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

Fifth-Generation Pace Cars

When the next Pace Car Replica was released in 1998, the fifth-generation Corvette was just in its infancy—the second year of its seven-year production run. As in 1986, Chevrolet used the Indy 500 to debut a new convertible version of the Corvette. This time, Chevrolet decided to pair purple (Radar Blue) with yellow. It sold more replicas (1,163) at a lower premium ($5,039), but outfitted them with nearly every option available, save for the 12-CD changer and magnesium wheels. The model could be had with either an automatic transmission or a six-speed manual, but the latter added $765 to the Z4Z package.

Five years later, a C5 paced the Indy 500 again. Instead of preparing a special version for the event and subsequent sales to consumers, Chevrolet instead got a head start on celebrating the Corvette’s 50th anniversary, and sent 2003 50th Anniversary Edition coupes and convertibles out to Indianapolis for the race. No replicas were sold, but a $495 Indy 500 graphics package was made available, with decals that mimicked those worn by the actual pace cars.

Though a Chevrolet SSR paced the 2003 Indy 500, Corvettes performed the honor for the following five years. As in 1986, Chevrolet chose to have celebrities get behind the wheel during the parade laps (former Indy winner Johnny Rutherford was usually driving during caution periods in the race). In 2004, actor Morgan Freeman drove a C5 convertible; in 2005, General Colin Powell piloted a C6 convertible; in 2006, cyclist Lance Armstrong pedaled a Z06; and in 2007, actor and budding race-car driver Patrick Dempsey drove a C6 convertible. However, only the 2007 pacing was commemorated with a replica.

Sixth-Generation Pace Cars

Again given the Z4Z option-code designation, the ’07 Pace Car was painted Atomic Orange (an extra-cost option on other models) and featured an Ebony interior. A total of 500 examples were built, all of them droptops. The MSRP for the heavily optioned car was $66,995, a healthy $14,085 premium over the standard convertible.

In 2008, when Emerson Fittipaldi steered a Corvette around the 2.5-mile oval, Chevrolet released another pace-car special edition. The ’08 Indy 500 Pace Coupe and Pace Convertible were not replicas, though: The Brazilian F1 and Indycar champ drove an ethanol-fueled Z06 at the event, not a standard C6. With an ethanol-fueled Corvette not ready for prime time, Chevrolet instead offered a pair of pace cars that honored the ’78 original. To that end, the cars were painted silver and black, and had silver-colored interior accents.

Sold as distinct models, not option packages, the ’08 Indy 500 Pace Coupe base price was $59,090, while its convertible sibling went for $68,160. Both included Z06 rear spoilers and the usual decals kit, as well as a bevy of options: the 3LT package, the Z51 Performance Package and dual-mode exhaust. Each of the 234 coupes and 266 convertibles were signed by Fittipaldi.

Though SS Camaros paced the Indy 500 in 2009 and 2010, Chevrolet has relinquished the honor to Ford for the 2011 running of the race, with a Mustang GT to set the pace. No doubt a Corvette will return to Indy, perhaps when the C7 debuts in a few years, and we expect more Pace Car replicas will be built.

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