If you’re anything like me, particularly when it comes to buying Yank tin… or plastic, for that matter, then some of the very best cars are simply fulfilling a promise to your 8-year old self. This rather lovely example you see before you ladies and gents, is precisely that. In fact, it’s even exactly the same colour as the Matchbox version I vowed I would buy myself back in the year that this was made – 1980.
Finding it came about completely by chance. I had always wanted one, of course, but a bit of late night car-shopping directed me to the big-boys toy store that is www.cloud9cars.co.uk. I’ll warn you now, don’t go there if you have a weak disposition, as you would doubtless fall in love with something on its pages! The second I saw this, complete with its American Racing wheels, I was done for! I called owner Pete, who kindly brought the car around the next day for me to view, and it was as simple as that. A fair price was agreed, (to include some original ‘slot’ mags, in case I ever want to go back to factory), and we shook hands. Two days later. It was on the driveway.
For those who aren’t true ‘Vette geeks, the L82 moniker denotes the ‘big power’ version. Well, I say big power, but in 1980 that equated to a gargantuan 230 bhp, to be precise. Not a shabby figure, but when you realise that it’s from a 350ci motor, you begin to realise how strangled these emission era Yanks really were! That said, take a look at the state of that motor! Doesn’t exactly look like it’s had a hard life now, does it? What the ’80 model year did bring though was the sexier new facelift bumpers and slightly more aggressive styling. I know the purists prefer the earlier cars, but to me, this is where it’s at!
Still, on the upside, it’s an all-original 40,000 mile car that has spent almost 20 years locked in a collection in Chicago. Now over here in Blighty, it’s about to get a great deal more use, with a few subtle, in-keeping and reversible upgrades on the cards that will make it even nicer to drive. This one is very rare by virtue of the fact that everything works, so it’s a great place to start on a Corvette project.
So what’s on the cards for this one? Well, my previous Yank - a tastefully modified ’10 plate Challenger which had quite a few upgrades all round. While I’m keen to stamp my own personality on the Chevy, I don’t want to stray too far away from what made me love it in the first place; namely, irreplaceable originality. To that end, future jobs will be limited to replacing the whisper-quiet factory exhaust for something more befitting of a 5.7 litre V8, a full set of BILSTEIN shocks, a slightly better set of stoppers and then a few minor aesthetic jobs on the bit of paintwork and trim that aren’t A1. As you can see, the seats and the wheel could do with a little love, for sure.
The paintwork was very fairly described by Pete – and that description included ‘It’ll need a good polish before it’s right’. Suitably fore-warned, I wasn’t surprised to see a bit of matted topcoat and a few swirls and marks here and there. She’s in great shape for her years, and a quick exploratory buff revealed that all would come good with very little effort, so I have already booked in with my friends down at Autoglym for a good going over, so you know what to expect next time at least!
For now though, I’m just enjoying driving the thing and getting to really know the staff at all of our local petrol stations. We’re very much on first name terms by now, with unleaded disappearing at a rate of knots. Well, can you blame me?
Until next time! - Massive thanks to Chris Wallbank for the pics