The opportunity to serve as the official pace car for the Indy 500—“the greatest spectacle in racing”—is marketing gold. It’s a rolling advertisement, driven on the pace lap by a big celebrity or a famous racing driver, leading a pre-race procession of thundering Indy racers around the Brickyard. The whole thing is a lofty endorsement of the car’s worthiness to be on the track alongside real competitors, and the winning driver even receives the car as a prize.
But are pace cars all that special just because marketing departments say they are? What about valuable? Do collectors buy in to the notion that these mechanically ordinary vehicles have a significant historical cachet?
Corvette is the last word in pace cars
Even though it never served as the Indy pace car until 1978, the model with the most pace laps under its belt is America’s sports car—the Corvette. To date, the Corvette has paced the 500 more than any other model as a whole, and makes up half of Chevrolet’s total of 28.
The Corvette’s debut year as pace car in 1978 not only started the tradition of Corvettes pacing the 500, it also established a tradition of pace car collecting. The 1978 model introduced the Corvette’s new fastback rear as well as a new interior, but all the attention was on the pace car replica. What had originally been planned as a small batch for public consumption quickly ballooned into a run of one car for just about every Chevrolet dealer in the country and a grand total of 6502. An article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Few Want to Drive This Car, but Many Are Eager to Buy It” fanned the flames by touting the pace car’s potential as a valuable collectors’ item, so plenty of examples were snatched up for well over the original MSRP to be put away as instant collectibles.
Chevrolet sold an official pace car replica version for many of the fourteen years that Corvette paced the Indy 500, but certainly not all of them.
Pace cars are just the tip of the marketing iceberg
In addition to the pace cars themselves, manufacturers have also touted track cars (used by race officials and VIPs for the event) and festival cars (used in the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade) that are often similar to the actual pace car. Pace cars frequently sell well and they all become collectible eventually if not right away. And when those festival or track cars aren’t given out to execs or VIPs, they can be highly valued by collectors as well.
In the world of pace car replicas, there have been DeSotos, Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds and even Fieros, and the tradition has been for the cars to be festooned with graphics, decals and loud paint until they’re about as subtle as a forest fire.
Collectible or not?
Corvette pace cars have varied but have gotten roughly similar treatment from collectors. When the Corvette convertible returned for 1986 and paced the 500, Chevrolet didn’t introduce a separate pace car replica but instead sold all 7315 1986 Corvette convertibles with Pace Car decals. In 1995 another Corvette Convertible paced the 500, but a separate model was produced again this time and was built in much smaller numbers, with a total of 527. The 1998 Chevrolet Corvette pace car is among one of the more famous ones due in large part to its almost retina-searing combination of purple and yellow, and 1,163 were built. The only other years when a significant official run of pace car replicas were sold to the public were 2007 and 2008, with 500 built for each year.
The collectibility of these series-produced pace cars is significant. The 1978s may not have been the gold mine that some thought they would be when they came out, but a condition #2 (excellent) car is worth $38,600 in the Hagerty Price Guide, well over the $19,800 for a base car. For a 1995 pace car, the number is $25,700 compared to $20,700 for a base convertible, and for a 1998 it’s $33,000 compared to $22,500.
by Andrew Newton // May 10, 2018 // Hagerty Insurance
The 1983 Corvette
The Chevrolet C4 Corvette was poised to be a major milestone in Corvette history. It was to be all new from the ground up and encompass the latest cutting edge technologies to make the car a world beater in a changing globe.
But, like all automotive manufacturers, safety and fuel economy regulations took hold of development procedures. Designers and engineers were challenged equally to create appealing products while satisfying newfound regulations. And through development of the C4 Corvette, it became apparent the vehicle would not be ready for its launch in late 1982.
So, the Corvette development team made the hard decision to forfeit the entire 1983 model year to focus on fixing problems and shortcomings found in initial test cars. This also meant the Corvette would not celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Each 1983 C4 Corvette assembled at the Bowling Green factory would be crushed and disposed of locally, with upper management bringing in a crusher on site. However, when the time came to crush each 1983 Corvette, a pair of cowboy boots saved one car’s life.
Ralph Montileone, Quality manager at the Bowling Green plant in 1983, was responsible for ensuring each car was destroyed and disposed of. However, the day the crusher arrived, it began to storm. Montileone recalls looking down at his feet to see his brand new cowboy boots. With mud and puddles awash outside, he decided dirtying his new kicks was not an option; he would move the final 1983 Corvette to the crusher the next day.
But, the crusher departed without Montileone’s knowledge. When he returned the next day, the only 1983 Corvette sat there with no way to dispose of it. So, he pulled it around to the back of the assembly plant and it sat. And it would continue to sit for years.
It wasn’t until Paul Schnoes, who was transferred to the Bowling Green assembly as manager in 1984, inquired about the peculiar Corvette. He simply asked what a Corvette was doing covered in the back of the factory, and when he received the answer, he realized it was truly something special.
The 1983 C4 Corvette would finally go on display for visitors of the plant after the Bowling Green assembly requested official ownership of it from General Motors. Now, it resides at its permanent home at the National Corvette Museum all thanks to a spiffy new pair of boots.
(Courtesy of Hagerty Insurance)
Porsche 928 vs. C4 Corvette
The 928 has often been referred to as a German Corvette. Its front-engine, water-cooled V-8 design probably lent itself to superficial comparisons but in fact, the basic architecture is where similarities end. The German penchant for complication brought things like a rear transaxle/torque tube and belt-driven overhead cams. All of this caused maintenance headaches that the Corvette eschewed with a bullet proof, pushrod small-block Chevy V-8 and a tried-and-tested independent rear suspension with a transverse leaf spring. C4. Porsche 928s have started appreciating while C4s are still bargain-priced used cars that offer unbeatable bang for the buck. At the end of the day, it’s a choice between sophistication and a bit of avant-garde design, versus reliability and the somewhat dodgy build-quality of a C4 Corvette.
(Courtesy of Hagerty Insurance)
Know your Corvette
A 72-year old Texas man and his dog died of heat exhaustion when they became trapped in his 2007 Corvette. A loose battery cable prevented him from opening the door and he was unaware of the manual release lever. Watch this video and know your Corvette. It could save your life.
The construction of Route 66, completed in 1938, created many new business opportunities including "motor hotels". Designed for motorists, the name was soon shortened to "motels". For a time, the intersection of Route 66 and Route 71 in Carthage, Missouri saw a stream of cross-country traffic and became known as the "Crossroads of America". In 1939 The Boots Court Motel opened for business at the crossroads and had notable guests such as Gene Autry, Mickey Mantle and Clark Gable. Today the motel has five rooms open to the public. While there are no televisions, each room has a radio tuned to 1940s music.
Help stop crime...drive a stick!
Watch this amazing story about a couple of Corvette theives who didn't plan ahead.