The American Sports Car
The late 70’s and 80’s Corvettes demand very little attention or money today, so even though it seems hard to believe, the 1978 Corvette was very well received at the time - even setting sales records - leading many to believe the special edition cars would be highly collectible.
Kevin Jones, CEO/President
Today, early Corvettes are very collectible and some are worth big money. However, when I was growing up, except for the initial model, Corvettes weren’t that old or collectible – think 1990’s Corvettes today. But in 1978, Chevrolet announced the 25th Anniversary Corvette would be restyled and would pace the Indianapolis 500. All 1978s would be 25th Anniversary Corvettes, but there would also be two special editions – the Pace Car replica and a special two-tone model. Back in the day this was big news, almost equivalent to this year’s announcement of the new C7.
The late 70’s and 80’s Corvettes demand very little attention or money today, so even though it seems hard to believe, the 1978 Corvette was very well received at the time. So much so that that year’s sales set records, leading many to believe the special edition cars would be highly collectible. Some of the pace and special edition cars were purchased solely as investments, and even today an occasional 1978 Corvette will show up at auction with only nominal miles on the speedo.
Growing up in Indiana, a cool thing for car guys was to attend the Indianapolis 500. In my senior year of college I was excited to attend the race where the “new” Corvette with the fastback window would pace the race. I will never forget walking through the VIP parking area where the 100 Pace Car replicas (provided to race officials to drive for the month of May) were parked in neat rows.
In addition to my connection to its Indy pace car history, I have always liked the look of the ‘78 Vette. 1978 was basically a one-year model. It had the new fastback window, but with the simpler mid-70s bumpers. In 1979, they made the car look heavier with large front and rear spoilers. In my opinion, the stylists of the 1978 Corvette did a pretty good job of integrating the slope of the fastback window with the mid-year bumpers.
A couple years ago I was looking at craigslist and noticed a low miles 1978 white base model 25th Anniversary Corvette for a mere $3,200. The car looked a little bland because the hubcaps and wheel covers had been removed, but it had a good original look about it. We looked at the car and, though it was rough around the edges, it seemed solid and unmolested. We bought it for $3,000 – delivered!
Well, looks can be deceiving. The first problem was that the Goodrich TA tires looked great but were in fact dry-rotted. So, for sentimental reasons, I installed a set of Firestone Indy 500 tires. The tires led to shocks, the shocks led to brakes, the brakes led to control arms and the control arms led to a power steering pump. My cheap Corvette was now a $5,000 Corvette without the first bit of cosmetic work. But, a good foundation is always the start of a good relationship.
I finally turned to the pretty stuff (as my wife calls it). New center caps and beauty rings, carpet, seat covers, center console, etc., etc. I even installed an 8-track stereo for that original look. The last touch was a coat of new white paint. Just 34 years after seeing my first 1978 fastback Corvette, I finally had my own great American sports car.
Jones Garage will be a monthly column by Kevin Jones, President of MIDFLORIDA and certified car guy to talk about his cars and automobilia and the cars of MIDFLORIDA’s members. In addition to his stories, we will feature a different member’s car and story each month. Please email your car story with a picture of your car to Julie Townsend at jtownsend@MIDFLORIDA.com
A special prize will be awarded if we use your car in an issue of Jones Garage.