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How the 1979 model became the best-selling Corvette of all time

1979 Chevrolet Corvette in Red Front View

Introduced in 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the most iconic names in automotive history. Despite all the changes and regulations that impacted the American car market over the years, the Corvette remained popular with car enthusiasts for more than six decades.

The ‘Vette’ features a logo that contains many symbols related to its background, including the exceptional American character and the mighty racing soul of Chevy, the boldest stuff in every inch of the Corvette.

The third generation of the Corvette, called the C3, was a commercial success for Chevrolet. While the previous generation was quite popular, the C3 broke the record by selling over 530,000 units during its production.

Total production for most C3 model years exceeded 25,000 units, but it was the 1979 model that had the highest number of units sold. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what made the ’79 model year the best-selling Corvette of all time.

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Chevrolet sold over 50 thousand ’79 C3 Corvettes

As mentioned, Chevrolet sold more than 530,000 Corvettes from 1968 to 1982, and approximately 10% were from the 1979 production line. With 53,807 units sold, the 1979 model is the best-selling Corvette ever. Even the popular C7 generation did not exceed 40,000 annual production.

All this while the ’79 model was the first Corvette with a suggested retail price of over $10,000. Initially it sold for $10,220. However, the price hike didn’t stop car enthusiasts from getting their hands on Corvettes.

Chevrolet offered the Corvette in 10 colors that year. The most popular color was black, with over 10,400 units sold. In contrast, with fewer than 2,400 models, yellow was the Corvette’s least-selling color. Other colors available for the 1979 Corvette were classic white, silver, light blue, dark green, light beige, red, dark brown and dark blue.

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The Shark design of the C3 Corvette made it an icon

One of the main selling points of the C3 Corvette was its iconic shark design. A long hood, curved fastback rear window and tracks gave the C3 Corvette a menacing look, ready to put foreign exotics to shame. Although Chevrolet produced more than 7,000 of the ’79 Corvette over the previous model year, there were few changes and upgrades from the 1978 model.

For the 1979 model, the optional “high back” seats became standard. These seats were popular because they had better side support, better access to rear storage, and a 24 pound reduction in the Corvette’s overall weight. In addition, tilt-telescopic steering columns and power windows became standard on all 1979 Chevy Corvette models.

In addition to some minor upgrades to the headlights and trim around the fastback window, one of the notable changes in the 1979 model was a more secure ignition switch. The ’78 Corvette was notorious for being the most stolen car. Fortunately, the ’79 Corvette owners no longer had to worry about lock pickers.

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With the L82 engine, the ’79 Corvette has 225 horsepower

Year after year, previous Corvettes were subject to a reduction in power due to fuel economy regulations. However, things changed for the better with the 1979 model year.

The 1979 Chevy Corvette had two powertrain options; the base L48 and the larger, more powerful L82. Both engines displaced 350 cubic inches.

Thanks to the low intake previously only used on the L82 models, the base L48 now had a power increase of 5 horsepower and could produce 195 ponies.

The L82, on the other hand, offered a whopping 225 hp and, in addition to the slight increase in power, was now equipped with an air conditioning system as standard.

Although the numbers are almost half of what the 1967 C2 L88 Corvette could offer, the L82 variant still had what it took to impress everyone behind the wheel. Shortly after it came on the market, Road and rail magazine test drove the ’79 Corvette with an L82 engine. According to their data, the Corvette could sprint from idle to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds and finish the quarter-mile track in 15.3 seconds at 95 mph.

1979 was the last year Chevrolet offered the manual transmission option for models equipped with the L82 powertrain. When ordering the previous C2 version, customers predominantly chose manual transmissions over automatic transmissions. However, for the 1979 model, less than 20% of orders included manual transmissions.

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Final verdict: the numbers speak for themselves

In short, the 1979 model rightfully deserves the number one spot in the list of the best-selling Corvettes of all time. While it offered no drastic differences from the previous model year, the minor upgrades and several standard features made it popular among car enthusiasts.

While the original MSRP was the highest it had ever been, people didn’t mind spending over $10,000 on a supercar killer.