Welcome to the Corvette Forums at the Corvette Action Center!

Restoring stock 81 4 speed


Aug 3, 2008
Tucson, AZ
1981 ZZ383, Weiand 177, steeroids, Van Steel rear
Hi everyone:

Pretty new to the forum - been reading it a few days now and already got some help in the technical forum which actually amounted to how stupid I was.

Regardless, I picked up a stock '81 about 2 weeks ago with the intention of restoring it. Already did some shopping online and have a new front suspension coming from a couple different sources. Just have a few questions about style points:

1. Wheels. This thing has some horrendous aftermarket wheels. I do like the idea of changing things up to add your own "flair," but these things gotta go. At first, I was dead set on 15's to keep that old muscle car look, but thanks to you guys (after looking at lots of images on this forum), I've seen some 17's that look good - specifically the torq thrust II's. While this thing has a stock motor, that will change over time (and after a few hundred more paychecks). I was thinking about getting fatter wheels/tires in the back. I was originally gonna get 15x8 f and 15x10 r with 255/60/15 f and 295/50/15 r. Didn't do the math, but the guy told me it would keep the same tire height. My question is: could I go equally wide if I got 17 inch wheels? A lot of people say that the less rubber height, the better handling. While I'm sure this is true, my question is - how true is this? For people who have changed wheel size, can you tell a difference? And if so, can I get wide 17's in the back on wider wheels without having clearance issues? The reason I really want thicker back tires is to give that old muscle car look (despite having 190 hp).

2. Dash. It's cracked. Not just the top. In other less noticeable places. I know a lot of you have mentioned replacing is the way to go, but I read a couple other notes about people who have tried dash pads. It saves about $450 and a huge hassle. I'm new to restoring, and am scared that after the dash comes off, I might look at all the wires and have a small heart attack or stroke. Have any of you tried a dash pad (<$150)? Do they look like crap? This won't be a show car. I don't mind a little bit of the rough around the edges look, but don't want it to look horrible, either.

3. Seats. Please don't crucify me here. I was thinking about just pulling them out instead of putting new upholstery on them. It's a little more costly to put in racing harness seats, but I wonder if safety justifies it. I know utility won't. I've looked at recaro and sparco but haven't found any models that fold all the way forward so that I can get to the battery and the useless car jack in the back (does this thing actually work? It resembles a piece of archaic junk invented by the Romans (slightly before they invented the spear))?

I hope I didn't offend anyone with this post. I know going stock is the way for a lot of you. Don't get me wrong, you won't see me with those wheels that keep spinning after the car stops or anything ridiculous like that. I've just loved C3's since I was a little kid and finally am done with school and all the drudgery that's been holding me back from starting on my dream. So thanks in advance for any help with this stuff.


Oh yeah, one more thing: have any of you put hydraulics in your C3's yet? Just kidding. :boogie


Well-known member
Jun 25, 2003
96 Collectors Edition LT4
Welcome to CAC! :upthumbs

I recommend you go to the New Member Introduction forum and start a thread saying HI! Just a proper & fun way to introduce yourself!

As far as what we as a group like. Everything! That is what is so cool about the Corvette Action Center. Everyone is entitled to doing things his/her own way.

I really have no ideas on the C3s. You might find some great suggestions here. I like all the generations but am partial to C4s.

Good Luck no matter which way you decide to go! :beer

SAVE the gosh darn :w


Well-known member
Jun 28, 2005
Merrimac, MA
1982 silver/claret
Welcome to CAC!

I bought this one:


Its not installed yet but is sitting on top of the original and it seems like its going to be an easy fit. Instead of having separate pieces for the speaker grilles its all included in one piece.

My husband is restoring a 68 firebird and he has after market racing seats for that, I guess its all about what you want to do with your car that will help dictate what you buy. I consider myself in the resto mod category.


Well-known member
Oct 12, 2000
Amarillo, TX
1981 UL5
Voodoo81 ~ Welcome to the Corvette Action Center Community ~

:w John,

I love it... you sound pretty excited and full of expectations for your 1981 :thumb

My suggestion:
Concentrate on getting the ole girl mechanically sound. Setup a plan of attack. Me, I'd spend the bulk of time and $$$ getting everything in road ready condition, e.g. Suspension, Engine, Instruments, Creature Comfort items, before spending money on wheels, seats and interior ;)

You will find it is not ALWAYS the best to invest in cosmetics then not be able to drive it, or trust it to drive from Tucson to Scottsdale ;)

Welcome aboard, enjoy your :Steer and remember to ALWAYS do it right the first time, and do it SAFELY!!


6880 Mike

Well-known member
Jun 30, 2006
The Bluegrass State
1968 convertible; 1980 L-82
...I picked up a stock '81...

My advice is to take a minute and think things through. '81 was the last year for the 4 speed and there were only 5757 of them. You might want to consider keeping the car in stock condition or restoring to stock.

Go here http://www.corvetteactioncenter.com/infosearch/index.php?cmd=area on the forum and see if you can obtain a copy of the dealer invoice for your '81. The invoice will list the options installed on the car and provide other information not found on the build sheet. If it's a Bowling Green built '81, you might be able to obtain a copy of the build sheet from the NCM.

Once you know what you've got, you can decide which way you want to go.



Well-known member
Nov 1, 2001
southern california
1982 convertible (not factory) stock 350cfi auto
I say leave it stock! Doesn't matter if it's fast it has class! besides I cant even remember the last time I saw a nice C3 out on the road. Nobody will will challenge you to a race they will compliment you more.

Leave it stock


Well-known member
Feb 25, 2002
Cleveland, Ohio
ZZ4, 700R4, Steeroids rack & pinion, VB&P Brakes
Here's one (more?) for suggesting you do what you want with your car. Modify the hell out of it if you so desire.
Somewhere around here I have a post that I'm just gonna start quoting rather than rehashing it in threads like this. :)

OK, so the car is partially stock. "Yippee!!!" :eyerole
Why did you buy the car? What was your major reasoning? ...For the looks? For the collectability? For the awesome 190HP (when it was new, and now likely quite a bit less)?

If you just bought it for collectability, you bought the wrong car OR you are gonna be waiting a LOOOOONG time to have it be an investment.
And I don't think anyone buys 'em anymore for their staggering power numbers.
So that leaves me to guess that you bought it for the looks, the body styling. Same reason I bought mine.

Now, the next question. Are you going to spend your time and money keeping the car for the next owner to enjoy, or are you spending your time and money on the car so you can enjoy it? I'm also going to guess that again, it's the latter answer. Thus, Do whatever the hell you want with the car. It's yours!!!

Ya know, it just occurred to me that for as often as I see the mid-60's cars completely redone with the ZZ502 engines and all these other upgrades, I've never heard one person say, "Dude, you totally shoulda kept the original 327ci in the car!" ...and the original suspension and original this and original that blah blah blah. I've certainly never heard (that I can recall) a bad word said about 67Heaven's car. I'm sure his could've been a nice 'survivor' vette. But it wasn't what he wanted for his car. People love 67Heaven, and it's not because it's your pristine original 1967 Corvette.
But for some reason, our later C3's seem to attract the crowd that says "Keep it in it's sorry OEM form." Yeah, OK, if I can afford more than one, maybe I'll keep this one as a 'survivor' candidate. But I can't afford more than one right now. So I'm gonna do what I want to this car and make it mine and enjoy it as such!
You bought the car for you. You do as you wish with it. If other people want to keep their cars as pristine originals, hey, that's cool. I can appreciate a clean original specimen, but it ain't for my car. We all got our thing and to each his own. :thumb

Now, with that out of the way...
My 2¢ regarding your questions.
1) Tire Size. All that matters is the overall width and circumference of the tire. (We're assuming correct rim clearances around the caliper.)
The width needs to be taken into consideration so it doesn't rub your leafspring or the trailing arm at full compressiona and extension. I've heard of people putting 275's in the rear, but with my car up in the air, 255's rub my leaf spring. (But I think that's more just a nuance of my car's setup.)
As long as the overall circumference of the tire is the same, it won't impact your speedo readings.

Oops, post edit...taller tires (60 series+) aren't as performance-oriented as shorter tires (55 series and below). The reason being, among other things, is sidewall strength. The taller the sidewall, the more 'roll' you can encounter where the center of the tires (the rim) moves in or out over the center of the contact patch. It's almost like having soft suspension in the car. Shorter tires give less sidewall roll which allows the car to rely more on the suspension to do what's it's supposed to do. Note however that shorter sidewalls also transfer more energy from road surface imperfections, thus giving you a harder, bumpier ride. Shorter sidewall also aren't as forgiving over potholes and such. I believe it's easier to break a tread or sidewall band on the shorter tires because there's simply not as much rubber to absorb the impact.

2) The dash pad. I've never messed with one, so I can't comment.

3) Seats. I'd consider avoiding race seats. While they may be more form-fitting, my recollection of them is that the overall comfort ain't there. Our cars ride rough. Drive over a dime and you'll be able to tell if it's heads-up or tails. Plus, racing seats with a full harness might be a little overkill that would warrant snickers since you have nothing under the hood to back it up. In an almost literal sense, I wouldn't put the cart before the horse(s). :L
MidAmerica or some other vendor has some really cool two-tone seats now. They weren't around when I replaced mine, but I certainly would've considered 'em. I likey! And replacing the seat inserts ain't too bad, as long as you get the full replacement and not just new foam or new leather. Get them already done and you'll be saving yourself tons of arse-ache.

Be sure to check in with CAC Supporting Vendors for any upgrades/purchases you may consider. Some offer discounts to CAC'ers. Or, it's just nice to support the companies that support us.

Welcome to the :CAC

Corvette Forums

Not a member of the Corvette Action Center?  Join now!  It's free!

Help support the Corvette Action Center!

Supporting Vendors


MacMulkin Chevrolet - The Second Largest Corvette Dealer in the Country!

Advertise with the Corvette Action Center!

Double Your Chances!

Our Partners

Top Bottom