Corvette History through Ads: Best Selling Model Year in History, 1979

23-79GM Corv Legend

The 1979 Corvette was the best selling model year in history. Following the success the company had marketing the Indianapolis Pace Car and the Silver Anniversary car in 1978, the 1979 model surprisingly topped the outstanding results from that year, selling a whopping 53,804 cars, over 7,000 more than 1978, and to this day remains the zenith of Corvette sales. The sales for the 1979 model year appear to be an anomaly, especially considering there were very few changes from the year before and the base price went up $869, to $10,220.

The horsepower increased slightly in both the anemic engines offered, the 205 HP L48 and the 225HP L82, due to a less restrictive muffler. It is hard to imagine in this day of high performance Corvettes where 0 to 60 times are below 4 seconds that the L82 engine was only able to manage a sleepy 6.6 seconds and a quarter mile time of a leisurely 15.3 seconds. Government regulations had gutted the performance of the Corvette. If there was a bright spot, the early ‘79 models were the last Vettes without the 85MPH speedometer, the ultimate insult, and which showed up in late 1979. The ad refers to the 1979 model as a “legend” and even goes so far as to show a graph depicting its weak performance. Certainly, the ’79 Corvette’s performance was legendary compared to its contemporaries and fortunately the horsepower wars of the 1960’s and early ‘70s were just a rosy memory.

The 1979 model sold four times as many as recent model year sales. For the 2012 model year a mere 11,647 Corvettes were sold and 13,466 were produced for sale in 2013. Though it is impossible to compare the two models based on performance, convenience and safety what can be compared is the relative “real” cost of the Corvette in 1979 compared to 2013. Using a CPI Inflation Calculator, what jumps out and probably accounts for part, if not most, of the sales difference is price. In real dollars the $10,220 price in 1979 was a huge bargain and translates to $32,883 in 2013 dollars. So the price of the current base Corvette is in real dollars over 50% higher than a 1979 Corvette. Not that the new Corvette isn’t worth the money but it does cast a different light on the difference in sales units. But in real terms I think most Corvette enthusiasts would agree that what you get in the new Corvette is well worth the difference.