – with sales of those combinations totaling 5,352.

The price of the 1981 Corvette had again increased from the previous model year to a base price of $16,258.52.  Despite a generally dismal sales year for the entire automotive industry, Corvette continued to do well with 40,606 units sold that year.

1981 Corvette Ad
A 1981 Corvette Advertisement featuring the following quote by David McLellan: “We critique Corvette with the same engineering objectivity we’d use to evaluate a military aircraft: What is Corvette’s mission? How well does it carry out its mission?” (Image courtesy of GM Media).

Kentucky Governor John Brown drove the first of the Bowling Green Corvettes off the assembly line in 1981. Within a few months of the plant’s start up, it was producing Corvettes at a rate of 15 units per hour.  By comparison, the best the St. Louis Plant had ever managed had been 10 units per hour.

However, the choice to move to Bowling Green had been an intentional investment by GM to improve not only production quantity, but production quality as well.  While the C3 Corvette had experienced a number of model years that lacked genuine production value, GM’s renewed focus on building a quality sports car was unquestionable.

As was stated in a 1981 Corvette brochure, “The Bowling Green facility, which will build Corvettes exclusively, is an investment in Corvette’s future.  It represents the experience and knowledge learned over all those years.”


See full 1981 Corvette Image Gallery

1981 Corvette Specifications

1981 Corvette Main Specs

MODEL: 1981 Chevrolet Corvette
BODY STYLE: Two-door coupe, front engine, rear wheel drive
MANUFACTURING LOCATION: St. Louis, Missouri & Bowling Green, Kentucky
CONSTRUCTION: Frame features a cross-member for transmission (with bolting assembly for transmission). The frame is all welded (full length), ladder constructed. The full frame includes four cross-members and is sealed with a corrosion resistant material. The body is constructed of a corrosion-resistant, steel-reinforced fiberglass. The front bumper features a honeycomb cushion system. The rear energy-absorbing bumper features twin hydraulic shock absorbers. The hood and doors are constructed of fiberglass and feature a double-panel construction method. The roof assembly features two removable roof panels.
VEHICLE NUMBERS (VIN):
1G1AY8764BS400001 – 1G1AY8764BS431611 (St. Louis)
1G1AY8764B5100001 – 1G1AY8764B5108995 (Bowling Green)
ENGINE SUFFIX: ZDA: 350 CUBIC INCH, 190 HORSEPOWER, MANUAL TRANSMISSION
ZDB: 350 CUBIC INCH, 190 HORSEPOWER, AUTOMATIC, CALIFORNIA EMISSIONS
ZDC: 350 CUBIC INCH, 190 HORSEPOWER, MANUAL TRANSMISSION
ZDD: 350 CUBIC INCH, 190 HORSEPOWER, AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
ENGINE BLOCK NUMBER: 14010207: ALL
HEAD NUMBER: 462624: ALL
CARBURETOR NUMBERS: ROCHESTER Q-jet #17081217: 350 C.I., 190HP,MANUAL TRANSMISSION
ROCHESTER Q-jet #17081218: 350 C.I., 190HP, AUTOMATIC, CALIF. EMISSIONS
ROCHESTER Q-jet #17081228: 350 C.I., 190HP, AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
DISTRIBUTOR NUMBER: 1103443: ALL
ALTERNATOR NUMBER: 1101075, 1101085, 1103088, 1103091, 1103103
AXLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
OJ: 2.87:1 RATIO, AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
OK: 2.72:1 RATIO, MANUAL TRANSMISSION
PRODUCTION ENDING VEHICLE: AUG., 1980: 400775 DEC., 1980: 415234 APR., 1981: 426422, SEP., 1980: 404136 JAN., 1981: 418399 MAY, 1981: 428003, OCT., 1980: 408594 FEB., 1981: 421392 JUN., 1981: 429775, NOV., 1980: 412124 MAR., 1981: 424742 JUL., 1981:

1981 Corvette Pricing & Options

CODE: DESCRIPTION: QUANTITY: RETAIL PRICE:
1YY87 Base Corvette Sport Coupe 40,606 $16,258.52
AU3 Power Door Locks 36,322 $145.00
A42 Power Driver Seat 29,200 $183.00
CC1 Removable Glass Roof Panels 29,095 $414.00
C49 Rear Window Defogger 36,893 $119.00
DG7 Electric Sport Mirrors 13,567 $117.00
D84 Two-Tone Paint 5,352 $399.00
FE7 Gymkhana Suspension 7,803 $57.00
F51 Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers 1,128 $37.00
G92 Performance Axle Ratio 2,400 $20.00
K35 Cruise Control 32,522 $155.00
MM4 4-Speed Manual Transmission 5,757 $0.00
N90 Aluminum Wheels (4) 36,485 $428.00
QGR White Letter SBR Tires, P225 / 70R15 21,939 $72.00
QXH White Letter SBR Tires, P255 / 60R15 18,004 $491.22
UL5 Radio Delete 315 –$118.00
UM4 AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned stereo with 8-track tape 8,262 $386.00
UM5 AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned stereo with 8-track tape and CB 792 $712.00
UM6 AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned stereo with cassette 22,892 $423.00
UN5 AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned stereo with cassette and CB 2,349 $750.00
U58 AM-FM Radio, stereo 5,145 $95.00
U75 Power Antenna 32,903 $55.00
V54 Roof Panel Carrier 3,303 $135.00
YF5 California Emission Certification 4,951 $46.00
ZN1 Trailer Package 916 $110.00

1981 Corvette

1981 Corvette Exterior & Interior Colors

Exterior Colors

CODE EXTERIOR QTY PLANT INTERIOR
06 Mahogany Metallic  1,092  St. Louis  Camel, Dark Red
10  White  6,387  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Dk. Blue, Dk. Red, Med. Red, Silver Gray
13  Silver Metallic  2,590  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Dark Blue, Medium Red, Silver Gray
19  Black  4,712  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Dark Red, Medium Red, Silver Gray
24  Bright Blue Metallic  1  St. Louis  Charcoal, Camel, Dark Blue, Silver Gray
28  Dark Blue Metallic  2,522  St. Louis  Camel, Dark Blue, Medium Red, Silver Gray
33  Silver Metallic  3,369 B. Green  Charcoal, Dark Blue, Dark Red, Silver Gray
38  Dark Blue Metallic  496 B. Green  Camel, Dark Blue, Silver Gray
39  Charcoal Metallic  613  B. Green  Charcoal, Dark Red, Silver Gray
50  Beige  2,239  B. Green  Charcoal, Camel, Dark Blue, Dark Red
52  Yellow  1,031  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel
59  Beige  3,842  St. Louis  Camel, Dark Blue, Dark Red, Medium Red
74  Dark Bronze  432  B. Green  Charcoal, Camel
75  Red  4,310  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Medium Red, Silver Gray
79  Maroon Metallic  1,618  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Medium Red, Silver Gray
80  Autumn Red  1,505  B. Green  Charcoal, Camel, Dark Red, Silver Gray
84  Charcoal Metallic 3,485  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Medium Red, Silver Gray
98  Dark Claret Metallic  341  B. Green  Camel, Dark Red, Silver Gray
33/38  Silver/Dark Blue  —-  St.L./B.G.  Dark Blue, Silver Gray
33/39  Silver/Charcoal  —-  St.L./B.G.  Charcoal, Silver Gray
50/74  Beige/Dark Bronze  —-  St.L./B.G.  Camel
80/98  Autumn Red/Dark Claret  —-  St.L./B.G.  Dark Red, Silver Gray

Exterior Colors 1981 Corvette Colors

Interior Colors

1981 Corvette Colors Interior

1980 Corvette Options

1982 Corvette

1981 Corvette Powertrain Specifications

Engine: L81 (All States Except California) L81 (California)
Order Code:
 RPO L81  RPO L81
Engine Type:  V-8 OHV   V-8 OHV
Piston Displacement (Litres):  5.7 Litres   5.7 Litres
Number of Cylinders:  8  8
Bore & Stroke (Nominal):  4.00 x 3.48  4.00 x 3.48
Compression Ratio:  8.2:1  8.2:1
Firing Order:  1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2  1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2
Idling Speed
Manual Trans. (In Neutral): 700 RPM  700 RPM
Automatic Trans (In Drive):  500 RPM  500 RPM
Powerplant Mount Locations:  2 front and 1 rear, compression type.  2 front and 1 rear, compression type.
Carburetor:  4-Barrel   4-Barrel
Net Brake Horsepower @ RPM:   190 BHP @ 4200 RPM   190 BHP @ 4200 RPM
Net Torque (lb/ft) @ RPM:   280 lb/ft @ 1600 RPM
Cylinder Block
Material: Cast Alloy Iron Cast Alloy Iron
Bore: 3.9995 – 4.0025 3.9995 – 4.0025
Bore Spacing (Centerline to Centerline): 4.4 4.4
Bearing Caps (Number & Material): 5, Gray Iron; 2-bolts 5, Gray Iron; 2-bolts
Water Jackets: Full length around each cylinder Full length around each cylinder
Cylinder Head  
Material: Light weight cast iron Light weight cast iron
Bolt Number: 34 34
Bolt Size: .4375 diameter; 14 threads/inch .4375 diameter; 14 threads/inch
Inlet Manifold  
Material: Aluminum Aluminum
Type: 8 port, double deck 8 port, double deck
Exhaust Manifold  
Material: Cast Alloy Iron Cast Alloy Iron
Type: Rams Horn Rams Horn
Outlet Diameter (Nominal): 2.50 2.50
Crankshaft   
Material: Nodular Cast Iron Nodular Cast Iron
Drive: .002 – .007 .002 – .007
Gear: 6 6
Bearings: 1.74 1.74
Torsional Damper: Sintered Iron Sintered Iron
Timing Gear: Sintered Iron; sprocket and chain Sintered Iron; sprocket and chain
Pulley Pitch Diameter: 7.58 7.58
Main Bearings Precision Removable Precision Removable
Camshaft  
Material: Cast Alloy Iron Cast Alloy Iron
Drive: Chain Chain
Gear: Nylon Teeth with Aluminum Hub Nylon Teeth with Aluminum Hub
Bearings: 5; Steel Backed Babbitt 5; Steel Backed Babbitt
Pistons  
Material: Cast Aluminum Alloy Cast Aluminum Alloy
Head Type: Sump Head Sump Head
Skirt Type: Closed Skirt Closed Skirt
Top Land Clearance: .597 – .825 (.0235 – .0325) .597 – .825 (.0235 – .0325)
Skirt Clearance: .018 – .043 (.0007 – .0017) .018 – .043 (.0007 – .0017)
Piston Pin Material: Chromium Steel Chromium Steel
Pin Mounting: Locked in rod by shrink fit Locked in rod by shrink fit
Valve Timing (Crankshaft/Deg. Excl. Ramps)  
Intake Valve
– Opens – BTC: 38 degrees 38 degrees
– Closes – ABC: 92 degrees 92 degrees
– Duration: 310 degrees 310 degrees
Exhaust Valve:
– Opens – BBC: 88 degrees 88 degrees
– Closes – ATC: 52 degrees 52 degrees
– Duration: 320 degrees 320 degrees

1981 Corvette

1981 Corvette Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN)

VIN Range 1G1AY8764BS400001 – 1G1AY8764BS431611 (St. Louis)
1G1AY8764B5100001 – 1G1AY8764B5108995 (Bowling Green)
1 (First Digit) Country.  1 – U.S. built / 2 – Canada built.
G (Second Digit) Manufacturer.  G – General Motors
1 (Third Digit) Make.  1 – Chevrolet
A (Fourth Digit). Restraint System.  A – Nonpassive/manual belts
Y (Fifth Digit) Series.  Y – Corvette
87 (Sixth and Seventh Digit) Body Type.  87 – Coupe 2-Door Plainback Special
S (Seventh Digit) Vehicle Assembly Location. S – St. Louis, Missouri
6 (Eight Digit) Engine Type. 6 – 5.7L 4BBL
4 (Ninth Digit) Check Digit. This number will vary.
B (Tenth Digit) Model Year. B – 1981
S or 5 (Eleventh Digit) Plant. S – St. Louis / 5 – Bowling Green
4XXXXX or 1XXXXX Twelfth thru Seventeenth Digits – Plant Sequence Numbers.

The last six digits for the Corvette Coupe built in St. Louis begin at 400001 and run thru 431611. The last six digits for the Corvette Coupe built in Bowling Green begin at 100001 and run thru 108995. This accounts for all 40606 Corvette Coupes built in 1981. Each Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is unique to an individual car.

For all 1981 Corvettes, the location of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is stamped on a plate attached to the left front body hinge pillar. (See Figure 1 below.)

1981 Corvette VIN Plate

1979 Corvette Vehicle Serial Number Plate
1979 Corvette Vehicle Serial Number Plate

1981 Corvette Vehicle Serial Number Plate

  • Location:
    • On the driver’s side upper left-hand door hinge pillar.
  • Example:
  •  A01 – Body build date code.
    • A – Designates the Month (See Charts Below).
      • St. Louis Build Date Codes:
        • A – Aug., 1980 B – Sep., 1980 C – Oct., 1980 D – Nov., 1980 E – Dec., 1980 F – Jan., 1981, G – Feb., 1981 H – Mar, 1981 I – Apr., 1981 J – May, 1981 K – Jun., 1981 L – Jul., 1981
      • Bowling Green Build Date Codes:
        • B05 – Aug., 1980 B06 – Sep., 1980 B07 – Oct., 1980 B08 – Nov., 1980 B09 – Dec., 1980 B10 – Jan., 1981
      • 01 – Designates the Day of the Month.
  • 642 – Interior Trim code. 642 – Camel (Leather)
  • 59L – Exterior Color Code Upper. 59 – Beige
    • Codes were often followed by the letter L, but some trim plates had an exterior code preceded by the number 9 with no letter L following.

1981 Corvette Engine Identification

  • Location:
    • Chevrolet produced engines will be stamped with a source, production date, and engine suffix.
  • Engine Identification Example:
    • V0615ZDA
    • V – Source Designation.
      • V – Flint, MI
      • 0615 – Date Code. Month and Day. 0615 – June 15.
      • ZDA – Type Designation. ZDA – 350ci 190hp, 4-speed manual transmission.

1981 Corvette Engine VIN Derivative (St. Louis Built)

  • Engine VIN Derivative Example
    • 1BS4XXXXX
    • 1 – Division.  1 – Chevrolet
    • B – Production Year.  B – 1981
    • S – Assembly Plant. S – St. Louis
    • 4XXXXX – Vehicle Sequence Number

1981 Corvette Engine VIN Derivative (Bowling Green Built)

  • Engine VIN Derivative Example:
    • 1B51XXXXX
    • 1 – Division.  1 – Chevrolet
    • B – Production Year.  B – 1981
    • 5 – Assembly Plant. 5 – Bowling Green
    • 1XXXXX – Vehicle Sequence Number

1981 Corvette

1981 Corvette Factory Options

CODE EXTERIOR QTY PLANT INTERIOR
06 Mahogany Metallic  1,092  St. Louis  Camel, Dark Red
10  White  6,387  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Dk. Blue, Dk. Red, Med. Red, Silver Gray
13  Silver Metallic  2,590  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Dark Blue, Medium Red, Silver Gray
19  Black  4,712  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Dark Red, Medium Red, Silver Gray
24  Bright Blue Metallic  1  St. Louis  Charcoal, Camel, Dark Blue, Silver Gray
28  Dark Blue Metallic  2,522  St. Louis  Camel, Dark Blue, Medium Red, Silver Gray
33  Silver Metallic  3,369 B. Green  Charcoal, Dark Blue, Dark Red, Silver Gray
38  Dark Blue Metallic  496 B. Green  Camel, Dark Blue, Silver Gray
39  Charcoal Metallic  613  B. Green  Charcoal, Dark Red, Silver Gray
50  Beige  2,239  B. Green  Charcoal, Camel, Dark Blue, Dark Red
52  Yellow  1,031  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel
59  Beige  3,842  St. Louis  Camel, Dark Blue, Dark Red, Medium Red
74  Dark Bronze  432  B. Green  Charcoal, Camel
75  Red  4,310  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Medium Red, Silver Gray
79  Maroon Metallic  1,618  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Medium Red, Silver Gray
80  Autumn Red  1,505  B. Green  Charcoal, Camel, Dark Red, Silver Gray
84  Charcoal Metallic 3,485  St. Louis  Black, Charcoal, Camel, Medium Red, Silver Gray
98  Dark Claret Metallic  341  B. Green  Camel, Dark Red, Silver Gray
33/38  Silver/Dark Blue  —-  St.L./B.G.  Dark Blue, Silver Gray
33/39  Silver/Charcoal  —-  St.L./B.G.  Charcoal, Silver Gray
50/74  Beige/Dark Bronze  —-  St.L./B.G.  Camel
80/98  Autumn Red/Dark Claret  —-  St.L./B.G.  Dark Red, Silver Gray

Base Corvette Sport Coupe (1YY87)

  • The base price of the 1981 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe without any optional equipment.
  • A 350 cubic inch, 190 horsepower engine, 4-speed manual transmission or automatic transmission, leather/vinyl or cloth/vinyl interior trim, tinted glass, AM/FM Radio, power windows, air conditioning, tilt telescopic steering wheel, and T-tops were included in the base price.

Power Door Locks (AU3)

  • Factory installed power door locks.

Power Driver Seat (A42)

  • Six-way driver’s side power seat

Removable Glass Roof Panels (CC1)

  • Tinted glass lift-out roof panels

Rear Window Defogger (C49)

  • An optional rear window forced air defogger.

Electric Sport Mirrors (DG7)

  • Electric, twin remote, sport mirrors.

Two-Tone Paint (D84)

  • Two-tone exterior paint scheme from the new Bowling Green plant included the following choices: Silver/Dark Blue, Silver/Charcoal, Beige/Dark Bronze, Autumn Red/Dark Claret

Gymkhana Suspension (FE7)

  • An optional, heavier-duty suspension system for higher levels of performance.
  • The Gymkhana rear leaf springs contained 9 leafs, though the top leaf is very small. GM identifies the rear leaf springs as an 8-leaf spring.
  • Included a stiffer front sway bar and stiffer springs.
  • There were no restrictions on ordering this option – it could be ordered with any engine/transmission combination.

Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers (F51)

  • Not available with Trailer Package ZN1.
  • Not available with Gymkhana Suspension FE7.

Performance Axle Ratio (G92)

  • Requires MX1 Automatic Transmission and YF5 California Emissions

Cruise Control (K35)

  • Cruise control allowed the car to maintain a set speed without the driver depressing the accelerator pedal.
  • The cruise control option was only available with MX1 automatic transmission.
  • Included “Resume” control. Resume allowed the driver to return to a preset speed.

4-Speed Manual Transmission (MM4)

  • 4-speed manual transmission.
  • MM4 was a no-cost option.

Aluminum Wheels (4) (N90)

  • Included four aluminum wheels and a conventional steel spare

White Letter Steel Belted Radial Tires, P225/70R15 (QGR)

  • Optional size tires with special raised white lettering.

White Letter Steel Belted Radial Tires, P255/60R15 (QXH)

  • Standard size tires with special raised white lettering.
  • Radio Delete (UL5) – Radio deletion for a credit of $118.00
  • Deletes standard radio and speakers.

AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned Stereo with 8-Track Tape (UM4)

  • The standard/stock radio equipped with an 8-Track Tape Player.
  • The radio received broadcast in FM 2-channel stereo, FM monaural, and AM monaural.
  • Includes 8-track tape deck.

AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned Stereo with 8-Track Tape and CB (UM5)

  • The standard/stock radio equipped with a 8-Track Tape Deck and CB Radio.
  • The radio received broadcast in FM 2-channel stereo, FM monaural, and AM monaural.
  • Includes 8-Track Tape Deck.
  • includes Citizens Band Radio.

AM-FM Radio, electronically tuned Stereo with Cassette (UM6)

  • The standard/stock radio equipped with a Cassette Tape Player.
  • The radio received broadcast in FM 2-channel stereo, FM monaural, and AM monaural.
  • Includes Cassette Tape player.

AM-FM Radio, Stereo with Cassette and CB (UN5)

  • The standard/stock radio equipped with a Cassette Tape Player and CB Radio.
  • The radio received broadcast in FM 2-channel stereo, FM monaural, and AM monaural.
  • Includes Cassette Tape player.
  • Includes Citizens Band Radio.

AM-FM Radio, Stereo (U58)

  • A standard/stock dealer installed Corvette radio.
  • The radio received broadcast in FM 2-channel stereo, FM monaural, and AM monaural.

Power Antenna (U75)

  • A rear deck antenna that retracts and extends when the radio or ignition is powered off and on respectively. The power antenna extends 31 inches.
  • Not available with UL5, UM5 or UN5.

Roof Panel Carrier (V54)

  • A carrier mounted to the rear deck for external transport of the removable roof panels.

California Emission Certification (YF5)

Trailer Package (ZN1)

  • Factory installed trailer package.
  • The trailer package included the FE7 Gymkhana Suspension and a heavy-duty radiator.
  • The hitch could support approximately 100 pounds of tongue weight.
  • Requires MX1 Automatic Transmission.

Notes:

  • The 1981 Corvette was built in two seperate locations. Chevrolet transitioned production from St. Louis, MS to Bowling Green, KY. The last production day in St. Louis was August 1, 1981. The Bowling Green plant began production on June 1, 1981.
  • Only one engine was available for the Corvette in 1981 – the L81. The L81 was certified for sale in all 50 states.
  • New fiberglass-reinforced Mono Leaf rear spring was standard with an automatic transmission. The design eliminates interleaf friction to help reduce ride harshness. The steel multi-leaf spring is retained with the manual transmission and optional Gymkhana suspension.
  • The automatic transmission included a converter clutch feature in 2nd and 3rd gears.
  • The Advanced Computer Command Control Center became standard in 1981. The system automatically adjusted ignition timing and air-fuel mixture.
  • Lightweight magnesium valve rocker covers in black with bright ribbed surface was standard.
  • New stainless steel, free-flow exhaust manifolds replaced the previous years cast iron manifolds offering a weight reduction of fourteen pounds.
  • New auxiliary electric fan cuts in if supplemental cooling is needed. This allowed a smaller fan with fewer, lower pitched fan blades for reduced fan drag and a quieter operation.
  • The standard anti-theft system was improved for 1981 by adding a starter-interrupt feature that disables the starter circuit if a forced entry is detected. Arming of the system is obtained by using the manual lock or power door control on the driver’s door. Simply unlocking the driver’s door with the key will disarm the system.
  • The headlight and windshield wiper switch bezel was painted the interior color as apposed to the standard black on the previous model year.
  • A quartz crystal-movement clock was standard. it was a more accurate and durable timepiece than the conventional mechanical-movement clocks.

1981 Corvette

1981 Corvette Recalls

Recall 03E032000

Make: CHEVROLET
Model: CORVETTE
Model Year: 1981
Manufacturer: CARDONE INDUSTRIES, INC.
Mfr’s Report Date: MAY 07, 2003
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 03E032000
NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: SERVICE BRAKES, AIR:DISC:CALIPER
Potential Number of Units Affected: 15899

Summary:

REMANUFACTURED REAR BRAKE CALIPERS, PART NOS. 18-7019, 18-7020, 16-7019, AND 16-7020, MANUFACTURED FROM FEBRUARY 1, 2002, TO APRIL, 25, 2003., AND FOR USE ON 1965 THRU 1982 CHEVROLET CORVETTES. THE SUBJECT BRAKE CALIPERS WERE MANUFACTURED USING IMPROPERLY MANUFACTURED PISTON SEALS. THESE SEALS ARE INTENDED TO PREVENT FLUID LEAKAGE BETWEEN THE CALIPER HOUSING AND THE PISTONS. THESE BRAKE CALIPERS ARE FOR USE ONLY ON 1965 THRU 1982 CHEVROLET CORVETTE VEHICLES. THIS RECALL DOES NOT INVOLVE GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION OR ANY OF ITS PRODUCTS.

Consequence:

UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, THE VEHICLE OPERATOR MAY NOT BE ABLE TO STOP THE CAR, POSSIBLY RESULTING IN A VEHICLE CRASH.

Remedy:

CARDONE WILL NOTIFY ITS CUSTOMERS AND ALL UNSOLD INVENTORY WILL BE REPURCHASED AND WILL PROVIDE A FULL REFUND TO CUSTOMERS. OWNER NOTIFICATION IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN DURING MAY 2003. OWNERS WHO TAKE THEIR VEHICLES TO AN AUTHORIZED DEALER ON AN AGREED UPON SERVICE DATE AND DO NOT RECEIVE THE FREE REMEDY WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME SHOULD CONTACT CARDONE AT 215-912-3000.

Notes:

ALSO, CUSTOMERS CAN CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION¿S AUTO SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236).

Recall 07E088000

Make: CHEVROLET
Model: CORVETTE
Model Year: 1981
Manufacturer: HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC.
Mfr’s Report Date: OCT 19, 2007
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 07E088000
NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: EQUIPMENT
Potential Number of Units Affected: 121,680

Summary:

CERTAIN HONEYWELL FRAM RACING BRAND HP4 AND HP8 OIL FILTERS THAT WERE MANUFACTURED FROM MAY 25, 2006, THROUGH SEPTEMBER 14, 2007, AND SOLD FOR USE AS REPLACEMENT EQUIPMENT FOR VEHICLES LIST ABOVE. THE AFFECTED FILTERS ARE MARKED WITH A DATE CODE A61451 THROUGH A72571 SEQUENTIALLY. THE DATE CODE AND PART NUMBER APPEAR ON THE FILTER HOUSING. FRAM RACING HP4 AND HP8 OIL FILTERS NOT BEARING A DATE CODE IN THIS RANGE ARE NOT AFFECTED BY THIS RECALL. THE GASKET OF THE OIL FILTER BECOMES MORE PLIABLE UNDER HIGH TEMPERATURES AND PRESSURES.

Consequence:

THIS CONDITION MAY CAUSE INADEQUATE SEALING AND LOSS OF ENGINE OIL, POSSIBLY RESULTING IN A FIRE.

Remedy:

HONEYWELL WILL REPLACE THE AFFECTED OIL FILTERS FREE OF CHARGE. THE RECALL BEGAN DURING NOVEMBER 2007. OWNERS CAN CONTACT FRAM CUSTOMER SERVICE TOLL-FREE AT 1-800-890-2075.

Notes:

CUSTOMERS MAY CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION’S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY: 1-800-424-9153); OR GO TO HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV.


1981 Corvette Service Bulletins

Coming Soon


1981 Corvette Common Issues

Coming Soon


1981 Corvette Maintenance Schedule

Coming Soon

1981 Corvette Dealers Sales Brochure

1981 Corvette Dealers Sales Brochure

Download this 1981 Corvette Dealers Sales Brochure for a quick look at the features of the car.

Download 1981 Corvette Dealers Sales Brochure

Source Material:

  1. The Pocket Book of the Corvette: The Definitive Guide to the All American Sports Car – Copyright 2003, Barnes & Noble
  2. CORVETTE: Sports Car Superstar – Copyright 2005, PIL – Publications International, Ltd.
  3. Corvette Black Book – Copyright 2009, Michael Bruce Associates, Inc.
  4. The Complete Book of Corvette – Every Model Since 1963 – Copyright 2006, MBI Publishing

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