Special Editions: The 1998 Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica
While it was not the rarest Corvette Pace Car Replica ever manufactured by GM, the 1998 Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car Replica was – and remains – one of the most desirable pace car replicas ever made. This is primarily due to the fact that this replica is nearly identical to the actual pace cars that were used during the 1998 Indianapolis 500.
Before 1998, Corvette had served as the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500 a total of 3 times – in 1978, 1986 and 1995. Each time the Corvette made an appearance, Chevrolet would commemorate the occasion by building a limited-edition replica. It seemed only fitting therefore that, when it was announced that the 1998 Corvette would once more lead the field at the Indianapolis 500, that GM would inevitably build a replica to commemorate the event. It was all the more fitting given that 1998 also marked the brand’s 20th anniversary as “Official Pace Car” of this momentous race.
The 1998 C5 Corvette Pace Car was a spectacular addition to the race. The car – a convertible – was finished in Radar Blue exterior paint, and featured bright yellow wheels and a yellow graphics package with a checkered flag motif that stretched from the front grill to the rear of the car. The car’s interior was similarly appointed with black and yellow leather.
Interestingly, the 1998 Corvette that served as the official pace-car from the race was virtually identical to the production model variants that were built to commemorate the event. Unlike most other pace cars, which require mechanical modifications to bolster the car’s performance to meet the rigors of pacing the massive racetrack, the Corvette came equipped with enough horsepower to handle the demands of leading the pack with ease. The official pace car’s LS1 engine did receive a freer-flowing intake manifold and modified exhaust system designed to boost the car’s horsepower from 345 to 370hp, but this was done as a means of differentiating the “official” car from the “replicas.”
In addition to the increase in engine horsepower, the actual pace-car was lowered slightly, a roll bar was mounted behind each seat, a fire-extinguisher was installed and rear-facing strobe lights were integrated into the tonneau’s fairings. These later changes were all event-specific requirements needed to officiate the race and make the car safer in the event of a roll-over or similar incident.
To commemorate the Corvette’s inclusion at the 1998 Indianapolis 500, Chevrolet manufactured 1,158 pace-car replica convertibles for distribution to dealerships across the United States. The car, which could be ordered by consumers via Regular Production Option (RPO) Z4Z, included an added cost of $5,039.00 (or $5,804.00 for customers who wanted their cars equipped with a manual transmission) over the base price of $44,425.00!
For that price, consumers were treated to a Corvette Pace Car Replica packed full of options including: an upgraded Delco radio with CD player, a digital clock, an anti-theft system, and Bose speakers. Both the driver and passenger sports seats were power-adjustable and had memory functions. Each pace car also included Chevrolet’s active-handling package. Active Handling monitors steering inputs and the lateral G-forces being exerted on the car and in-turn controls the car’s braking system to stabilize the car during more aggressive maneuvers, as well as reducing under- and over-steering. This system eventually became known as “stability control.”
Today, the 1998 Corvette Pace Car Convertibles are increasingly becoming a sought-after collectible. Despite their gaudy, garish appearance, many collectors celebrate the fact that the 1998 Pace Car was (and is) one the most identical replicas to the original pace car. The car also has the distinction of being the first Corvette Pace Car to have its Indianapolis 500 livery applied by the factory, not the owner (with the exception of the windshield name decal, which came as an accessory which could be added at the owner’s discretion.)
These cars are still available on the used car market, and the prices vary greatly. After doing a quick search online, we found examples for sale ranging from $10,000.00 to $35,000.00. Some really clean examples have sold for nearly $40,000.00 at venues like the Barrett-Jackson auction. As this car was a limited production run, its reasonable to think that these cars will continue to appreciate in value in the years to come.