C3 Corvette Restomod: Community Spotlight

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1981 C3 Corvette Body and Chassis Disassembly
1981 C3 Corvette Restoration
1981 Corvette Engine Bay
1981 C3 Corvette Front Fascia New

Forum member rescues fire-damaged 1981 C3 Corvette and builds the restomod of our dreams.

Here at Corvette Forum, we love late C3s. Smog-strangled and underpowered as they may be, their muscle-bound looks and affordable price point make them a solid platform for building a fast street machine.

1981 C3 Corvette Front End Removed
1981 C3 Corvette Body and Chassis Disassembly 2
1981 C3 Corvette Body and Chassis Disassembly 3
1981 C3 Corvette Frame

That’s exactly what Corvette Forum member “JohnnyCyclone” (real name, Terre) intends to do with this yellow ’81. Apparently, the car was well taken care of by a previous owner, but an extensive underhood electrical fire caused the insurance company to declare it a total loss.


CHECK OUT: More of this Special Restomod Project with the Latest Updates


Terre picked it up with the intention of restoring it to its former glory, while simultaneously giving it the performance to back up its tough appearance. The original plan involved a 383 stroker backed up by a T56, lowered on staggered 17s up front, with 18s out back. We definitely approve.

1981 C3 Corvette Frame Restored
1981 C3 Corvette Engine
1981 C3 Corvette Frame Restored Front
1981 C3 Corvette Frame Restored Suspension

The project began with Terre stripping the Corvette down to the bare frame. The fire did extensive damage to the fiberglass structure, but this didn’t deter Terre. The frame was clean with the exception of a bit of surface rust. Even the original build sheet was still on the gas tank.

The frame and suspension components were cleaned up and coated with chassis paint, and a new wiring harness was sourced. As other components were sourced, the damage to the fiberglass firewall was painstakingly repaired in sections.

1981 C3 Corvette Rear Quarter Panel
1981 C3 Corvette Wheels
1981 C3 Corvette Rear Quarter Panel Driver
1981 C3 Corvette Engine Restored

Sanding down through the many layers of paint and filler on a project car is like an archaeological dig, revealing a previously hidden history the previous owner neglected to tell you. This Corvette was no different with damage discovered on the driver’s side rear quarter panel. Terre plans on going back and fixing it the right way.


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Finding a freshly-rebuilt 355 with a scant five hours of run time helped to move the build along after a few setbacks. Life always gets in the way and makes a project like this take much longer than you’d initially expect. Still, Terre opted to tear down and reassemble the engine himself for peace of mind. Now that’s dedication.

1981 C3 Corvette Restoration
1981 C3 Corvette Suspension Installed
1981 C3 Corvette Engine Bay Wheel
1981 Corvette Engine Valve Covers

Builds often evolve and change as time goes on, and Terre decided that a Tremec TKO would work out better than a T56. That means that plans for staggered 17″ and 18″ wheels had to be scuttled for the time being. However, he did find a clean set of era-correct Western Turbine wheels that will look just right for a late C3. He can always swap them in the future.

Speaking of period-correct budget parts, he also scored a set of Chevrolet-branded Mickey Thompson valve covers at a swap meet and refinished them with great results. With the frame mostly re-assembled and ready to accept the body, Terre painted the firewall and underside before reuniting the body and frame.

Minus a few snags, the project is progressing nicely and we can’t wait to see Terre cruising around in this beast next summer!

Cam Vanderhorst is a contributor to Harley-Davidson Forums, Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and MB World. He is also a co-host of the Cammed & Tubbed podcast.

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