Swap Candidate: Needy 1978 Corvette Pace Car

Finding a cheap Pace Car isn’t the most common find, but at the end of the day, they’re just a project car like anything else when they fall into disrepair. Credit the fact that Pace Cars are rarely anything more than some special stickers and colors in terms of exclusivity and it’s not hard to see why. But examples like this 1978 Corvette here on craigslist are always a crowd pleaser, and given this one’s mechanical woes, could be an interesting project that results in this ‘Vette having the kind of power it always deserved. 

Based on the vehicles in the background, the seller would appear to have an eye for Corvettes. This example has languished in the Texas sunshine for some time, with lots of faded paint and an interior in need of some love. But mostly, the engine is the culprit and reason for the low asking price: it has serious rod knock, according to the seller, and will at least need a rebuild. Of course, given the somewhat disappointing power outputs of this generation, it may be worth looking into a more powerful crate motor and keeping the original on the shelf for posterity.

The driver’s seat will definitely need reupholstering, and the seller says the door panel will also need some work. The dash doesn’t look bad and I don’t see any signs of warpage, but the console has a noticeable split. This is a less desirable automatic car, but the slushbox may actually be an asset if the next owner takes my advice and goes with a hotter motor. Styling-wise, I’ve always felt these were among the more attractive Corvettes built after the Stingray, and I like the urethane spoilers that this example wears. This body style responds very well to modestly upsized wheels and a lowered suspension, in my opinion.

It’s too bad the engine will be a source of investment for the next owner, as the stock motor looks like it was kept up well – at least cosmetically. The seller says he is firm on his asking price of $7,800, which could discourage some potential project hunters on even starting a dialog about bringing it home for a few bucks less. The seller hasn’t driven it very far but feels the transmission and brakes work as designed, but given the motor’s issues, it will still need to be trailered home. What do you think – is this a fair price for a Pace Car in need of an engine rebuild?

Fast Finds


  1. Rock On

    These Pace Car Corvettes do not command much of a premium over regular 1978 Corvettes. I have seen quite a few similarly priced as this one. This one appears to have the L82 engine, which is a big plus. Would definitely put the engine on a shelf and stuff a healthy crate engine in it.

    • Veloce33

      I thought the L82s had a chrome air cleaner lid?

      • Blindmarc

        Look at above picture. It does have chrome air cleaner cover.

      • gbvette62

        L-82’s came with a black air cleaner lid, not a chrome lid. Up until 72, all Corvettes engines came with chrome air cleaner lids. 73-80 Corvette engines came with black lids, and then for 81, the Corvette got a chrome lid again. In 82, the carb was replaced with Cross-Fire fuel injection, and a black wrinkle finish air cleaner was used.

  2. Mr. Bond

    Maybe worth it if it was a standard Trans. As is, the guy will likely be able to make it his own winter project.

  3. Old car guy

    Why when you can get one in amazing shape for 13-15k. Next! Considering this Vettes needs it’s not worth half that asking price to me.

  4. redwagon

    trop chère mes amis.

    way too much for what it is not.
    not a manual
    not a big hp motor
    not a clean interior
    not a great exterior
    pace car graphics not ‘appreciated’

  5. Van

    We’ve all seen engine knocks that just need a crank kit and one rod. It could be fund with a basic resto. I’d like to upgrade the suspension and brakes, add LS3 and go. Can you get this style wheel in a new 18 or 19 inch? The instruments look better before 1978, hard to forget the fighter plane look from the drivers seat.

  6. 86 Vette Convertible

    Based on the little I can see, I’d rather have the T-Bird behind the Vette.

  7. J.M. D.

    Project cars start out as fun but can quickly turn into very expensive money pits. I would not spend that kind of $ for it because it will take three times that amount to restore it correctly.


    Just my opinion, but would rather have any C4, 1985 and newer for less money, than this 78. These were not very good cars. Slow and poorly assembled. Again it’s just my opinion, worth exactly what it cost you… nothing.
    If you wanted something to “show” then this car would be better. I just always preferred go, over show.

    • Squanto

      As a 1984 Corvette owner, let’s not kid ourselves about build quality of any C4. If the Pace Car has a real L-82, I believe it was rated around 230 HP which I also believe is in the 1985 power range. I have always liked the 1978 Pace Car, but as someone else noted, there are a lot of much nicer ones available than this example.

  9. Bruce Whitmore

    Back in the 80’s these cars would bring $25k..know a guy who bought one pace car and one 25th anniversary for 50k…move forward to 2002…sold both for 25k…not a good price for this one..imho…

  10. Marlon Smith

    I would rebuild the L82 bump the compression up and give it more cam.These engines came w/forged crank rod & piston plus a 7 quart oil pan.Very good starting point for a strong driver

  11. edward roach

    I seen low miles cars and some still in the wrapper go for relatively cheap.

  12. Mike Williams

    I’ve had engine knocks that were bad timing, bad gas or carbon build up. They all sounded like a bad rod.

  13. erikj

    too much $$$. There are better ones for this $ or less. But prices are going up.!!!

  14. Michael F Antaki

    I have a clean one all original with 34k miles.. Ill sell for 20k.
    Any takers.
    Bigapple king Mike

  15. brian crowe

    So what makes this a pace car and not just a regular 25th Anniversary car? What’s the difference?

  16. Bruce Whitmore

    The pace car paint scheme is black over silver…25th anniversary paint is light silver over dark silver…sport mirrors and aluminum wheels mandatory options…otherwise same options as a regular vette….

    • brian crowe

      So if it’s black and silver then it’s a pace car even if it doesn’t have the pace car decals. My friends is black and silver and has the 25th anniversary badge but I’ve never heard him refer to it as a pace car just anniversary.

      • Bruce Whitmore

        There were 6502 pace cars made at a price of $13653 base price…there were 15283 Silver anniversary cars with the B2Z paint option with a price of $399 dollars…base price of a 78 was $99351.89…I’ve seen pace cars with both decal emblems with the car, but not on the car…did they make a 25th anniversary pace car…don’t know…not in my library…

  17. brian crowe

    well this feature car says 25th anniversary on it so is it a pace car or anniversary car? Or is it both?

  18. Bruce Whitmore

    Technically I’d say all 78 vettes are a 25th anniversary..sans the silver/silver paint option…but, I don’t know if Chevy or NCRS, would call this feature car a 25th anniversary pace car…from my knowledge, I’d just call it a Pace car….someone with more hands on experience might know…I’ve been a long time vette owner..member of NCCC and NCRS…I’ve never owned a 78…so not intimate with the nuances of this year…

    • brian crowe

      ok but why would you just call it a pace car? I mean it doesn’t say pace car anywhere on it but it does say 25th anniversary. If anything I would call it an anniversary car before I call it a pace car.

  19. Bruce Whitmore

    Pace cars came with the decal emblems in the car…they were dealer installed on the outside of the car per buyers discretion…a lot of owners left the decals in the bag in the car…the paint scheme says it’s a pace car….

    • Blindmarc

      How many more ways do you have to say the same thing before it’s understood?!

  20. brian crowe

    ok so all the black over silver 25th ann cars are pace cars then, correct?

  21. Bruce Whitmore

    In short..Yes.. The St. Louis assy plant did no two tone paint schemes other than the 78 pace car and the 25th anniversary…not til 1981 when assembly moved to Bowling Green were two tone paint became a popular option….

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