Something special needed to be done to the current Corvette, rather than introduce an all-new model, to commemorate the car's silver anniversary in 1978. But how would Chevy accomplish this on a tight budget? The answer proved as simple as trimming away the old "flying buttress" sail panels and substituting a large, compound-curve rear window. Voilà! The Corvette fastback was back.
Not only was this a relatively inexpensive alteration that freshened the car's appearance, it improved rearward visibility in the bargain. Even better, it made for a slightly larger and more accessible luggage area.
In addition to adding Silver Anniversary badges to the exterior, changes for 1978 included squared-up instrument-panel housings for the speedometer and tachometer to match the previous year's revamped console gauges, redesigned door panels with new armrests and integral door pulls, and -- at last -- a real glovebox. The car's fuel-tank capacity increased from 17 to 24 gallons, and the windshield wiper/washer control was moved from the steering column stalk back to the dashboard.
The Corvette had the dubious distinction of being one of America's most frequently stolen cars, so the standard anti-theft system was rewired on the 1978 to encompass the T-tops, which were all-too-easy to pinch. To the same end, a new roller-blind security shade was added to keep would-be thieves from peering into the cargo area through the big new backlight. The glass T-tops promised for 1977 were now genuinely available from the factory, and both they and the normal fiberglass panels were modified to provide more headroom and easier locking. The three-point seat belts were given a single inertia reel, and belt guides were eliminated.
Power ratings for 1978 shifted a bit in deference to emissions standards, as well as to the government's new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandates that took effect that year. As before, there were two basic versions of the veteran 350 small block from which to choose. The base L48 produced 185 bhp in "49-state" trim and was the only choice for customers in California and high-altitude areas, where it generated 175 bhp. For an extra $525, the L82 delivered 220 bhp via a dual-snorkel air intake and a revamped exhaust system designed to reduce back-pressure.
A close-ratio four-speed manual gearbox returned as an exclusive option for the L82; a 3.70:1 rear axle made this the best-performing drivetrain combination available. The same gearset was also offered for the L82 with the wide-ratio four-speed, while the L48 came with a 3.36:1 axle (also available for the L82/wide-ratio setup). Also offered for the L82 was a revised Turbo-Hydra-Matic of the new, so-called "CBC" type, with a low-inertia high-stall-speed (2,400 rpm) torque converter. The automatics pulled a 3.55:1 final drive, except with the L48 at low altitudes, where it was 3.08:1. Such juggling reflected the relative difficulty of balancing performance against low emissions and decent fuel economy.
The main chassis change for '78 was first-time availability of optional 60-series tires -- raised-white-letter Goodyear GTs in HR60 size (225/60R-15 metric), though they necessitated some shearing of the fender liners. Aramid-belt construction contributed to a claimed improvement in ride smoothness.
The FE7 Gymkhana Suspension package was still around, though its price had gone up to $41 from the original $7 bargain. As before, it included heavy-duty shocks and higher-rate springs all around, plus a rear anti-roll bar and a thicker front stabilizer.
The Corvette's 25th anniversary sparked the creation of two special edition models that year. Find out more about them in the next section.
Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:
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