Finding a Corvette in the junkyard is a rare event because every single trinket has higher-than-average value on the used parts scene-nothing goes to waste. Plus, their plastic bodywork limits maximum scrap value 'cause beyond the frame, there just isn't much ferrous material onboard. So let's meet only the second Corvette ever to be featured in the Junkyard Crawl. It's an '81 model we discovered at Desert Valley Auto Parts in Phoenix (dvap.com; 800/905-8024). Its stripped condition hints it fell prey to the crew from midnight auto supply, a perpetual threat to Corvettes everywhere. Fame has its price.
Dig the supergroovy candy-blue flames applied over the stock Silver Metallic paint. 1981 was the first year Corvettes were built simultaneously at more than one assembly plant. Cars built on the traditional St. Louis line (where all Corvettes had been built since 1954) have VINs with the letter S in the 11th position, while cars built at the just-completed Bowling Green factory carry the No. 5 in the same spot. Bowling Green cars wore a basecoat/clearcoat finish, while St. Louis cars-like our victim-got old-school lacquer paint. This is one of 2,590 Silver Metallic lacquer cars built at St. Louis; another 3,369 Silver Metallic two-stage cars rolled out of Bowling Green. A total of 40,606 Corvettes were assembled at both plants in 1981.
Despite its standard-issue magnesium valve covers, nobody will miss the L81 350, the one and only Corvette powerplant offering for 1981. Equipped with the new 50-state Computer Command Control system (it was supplied only to California-bound cars in 1980) to automatically adjust ignition timing and the A/F mixture, the L81 coughed out a meager 190 hp. Hug and kiss the next 638hp ZR1 you see.
C3 Corvette four-piston disc brakes were once the stuff of supercar dreams. Today, their heavy cast-iron calipers and small rotors seem agricultural compared with the aluminum six-piston calipers and massive discs supplied on modern Vettes.
Riffing on the classic '63 split-window Sting Ray coupe, the cool curved glass backlight arrived in 1978 and was used on all Corvette coupes until the end of C3 production in 1982. It added mucho cargo space, but cost cutting meant it was not equipped with hinges for interior access until 1982, and then only on the limited-production (6,759 built) Collector Edition hatchback.
*'81 was the last Corvette to have a manual transmission option until the arrival of the totally redesigned C4 in 1984.
*'80 Corvettes sold in California were equipped with the weak suck LG4 305-cube small-block, which made 180 hp. The rest of the country was offered the standard 190hp L48 350 or the optional 230hp L82 350.