The question that people ask me the most is: “What is the hardest thing about restoring an 81Z to absolute original condition?” My answer is always the same: “Finding genuine original GM parts.” Original being the key word. Even today, GM supplies many replacement parts stipulating that they may differ in appearance from the original. That is a huge problem for the restorer, as just because a part has GM and a GM part number stamped on it does not mean that it replicates the original part. As stated throuout this website, there are many things which are unique to the 1981 Z28 Camaro. This makes finding an original piece or part even MORE exciting. The 1981 Z was similar in appearance to the 1980 Z, but was also different in many key ways. One of these key difference is that 1981 was the first year that GM designed a computer into the car. The computer was installed in the very front of the center console. If you look closely you will notice the center console in an 81 Camaro doesn’t have a storage shelf or open slot at the front of the console where it meets the dash. This is because what was previously a storage slot in 1980 is now concealed and built to accommodate the computer. There is an access door on the driver’s side of the center console. One of the most frustarting elements of finding a correct console is the fact that several of the leading restoration catalogs show that the same console will fit F-body cars through 1981. This is INCORRECT. I still remember the first time I saw, and then ordered a center console that I was told would fit the 81 Z28. When it arrived I realized it did not include the appropriate compartment for the computer, and therefore was really only correct for a 78-80; very disappointing to say the least. The following photos show the correct console for a 1981 Z28 Camaro and also show the door which conceals the computer.
A plastic connector strip conceals the joint between the computer door and the console. Once removed, it is obvious that the joint in the door allows it to be opened to reveal the car's computer.
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Door pulled back to reveal car's computer.
The two photos below show the shifter plate on the console. The polished aluminum trim plate is installed on all 1981 Z28s with automartic transmissions.
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