The cars we loved.
When one thinks of Corvetts, the 1980 -82 seldom comes to mind. It’s usually the model years that get short changed. It’s sandwiched between the classic cars before it and the modern supercars that came after it. Although ignored and sometimes ridiculed, the 80-82 represented a perfect junction of classic and modern Vette styling.
It’s easy to see why the last of the “shark” cars was less loved. The third generation (C3) Vette which began in 1969 was influenced directly from Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark showcar. The wildly popular “Coke bottle” shape would become a staple of the C3 Corvette. The once powerful V8’s that made Corvettes legendary were eventually hampered by the oil crisis and later new emissions laws.
Although the Corvette made some strides in emissions and fuel economy, those gains came at the expense of power. The C3 Vette peaked at 425 hp in 1969 from a 427 ci V8 to only 200 hp in 1982. Tight emissions regulations meant that by 1980 only two V8 engines were available.
Changes in the fiberglass body made for improvements in weight, mostly for fuel economy. The cars handling dynamics seemed second nature in the priorities of Chevorlet during this time, although the Corvette was the best handling car from GM and one of the few with a fully independent suspension. The cramped interior was modernized and the addition of a bubble glass hatch (lift back for SE cars in 1982) made the car more practical. Interestingly, there were two factories producing Corvettes during the 1981 model year. The old factory in St. Louis that had made Vettes since the beginning and a new facility in Kentucky that was gearing up to produce the next generation of car in Bowling Green.
In 1982 a special edition was offered with a two-tone paint scheme. By then, CrossFire fuel injection (later used on the new F body cars) had improved the response and drivability of the 350-ci V8. There was no 1983 Corvette officially, but some dealers still had 82’s to sell as they waited for the all new 84 C4 to appear.