Pacing the Indianapolis 500 in 1978 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Corvette was a fitting way for Chevrolet to celebrate the milestone — but the gold bowtie went one better; it offered a pace car replica for adoring fans and it was an absolute beauty.
The C3 featured a fabulous two-tone black and silver paint job with a red pinstripe and Indianapolis 500 decals, unique front and rear spoilers giving it a more purposeful, aerodynamic look, polished aluminium Red-stripe 15in wheels wrapped with Goodyear white-letter radial tyres, mirror-tint t-tops and sports seats finished in silver leather. The cabin was loaded too and included air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt-telescopic steering column, AM/FM/CB radio and cruise control.
It looked a treat both inside and out — and aside from the new “fastback” rear end that all of the 1978 redesigned cars got (the notchback body treatment introduced in 1968 was gone) the big news was that Chevy was selling these cars with a 5.7-litre V8. The 350 cubic inch motor — code named the L82 — was a high-performance engine with larger heads, four-bolt mains, forged-steel crank, and aluminium intake.
It had a 9:1 compression ratio, a Rochester four-barrel carburettor and produced 220bhp with the help of a low-restriction exhaust system. For the time, that figure wasn’t to be sniggered at; this was one of the fastest cars in the US in the late Seventies. It could be had with an optional wide-ratio four-speed manual or the standard three-speed automatic but whichever one you chose, it came with limited-slip differential. And if you opted for a 3.55:1 rear end, it would provide serious thrills. It handled well, too, thanks to a Gymkhana Suspension packing heavy-duty shocks, springs and front and rear anti-roll bars.
Only 6,502 were made and if you find a clean example, it could cost up to Dh120,000. If it needs work, fear not for decades of popularity has made the C3 one of the easiest cars to restore.