1978 Indy 500 Pace Car
The First Corvette Pace Car
BY: Bob Kroupa of Vette-N-Vestments
With the announcement that Corvette will pace the Indy 500 Race
this year and the 50th anniversary of the Corvette coming in the
2003 model year, we went back in the archives to re-create the
coming of the 25th anniversary year of the Corvette - 1978.
The year 1978 was a special year for the Corvette: the marquee’s
25th year anniversary. No one knew what was in store for this
special anniversary year, especially from a pricing
perspective. As it turned out, prices would skyrocket beyond
belief for the special Limited Edition Pace Car. However, let’s
back track to 1977 for the complete details.
During the late summer of 1977, the word “on the street” was
that the Chevrolet Motor Division was given the honor of pacing
the Indianapolis 500 race with a Corvette. A special model was
to be manufactured, the Limited Edition Corvette Pace Car, in
March of 1978 with each Chevrolet dealer being allocated only
one Pace Car.
The Pace Car was a limited edition Corvette that included a
special serial number for model identification. It was a full
option Corvette with black and silver paint, polished aluminum
wheels with a red stripe, mirrored glass T-Tops, and a new seat
treatment that would not become standard until the 1979 model.
An Indianapolis 500 decal kit was included with each model,
since this car was designated as the Official Pace Car of the
race in 1978.
Early buyers were at their Chevrolet dealers before many of the
dealers even knew about the special Pace Car’s pricing or
allocation. A few lucky buyers were able to buy below the base
list price of $13,653 however, the majority of buyers paid list
price or offered to pay a premium for the dealer to write an
order for this special Corvette.
The approximate delivery sticker price on the majority of the
Pace Cars was $13,800 for the L-48 and $14,300 for the L-82. As
the production date neared, word spread that this could become a
very collectible Corvette given that each dealer would only be
allocated one Pace Car. The final production number reached
The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story on March 27,
1978, reporting the collectible stories of this special Limited
Edition Pace Car. At that time, prices went wild – with asking
prices frequently in the $20-25,000 range for the L-48 and L-82
automatics, with the L-82 4-speed commanding up to $40,000.
Stories and pictures began to appear everywhere; we even recall
seeing a Pace Car in a dealer’s showroom with an armored guard
watching over this Special Limited Edition!
The market appeared to peak on Memorial Day, the day of the big
race at Indy. At that time, the average asking price was well
into the $20,000 range. We have noted modest depreciation from
the inflated price points reached during the introduction period
of the Pace Car. Today, the average price of a 1978 Pace Car is
$17,600, which reflects no change from the 2001 pricing.
However, many of these Limited Edition Pace Cars are available
for sale with little or no miles on them, which make them
special buys. It is interesting to note that today’s average
prices exceed the window sticker price in 1978!
Today, the Pace Cars with limited mileage continue to bring top
dollar. A L-82, 4-speed Pace Car with less than 100 miles was
recently sold for $31,000. Another Pace Car with the L-48 motor
and automatic transmission with only 4 miles sold at the “low
price” of $20,750 at Bloomington Gold last year.
For those who didn’t partake in the Pace Car phenomenon, there
was another opportunity to own a special Corvette in 1978. A
special two-tone silver anniversary paint option was offered at
$399. The last time a special paint had been offered was in
1963, and it too, was silver – Sebring Silver – for an option
price of $80.
The Silver Anniversary model did not carry any special serial
number identification. The optional aluminum wheels and sport
mirrors were not part of the Silver Anniversary package, but
were mandatory when ordering the special Silver Anniversary
Of the 40,000+ non-Pace Car Corvettes manufactured in 1978,
approximately 15,000 buyers selected the Silver Anniversary
paint option. This was a wise investment and is reflected in
today’s average market price of $9,500 (a 3% increase from last
year), compared to the non-anniversary paint edition that is
priced at an average of $7,100.
The Silver Anniversary commands prices at the high end of the
1978 price spectrum when the mileage is below 100 miles.
At “Bloomington Gold” last June, a Silver Anniversary with only
168 original miles was a “no sale” at $18,000. Another 1978
Silver Anniversary with 957 miles was also a “no sale” at
And how does today’s average price of a 1978 Silver Anniversary
Corvette compare to the original base price? The original
base price was approximately the same as the average price of a
1978 Silver Anniversary today.
And as one might expect, the “rare” 1978 model is the one with
the optional L-82 motor coupled with the 4-speed manual
transmission. Only 7% of the entire production run was equipped
with the manual transmission and 27% were ordered with the L-82
We expect the interest in these special editions to remain high
during the next 18 months, considering another Pace Car is in
production and we are approaching the 50th Anniversary of
America’s Sport Car icon – THE CORVETTE.
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