The Corvette world was clamoring all over itself to get their hands on one of the special-edition Pace Cars available to the public to commemorate Corvette pacing the famed Indy 500 back in 1978. Now is your chance to secure one with a little less competition.
When you say “Corvette” to someone, many times, that classic “Coke-bottle” shape of the Shark-era cars comes to mind. Perhaps its because the C3 generation enjoys the longest-running production run in years and the generation also holds peak production per year at 53,807 for the 1979 model year.
Our example here was produced one year earlier than the tip of the production iceberg, but the flurry of activity around these black and silver beauties was anything but second-rate. While the fine folks at St. Louis Corvette Assembly were churning out as many cars as possible, Chevrolet’s marketing division was sinking their teeth into a program that would shoot a certain model of Corvette’s popularity into the stratosphere.
If you can tie any product to “The greatest spectacle in auto racing”, you will have access to the hearts and minds (and purse strings) of a vast audience of enthusiasts. If you put your product out in FRONT of the event, you’ll sink the hook even deeper. That’s exactly what Chevrolet did when it arranged for Corvette’s first foray as the official Pace Car of the Indianapolis 500 race to commemorate Corvette’s 25th Anniversary.
Doing so created such a demand for the special edition that it even took Chevrolet by surprise. Originally planned to be a limited-production run, demand for the black and silver sharks was so high, that Chevrolet was forced to produce 6,502 units, one for each Chevrolet dealership in its network.
At the time, almost half of the 25 years of Corvette production were sharks, and the world still had plenty of reasons to want one. A major selling point was that even with the recent EPA regulations and sinking horsepower numbers, the ’78 Corvette Pace Car was the first one of its kind to pace the Great Race without any modification to its drivetrain. Customers could choose between the 180-horsepower L48 or the higher-performing (220-horsepower) L82. Likewise, the distinction between manual or auto transmissions would remain for a couple more years.
1978 Pace Cars still hold their value lead within the C3 era and although the frenzy has subsided considerably, there are still an incredibly broad scope of cars available to the enthusiast. Not too long ago, a Pace Car with just over a dozen miles on the odometer was conscientiously NOT dusted off, and sent to market. Likewise, everything from “low-miles” to fully enjoyed are available to those who appreciate the flag-waving two-tone.
This example will be available at the upcoming Vicari Auction in Waxahachie, Texas next month. While not dusty and begging for collector status, this car appears to be a nicely-preserved example of a car that has enjoyed stretching its legs. Most items appear original and intact, and while limited information is available, it’s safe to say that this car warrants a second look for those in the market for a nice Pace Car of this era.
There are a few things that bring this car to the forefront, such as the L82 engine. Sure, it would be a bell-ringer if it had the optional and rare four-speed, but this car is contently seated within the bell curve and enjoys its place. Also, there is the optional CB radio for all those who remember the popularity of this form of “social media”. All in all, enthusiasm in the C3 era is far from dead, and these cars are doing their part to keep it alive and thriving. If you’re an enthusiast of cars from this era, you’ll definitely want to check this one out for your chance to be out in front of the pack.