By Corvette Action Center Member, Bob Williams (Nut)

Note:  Click on any of the images below for a larger view:

Front Quarter View - 1981 Primer CorvetteAs far as I can verify the story of my '81 is accurate.  I am (technically) the second actual person to own this car. The first owner is a friend that I worked with and for over many years. I trust his account completely.  I have validated much of this story, but being a St. Louis Vette, factory documentation is almost impossible to attain.  Here goes...

This 1981 Coupe was born in St. Louis, January '81 (F05).  The Trim and Paint tag is stamped for the Trim: (67C) for Cinnabar Cloth.  The Paint: (SPEC). SPEC you say?  This car was delivered to O'Reilly Chevrolet in Tucson, AZ in PRIMER GRAY (see photo of the Trim and Paint Tag).  I have a copy of the 'Build Sheet' retrieved from on top of the gas tank.  (see photo of Build Sheet) It clearly shows the "SPEC" paint listed as (01L and 01U) and a notation in the left-middle of the sheet; (Body in Prime) and a code number.  The car was purchased as a dealer 'lot' car and not ordered for a specific person. As the St. Louis factory was preparing to shut down and Bowling Green was ready to start up, the quality on some of the St. Louis Vette's was noticably poor.  Paint quality had been more than an occasional problem.  As you know all St. Louis Vette's are painted in Lacquer and BG's are Enamel.  To prevent a dealer from having to refinish or even repaint a delivered car, O'Reilly had at least this one and possibly three others (unconfirmed) delivered in Primer Gray then had them sent out to be painted.  This car was painted at Formula One Automotive Arts in Tucson, AZ.  I have spoken to the owner of the shop and he remembers the car specifically because of the custom blended "Nutmeg Bronze" color and because it was the only Corvette he ever painted, fresh from the dealer with zero miles on it.  Verification of primer color and paint job.

Build Sheet - 1981 Primer CorvetteI contacted O'Reilly Chevrolet.  Unfortunately there is no one working in sales, finance or administration that was there in 1981.  I did speak to a lady who is now an order writer.  She was a receptionist at that time but does remember something about Primer Corvette's and possibly a couple Primer Camaro's.  But it's from memory only. O'Reilly does not have any record retention from that year. She said they just sell too many cars a year to hold records for that long.  Drat!  The car sat on O'Reilly's lot for some time.  Now the 1982's are in stock and they can't move the car. Somehow (unverified) O'Reilly was able to get a Pop-Up Glass window assembly kit; the identical one that is installed on the '82 Collector Edition only Vette's and had it installed in the '81.  This appears to be true based on the lack of any over spray on any of the window seals.

After conversing by email over a number of weeks with Glenn Brown in New Jersey, who has done extensive research for the NCRS specifically for 81-82 judging manuals, he is convinced the Glass assembly is a Cars & Concepts kit.  C&C made the kits for GM to install on '82 CE's only.  He has documentation that he accumulated over the years including GM correspondence regarding the C&C kits.  It appears from my picture (attached .jpg) this is one of those kits.  Unfortunately, C&C no longer exists.

Rear Hatch View - 1981 Primer CorvetteIt appears that O'Reilly then convinced an associate with an auto lease company in Tucson to purchase the car and market it as an Executive Lease car.  This was the 'technical' first "user" of the car.  The Leasing Company put approximately 3000 miles on the car and finally sold it to a Porsche-Audi Dealer in Tucson.  This is where the first owner bought the car just exactly as you see it today.

Mr. Brown was also able to determine from documented sources, there were over 41,000+ 1981 Corvette's made at both the St. Louis and Bowling Green factories combined.  He is certain of every '81 color combination that was delivered from BG and verified that there were NO primer gray BG deliveries. Subtracting from the 'known' St. Louis color records, it appears there were (21) cars from St.Louis delivered in a "Non-Factory color". How many of those were Primer Gray are unknown. It is possible that some of those (21) could have been COPO cars. This one was definitely not a COPO. I'd say that narrows it down pretty well.

Interior View - 1981 Primer CorvetteIt gets more interesting yet. When I replaced the rear spring with a fiberglass spring, I noticed that the car did not have the (FE7) Gymkana option installed. The build sheet clearly shows the FE7 package ordered. When I replaced a couple U-Joints a few years ago, I discovered the U-J's were the beefier Standard Transmission U-J's instead of the ones for the automatic (which this is).  The U-J issue is fairly common from what I've been told.  The FE7 is another matter.  A story I recently heard from another Vette owner told of GM, 1981 just leaving options off a car if BG needed parts, especially if it was on a dealer ordered 'Lot Car', as this one was.  Seems to make some sort of warped sense.

Trim Tag - 1981 Primer CorvetteThe rest of the car is as follows:  Auto TH350, A/C, Cinnabar Cloth (hideous Orange color), AM/FM/CB/8-Track (rare), Pwr Windows, Seats, Antenna, Std. Painted tops, and Aluminum mags (not currently on the car).  It has 64000 original, garage kept miles.  I removed the AIR pump; added ceramic coated headers and put on a two-stage CAT with 2 ½ pipes all stock the rest of the way back.  Original radio removed by owner No. 1 (and he sold it at Carlisle...idiot!) American Racing Mags with Knock-off spinners currently installed. The engine, with the exception of the missing AIR and headers is stock (and still passes that pain-in-the-arse Maryland tail pipe 'sniffer' test every two years with flying colors).

I have posted this story on the 'Corvetteforum' site and received relatively few responses.  Some said that "Primer" cars are common, except I have not heard from ANYONE else who has, or has ever seen one.  Nobody has laid claim to having an '82 Pop-Up Glass window installed in an '81.  I may have the only '81 at any rate, but once again nobody has piped in saying they have one in ANY 78-82 year other than an '82 CE.

So that's what I know so far.  The color grows on you and it gets a lot of positive comments.  It's a pretty special car you must admit.  The original owner sold it to me because he didn't figure he could get it to pass CA emissions requirements when he moved there and he knew I'd give it the TLC it requires.

Passenger Side Front Quarter View - 1981 Primer CorvetteI had a '72 Coupe back in the late 80's and sold it when my kids started taking all my time with baseball, football, etc.  You get the idea.  Feel free to email me directly at home or work. I'll provide both addresses.

Regards. Bob Williams (Nutmegbronze 81)
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