NCRS Top Flight, Bloomington Gold, AACA Grand National 1st Prize, All Original
- Condition: Used
- Make: Chevrolet
- Model: Corvette
- Type: Coupe
- Year: 1978
- Mileage: 27,357
- VIN: 1Z87L8S900390
- Color: Black
- Number of cylinders: 8
- Fuel: Gasoline
- Transmission: Automatic
- Interior color: Gray
- Vehicle Title: Clear Want to buy? Contact seller!
1978 Chevrolet Corvette
Chevrolet is notorious for putting out special-edition Corvettes to keep interest alive and assembly lines running, so if you’re going to own a reasonably-priced Corvette from the ‘70s, one that has a strong pedigree, there’s no better choice than the 1978 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Edition, RPO Z78. First, they are all “Silver Anniversary” models, but not to be confused with the OTHER “Silver Anniversary” cars. Second, they’re distinctive, as are all Indy Pace Cars, but not gaudy (looking at you, 1998 Indy Pace Car), and that’s kind of a big deal when you’re talking about Corvettes in the 1970s. And finally, while not exactly rare, they’re finite, with only 6502 being built, enough to put one in every Chevrolet dealer’s showroom. The black over silver look is pretty timeless and accentuates the ’78 Corvette’s new shape rather well, and with just enough red to make it pop, this is still a great-looking ‘Vette!
If you’re looking for a zero-mile Corvette Pace Car, there are plenty—few cars were “instant collectables” like these. A 13-original-mile example just sold for more than $50,000, and I’m guessing it’ll never get to 14 miles mostly because of how expensive each mile is going to be in terms of depreciation. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the cars that were used and enjoyed, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. If you want a cheap Pace Car, there are plenty of tired ones for the price of a 10-year-old Hyundai. But in between, there are cars that balance the best of both possible worlds: excellent preservation and low mileage with a reasonable price. And that is exactly where this highly decorated Pace Car lives.
You will quickly note the NCRS and AACA emblems that this car wears, all earned the hard way: through intense scrutiny. It’s almost completely original and shows just 27,357 original miles, so it’s been driven, but not much and certainly very gently. It is an early production car, #390 out of the 6502 built, and it wears its original paint and original decals, which is a bit of an achievement. The finish is very good, certainly better than you’d expect for a car approaching its fortieth birthday, and it shines up beautifully to really show off the contrast between the black and silver. Pace Cars were delivered to the dealership with the door decals in the trunk, to be installed at the discretion of the owner, and this car has proudly worn its decals since Day One; after all, if you’re going to own a Pace Car, you may as well get all the regalia that goes with it and on these cars, it really works. There’s some checking on the hood decals, which obviously see a lot of heat, but the balance of the decals are bright, crisp, and beautifully rendered. Some of that is by means of preservation and some is careful restoration. Experts will understand when we say that the red wasn’t the most durable color in the heat of the sun, and you’ll see quite a few Pace Cars with pink door decals these days. However, rather than replace the original decals with reproductions, these were painstakingly hand-painted by a pinstriper to retain their original look. Go ahead, look closely—you won’t even see the brush strokes. This seems like an outstanding compromise between originality and condition, don’t you think? Of course, the usual Corvette “perfect imperfections” abound, ranging from the front and rear end caps that don’t quite match the rest of the car to the light orange peel in the final finish to the slightly wavy rear spoiler, all of which were there when the car was new. Don’t you dare call them flaws, because that kind of imperfect detailing is what the judges at the highest levels are looking for. No, we’re not kidding—perfect Corvettes don’t win the top prizes, not these days.
The silver leather interior is admittedly pretty Buck Rogers, but remember it was 1978 after all. Again, it works rather well with the black and silver bodywork and those are very comfortable chairs. The leather is in excellent condition with only modest comfort marks on the seating surfaces. The carpets are also original and show some light discoloration that’s probably inevitable after nearly four decades, and it’s worth noting that it carries replacement floor mats but the originals are included with the car. The Pace Cars came loaded with options, and this is no exception, with features including A/C, power windows and locks, a remote mirror, tilt steering column, and an AM/FM/8-track stereo radio, all of which are fully operational. The A/C has a new compressor and still uses good old R12 refrigerant, but like almost every C3 Corvette I’ve ever driven, the fan doesn’t work on HI, only the three lower settings. The gauges spring to life when you turn the key and the clock has been converted to quartz movement, so it keeps good time and ticks away pleasantly. The only thing that’s specifically not working is the power antenna, which is unique to 1978 Corvettes and remains almost unobtainable, so you won’t find many of these where the antennas work. Sorry. The cargo compartment is almost like new and the new fastback roofline offers decent luggage capacity for touring. The T-tops pop off easily and stow back there using handy straps, and these glass panels are reproductions but the originals are included with the car (one has been damaged).
This car carries its original, numbers-matching L48 350 cubic inch V8, which was the base engine. It’s interesting to note that 1978 was the first time the Indy Pace Car actually used on the track needed no modifications, which speaks highly of the road-going Pace Car’s credentials. No, with 185 horsepower, it’s not as fast as a new C7, but remember the era: Ford’s nastiest Mustang had 110 horsepower, so this was pretty fierce. The engine was pulled and the engine bay was detailed for show, but the engine has never been opened beyond replacing a few gaskets before it went back in. The single snorkel air cleaner is an easy way to spot the L48, and all the little stuff is exactly the way it was when it was new. Note the shielding over the ignition system, the correct tower hose clamps, and even the proper plastic zip tie holding the flexible intake tube to the air cleaner housing. Finishes, fasteners, and colors are all exact, which is why this car has won all those prizes. It also runs great, starting almost instantly, idling smoothly, and driving properly as only a low-mileage car can. To reach our facility, the car was driven more than 150 miles without incident, and it’s the kind of machine that’s ideal for a long-range cruise to one of the big Corvette rallies across the country. Get in and cruise, that’s what this car is all about.
The transmission is a tried-and-true TH350, perhaps the most reliable 3-speed automatic gearbox ever built. It shifts cleanly and feels aggressive when you’re running hard, but for a gentle cruise around the neighborhood, it’s unobtrusive. Out back, this Corvette also features 3.08 gears, which are great for highway economy and the torquey L48 doesn’t seem to mind, giving the car a real aggressive feel at any speed. Legend has it that the C3 was a rattle trap that would knock the fillings out of your teeth, be that couldn’t be further from the truth here, because this car is tight, quiet, smooth, and rides rather well, all indicative of a low-mileage car that’s led an exemplary life as a permanent collectable, not a commuter car. There’s a new exhaust system under the car, but the catalytic converter is original and fully functional, and one glance at the bottom of this car will remind you that it has never seen a rainy day in its life. The suspension, brakes, and fuel system are all original spec and in excellent condition with proper maintenance, helping with that “new car feel.” Shiny aluminum wheels were a great addition to the lineup and the red stripe around the perimeter is unique to the Pace Cars, giving them a unique look. These are reproductions wearing 255/60/15 Goodyear Eagle radials, but the original wheels and tires are included with the car for competition purposes at the highest levels.
This car also includes three 25th Anniversary suitcases that are incredibly rare today, as well as an original owner’s manual, a build sheet, and a copy of the 2000 calendar for which it was the cover vehicle (not that you can tell, they all look the same anyway).
Awards include NCRS Top Flite, Bloomington Gold Certified, AACA National First and Grand National First prizes, and was invited to be a part of the Corvettes at Carlisle display showcasing 1978-1979 Corvettes. It is listed in the Corvette Pace Car Registry and has actually turned a wheel at the Watkins Glen race track. It’s quite likely one of the nicest Pace Cars you’ll ever see.
We’ll admit that this car has grown on us. Yes, there are quite a few of them for sale and you have many choices at many levels if you really want to own one. But this one is incredibly clean, totally sorted, beautifully preserved, and nicely documented. It comes with a lot of nice spiffs and with only two owners, including the most recent owner who bought it in 1993, there are no skeletons in its closet. We would argue that if you’re going to own a car from the 1970s, there are few better choices than this. Call today!