Corvette club of South Australia Inc.


My name is Grant Thomas and my wife Miao have been members of Corvette Club of South Australia since 1 January 2023. I am a geologist and Miao an accountant and we met in Urumqi, Xinjiang China.

We own a 1980 C3 corvette (LHD, matching numbers with 65,840 miles on the clock). We completed SA Club/Historic vehicle registration on 4 August.

We bought the corvette this year on 27 February from a friend, Wayne who had imported it from the US in 2006. He kept the corvette on full WA registration in Karratha (plate “VETTENICE”), using it only a few times a year. Entered twice in the “prestigious” Karratha Car and Bike Show winning the 2010 People’s Choice and 2015 Best American Car.

I agreed to buy the car sight unseen from Wayne just prior to Covid. I had just retired and had been thinking of finding a classic vehicle as an interest (retore/update) and to use in SA for say touring the wine districts – the corvette fit the bill. My father owned two old Chevys and I learnt to drive in a 1964 Belair, so it did seem fitting to own a Chevrolet after so many years. It took nearly 3 years from agreeing to the purchase with Wayne and having the car delivered into Adelaide in February. Wayne is a Harley-Man at heart (owns 5 Harley Davidson bikes thus far, 5 times running Best Bike in Karratha Car & Bike Show) and didn’t think the corvette “was really him”, hence the sale. Wayne is good mechanically and had updated the brake callipers and master cylinder, installed new seat covers and generally looked after the corvette. The corvette was ultimately transported from Karratha via Perth to Adelaide in an in closed PrixCar truck, which took months to organize. As you can see, we were never in any real rush to complete the sale. Miao and I were really pleased when the corvette once we finally got to see it and even drive it in Adelaide for the first time.

The corvette came with a good amount of information such as the original purchase documentation, Chevrolet Owner’s Manual, and registration details for several of the first USA owners in Nebraska and Arizona.

The car was manufactured in St Louis Missouri (red coupe Model 1YZ87) in November 1979 and first purchased by Charles R Grimes of Omaha Nebraska, on 29 April 1981 from Chevrolet Dealer Blitz Hermanos. Mr Grimes paid $13,140.24 for the basic model including 5.7lt L48 V-8 engine (not available for sale in California), air-con, disc brakes, power steering, colour-keyed seats and shoulder belts and AM/FM radio). He also paid $1,783.16 for accessories which included, removable glass roof panels, power locking system and Gymkhana suspension and a further $236 for transport giving a grand total of $15,159.40. To put the price in perspective the Average Annual Salary in the US in 1981 was $10,495.

The registration in SA for a LHD vehicle has been an ordeal but made bearable by the mechanical expertise of Graeme Hay. The following is a summary of the registration process.

  • Corvette arrives in Adelaide in late February 2023 and immediately insured.
  • Head lights not lifting, so taken to my local mechanic. After 2 days mechanic gives up. Called Gary McPhee who suggests I call Graeme Hay for help.
  • Graeme installs new power steering ram (David Sargent supplied), fixes pop-up lights (new headlight diaphragm/seal), fixes reverse and parking lights, replaces seat belts and minor issues such as internal indicator light and fits new aerial.
  • Identification inspection completed at Regency Park, passes but corvette must complete roadworthy inspection due to being a LHD vehicle.
  • Intrusion bar inspection completed 29 May (Joke – “consisted of mobile phone pointed down one door and the second door as an afterthought”). Cost $550.
  • Initial Roadworthy inspection completed on 7 June (took two weeks to book a time, cost $299), problems included headlights (US lights pointing to the right), windscreen washers to operate, minor oil leaks at diff and gearbox, diff front support damaged, vacuum line at booster incorrect clamp and high beam warning light on dash not working. Inspector commented “Nice original car, all issues are minor but need fixing”.
  • Back to Graeme who commented “Why didn’t the inspector like you”? Eventually all issues rectified with new parts e.g., new Australian standard headlights and windscreen washer pump.
  • Back to Regency Park for Roadworthy recheck on 3 August (2 days to book a recheck, cost $110). Same Inspector! Passed. Corvette photographed at Regency Park for SA registration records. Interim LHD exemption given.
  • Mark Dixon supplied Club Registration Log Book on morning of 4 August.
  • Registration completed 4 August (4/8/2023 – 3/8/2026 cost $404.28, mostly for the annual premium plates fee). Square premium plates 2 weeks to arrive at Service SA.
  • Applied online for permanent LHD exemption 7 August from SA Vehicle Standards, requires approximately 1-2 months to be supplied.

The repair and registration process seems relatively easy except each and every time the corvette was driven required a Left Hand Drive Vehicle Single Trip Exemption permit (2 days from SA Vehicle Standards) then a printed copy of the LHD permit taken to Service SA who issued a Permit to Drive an Unregistered Motor Vehicle permit (cost $46-76 (with CTP insurance) depending on whether the vehicle is driven for an inspection or mechanical repairs). I started losing count, but we went at least 7-8 times through this process.

Next for the corvette will be wheel alignment, air-con gassing, new carpets, and replace body rubbers and further ongoing mechanical fixes as required.

I have concentrated on the corvette history and registration process in this article as I thought these aspects would be of interest to members.

Miao and I are now on the road and enjoying the corvette experience. We look forward to many day trips in the corvette, attending Club Meetings and events and continue going along to Corvettes Rock the Bay every year. In time we may even look at another classic car purchase.

Grant & Miao Thomas Car of the month

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