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Corvette Manufacturing
Moves to Bowling Green KY

1981 Chevrolet Corvette
Corvette assembly, Bowling Green KY
The big news for 1981 was a venue change, as Corvette assembly moved from St. Louis MO to Bowling Green KY. The original St. Louis plant was designed for 10,000 cars a year and Corvette production had been over 40,000 / year since 1976. The new Bowling Green plant would also feature more modern production capabilities. The last St. Louis Corvettes were built on July 31, 1981 and on June 1, 1981 Bowling Green production started so for a couple of months Corvettes were built in two different places simultaneously.
1981 Corvette, the last one manufactured at the St. Louis MO facility
Above: the last Corvette (manual transmission) manufactured at the St. Louis MO plant and (Below) the first Corvette (automatic transmission) to be manufactured at the Bowling Green KY facility. Hard core Corvette fans might read something in the transmission choices made; feel free to voice your opinion.
1981 Corvette the first one manufactured at the Bowling Green KY facility
If you look at the list of available colors for 1981, you'll see that it is very long; 22 choices, far more than any other Corvette year. You'll even see the same color listed twice - there are several silvers and a couple of beiges for example. The reason is that the two assemble plants used different paint processes; St. Louis MO used acrylic lacquer and the newer Bowling Green KY plant used enamel based paint.

1980 thru 1982 Corvette Front Fender Vent
Starting in 1980 and running thru 1982, an attractive black plastic vent occupied the front fender. The 1981 and 1982 vents featured some horizontal plastic for strengthening.

Interesting YouTube video discusses the move from the St. Louis MO plant to Bowling Green KY.

1981 Corvette engineRight: Engine bays had been getting crowded for some time as a myriad of plumbing and assorted paraphernalia was added to meet anti-pollution requirements. For the first time since 1954, there was only one engine available. Automatic and four speed manual transmissions were possible and the price was the same for either. A "computer command control" which in 1980 had been part of California bound Corvettes was installed in all Corvettes. The system controlled ignition timing and air-fuel mixture, a necessity for tailpipe emissions compliance. The 350 cu. in. 190 hp L81 was, along with both the automatic and four speed manual transmissions, legal in all 50 states.
1981 Corvette 85 mph Speedometer

Right: 85 MPH was the maximum reading on the 1981 Corvette speedometer and was a Federal Safety requirement intended to conserve fuel. Note the emphasis on the "55" reading, also a federal requirement. The regulations did not have the desired effect as fuel consumption remained mostly the same. These were the days of the 55 mph speed limit (derisively known as the "double nickels") which was widely ignored and ridiculed. The legal requirement ended in 1981 as the result of the need to eliminate excessive government regulation.

Corvette owners typically do not like to conform and ingenuity came to the rescue in the form of a .610 gear set placed in the speedometer cable. This meant that the kilometer per hour scale could be used to accurately display speed beyond 85 mph.

1981 Corvette For Sale

Price: $7,500 obo
Exterior: Beige
Interior: Camel
Miles: 11,400
Location: Illinois

Click Here for more info

383 Stroker motor with 11,400 miles on complete rebuild. Many extra high performance parts just to name a few: Hurts shifter, Muncie 4-speeh, Edelbrock intake and carb, roller rocker, aluminum heads, oil cooler, etc (more)

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The transverse rear spring material was upgraded to fiberglass, saving 36 pounds in automatic transmission Corvettes. Weight saving magnesium valve covers were introduced. A driver's side power seat was an option.

1981 Corvette Front Hood Emblem
1981 Corvette Official GM photo
1981 Corvette: Official GM Photo.

1981 Corvette Options, Prices

RPO Description Production Price
A42 Power Driver Seat 29,200 (71.91%) $183.00
AU3 Power Door Locks 36,322 (89.45%) $145.00
C49 Rear Window Defogger 36,893 (90.86%) $119.00
CC1 Removable Glass Roof Panels 29,095 (71.65%) $414.00
D84 Two-Tone Paint 5,352 (13.18%) $399.00
DG7 Electric Sport Mirrors 13,567 (33.41%) $117.00
F51 Heavy Duty Shock Absorbers 1,128 (2.78%) $37.00
FE7 Gymkhana Suspension 7,803 (19.22%) $57.00
G92 Performance Axle Ratio 2,400 (5.91%) $20.00
K35 Cruise Control 32,522 (80.09%) $155.00
MM4 4-Speed Manual Transmission 5,757 (14.18%) n/a
N90 Aluminum Wheels (4) 36,485 (89.85%) $428.00
QGR White Letter SBR Tires, P225 / 70R15 21,939 (54.03%) $72.00
QXH White Letter SBR Tires, P255 / 60R15 18,004 (44.34%) $491.92
U58 AM-FM Radio, stereo 5,145 (12.67%) $95.00
U75 Power Antenna 32,903 (81.03%) $55.00
UL5 Radio Delete 315 (0.78%) n/a
UM4 AM-FM Radio, etc stereo with 8-track 8,262 (20.35%) $386.00
UM5 AM-FM Radio, etc stereo with 8-track/CB 792 (1.95%) $712.00
UM6 AM-FM Radio, etc stereo with cassette 22,892 (56.38%) $423.00
UN5 AM-FM Radio, etc stereo with cassette/CB 2,349 (5.78%) $750.00
V54 Roof Panel Carrier 3,303 (8.13%) $135.00
YF5 California Emission Certification 4,951 (12.19%) $46.00
ZN1 Trailer Package 916 (2.26%) $110.00

Total Production: 40,606
Coupe: 40,606 (100.00%)

Notes: Base Corvette Coupe with 350 cu. in. 190 hp engine: $16,258.52.
Manual or automatic transmission was a no-cost buyers choice.


Code Exterior Quantity Interior
06 Mahogany Metallic 1,092 (2.69%) Camel / Dark Red
10 White 6,387 (15.73%) Black / Charcoal / Camel / Dark Blue / Dark Red / Medium Red / Silver Grey
13 Silver Metallic 2,590 (6.38%) Black / Charcoal / Dark Blue / Medium Red / Silver Grey
19 Black 4,712 (11.60%) Black / Charcoal / Camel / Dark Red / Medium Red / Silver Grey
24 Bright Blue Metallic 1 (0.00%) Charcoal / Camel / Dark Blue / Silver Grey
28 Dark Blue Metallic 2,522 (6.21%) Camel / Dark Blue / Medium Red / Silver Grey
33 Silver Metallic 3,369 (8.30%) Charcoal / Dark Blue / Dark Red / Silver Grey
33/38 Silver / Dark Blue n/a Dark Blue / Silver Gray
33/39 Silver / Charcoal n/a Charcoal / Silver Gray
38 Dark Blue Metallic 496 (1.22%) Camel / Dark Blue / Silver Grey
39 Charcoal Metallic 613 (1.51%) Charcoal / Dark Red / Silver Grey
50 Beige 2,239 (5.51%) Charcoal / Camel / Dark Blue / Dark Red
50/74 Beige / Dark Bronze n/a Camel
52 Yellow 1,031 (2.54%) Black / Charcoal / Camel
59 Beige 3,842 (9.46%) Camel / Dark Blue / Dark
74 Dark Bronze 432 (1.06%) Charcoal / Camel
75 Red 4,310 (10.61%) Black / Charcoal / Camel / Medium Red / Silver Grey
79 Maroon Metallic 1,618 (3.98%) Black / Charcoal / Camel / Medium Red / Silver Grey
80 Autumn Red 1,505 (3.71%) Charcoal / Camel / Dark Red / Silver Grey
80/98 Autumn Red / Dark Claret n/a Dark Red / Silver Gray
84 Charcoal Metallic 3,485 (8.58%) Black / Charcoal / Camel / Medium Red / Silver Grey
98 Dark Claret Metallic n/a Camel / Dark Red / Silver

Notes: The vast color choices was due to the fact that 1981 Corvettes were built at both the St. Louis MO and Bowling Green KY plants.

Note: Clicking on an image with this symbol (Boxes) will lead to a larger image.

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Bruce Wayne Cornelius(Sebring, Florida, US)says...

This site is very interesting for the Corvette people. Very knowledgeable!!! I keep it in my favorites.

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