The all-original 50th Anniversary Corvette coupe offered here incorporates the 1SC Equipment group, combining the Anniversary package with special Indianapolis 500 Pace Car graphics over Xirallic Crystal Red paint, special fender emblems and Champagne-colored aluminum wheels—identical to that used on the official pace car. This 4-speed automatic-equipped coupe has been driven just 725 miles and comes with dual-zone air conditioning, Delco Bose CD stereo, heads-up display, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, dual removable roof panels (both painted and tinted glass) and Magnetic Selective Ride Control.
|Vehicle:||2003 Corvette 50th Anniversary Edition Coupe|
|Number Produced:||11,632 (4,065 coupes and 7,547 convertibles)|
|Original List Price:||$48,895 ($55,370 for convertibles)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$150|
|Distributor Caps:||N/A (coil-pack ignition)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Left side of the dashboard and right frame rail near the radiator|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad forward of cylinder head on right side|
|Club Info:||50th Anniversary Corvette Registry 212 Greenleaf Circle Myrtle Beach, SC, 29579|
|Alternatives:||1993 40th Anniversary coupe, 2004 Le Mans Commemorative coupe, 2008 Indy Pace Car edition|
This car sold for $39,750, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Kissimmee, FL auction on January 26-30, 2011.
The 50th anniversary of the Corvette was shaping up to be a biggie for Chevrolet. No other American car nameplate had been in continuous production for 50 years. A special Anniversary edition package was to be the centerpiece of the year. This special edition was beyond all Corvettes built in the 2003 model year, all of which came with 50th anniversary badging on their front and rear valances. Non-Z06 cars also had the logo on the owner’s manual cover and main gauges.
This was just like 1978, when all Corvettes wore 25th Anniversary badges, but there was also the Special Edition package for that anniversary.
However, the 2003 50th Anniversary Edition was a unique package available on coupes and convertibles—but not Z06s. The paint on the 50th Anniversary package was a unique “Xirallic” Anniversary Red—which was slightly darker, yet more brilliant than the 1993 40th Anniversary Ruby Red.
The interiors featured Sports seats and were fully trimmed in Shale leather with the 50th Anniversary logo embroidered on the seat headrests. Shale was fully used on the interior, including components that usually were always black, such as the steering wheel and dashboard to the center console facing. Convertibles had a Shale cloth top.
While Shale was exclusive to this package, it was carried over into 2004 for that year’s Le Mans Commemorative Edition, with the exception of a change in the headrest embroidery to the regular C5 logo.
All 50th Anniversary packages also had unique alloy wheels, along with frontfender badging, 1SC equipment package, and Magnetic Selective Ride control. Other upgrade options—such as the CD changer and multiple roof panels—were available if they didn’t conflict with the package equipment.
Anniversary Edition déjà vu—not!
Unlike the 1978 25th Anniversary car, there was not an Indy Pace Car edition. Why? Well, the 50th Anniversary Edition premiered before the 2003 model year—at the 86th running of the Indy 500 on May 26, 2002.
GM wanted to get a marketing jump on marketing 50 years of America’s Only True Sports Car, so when the Corvette was once again selected to pace the race in 2002, it was as an early opportunity to plug the 50th Anniversary. Bowling Green actually built the first three 2003 50th Anniversary editions in February 2002—with a slew of 2002s built after them through the end of July.
These three cars were not dolled-up 2002s or prototypes. They were the first three Model Year 2003 units, with 2003 federal certifications and VINs 1G1YY22G535100001, 100002, and 100003.
Instead of the usual convertibles, these pace cars were mildly tweaked coupes—reportedly with aftermarket exhaust, different ECU programming, suspension stiffening, transmission upgrades, and mandatory safety equipment—but otherwise stock for primary and backup pace car duty. None of the three were festival or parade cars.
Chevrolet did provide three 2002 Speedway White Corvette convertibles as well as 62 2002 silver Camaro Z/28 convertibles for dignitary /VIP use for the race week festivities—all with only the race logo for 2002. In addition, 33 Quicksilver and 33 Millennium Yellow 2002 convertibles also participated in the 500 Festival parade. All of these vehicles were standard production—albeit with Indy 500 race door graphics—and were sold though usual sales channels throughout the Midwest.
One of the three pace cars was given to driver Helio Castroneves and Penske Racing for winning the race, which followed Indy 500 tradition. GM kept VIN 001, which paced the start of the race with actor Jim Caviezel behind the wheel.
But I wanna buy a pace car!
When the 50th Anniversary package started hitting the showroom floors in the fall of 2002, there wasn’t an RPO for a replica pace car. To meet the limited demand for a lookalike car, customers could special order a non-GM aftermarket decal kit from the dealer’s parts counter to install on a 50th Anniversary Edition—or on any C5 for that matter. These kits are still available from aftermarket parts suppliers, and they generally cost about $500.
During the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, 2003, Corvette fans were a bit disappointed. The pace car was indeed a Chevrolet, but it was a SSR convertible car/truck/thingy. It was the new kid on the block, and it was officially called the “Official Pace Vehicle.” A Corvette convertible was back to lead the Indy 500 field a year later in 2004, but it was a totally unique graphics package that had nothing at all akin to the Le Mans Commemorative, nor was it available even as an accessory graphics kit. As far as Chevy dealers were concerned, a Dodge Ram could have just as well been the pace car…ahem…vehicle.
So what happened here?
With plummeting resale values on C5s, what exactly happened here with our feature car?
As it has a standard-issue 2003 VIN, it is definitely a regular-issue 50th Anniversary package, with the 2003 Indy Pace Car graphics added on sometime after it left the assembly line. In fact, the unit sequence number is fairly late in the model year—number 27,080 of 35,469 total Corvettes for 2003.
It’s not realistic that the original buyer was willing to pay a $10k premium to have a set of decals put on an otherwise stock 50th Anniversary Edition. Indeed, the general trend on limited-edition Corvettes is that most owners will not mount decals or graphics that are packed loose in the trunk when new, as they believe that the unmounted decals will be worth more in the future. Our results show following that strategy sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
So, it seems likely that the aftermarket Indy 500 decals were applied sometime after this car left the assembly line.
The only logical equation for the price paid for this car is the very low mileage—just 725 miles on this car. Even so, 50th Anniversary Editions can still be found with less miles—and untitled on the original MSO—for no more that what was paid here. Mecum certainly didn’t pump it up as something it wasn’t. In fact, their staff Corvette consignment specialist told me in preparation for this profile that he thought that this car was pretty unremarkable, and he wondered why we picked it to write about in the first place.
Hopefully, the final bidder was willing to pay a premium for exactly what it was, a “still-in-the-wrapper” example rather than getting blinded by the Xirallic Crystal Red mist of the auction and thinking it was the pace car that it never was. Nonetheless, I would have to call this Corvette very well sold indeed