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Diego’s AutoHunter Picks

Malaise American coupes for your nostalgia


Folks like to pile on c.1980 cars, but they are the ones that were new when I was a fledgling car kid. I didn’t know any better that they were vehicles for girly men (per Hans and Franz) compared to the Ram Airs and LT1s that appeared a decade earlier. To a car kid, model year changes were an exciting time, and that’s all that was needed.

For this week’s AutoHunter Picks, we have three Corvettes, two of which are from the Malaise Era, while one shows how far we’ve come. For comparison, we have an F-body Pontiac that stole the crown from the Corvette as America’s favorite car. Which one makes you reminisce the most?

1982 Chevrolet Corvette
If it wasn’t for emissions junk, perhaps we’d be celebrating the C3 Corvette in all its incarnations. The Corvette evolved with the 1970s (and 1980s) in good form despite its 1960s origins, so we have to give credit to Chevrolet (if not General Motors) for designing a vehicle that was adaptable to developing styling trends as they happened.

This 1982 Corvette is one-family-owned and features 39,716 miles. Only 1,667 were built in this Silver Blue/Dark Blue paint scheme,  and it’s paired with a Dark Blue vinyl interior. Cross-Fire Injection was new, Corvette’s first “Fuelie” since 1965. Other features include T-tops, slotted aluminum mags, air conditioning, and power door locks. A handsome way to sing the C3 swan song.

1980 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am
Like the Corvette above, Pontiac did a fine job updating the Firebird throughout its second-generation tenure. While Pontiac fans may argue that some styling is better than others during its evolution, they can also agree that the Trans Am superseded the Corvette as America’s favorite sports car (even if there were seats in the back). Great looks, a Burt Reynolds movie, and a 400 V8 helped make the Firebird endure the decade when others dropped out.

Nineteen eighty was the year the Firebird lost both the Pontiac 400 and manual transmission, so this Turbo Trans Am was as hot as it got – and with 210 horses, it was close in power to the outgoing 400. The color appears to be Fiero Bronze, nicely complemented by gold wheels and graphics, and Camel Tan Custom Hobnail Cloth interior. New paint and decals, power windows and locks, tilt steering, and T-tops make this a fine Firebird for the new decade.

1981 Chevrolet Corvette
The 1981 Corvette was the last of the C3s to offer a manual transmission, and, luckily for Californians, the 350 returned after subjecting them to a 180-horsepower 305 for 1980. This also was the last of the C3s to be fed by a carburetor. The 1981 Corvette was at the cusp of the old and the new, with more power just ahead, and a new generation so close yet so far.

So maybe you enjoy the styling of the last of the C3s but don’t like the two-tone scheme of the above ’82. Or maybe you’re Old Skool and don’t care for the Cross-Fire Injection? This 1981 Corvette is happy to be your solution as it shares the same style plus it features a gorgeous red leather interior. While the other is a low-mileage car, this one features a rebuilt engine several modifications, so it’s more of a driver than a collector car – take yer pick!

2023 Corvette Stingray 2LT
I haven’t warmed up to the C8 just yet. I understand it’s the most dynamic Corvette ever, but I think the proportions of the mid-engine layout is what bugs me. I could also complain about the lack of manual transmission, but it’s a sign of the times (if not F1 racing). Criticism of the Corvette looking like a facsimile of a Ferrari falls on rolling eyes.

Nonetheless, this 2023 Stingray 2LT coupe has me interested. The color is great, especially with the interior featuring red components. It’s of a high specification thanks to the 2LT trim level. The Z51 Performance Package shows this Vette leans even more towards the enthusiast’s side. And, lastly, the 1,316 miles on the odometer mean you get an almost-new car for a price friendlier for your wallet.

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


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