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damn, is it that bad?


Darrin E. Ward

What's up folks? I just logged into your site recently, and I must say I am impressed. At any rate let me explain why I'm writting. I've been looking at vettes for the last year and a half (and have yet to purchase one.)

I guess my hesitance is based in part upon reliability. I have narrowed my selection down to the 78' to 81 years. But I am still a little reserved about them.

If and when I do purchase, my Corvette will not be a daily driver. It will mostly be used for weekend and general enjoyment. (A Saturday afternoon, with a can of Wax and plenty of beer in the fridge) However, I'd like to know how much "nickel and dime" stuff to expect.

I spent 3yrs searching for my last older car. (1990 Buick Reatta) I bought it off a woman in Dayton, OH who, by all accounts, had taken pretty good care of it.

Even so, I replaced the $5.00 air filter with a K&N, the worn out belt with a serpentine, the plugs and wire's, and the brake pads & rotars. (Reatta's are known for thier crappy break systems)

Unforseen expensens? Let's see, there was the ECM for $350.00 (Got rained in) The thermostat, keyless remote, and most recently the ignition. And that's all within three years. Despite all that, the old girl has never not fired up for me one day since I bought it. And I'd still feel comfortable taking it on a long (Say out of town) drive.

My question is, when I do decide to purchase a Vette from the 70's/80's, what can I expect? What were your experiecnes? Thanks for any info that you can give, and I hope to be a Vette owner soon!

Take Care. Darrin


Expect to replace the brakes, stearing, suspension, rear wheel bearings, possibly rear differential, and the interior, frame rust and motor/trans condition are pretty obvious. The vacume system for the headlights and heat/air, and the AC can be a bother also. Unless you find a true creampuff, low mile, garaged beauty, these things always die on a C3. There old, and just don't seem to have held up from the factory. If it's any consolation the replacement parts available these days are much better and should last longer than the stock items. I'd figure five grand worth of R&R to get the avrege C3 to a happy living condition.

But there worth it..



I can speak from experience,10.000 to make it new mechanically,if you do it right and put in the parts yourself,the car is 20 years old and every rubber bushing will be bad if it has'nt been replaced.Front end suppension will be needing all the usuall,new u-joint;s,rebuilt traing arm's so the wheel does'nt destroy everthing on the body when it comes off,rebuild motor and trans and you have a 20,000 dollar car that can't be matched for performance and dependability at that price and retain alot of the money you sunk in it. One other thing I notice is every seal is probably leaking on any car that old that hasnt had it replaced. Just my 2 cents but I think it is well worth what you end up with,


Well-known member
May 12, 2002
Central NY
Your best bet is to find a car with perfect paint and body. The cash you spend on mechanical parts is stuff you can do yourself. The expenses are a pain but once you own a Vette its a love that never dies.


Darrin: let me tell you my personal experience in buying a 1982 CE. Not all stories about buying a 21 year old car (as in my case) is not a financial and mechanical nightmare. Remember, cars this old are "antiques" things will go wrong, and the car will have rattles and creaks. That 's just the nature of owning a car that old.

Like you, I did a horrendous amount of research on the internet before buying my CE. I wanted low miles, something that was garage kept, driven on weekends and parades, and very well maintained between seasons.

When you purchase a car that is only seasonally driven and maintained, I think that you can safely avoid many of the financial and mechanical nightmares that other owners of C3's will tell you about.

I narrowed down buying my CE to two sellers. One was locally here in Detroit, the other was in Milwaukee. The gal who owned the car locally had a CE that had only 20,000 miles on it. However, the car was literally in a time capsule. Meaning she did absolutely nothing from season to season to maintain it. I'm sorry, but anything that has moving parts needs SOMETHING done to it to ensure it's mechanical integrity. Everything on this car was original and stock from the factory and nothing was modified to it. That can be both good and bad, because hoses, belts and god only knows what else mechanically could be wrong with it from sitting all those years exposed to extreme heat and cold from being in a garage. Even the tires were original and the inside had mold and mildew from being under a tarp in a humid garage.

Her asking price was quite hefty (because of the low mileage) and refused to come down. I knew that if I bought the car from her there would be unknown expenses and repairs to deal with because she had no knowledge or driving history to know what COULD be wrong with it because she never drove it. Not only that, I am very picky about my cars and I knew I would have to drop some bucks into minimally, the interior to clean it up. This may be a good thing, this may be a bad thing. But I didn't want to take that gamble.

On the other hand, my second choice was a CE located in Milwaukee with 35K, and the owner had the car for 18 years. He wanted $16,500 which I felt was a fair price. He loved this car and it was his hobby, and was very meticulous about maintaining it between seasons. He upgraded the AC to R134a, new stainless steel brake lines, new brakes, new exhaust, new shocks, yada, yada, etc. He was the type that replaced things on the car BEFORE it went wrong and had the bucks to do it. The interior was immaculate and so was the engine and he had receipts for everything he did on the car. I also ran a Carfax on the VIN.

Whether parts were stock or aftermarket was irrelevant to me, because I wasn't looking for a show car. I wanted something mechanically sound and well maintained, and that's what this car was.

Since I have had the CE, I have upgraded the stereo system ($1,400- it did not have the original radio, otherwise I would not have touched it) had the radiator recored, AC charged and a valve cover oil leak fixed. Big woop. Other than that, it runs like a top, and mechanically my mechanic said it's in very good shape because he checked everything both interior and in the engine for me.

So, my advice to you is to find a car that has either one or two owners, low miles and who meticulously maintains the car from season to season and takes pride in ownership. That way the seller really has a feel and history for what has been repaired, replaced and maintained and can pass that information on to you.

Good luck in your search for a C3!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it....hope this helps!


From your perspective of buying an enjoyable weekend driver/cruiser, it's evident that you want to stay away from projects. In short, like luvmy82 points out, you want a car that has been carefully maintained. What you need from the former owner-to-be is receipts, receipts and receipts. If they say the transmission has been rebuilt, ask for the receipts and then visit and research the shop that did the work. Call the BBB and find out the reliabiltiy of that shop. Same thing if it is the engine, differential or suspension.

If the owner did most of the work himself, ask about his experiences' and ask him why he is selling. If he shuffles his answer and comes up with a B.S. explaination, take that into consideration. If he gets all glossy eyed and talks about not really wanting to sell or gets crazy about another old car he wants, then you can really gauge what type of person you are dealing with. Truthfully, you want to buy the car from a car guy. Someone who was willing to spend the money and time to get his car right. Not someone who is "giving up" because they are in over their head or someone who had to neglect the maintainence.

Remember the owner is just as important as the car. You have to size both of them up equally. I'd rather buy a car in faded paint by someone who had maintained all the mechanicals vs. a nicley painted car that leaks like a sieve. That's just me, though.



Well-known member
Feb 25, 2002
Cleveland, Ohio
ZZ4, 700R4, Steeroids rack & pinion, VB&P Brakes
The most important question....

I believe the key question here that no one has asked you is...

How much were you looking to spend?

That's going to be a lot of your answer right there. I've told people the same thing time and time again that have asked about buying older vettes : Buy the most you can afford. And if you need to spend a couple hundred over budget, do it. You cannot build a vette for cheaper than you could buy the equivalent condition car as a whole.

Is the car something that you wouldn't mind spending a little on each year? My car took me 7 years so far to get it to the condition it's in. I could never have afforded to do it all at once, nor did it need it all at once. I would expect that you'll spend about $500/year minimum on repairs/upgrades. Not because the car absolutely HAS to have whatever it is, but because you'll love your car that much that it's worth it to you.

As for the actual years to consider: I say either 78 or 80. I'm not a fan of the 81 Crossfire model [flame suit now active!], and the 79 was not worth it when compared to the newer parts of the 80 and less overall weight. Plus, I like the 80 body style better. Some people take and put 80 panels on a pre-80, and it ends up looking like a new Pontiac...bad paneling glued to an otherwise fine looking car. {I think I'm just going to leave the flame suit on for the rest of this thead} :r


There are really good ones out there if you look long enough. Not all of them need a lot of work. I lean towards the '81s since we have one but they are all nice. Try to find one from a long time owner with documented maintenance records. A lot of people sell their Corvette instead of fixing the problems. Then the next owner does the same until it becomes a maintenance nightmare. A thorough pre-purchase inspection by a qualified Corvette technician will save you lots of money.


Well-known member
Oct 12, 2000
Amarillo, TX
1981 UL5
HER 8T1 ~ Welcome ~

It's nice to see you in print ;)



Well-known member
Oct 15, 2000
Bowie, MD
Vette-less for now

The '82 was the Crossfire engine. The '81 is still a carburated 350, just has the Comp. control. (Flame off!!)

Now here's the Nut's .02.

Darren..... Everyone has good points. As luvmy82 and Evolution1980 said; you're going to put some $$ in it every year just because you want to. Do your homework; don't be in a rush. And definitely don't make an impulse purchase. There are many cars out there that will meet your specifications. Be patient. We'll all be here to answer any questions you have along the way. My '81 has over 185K darn near trouble-free miles. I do regular scheduled maintenance, fix things that "look" like they're ready to go and never abuse the car. Regardless, you still may find that from time to time you'll have to put some $$ in her. Such is the life of a 20+ year old car. But the difference is: you'll love doing it. Sometimes I get antsy to work on anything for the fun of it.

Enjoy the search, the ride afterwards is worth all the effort.

Regards........... Nut


Senior Member
Oct 24, 2000
81 4 speed
I wouldn`t be put off if a nice 81 or 82 showed up, it is reasonably straight forword to convert to old style HEI and Carb and it wouldn`t cost the earth for some decent used parts to change over.

That being said I had a Z28 with crossfire injection and it ran great giving no problems during my ownership.

Hope you get lucky

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