1978 Corvette Replica Pace Car Brought Back To Tolbert Chevrolet
A limited edition Corvette, sold new to a Meridian man in 1978 by Tolbert Chevrolet, was brought back to the dealership last month by its new owner, who got to meet the original salesman.
The Corvette is now a valuable collector's item as it remains in mint condition with only 3,300 miles on its odometer. In addition, the original plastic covering put on the seats and floor mats by the manufacturer remains intact.
Chevrolet redesigned the Corvette in 1978 in celebration of its 25th birthday when it served as the pace car for the Indy 500 for the first time. In conjunction with the race, the company built a series of pace car replicas with the original pace car going to a museum.
One of the replicas was sold to A. C. Terry by Tolbert Chevrolet on May 28, 1978.
That car is now owned by Don Dickinson of Clinton, who collects, buys and sells such vehicles.
Chevrolet initially built only 300 pace car replicas, Dickinson said, but after many expressed an interest in the car, officials decided to build one for each Corvette dealer for a total of 6,502. His was number 6,200.
"Paul Harvey said on the news at the time that the cars would be worth $50,000 in about 20 years," he said. "The list price in 1978 was $14,500."
The Wall Street Journal, in a March 1978 story, said the anniversary Corvettes "would be excellent investments."
Terry, like many others, purchased one of the vehicles as an investment.
Billy Gene and Robert Tolbert recalled how they washed the vehicle in the showroom because the new owner didn't want to add miles on it.
"Mr. Terry backed up a trailer to the showroom door," Billy Gene said. "He didn't want it to hit the ground. He said he was going to take it back to Meridian and store it because it would be worth a lot of money someday."
Dickinson learned the car's history from its window sticker and title which he obtained in the sale.
"I knew the car was sold new and I thought maybe Tolbert is still in business and someone would remember the car. When I called I talked to the same salesperson after 30 years," he said.
Robert Tolbert remembers not only the car but selling it to Terry as well.
"I was only 24 years old," he said, noting that a similar Corvette today would sell for about $60,000.
Dickinson never expected the same family to be operating the dealership much less have an opportunity to meet the original salesperson.
"That they are still is business after all these years is unusual," he said, complimenting the family on their success.
After he purchased the Corvette from a man in Jackson, Dickinson said he just had to drive it.
"I drove it for about 10 miles," he said. "I just had to."
While he had concerns about the car's 30-year-old tires, they made the 10 miles just fine, he said.
Nothing has been replaced on the car except the water pump and I still have the original one, he said.
Dickinson hauled the car to Philadelphia from his Clinton home. He parked it outside the Tolbert dealership where it attracted many who wanted a glimpse inside. He took numerous pictures to record its history, including several with the dealership sign in the background.
While it's evident that Dickinson takes a lot of pride in the vehicle, he hasn't decided if he will keep, sell or trade it.
The 1978 Corvette was designed with a new fastback rear styling which created more passenger space and a larger rear window. The interior was also modernized, the speedometer and tachometer were redesigned in a new squarer more vertical style. A glove box was also added. All 1978 models have a 25th anniversary emblem on the exterior.
"It turns into a conversation piece," Dickinson said.