The Corvette was 25 years old in 1978 and the celebration was on. All 1978s featured a commemorative
badge on the front nose. A special two tone paint scheme consisting of dark silver on the lower body and light silver above
separated by a dark silver stripe was offered. The production quantity was not limited and 15,283 were sold.
1978 was a year of significant changes to the C3 Corvette. A new "fastback" design which made for
a smoother silhouette and answered criticisms of limited luggage space; owners now had storage similar to the mid-years Corvette
coupes. Also like the mid-years coupes, access to the area was through the seats and inconvenient. A hatchback opening would
be available in 1982. A retractable cover provided sun protection and security. One drawback to the new design was that the
interior would heat up on sunny days, placing increased demands on the air conditioning.
A new temporary space saving spare tire enabled the installation of a new 24 gallon (previously
17 gallon) fuel tank, increasing the driving range between fill-ups, a previous Corvette complaint.
The interior, which was starting to look dated, was upgraded for 1978. The gauges, while still
round, were set in a more squared off area. A glove box replaced the map pockets located in front of the passenger. CB (Citizens
Band) radios were a booming fad in 1978 and a AM-FM stereo with CB (RPO UP6; $638.00 - ouch!) was available. One antenna was
called on to provide for the AM-FM and CB functions, so its performance was compromised.
A Corvette paced the Indy 500 race and a special
edition paint consisting of light silver on the lower body and black above, separated by a red stripe and special seats marked
the occasion. Originally production was to be limited to 300, a nod to the production quantity of the 1953 'vette. But demand
increased and soon Chevrolet had a problem: which dealers would be allocated one of these special Corvettes? The problem was
solved by producing 6,502 Indianapolis 500 pace car replicas, enough so that each dealer would get one and a few promotional
Despite the fact that a production quantity of 6,502 removes any potential for a "rare" designation, a buying frenzy
ensued and the sticker price of $13,653.21 was often doubled. The Wall Street Journal entered the fray with a prominent article
outlining the situation and hints that prices would be higher in the future. The result was that the general public entered
the market, making buying decisions that were illogical.
Purchasers who thought that profitability was part of the special edition Corvette ownership were disappointed. This
often happens when the public gets interested in collector cars as investments. One problem was the high production quantity
of 6,502. The other was that the option was only a badge, paint job and decal exercise. There wasn't a special engine or even
suspension in the story, so future enthusiasts passed in favor of Corvettes with something worthwhile to offer.
Decals commemorating the event
were shipped with all 6,502 replicas, and it was up to the buyer to make the installation decision. The pace car replicas
had their own VIN number sequence.
An era ended when GM head designer Bill
Mitchell, GM president Ed Cole and chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov retired. Dave McLellan would become the Corvette head