1978’s Silver Anniversary Corvette
1978 was a big year for the Corvette: It was the marque’s 25th Anniversary. As well, the Corvette was chosen to be the official pace car of the Indy 500. Chevrolet must have been very proud of its sports car, for all 78 Corvettes received special commemorative emblems.
The 10-year-old third-generation body was subtly updated with a new fastback, a large wraparound backlight, and a widened rear fender area. (This latter detail was discovered by customizers when they were busy converting ’78 and newer coupes after convertible production ended in 1975.) A 220 hp, 350 cid L-82 engine was made available, some with 4-speed transmissions, the rest with automatic.
Buff magazines showed a 0-60 time of 7.8 seconds with a top speed of 123 mph, while in a shoot-out on a test track in Ohio, the L-82 version was deemed “Fastest Car in America,” with a 134 mph top speed and a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds
But the big news for collectors and enthusiasts alike was the addition of two limited-edition versions of the Corvette. Anniversary editions featured a “25th Anniversary Paint” B2Z option. It was a distinctive two-tone silver paint treatment with a silver-metallic upper body and a charcoal-silver lower body. (If you are chasing an Anniversary Edition make sure it’s not a silver car where someone painted the lower body to resemble the real thing.)
Pin stripes accentuated the front-upper profiles, wheel openings, front fender vents, hood, and rear license plate cavity. Optional aluminum wheels and dual sport mirrors were required for the Anniversary package.
The second Limited Edition (and much sought after) Corvette was the Pace Car Replica, which commemorated Corvettes being used as pace cars in the 62nd Indy 500.
The Pace Car Replica was decked out with a black upper body and silver-metallic lower body plus the alloy wheels and fat Goodyear tires worn by the Silver Anniversary model. It also came equipped with front and rear spoilers. The identifying “Pace Car” decals were supplied separately so the owner could apply them if desired. The decals were a bit overdone (in our humble opinion), which probably explains why there are genuine Pace Cars with the decals missing.
Upholstery choices included a silver leather or silver leather/grey cloth combination. The seats were of a new design scheduled to be introduced in 1979. Standard equipment included power windows, electric rear window defroster, air conditioning, sport mirrors, and several other features which boosted the price of the Pace Car Replica to $4000 more than a base Corvette.
Because of its limited availability, new Pace Car Replicas fetched upwards of $28,000 (the suggested list price was only $13,653) almost immediately and a flood of fake Pace Car Replicas entered the market. The only clues to a real Pace Car Replica are the seats, which should resemble those of a 1979 Corvette, and the serial number, which should be between 900001-906502.
While the 1978 Pace Cars and Silver Anniversaries captured most of the attention, Chevrolet also managed to sell plenty of normal ‘Vettes (base price $9,352).
The interior also underwent a number of changes: The speedometer and tachometer were redone and took on a more rectangular profile. A glove box was added. New inner side-door panels with arm rests were introduced. The washer controls were moved to the instrument panel.
So what will it cost you to own this classic? Although the “numbers matching” mania has finally begun to subside, correct, low-mileage cars always command the best prices. Thankfully the 1978 Corvette is not the kind of car big-money collectors are seeking because of the quantity still available. That gives the average buyer a chance to own a historically significant automobile that is affordable, yet has a stable value for years to come.
An average car should sell for $12,000-$20,000 with genuine Anniversary cars going for over $20,000. Because Pace Cars are scarce, it is difficult to offer a guideline. Watch for bogus Anniversary and Pace Cars; the possibility exists that even the original owners were deceived by unscrupulous dealers or middlemen. If you’re buying, check the numbers and consult with experts who can tell the difference between the genuine article and an attractive fake.