Setting the Pace

Setting the Pace 1
Setting the Pace 2
Photo Richard Prince
Setting the Pace 3
Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Setting the Pace 4
Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Setting the Pace 5
Setting the Pace 6
Setting the Pace 7
Setting the Pace 8

On the other hand, the only performance upgrade that came standard on the Pace Car was a set of 15-inch alloy wheels with wide Goodyear radials. The 220-horsepower L82 engine and FE7 Gymkhana suspension were fitted on the Corvette that actually paced the ’78 Indy 500, but optional on the replica. Californians couldn’t even order the more powerful 350-cubic-inch V8 because of smog regulations, and had to make due with ten fewer horses than the standard 185-bhp mill. The model could be had with either an automatic or four-speed manual transmission. Examples that combined the latter with the L82 engine were especially coveted.

Fourth-Generation Pace Cars

It would be another eight years before a Corvette paced the Indy 500 again. Nineteen eight six didn’t coincide with any Corvette anniversary, but it was nevertheless a significant year as it marked the return of a convertible model after an 11-year hiatus. Driven by none other than test pilot Chuck Yeager during the parade laps before the race, a bright yellow C4 heralded the return of the droptop Vette. Steadily dwindling sales had killed the convertible model, so Chevrolet was obviously looking for a strong debut for its new version.

When it came to commemorating the occasion with a pace-car replica, Chevrolet took a decidedly conservative approach. Stung by its previous “Limited Edition” experience, Chevy simply called all ’86 convertibles, regardless of color, pace-car replicas. Other than an “Official Pace Car” dash emblem and an included, but not applied, decal package, there was nothing unique about these $32,032 Corvettes. To most enthusiasts, only the 732 yellow ones are considered true replicas. The number that mattered to GM was the total sales volume: 7,315. This figure comfortably eclipsed the 4,629 convertibles sold in 1975, suggesting Chevrolet had made the right move in bringing the droptop back. This was especially good news because it had cost a bundle to reengineer the C4 for convertible duty.

A Chevrolet paced the Indy 500 again in 1990, but it was a Beretta, not a Corvette; the two-seater would have to wait until 1995 for its next turn at the Brickyard. This time around, Chevrolet was far more committed when it came to commemorating the occasion with a special-edition replica. Not only did it produce a distinct model, it did so in truly limited numbers. Just 527 ’95 Indy 500 Pace Car Replicas were built, all of them convertibles. With contrasting Dark Purple and Arctic White paint, a white top, a purple-accented leather interior and the usual Indy graphics, there was nothing subtle about this Corvette.

Though not actually sold as an options group, that’s the way it appeared on the sticker: Item Z4Z added $2,816 to the convertible’s $43,665 base price. In addition to the paint and graphics treatment, the package included a set of wider 9.5 × 17-inch wheels shod with 275/40ZR17 tires—basically the front wheel/tire combo from the high-horsepower ZR-1 model. The car also came with the $2,709 Pace Car Preferred Equipment Group, which added a performance axle ratio, six-way adjustable power leather sport seats, a Delco/Bose stereo and climate control. All of the Pace Cars were fitted with four-speed automatic transmissions, but given the fact that the base LT1 engine packed 300 horsepower, the car offered plenty of performance.

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