Curbside Musings: 1980 Chevrolet Corvette – Disco’s Last Stand

1980 Chevrolet Corvette. Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, February 25, 2023.

Think back to a specific year from early on in your story that stands out in the timeline of your life, one that left a huge impression on you and remains as a trailside marker to which you’ll still occasionally refer.  We may have several such years that we think about, but the earliest impactful year occurred at a point that represented a larger percentage of our life than any year that followed.  That year for me was 1980.  I have been gifted with a strong sense of memory.  Having barely started grade school by that point, I still think about ’80 with palpable excitement that seems a little harder to fully grasp with each passing flip of the calendar, though I try to stay aware of the amazing and wonderful things still happen today.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette brochure photo, courtesy of

Nineteen-eighty brought a host of changes to Dennis family life.  That was the year we moved from our old house to an entirely different neighborhood after almost having permanently relocated to Liberia, my father’s country of origin.  I remember the process of all of us going on showings that spring with our realtor in a few neighborhoods in the eastern part of Flint.  I had no real sense of what my parents were looking for specifically outside of a stable area with good schools and room for the five of us.

When they had finally made their selection, that summer was spent making that house ours, which included removal of hideous wallpaper, installation of new carpets and linoleum, white walls everywhere, and new furniture.  An abundance of west African artifacts made our living room look like a museum exhibit where you’re not allowed to touch anything, as some of my friends will still occasionally remind me.  It wasn’t the warmest place, but it at least felt cultural.  It was also where I would spend a lot of time playing with Matchbox cars, Legos, and in front of the television.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette. Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, February 25, 2023.

There were new friends to be made, and being the gregarious blank-slate I was at that age, I made them easily then with so much self-assured confidence that I smile when I think about it now.  I don’t remember much talk from my interracially married parents about the importance of relocating to a diverse neighborhood, but in our little area of Flint’s East Village, we were one of at least a few other non-White families.  My new friend group was like a little rainbow, and my recollection today was that the Dennises were warmly embraced, and I stand by this today as an accurate perception.  This was Flint, after all, a beautiful and wonderful place to grow up.

I didn’t have the tools at the time (few young kids would) to fully assess how I felt about everything about my new, mostly White neighborhood, having moved from a wonderful, vibrant, and predominantly Black neighborhood.  I loved our old house, street, neighbors, and the general atmosphere in the Evergreen Valley subdivision, and would think of these people and things often for years after we moved away.

Donna Summer "On The Radio" 7" vinyl single artwork, sourced from

Our new home, area, neighbors, and school I would be attending that fall, however, seemed so exciting, like I had arrived at some incredible future that was about to unfold in front of me, with my active participation.  There would be new clothes, as young kids need from year to year up to a certain age.  My training wheels had finally come off of my blue Schwinn.  And then there was all of the glorious music coming out of car speakers and out of open windows from the surrounding houses.  Long before I hit puberty or had any idea who or what I would later be into, certain things produced the kind of visceral excitement inside me that could only come from deep inside of one’s soul.  One of those things was the music of Donna Summer.

I’ve written about my Summer fandom here before.  The song I most closely associate with the summer of 1980 in my new neighborhood is “On The Radio”, released in November ’79 as featured on the soundtrack to the teenage flick Foxes, which starred Jodie Foster.  This song peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of that year (No. 9 R&B; No. 8 Dance), but I remember hearing it often that summer.  Maybe the neighbors had Summer’s greatest hits double-LP or the Foxes soundtrack next to the Hi-Fi.

All I know is that from the start of the piano ballad chords that start the song, I’m always immediately happy and know I’m about to hear one of my favorite songs and choruses of all-time.  This is probably, next to the groundbreaking “I Feel Love“, my favorite Donna Summer record, and arguably one of the last purely disco songs to have been met with wide, mainstream success before the popularity of that musical genre imploded and it morphed into other forms of dance-oriented music.  Without question, it would be Summer’s last disco hit before she’d move in different sonic directions, starting with The Wanderer, released in the fall of ’80.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette brochure photo, courtesy of

I’ll admit that the needle may be skipping on my own record, as I’ll emerge with yet another post about a C3 Corvette every few months or so, but in my defense, I’ve always found a different slant by which to present each example.  The Discovette was the definitive performance car for many in my age group who might also have been impressed with Datsun Z-cars, Trans Ams, and Camaro Z28s.  One of my favorite t-shirts was lemon-yellow with a glittery, iron-on transfer of a C3 on it that covered almost the entire front of the shirt, purchased in Athens, Ohio while on a family vacation.  It was such a sad day when I had finally outgrown it.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette. Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, February 25, 2023.

Nineteen-eighty could also be seen as the last stand for something new from the third generation of GM’s flagship performance car.  Very significant change to the car’s profile and overall look had last occurred with the ’78 model’s adoption of wraparound rear glass versus the original tunnel-back look used from the C3’s ’68 introduction.  After Corvette production would peak in ’79 at over 53,800 units, the 1980 version would again be altered.  Reshaped front and rear fascias that included new spoilers front and aft would improve aerodynamics, going from a 0.503 coefficient of drag to 0.443 Cd, a 12% improvement which put it in a league with the slick, new ’79 Mustang hatchback.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette brochure photo, courtesy of

The Federal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) program continued to play into automakers’ efforts to develop more fuel-efficient ways of getting things done, for both new and existing models.  The ’80 Corvette lost about 250 pounds from the year before through the use of lighter materials, including aluminum versus steel for some components (differential housing and front-frame crossmember) and more plastics.  Other changes to the new-decade starter Corvette that arrived in the fall of ’79 were focused on increased comfort and convenience, including standard air conditioning and a tilt wheel.

Inflation for 1980 was in excess of 14%, up from 11.35% in 1979.  This was reflected in a base price that was increased by roughly 13%, going from about $12,300 to almost $14,000.  Sales for 1980 dropped by almost a quarter, to just 40,600 units.  The L-82 emblems on the front fenders of this car indicate the top-shelf, 230-horsepower, 350 cubic-inch V8 is under the hood.  Non-California cars came standard with a 190-horse version, while examples in the Golden State featured a 180-hp 305.

1980 Chevrolet Corvette. Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, February 25, 2023.

By 1980, the C3 was already in its thirteenth model year.  The mid-engined Aerovette concept had actually been approved in 1977 for ’80 production by General Motors CEO Thomas Murphy, but was later cancelled by engineer David McLellan for cost reasons and also the assessment at the time that the existing front-engine / rear-drive configuration was still viable.  (Echoes of my family-of-origin’s aborted move to Liberia that same year…)

A new C4 would arrive in early ’83 as an ’84 model, with a character as different from the car it replaced as the music on top-40 airwaves was from when our featured ’80 Corvette was new.  The third-generation Corvette may have seemed geriatric toward the end of its run to some who had been aware of its existence starting in the late ’60s, but by 1980, it was still new-ish to kids like me.  Its updated appearance for ’80 still elicits genuine excitement in me, arriving as it had during the first time in my life that a new decade had turned over, when so much seemed possible and adulthood seemed a million years away.

Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, February 25, 2023.

Brochure photos courtesy of