Fun Stuff

Find of the Week: 1998 Chevrolet Corvette Indianapolis Pace Car Edition

Later today, Chevrolet will reveal the convertible version of the mid-engine Corvette. The 2020 model that will draw more eyeballs in the next few years than any Corvette ever built. Almost. The Find of the Week this week is a Corvette that might just manage to get more attention than the mid-engine car will get. It's a 1998 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Edition.

The pace car has been a thing for nearly as long as racing has existed. Making sure cars don't start the race early, or to make sure that they slow down when course workers are on-track. And whenever a car is in front at a race, even if it's put there by the officials, buyers want one just like it. That dates back to what might be the very first pace car replica, the Marmon Wasp of 1920.

Since then, there have been dozens of cars from many manufacturers who all had their cars lead the Indianapolis 500 race with a special livery, then made special replicas to sell to the public. Some of those pace cars wore just a few subtle stickers. Others looked like this.

1998 was a very different time, automotive-wise. The SUV boom was just about to start, and it was a time of bold designs (the Beetle and PT Cruiser were just arriving) and bold graphics. None more so than the Corvette that Chevrolet sent to the 1998 running of the Indy 500.

This was the first Corvette convertible with a trunk since 1962! It was a big deal. And it was very, very purple. Did we mention it was purple? Because we think it needs saying again.

What colour did GM use to contrast that purple paint? Why yellow, of course. Just the fourth Corvette to pace the race got yellow for the wheels, and a primarily yellow graphics package to make sure that you were aware that this was the car, or at least looked just like the car, that led the pack at Indy.

For the interior of the car? You guessed it, more yellow and purple. The seats are finished in yellow and black, with a yellow accent stitch on the steering wheel and on the gear shift boot.

At the time, then Chevrolet GM John Middlebrook said, "We told the designers we wanted something that would grab people immediately, and they didn't disappoint us."

On top of the graphic pack, the paint – which is actually called Radar Blue – and the seats, the Pace Car Option Package came with a performance axle ratio for the four-speed auto (a six-speed stick was an option), and the new-at-the-time Active Handling system with "competitive driving" mode that used individual wheel braking to keep the car pointed where you wanted it to go.

The Indy Pace Car got the same oily bits as the standard 1998 Corvette. That means a 5.7L V8 with 345 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The famed LS1 that everybody who doesn't have one wants to swap into everything from airplanes to golf carts. A six-speed manual was available but many, like this one, got a four-speed auto.

While Pace Car Editions are always somewhat limited production, this one is quite rare. 1,163 built in total including those built to verify production. Of those, only 15 are said to have been shipped to Canada. So you might notice every one you see, but they are far from common.

This one is for sale in London, ON. It has just 55,935 km on the odometer. And it has an autograph collection of its own. The photos show signatures from Ron Fellows, a Canadian Sports Car driver who has three Le Mans class wins and was a factory Corvette team driver at the time; and from David C Hill, who was the chief engineer for the C5 Corvette and the C6 that followed. Both under the hood if you're looking for them.

If you're looking for a car you'll never miss in a parking lot, then this Find of the Week is for you.