1978 Chevrolet Corvette - Horse Of A Different Color
An Almost-675,000-Mile '78 Shark Wears '03 Anniversary Red
From the January, 2009 issue of Corvette Fever
By Scott Ross
Photography by Bradley Meinz
More than 15,000 '78 Corvettes were ordered with the optional 25th Anniversary paint option. This one now wears another Anniversary color scheme-2003's 50th Anniversary Red. But you can't blame John Huette for making the color change when he repainted the '78. The original silver/gray colors had seen well over a half-million miles of daily driving since then.
John ordered his car new from Weaver-Yemm Chevrolet in Galesburg, Illinois, taking delivery of it on March 29, 1978. "That was the year they first came out with the sloped back [window], and they didn't have any in stock then, so I ordered it," he recalls from his Murrieta, California, home. "In fact, it was on the showroom floor after I'd put money down on it, but I couldn't go in to pick it up right away. Somebody offered the dealer $5,000 over the sticker price, but I'd already bought it, so they couldn't sell it."
The original window sticker, which showed a base retail price of $9,351.89, included the following options: 25th Anniversary Paint, power door locks and windows, air conditioning, aluminum wheels, a Delco AM/FM Stereo radio with eight-track tape player, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, and enough other features that boosted the sticker price to $12,095.89. Standard items included the L48 350-inch small-block V-8, the Turbo 350 automatic transmission, leather seats, Posi-traction, and tinted glass.
This wasn't a purchase through a hometown Chevy dealer, though. "I didn't live in Galesburg then, but I worked there," John says. "I'm an E.R. physician, and I lived 75-80 miles away from there, and drove from Lake Bloomington, Illinois." It wasn't his only Corvette then-he also owned a '72 convertible, which he regrets selling. "Like a dummy, I sold that one, and I had just the one for a long, long time," he says.
Striking Rear View The fastback...
Striking Rear View
The fastback rear window was the biggest styling change for C3 Vettes since body-colored bumpers. A fixed-glass window also added cargo room.
The Cabin's His Oyster John...
The Cabin's His Oyster
John kept the original Oyster color when he redid his '78's interior.
The Real Wheel The N37 tilt/telescope...
The Real Wheel
The N37 tilt/telescope steering wheel option did away with the "Vega" wheel for this leather-wrapped three-spoker, another original item on John's '78.
What really sets this Corvette apart from the rest of the pack is the original mileage. Right after John purchased the car, the miles began rolling by in a hurry, as many as 160-200 a day just getting back and forth to work. Two years later, he moved from Central Illinois to Arizona, then on to California a few years after that. Each place he lived, the '78 was his daily driver. "When I bought it, I told everybody that I'm going to drive it, because I'm not going to let a beautiful car sit in the garage," he says with pride.
As with any vehicle that covers well over 100,000 miles, John's Corvette eventually did need attention. "Over time, I overhauled the engine, twice" he says. "I also redid the undercarriage, because after that many miles I had to replace it all."
Instead of "personalizing" it with power-train, body, or chassis add-ons, he kept it factory stock-except for the exterior color, which he had done at a shop near his home. "That's actually the '03 50th Anniversary color," he says of the deep red that replaced the two-tone silver-over-grey. "I took it to a custom painter in Menifee, California, and he painted it." John kept the interior original, save for a Kenwood AM/FM/CD player replacing the Delco AM/FM/eight-track unit.
John may not be driving his '78 as many miles a day as he did in the past, but that doesn't mean that it's become a total garage queen. "I'm a member of the Corvette Club of Temecula Valley (COTV), so I drive it in events that they have," he says. "The club started about four or five years ago, and it's already up to 180 members." Plus, John has made up for one past mistake-in a way. "I bought a '71 Corvette convertible, which I'm restoring right now," he says of the drop-top Shark that replaced his long-ago-sold one.
If you're thinking about adding a Corvette to your fleet or considering making one your daily driver, John has this advice. "Don't let it sit in the garage. It's a wonderful, wonderful car to drive. That's the reason that I drove it so much. That, and I take so much pride in it. I've always enjoyed it."
Speedometer & Tach A redesigned...
Speedometer & Tach
A redesigned speedometer/tach cluster was one of the '78 Corvette's new features. The turn-signal stalk no longer housed wiper controls but did include a headlight dimmer.
|>>> DATA FILE ::: ’78 chevrolet Corvette/td> |
|Owned by: John Huette, Murrieta, California (original owner) |
|Mileage ||672,305 (at time of shoot) |
|Original MSRP ||$12,095.89 (Base '78 Corvette: $9,351.89, with $2,641 worth of options including B2Z 25th Anniversary paint, C60 four-season air conditioning, YJ8 aluminum Wheels and ZX2 Convenience Group) (per original window sticker) |
|Totals ||'78 Corvette production: 46,776 |
| ||'78 Corvette production with RPO B2Z Silver Anniversary Paint: 15,283 |
|>> BODY |
|Production '78 Corvette |
|Updates ||"Fastback" rear window replaced "tunneled" rear window that had been on every C3 Corvette coupe through 1977; RPO B2Z 25th Anniversary paint scheme |
|Repairs/restoration work ||As needed during 30-plus years of ownership |
|Paint ||'03 Corvette 50th Anniversary Red |
|>> CHASSIS |
|Production '78 Corvette |
|Suspension ||Front: Independent with coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and antiroll bar. Rear: Independent with transverse leaf spring bundle, hydraulic shock absorbers |
|Brakes ||Power-assisted disc brakes with four-piston calipers at each corner |
|Wheels ||Original 15x8 aluminum wheels (RPO YJ8) |
|Tires ||BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P225/70R15 all around |
|>> ENGINE |
|Overhead-valve V-8, Gen I small-block (RPO L48) |
|Displacement ||350 ci |
|Compression Ratio ||8.5:1 |
|Induction ||One Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor |
|Modifications ||None |
|Overhauls ||Two (since new) |
|Horsepower ||(Advertised) 185 @ 4,000 rpm |
|Torque ||(Advertised) 270 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm |
|>> TRANSMISSION |
|Original TurboHydraMatic 350 (RPO MX1) with console-mounted factory shifter |
|Rearend ||Production '78 Corvette with standard Posi-traction, 3.08:1 gear ratio |
Center Dash Clock and auxiliary...
Clock and auxiliary gauges once again occupied the center dash in 1978. John replaced the OEM Delco radio/eight-track player with a Kenwood AM/FM/CD head unit.
Front Bumper That's the...
That's the original front bumper cover on this shark, as you can tell by its other-than-flat surface texture.
John Huette John ordered...
John ordered his C3 from a Galesburg, Illinois, Chevy dealer more than three decades ago, and together they've covered almost 675,000 miles since then.
|>> INTERIOR |
|Production '78 Corvette |
|Updates ||The '78 included: Redesigned dash with integral glovebox, new speedometer/tachometer design, door panels redesigned with screw-on arm rests, windshield wiper/washer controls moved from turn-signal stalk to steering column, retractable cargo cover added behind seats. |
|Seats ||Restored production '78 bucket seats, upholstered in original-color Oyster leather |
|Carpets ||Reproduction nylon cut-pile, Oyster color |
|Steering wheel ||RPO N37 tilt/telescoping steering wheel |
|Instrumentation ||Production gauge cluster: 0- to 140-mph speedometer, 0- to 7,000-rpm tachometer (5,500-rpm redline) in front of driver; plus clock, ammeter, fuel-level, oil-pressure, and coolant-temperature gauges in center of dash |
|Sound system ||Kenwood in-dash AM/FM Stereo/CD player replaced original (RPO U42) GM/Delco AM/FM Stereo radio with eight-track tape player |
|Heat/Defroster ||Original GM Harrison heater/defroster unit |
|Air conditioning ||Original GM/Harrison (RPO C60) four-season air conditioning |
Original Wheels Optional...
Optional YJ8 cast-aluminum wheels were original equipment on the '78. Nowadays, they wear BFG Radial T/As.
Under The Hood This L48...
Under The Hood
This L48 350 was under the hood of John's '78 when it left St. Louis. It's still there, following two overhauls that kept the engine bay looking original.
Fastback Rear Window Corvette's...
Fastback Rear Window
Corvette's fuel filler stayed put when the "tunneled" rear window was replaced by the '78-and-later glass fastback.