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50th Anniversary Pace Car 2003

 2002 Pace Car
The National Corvette Owners Association (well, me,Les Jackson, actually!) was at the Indy 500 track at the unveiling of the 2002 Indy Pace Car, a 50th Anniversary Edition of the 2003 Corvette! On Wednesday, April 10th the Chevrolet Division launched what will be a yearlong celebration of the Corvette’s 50th birthday.
Rick Baldick, Corvette brand manager, said, “This year’s Memorial Day classic will showcase America’s favorite sports car at the greatest spectacle in racing.” Tony George, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pointed out that Chevrolet has paced Indy a total of 12 times since its opening in 1909, more than any other brand of automobile. Corvettes, by the way, have paced Indy in 1978, 1986, 1995, 1998, and again for 2002. In addition, Chevrolet itself will be competing in the race this year with an all-new Chevy Indy V8 engine.
To give you an idea just how impressive the performance of Corvettes is, the 50th Anniversary Edition Corvette Pace Car is virtually identical to the for-purchase models available later this summer! Unlike other Pace Cars that have to be specially powered and undergo serious suspension changes, the Corvette Pace Car is a regular production, 350horsepower C5 Vette that has had exterior graphics wrapped over its “Anniversary Red” (looks like maroon to me!) paint and a lower restriction muffler system for, well, more noise of course. Racing safety belts and a strobe light system have been added, a requirement of the Indy Racing League.
So what does it feel like on the track? Terrific, that’s what! We drove the newly refurbished Indy track for a few “hot laps” in the pace car and had the good fortune to drive with GM’s performance guru, Dr. John Moss. As we were cranking speeds in excess of 140 mph, John pointed out the smoothness of the car’s ride, its exceptional ability to negotiate the four turns (at 105 mph, by the way) at the ends of the oval, and its incredible braking ability as we cruised into the pits. The track surface, for years a complaint of the drivers, has been “sanded” down with diamond saws, so now it’s as smooth as any track in the country. This year’s race will probably set new speed records.
New for Corvette for 2003, and fitted to the Pace Car, is MagneticC Ford 2003 50th Anniversary Selective Ride Control, a damper design that controls wheel and body motion with Magneto-Rheological fluid in the shocks. By controlling the current to an electromagnetic coil inside the piston of the damper, the MR fluid’s consistency can be changed, resulting in continuously variable real-time damping. As a result, you feel a greater sense of stability due to the flatter ride and more precise handling. A nice after-effect of the system is less vibration and noise from the tires. It will be an option on the 2003 models and I would recommend buying it.
On hand at the event was this year’s Pace Car Driver, actor Jim Caviezel. Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize him, neither did any of us! The 31 year-old actor played the lead role in the recent movie The Count of Monte Cristo (no, I didn’t see it either!) and is soon to star in a new film called High Crimes. He’s a nice-enough guy but not much of a driver, so who really cares about this part of it? Let’s get back to the car…
If you want to get yourself a 50th Anniversary Special Edition Corvette, it will come in Anniversary Red, specific badging, Shale interior color and champagne-painted anniversary wheels with special emblems. It also features embroidered badges on the seats and floor mats, padded door armrests and grips and the convertible’s top will be colored in Shale. Magnetic Selective Ride Control is included with the package. The car will, of course, be powered with the LS1, 350 horsepower engine, with either the 4L60-E automatic or 6-speed manual transmissions.
All in all, doesn’t it make you glad you own a Corvette?