The early 1980s were as unkind to the ’Vette as they were to cars in general, but California residents got singled out for special abuse. In order to comply with the stricter-than-national emissions control laws in effect in that state, Chevrolet was forced to pull the 5.7 liter, 350 four-barrel V-8 used in 49-state ’Vettes and substitute the “mini small block” 5-liter 305 V-8. Also snatched away was the possibility of a four-speed manual transmission; the LG4 305 “California Corvette” came only with a three-speed turbo-hydramatic—and a bad case of what Abe Lincoln once called “the slows.”

Since everywhere else in the country it was still possible to buy a four-speed, 350-powered Corvette with as much as 230 horsepower (if you chose the optional L-82 high-performance version of this engine), the 305/automatic California cars quickly became herpetic outcasts among the faithful, and they remain so to this day. The small V-8 made only 180horsepower—a little more than half the power of the 2004 Corvette’s standard 5.7 liter, 350-horsepower LS1 engine, and was smaller and less powerful than the less-prestigious 1980 Z28 Camaro’s 190-horsepower 350 V-8.

Unusually lardy performance even by the dumbed-down standards of the early 1980s was the result of this engine swap—which rendered “America’s Sports Car” little better than a flashy-looking “disco machine” that could barely even do a burnout on dry pavement—and only returned 14 to 15 miles per gallon as the final insult.

It was too much to take—even for the beaten down American enthusiast driver. Popular outcry resulted in a short, one-year-only run for the 305/automatic-only Corvette. The engine was discretely dropped in time for the 1981 model year, when the 350 V-8 was re-certified for use in California.

The bad news was that as the new model year dawned, the 230-horsepower L-82 option was gone, and 190-horsepower was all there was, take it or leave it. But at least buyers—including those in California—could once again specify a four-speed manual transmission.

Like the family “funny uncle,” the 1980 305 Corvettes are not much talked about by Corvette enthusiasts—and don’t usually get much more than a let’s-hope-no-one-notices footnote in Corvette histories. About the only place you do find references to these cars is in Corvette value guides, which strongly urge potential owners to steer clear and point out that this model is one of the very few Corvettes likely to never appreciate significantly in value.