The C3 Corvette is a piece of high automotive theater, it demands the onlooker’s attention and has no shame about it. The form is bosomy with razor sharp creases that are all swagger and bravado. The Corvette not only got you there but shouted in no uncertain terms that you’d arrived. If Mick Jagger’s nether regions were a car, this would be it. Even in 2017 its looks are arresting, sitting hunkered low on sturdy cast alloy wheels that help visually anchor the fantastic shape. It’s pure, thrusting sex. It doesn’t matter one iota that in raw performance terms late C3’s are happier in the role of boulevardier than visceral sports machine. After all, one doesn’t drive to the disco a quarter mile at a time.
The drama continues once you’ve threaded yourself into the car, especially if you’re over 6’ tall as headroom is scant. The removable mirrored glass roof panels help dispel any sense of claustrophobia. Still, this is unquestionably a “cockpit” and not a mere interior. You’re faced by a big tach and speedo that, because of federal regulations, reads only to 85 mph and has the dreaded double nickel national speed limit picked out in orange. The center stack houses a full complement of ancillary gauges, including an oil temperature gauge. The gear lever is a purposeful chrome shaft topped with a simple black ball grip and lock button. Seats are narrow, firm and well bolstered. There are power windows, remote control side mirrors, heat, air conditioning and stereo cassette to complete the luxury touring feel.
It may be running embryonic electronic engine management but the Corvette still has a wonderfully engaging mechanical-ness about it. Inserting the key delivers sensations to your fingertips telling you that it’s physically manipulating the lock so that you may twist it forward against the spring loading to start the engine. The Chevy small block, that most American of engines, awakens with its familiar basso profundo grumble, in spite of being forced to exhale through a catalytic converter. Only one powertrain was available for ‘82, that being the L83 Crossfire injected 350 cid small block and 700R4 automatic gearbox with overdrive and lockup torque converter..
Crossfire injection is a fascinating halfway house between carburetion and modern, multi point fuel injection systems. It consists of two throttle bodies each housing one fuel injector, mounted on a cross-ram intake manifold with each injector serving the opposite bank of cylinders. Fuel pulsed from the injectors 80 times per second, under the constant control of GM’s Computer Command Control system. Crossfire has a reputation for being troublesome, but the featured car’s owner reports that he’s had no issues with it. Throttle response is instant and linear too, not always the case with smog era carburetted cars.
There’s a school of thought with cars that says the first and the last of the line are the ones to get. The first models are often the purest, the last tend to be more sorted. After a few moments behind the wheel of this low mileage 1982 Corvette I can say emphatically, that it is very well sorted indeed. There’s nary a rattle from the structure, even the glass roof panels are disinclined to generate unwanted noise. Road irregularities do not find their way up the steering column and the cowl does not quiver. This is all the more impressive when you consider that the 1982 Corvette is underpinned by essentially the same ladder chassis that bowed in 1963.
Putting the ‘vette in gear results in brief and subtle shudder as engine torque works its way down the driveline. Prod the accelerator and you’re underway with the glorious view of swooping hood and fenders in front and the sky above you. You quickly find that the ride is firm, but not harsh and cornering is flat. I get the impression that the ‘vette would be a handful at the limit, but not wishing to put the owner in cardiac arrest or his car in the weeds I motor with some decorum. 11.75 inch disc brakes on all corners with a firm pedal scrub off unwanted forward motion with alacrity. The meaty three spoke steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach. It fills the driver’s hands in satisfying fashion. The Saginaw power assisted recirculating ball steering gear is pleasantly weighty and fluid in operation, though it could communicate road feel just a bit better. There’s a distinct feeling that the wheels responsible for directional change live way, way out front, a great distance from the helm. The sensation is a little unnerving at first, but one soon acclimates. Overdrive and lusty torque give the car a relaxed, loping gait. At 55 mph the tach shows only 1400 rpm.
As befitted Chevy’s flagship and a car which cost more than twice as much as a contemporary Malibu there’s lots of nifty details, even under the hood. The air cleaner housing is finished in classic crackle black and the rocker arms live under ribbed covers that could’ve come from a 1950’s hot rod. There’s even a slick solenoid controlled cold air induction system sucking atmosphere from the high pressure area in front of the windscreen. The last C3’s are a crossroads of automotive technology and design ethos. They’re also a helluva lot of fun. They may take more time to get to 60 mph than some of their predecessors, but an ‘82 Corvette will put a smile on your face in .5 seconds flat !