I have an 81 corvette w/43k miles. Excellent /original cond. I had it stored for 18mths. I heard a knock in it and dealer says the cam shaft needs repair. Is this worth it?

Asked by Dec 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM about the 1981 Chevrolet Corvette

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

hello sir, I have a 1981 corvette.  It is all original with about 44k miles on it.  I had it stored for about 2 years.  I took it to the dealership for an oil change and I heard a knocking in the motor with I get up to 55 plus miles.  The mechanic at the shop did the analysis and told me it is the cam shaft. I am wondering what do I do now.  Or do you know a mechanic that is reasonable and can repair it for me.  

16 Answers


It is really up to you what you do from here. I can give you some contact info so you can find a good corvette mechanic in your area, because I am not sure where you are. If you dont mind can I see a pic of your car?

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The car is now at the dealership and taken apart to determine the problem. It is in EXCELLENT cond, 100% garage kept, never in accident, no dents/scratches, interior perfect, glass T-Tops, orig wheels, orig motor and orig mech parts, silver exterior / red interior. I want to keep it if worth it. If I sell as is I am told I would not get much. Can I get the camshaft replaced w/out replacing the motor? Yes pls send info for good mechanic in the area. Have you heard of Corvette Specialist in Chantilly, VA? THANK YOU very much!


How much is the repair estimate? If you want to keep the car, yes "it's worth it". However an '81 does not have a high collector market value.


Your Corvette will continue to increase in Value as the years go by, to not fix a car as pristine as yours is what I would call a very big mistake. A cam shaft is not a big expence, when it comes to motor repair. Your car is worth any where in the area of 5 to 10,000 at the least. the repairs should not come in anywhere close to that. Its a no brainer I think

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So, now here is my question. How sought after are 84s?

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I got an estimate of $3500-$4k to replace camshaft/flush motor for metal fragments. This mech recommend this since orig low mileage. One mech says replace both cam & motor for about $7k. Pls send info for good mechanic in the area. Have you heard of Corvette Specialist in Chantilly, VA? Based on your last answer I think I will get it repaired and keep it. Your advice is very helpful.


Check with your local Corvette clubs, for repair shops that do a good job,and don't rob you. Auto restore clubs are also a good place for repair advice.


I am up in Canada, where I get to use my Corvette convertable for only half of the year. An 81 Vett would still be a very nice ride, and is just begining to go up in value. Never give up on a good Vett.


$4000 to $7000 is not reasonable. You could replace the entire motor for less than that, and the car is not worth that much. Late C3 Corvettes will not increase quickly in value. Look around you can probably find a vehicle in comparable condition around $5000, if that much. They just don't have the value. Having said that, if you plan on keeping the car for a long time the, I'd look into replacing the entire motor not just the cam.


Here is an example; for $7250 you can buy a beautiful 1981 Corvette. Spending $7000 to fix yours would not be wise (in my personal opinion). http://www.mecum.com/auctions/lot_detail.cfm?LOT_ID=KC1211-119121

What is the advantage or disadvantage of replacing the Cam without replacing the motor? If I keep it then how much should I pay to repair it? My problem is, if I do not fix it, then I will get little to nothing to sell as is.


If the cam is shot, it is very likely that other major components in the motor are bad as well. If you replace just the cam, do not be surprised if more major work is required in a short period of time. For an engine with only 44K miles to have a bad cam, something had to go badly wrong to cause that. Small block Chevy cams can easily well upwards of 100K miles with no problems. An entire engine replacement could likely run in the $3000 range, possibly more. If it were me I'd replace the engine and be done with it, maybe spend up to no more than $4000 tops. More than that, you can sell the car for parts/repair for probably $2000 or more, and look at what you can buy at auction, very nice cars in the $6000 to $7000 range.


You know your car. A low milage engine from the 80's is more than likely to have the original cam shaft. back in that time the steel was of a lower quallity, and didn't last as well as todays. If you just do the cam and clean, you more than likely will not be putting a lot of miles on the car. you could get a lot of miles out of the car, with just a small expence. To replace it would bring on all the new surprises that come with any used car. Value wise, you know if this repair is all, that you need. Of cource, you could give up and buy a good C-5 and you would never go back.

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I am going to take the car to a corvette club recommended mechanic shop and get a second analysis & opinion. I have copied all of the advice above and I will share it with the mechanic. I will let you know the final decision. I would like to keep it if not too expensive. Your advice and counsel have been so helpful to me. THANK YOU very much!!!

I recently brought an 1981 Vette for $4600. The motor was knocking alittle, then went to a drum beat. If I were you, I would buy a remanufacture stock crate motor. They run from $1200 and $1500 plus labor to be put in the car. The more horsepower, the more money. I can across a 94 350 motor with 20,000 miles for $650 plus labor to put in. This is alot cheaper.


Just saw your question, what did you do? Keep the car, you will enjoy it a lot. The 84 was a new model, C-4? They had a lot of issues but the 85s had it worked out. If your cam is bad, metal fragments went throughout the motor and all your bearings need replacement, and your crank turned. A complete motor rebuild is the best if you want to keep the original motor, which I recommend, but put in quality parts.

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