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C3 - Part 2 1978-1982 - The 1978 Corvette

After a rather tumultoius beginning, there couldn't have been many in the GM camp that would have predicted the longevity of the Corvette. When emission and safety standards kept piling on, Corvette bobbed and weaved from the encounters, always managing to avoid the eight-count. Now here is was, 1978, and Corvette was celebrating it's 25th anniversary, it's Silver Anniversary. No other passenger car marque within Chevrolet was that old. Corvette had certainly reached a milestone.

A major body revision was in store for 1978 with an all-glass rear window treatment replacing the flying buttress configuration of the earlier C3's. The exterior was stunning, By wrapping the rear window around the rear section, visibilty to the rear and the rear quarters was improved remarkably. The glass area increased over three fold with 1425 square inches of exposed area versus the previous designs 392. The roof panels had redesigned latches with a single release lever. The panels were available in standard painted or an optional tinted all glass unit.

It was what was under the skin that appealed to the Corvette faithful. Horsepower. An availble Two-Hundred-Twenty of them. After years of decline, performance was returning to the Vocabulary.

The tried and true 350 cubic inch V8 was still nestled under the hood, breathing in cold air from either a single ducted snorkel on L48 engined cars or a pair when the optional L82 was ordered up. One Federal emission equipped cars, the L48 now produced 185hp. If you lived in Califiornia or a designated high-altitude area, 10 horsepower was given up, netting 175. Those areas were also excluded from receiving the RPO L82, the 220hp version. Different cylinder heads were affixed to the L82, offering a higher compression ratio of 8.9:1 while the L48s compression ratio was now 8.2:1. Both of these number were down from 1977, with the L48 having an 8.5:1 and the L82 9.0:1.

The valve sizes differed between the base and optional engines. Cylinder heads for L48 engines were filled with 1.94" intake and 1.50" exhaust valves, while the L82's were breathed through 2.02" and 1.60" repsectively. Camshafts differed with the L82 having .450" of net lift and 346-degrees of duration on the intake side and .460" of net lift and a duration of 340-degrees on the exhaust. The base engine had .390" of lift and 280-degrees duration intake and .410" lift and 288-degreess of duration for the exhaust. Dished cast aluminum pistons went into the cylinder bores of the L48, while stronger flat topped forged aluminum components with valve relief notches were used on the L82. A cast iron crankshaft spun in the L48, while a forged steel unit was contained in the four bolt main bearing block of the L82.

Chevrolet tried to improve the feel of the 185hp 350 when equipped with a manual transmission by enabling it with a 2.85:1 first gear ratio, versus a 2.64 with the 220hp version. The 2.85:1 ratio transmission was sourced from Muncie, but was not the famed "Rock Crusher" used in Corvettes of the past. A Borg Warner T-10 backed the L82. This launch feel was exclusive to the Federal emission cars as Californian and High Altitide designated cars were forced to buy automatics. The close ratio Borg-Warner T10 with a 2.43:1 first gear was available only with the L82. The L82 also received an 11-inch clutch while a 10.4-inch unit came with the L48. On L82 equipped automatic cars, a torque converter with less internal inertia was used to improve the launch feel.

Corvette tires went away from the traditional letter rating system to the new P-Metric sizing. No nonger would there be F70-15s, or GR70-15 sized tires. The 1978 Corvette rolled on P225/70R-15 steel belted radial tires. Decoding the designation was fairly simple; the P meant passenger car, the 225, this indicated the section width (not the tread width) of the tire was 225 millimeters wide. The next number, 70 represented the aspect ratio of the tire which was 70, which meant the height of the tire was 70-percent of the section width, the R meant the tire belt plies were arranged radially, rather than diagonally on a typical bias ply tire. Finally the 15 was the wheel diameter in inches. The new tires The tires were available in either blackwall ora bold, raised white letter style, which was available for only $51.00.

An optional tire size, the first time offered on a Corvette was added for the 1978 model year. The tires were Goodyear's new Eagle GT, a premium tire with belts mades from manmade "Aramid" fibers. These fibers were stonger, lighter, and more compliant than the steel belts found in the base tires. The tires were also wider and lower being offered in P255/60R-15 sizes. Stylistically, the tires had "outline" white letters rather than the solid blocks found on other white letter tires. In a case of seeming bad communications, the front fenders had to be trimmed at the factory for clearance of the wider tires.

Inside the '78 version, a new instrument panel and dashboard greeted those who entered. The instruments took on a modular gauge appearance, much like was being fitted to aircraft. It seemed the IP was made up of individual components, but in actuallity, the gauge fact was a large one piece fascia. The big improvement over the previous design was that the gauges were now serviced from the front. All the IPs were black rather than interior color. The windshield wiper switch was moved from the turn signal stalk to the instrument panel and an intermittent feature was added to the wipe cycle when the optional ZX2 Conventince Group was ordered. If RPO K30 cruise contol was ordered, the operation button was now at the end of the turn signal stalk, common to other GM products, rather than on the end of the the tilt wheel lever. An AM/FM stereo ratio with a 40-channel CB radio was offered but could not be combined with the popular and less costly 8-track tape player. Only 7,138 owners opted for the $638.00 CB unit while nearly half of the buyers liked the idea of the 8-track with 20,899 chosing the $419.00 tape playing sound system.

The top cover of the dashpads were all finished in a zero gloss black and the mask line at the base of the windshield was extended to cover the windshield wipers fron the sight line when parked. A glove box was added to the passenger side dash, replacing the vinyl elastic pouch used for storage on Corvettes previously.

At the rear of the interior was a cavernous bay, opened up with the addition of the huge rear backlight. The storage area was fully carpeted and retained the storage bays behind the rear seats. The luggage area had a clever way of concealing the contents from prying eyes with a black fabric cover that rolled up into invisibility at the rear of the bay and hooked into the trim panels behind the rear seats when in use. Chevrolet accessories also marketed custom luggage, specifically made to fill the storage area. Even though the luggage space only grew from 7.8 to 8.4 cubic feet, the visual impression was much greater.

The seating on the base Corvette was relatively unchanged from the 1977 version. One big change was the seat belt design. Last year belts were of a two piece design with spool retractors in the floor and conealed in the area directly behind the seats. The new belts were a of a single belt with a sliding buckle. The mount to the floor was fixed with the retractor concealed in the B-pillar. The door panels were redeigned with bolt on door pulls and armrests replacing the molded in pieces of all other thrid generation Corvettes. Power door locks were available for the first time with the switches located in the door panels.

The rear transverse leaf spring was a quarter inch wider in 1978, now at 2.5 inches wide. This was done to reduce the stress on the spring brought about by the new, larger 24 gallon fuel tank which replaced the 17 gallon tank. The new tank had a steel outer shell with a pliable polyethylane liner within. The new tank made servicing the fuel sending unit simpler as servicing could now be done without removing the fuel tank. The new tank had 41% greater capacity incresasing the cruising range of the car. To make room for the new tank, the full size spare tire was replaced with a compact high pressure spare. The spare was a narrow P195/80D-15 bias ply unit mounted on a five inch wide steel spare wheel.

Once again, the RPO FE7 Gymkhana Suspension was offered. Unique to the option was a 1.125 inch front stabilizer bar which replaced the standard 1.0 inch bar. At the rear, a .443 rear inch bar was added, where on base suspended cars there was none. Front and rear spring rates were raised and the shock absorbers received revised valveing for tighter control. A pair of wheels were on the option list, the standard argent painted 15 x 8 steel rally wheels with bright center caps and trim rings. Optional were the RPO YJ8 cast aluminum wheels in a natural finish.

Technically, all 1978 Corvette were silver anniversary models. All has had the most elaborate emblems ever seen on a corvette. The new emblem was still circular, but had a three dimensional starburst look, proudly proclaiming it's 25th Anniversary. When compared to later Anniversary editions, the other come off quite lame in the visual appeal.

Chevrolet offered a Silver Anniversary Paint option as RPO B2Z. The option consisted of a silver over dark gray paint treatment using the natural detail lines as the paint breaks. The two colors were seperated by a tape stripe. 15,283 buyers opted for this stiking package at a cost of $399.00 however RPO YJ8 Cast Aluminum wheels and D35 body color sport mirrors were required at a cost of $340.00 and $40.00 respectively. The paint treatment was available with all interior colors.

The Chevrolet Corvette was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 in 1978 so a very specially trimed model was produced. Titled "Limited Edition", the pace car was given a striking black over silver paint treatment that mirrored the Silver Anniversary Paint's style. Origionally the build quantity was supposed to be around 2,500 however reaction from dealers and the posibilities of legal actions stemming from a dealer who did not receive one of these special automobiles meant production was raised to 6.503, making sure that every franchised Chevy dealer could get one. A feature that didn't make it to the assembly line were special "Corvette" labeled tires from Goodyear. A bit of trivia concerning the actual pace car was that this was the first time a car paced the Indy 500 since the early '70s without the need for any performance enhancements.

The Pace Car Corvettes received most of the optional equipment as standard. The aluminum wheels were presented in a bright mirror polished finish and had a red stripe along the outer edge. The P255/60R-15 Goodyear Eagle Gt tires were included and the tinted glass t-tops were mirrored. A front spoiler with molded front wheel deflectors was used and at the rear there was a wrapover rear spoiler. Body color sport mirrors completed the exteriors visual appeal.

Inside the Pace Car were a pair of seats unique to the Limited Edition model. The contoured bucket seats had a deeply sculpted lower cushion with a similarly bolsted back rest that coult fold nearly flat on the right side. The interior was finished in a unique silver hue with a specific heavier weight carpet. Power windows and door locks, a tilt and telescopic steering column, the 8-track tape sound system, and an elctric rear window defogger were also included. The list price jumped over $4000.00 compared to the base Corvette at $13,653.21. When these cars were new, speculators, collectors, and greedy dealers raised the selling price as much as $10,000 over the list price in some cases. Many of these cars that were purchased by collectors still rest in storage with only the delivery miles on the cars.

1978 was a very exciting year for Corvette with a new look, new found performance, a Pace Car for the Indy 500, and the celebration of 25 years of Corvettes all occuring in the same year.

Total Production - 46,776
Model Number Description Production Base Price
1YZ87 Corvette Sport Coupe 40,274 $9,351.89
1YZ87 / Z78 Corvette Limited Edition Pace Car 6,502 $13,653.21

Engine Codes
RPO Cu. In. Horsepower Torque Fuel System Trans Block Code Comp Ratio :1 Emissions
L48 350 185 @ 4000 280 @ 2400 4-bbl Rochester Man CHW 8.2 Fed
L48 350 185 @ 4000 280 @ 2400 4-bbl Rochester Auto CLM 8.2 Fed
L48 350 185 @ 4000 280 @ 2400 4-bbl Rochester Auto CUT 8.2 Fed
L48 350 175 @ 3800 265 @ 2400 4-bbl Rochester Auto CLR 8.2 Calif
L48 350 175 @ 3800 265 @ 2400 4-bbl Rochester Auto CLs 8.2 High Alt
L82 350 220 @ 5200 260 @ 3600 4-bbl Rochester Man CMR 8.9 Fed
L82 350 220 @ 5200 260 @ 3600 4-bbl Rochester Auto CMS 8.9 Fed

Color & Trim Codes
Exterior Color Codes Interior Trim Codes
Color Code Color Code
Corvette Light Beige 59U Black Leather ABB2 /192
Black 19U Dark Blue Leather ADD2 / 292
Corvette Dark Blue 83U Dark Brown Leather AHH2 / 692
Corvette Light Blue 26U Doeskin Leather AZZ2 / 592
Corvette Dark Brown Metallic 89U Red Leather ARR2 / 722
Corvette Mahogany Metallic 82U Mahogany Leather AUN2 / 762
Corvette Red 72U Oyster Leather AWW2 / 122
Silver 13U Black Cloth/Leather HBB2 / 19C
Classic White 10U Dark Blue Cloth/Leather HDD2 / 29C
Corvette Yellow 52U Dark Brown Cloth/Leather HHH2 / 69C
Silver Anniversary 13U/07L Doeskin Cloth/Leather HZZ2 / 59C
Black / Silver - Pace Car 19U/47L Red Cloth/Leather HRR2 / 72C
Mahogany Cloth/Leather HUN2 / 76C
Oyster Cloth/Leather HWW2 / 12C
Silver Leather - Pace Car AYY2 / 152
Dimensions
Corvette Coupe
Overall Length 185.2
Height 48.0
Width 69.0
Wheel Base 98.0
Track F / R 58.7 / 59.5
Curb Weight 3557
Dimensions are in inches, weight in pounds unless otherwise noted.

1978 - Fast(is)Back!
1979 - - Best Seller
1980 - Mid Life Crisis - Time to trim up
1981 - Good-bye St. Louis, Hello Bowling Green!
1982 - Collector Edition and Cross-Fire Injection

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