Written by Kerrie Alexander
Amongst all the pictures on the wall of popular music bands of the era was a poster of the evolution of the real McCoy Chevrolet Corvette evoking memories of The Cannonball Run and Corvette Summer movies for a teenage Leanne Kernke.
40 years on, the sleek looking sports-car is no longer admired in the picture … it’s in her driveway.
The Hervey Bay resident always hoped to own one but didn’t find it practical when prioritising other commitments.
A surprise drive of a fellow Corvette enthusiasts’ car for her 50th birthday only made Leanne want to fulfil the dream of owning one more.
It was also the experience she needed before finding one of her own. The car was left hand drive, as well as manual.
“I’ve always driven manual cars but that was too much of a brain strain,” Leanne said with a laugh.
“I knew I either needed a converted right-hand drive manual or a left-hand auto.”
Then the search for her dream car began. After looking around Queensland for a year-and-a-half,
Leanne ended up finding the perfect ride just around the corner from her home – a 1981 C3 Corvette Stingray.
It was obviously meant to be.
The original red paint and upholstery was tired and worn after nearly 40 years but after a check-up from Trev and T&S Automotive, the green light was given for it being mechanically and structurally sound.
It was the last of its shape, sleek and smooth, and Leanne couldn’t wait to bring her back to life.
After some initial joyrides, the car spent nearly six months in the hands of Lee at Pialba Smash Repairs, who Leanne described as an absolute perfectionist restoring it’s body work and spray paint.
He even tried to match the gorgeous red from a bottle of Leanne’s favourite nail polish.
“The colour caused everyone involved quite a bit of stress. Getting the facelift perfect was definitely a labour of love,” Leanne said.
“She had quite a bit of work done during Covid because she had spent a bit of time in the weather and needed some TLC when we got her 18 months ago.”
Leanne said it was important to her to stay true to the era, with everything else on the car remaining original, with new upholstery imported from America.
The sound of the 351 Chev under the bonnet is also music to her ears.
Ideally it should be driven with the targa top off and the wind in your hair Thelma and Louise style.
“I love the shape of it, but I do really love the sound it makes.
“It has a really good rumble.
“The boys keep threatening to upgrade the engine, but I don’t need it to go any faster and I love the sounds just as it is.”
Leanne also loves her personalised number plate even though it often leaves passers-by confused.
“The plates needed a tag like the songs of the car’s era so it had to be ‘I See Red (ICR3D), the Split Enz song’ for a little red corvette,” she laughed.
“People often stop me and ask what it is.”
After getting her fully on the road about three months ago, Leanne now gets behind the wheel most weekends for a cruise.
And If any ladies join her there is one prerequisite … be prepared to put on the red lippy because this car is one “classy lady.”
The 1981 Chevrolet Corvette was the first model year to be built simultaneously in two locations. The first Corvette assembled at the new Bowling Green, Kentucky plant was completed on June 1, 1981.
Conversely, the last Corvette to roll off the St. Louis assembly line did so on August 1, 1981. There was also a high number of colour choices available for the 1981 Corvette.
The reason for the increased number of colours (including some duplicate choices) was that different types of paint were used at each of the two assembling plants during production.