In 1978, the General celebrated the 25th anniversary of their premier sports coupe with the commemorative Silver Anniversary edition Corvette. the Silver anniversary edition came with the most drastic redesign since the introduction of the C3 in 1968. Its new appealing characteristics included a large stationary greenhouse rear window allowing considerable more luggage space, as well as the incorporation of more aerodynamic front and rear fascias that provided less drag, improved gas mileage (half-mile per gallon), and down force. Interior styling went ultra-modern with a more angular feel, featuring squared gauge faces, rectangular door panels, and more superior ergonomics than prior models.
The Corvette, in celebration of its quarter century mark, also introduced a spectacular Limited Edition Indy 500 Pace Car Replica that year. it meant not only a much-needed shot of adrenaline in the arm for the marque, but also a significant leap in the public arena. So much so, that the subsequent model year would incorporate much of '78's limited edition styling cues as standard trim. Sales of the '79 Corvette skyrocketed past any previous model year-53,807 in total. Many attribute this massive leap in sales to an aggressive promotion program (thanks, in part, to the preceding model year), improved styling, a greater spectrum of available trim and option packages, and a generally affordable price range compared to other sports coupes at the time.
It was three years earlier in 1976 that Jim Oliverio's interest in Corvettes was piqued. A friend with a silver '66 four-speed Sting Ray was interested in selling, and Jim jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, Jim's eagerness to snatch up the coupe made the owner rethink the sale, and he retracted the offer. Jim hounded the owner for the next two years, always receiving a "maybe in a little while" for an answer.
Tired of waiting, Jim's attention was drawn to an advertisement for the new '78 Silver Anniversary Edition. by this time it was mid-July 1978, and Jim and wife Milda were too late to order the 25th Anniversary Corvette they were hoping for. But Harry Green Chevrolet of Clarksburg, West Virginia, was instrumental in the Oliverio's purchase of their specially ordered '79 Corvette, one that would fit their family's budget perfectly. Jim would cut out as much fat from the heavily-optioned sports car as possible. Power windows and the tilt wheel were specifically left off the order form, which caused some unusual "abnormalities" in the assembly process. Jim did opt for the potent L-82 350 small-block, which made 225 horses-the highest output for that production year from the General's lineup. Marking the L-82 powerplant also landed Jim the close ratio M-21 crash box, as well as the 3.70 posi-traction rearend.
While Jim and Milda's red '79 Corvette was rolling down the factory line, certain modifications were made that would make this '79 stand out from the rest of the 53,000 produced that year. Since the tilt wheel was a factory standard option, floor workers bolted in a '77 model wheel (obviously left over in a parts bin), which many skeptics mistake for a Vega wheel. The Oliverios also decided to go with roll-up windows, though power windows were now a base-line amenity. The original door panels were crudely altered by punching the window cranks through the door pouches, making the map pockets useless. But the greatest alteration with this abnormal L-82 was the trimmed fenders. The factory would alter the fenders to allow enough clearance for the 60-series tires. But since the Oliverios went with the 70-series tires, the fenders came already mistakenly cut. Though the '79 was the largest production year, with its list of odd-ball mistakes and production errors, the car would easily be at the top of a distinct Vettes list.
So when Jim took possession of this odd duck L-82 Corvette, the factory glitches and snafus didn't bother him. Instead, Jim used this stout small-block as often as the weekend would allow. But the then-father of two young girls, Jim had greater priorities to attend to, and the Corvette would roll back into the garage to wait for its next time in the sun.
It would stay there until 1987 when Jim's cousin, Don, a fellow Corvette enthusiast, demanded Jim extract the forgotten '79 and dust it off. Jim and Don attended their first meeting of the Central West Virginia Corvette Club that day, and, as they say, the rest is history. Jim immediately caught the bug when he was thrown in with guys who lived, breathed, and drank nothing but Corvettes. Jim attended his first car show that year, but the '79 only took home a Fourth Place out of a four-car class. Challenged, Jim raced home and began detailing with unmatched fury. he then went on to collect a series of Concours Prepared First Place awards.
Jim's affiliation with the Corvette club allowed him to show off his '79 at a series of different venues, but it was the "big dogs" that he wanted. By the Corvette's 20th anniversary, Jim aimed his sights at the NCRS Top Flight award. The problem with the Top Flight category is that the judging is not based on the shine of the car, but the originality of the car's condition. Jim dedicated the next series of weekends to "undetailing" the L-82. At the Corvette's first showing with the Top Flight judges, Jim walked away with a 98.2 percent. Not too bad for a first time around. But undaunted and wanting to do better, Jim contacted the right Corvette guys for the best tips and know-how and jumped back into the fray. At the next go around, Jim's Corvette took a 98.6 percent. Along with the positive percentage points from the NCRS judges, Jim took home a Mclellan Mark of Excellence award-only the second '79 Corvette ever to be honored with such an accolade-at the Hershey NCRS National Convention in 2003.
Currently, Jim is struggling to erase the signs of a year's worth of over-detailing the engine compartment, but it's still an amazing piece of American machinery.
We wanted to make an exception for Jim's double presence in this month's issue. Were it not for the uniqueness and immaculate condition of Jim's collection, we wouldn't have given him twice the magazine space. It just so happens that Jim Oliverio is the proud owner of two of the finest examples of benchmark small-block-powered Corvettes ever built. -Ed.
Jim and Milda Oliverio's '79 Corvette by the Numbers:::General InformationYear: 1979Make: ChevroletSeries: 87Model: CorvetteEngine: 350 ciHorsepower: 225
:::TransmissionBorg-Warner Four-SpeedEngine Code suffix: ZBA
:::BlockCasting No.: 3970010/4-bolt, early,No. 14016379/2-bolt, late
:::Cylinder HeadCasting No.: 462624 (cast iron)Intake/Exhaust Valve Size: 2.02/1.60Combustion Chamber: 75.47
:::Intake Manifold (Aluminum)Casting No.: 14007378
:::CarburetorRochester M4MC 4BBLGM No.17059210
:::Exhaust ManifoldsCasting (Left Hand) No.: 3932461Casting (Right Hand) No.: 3932461
:::DistributorStamping No.: 1110291Engine/HP/Application: 350/225HPHousing: Aluminum HousingPoint: HEINotes: Vacuum Advance
:::Alternator1102908 63 Amp All A/C Cars
:::TransmissionFour-Speed Warner Close Ratio
Maincase: AluminumExtension Housing: AluminumType: Synchromesh, all forward gears
Gear Ratios:1st: 2.43:12nd: 1.61:13rd: 1.23:14th: DirectReverse: 2.35:1Maincase Casting No.: 1304 065 903Extension Housing Casting No.: 13.04.066.905Sidecover Casting No.: 13-04-097-901
Special Information: This transmission was a carry-over from the late '78 Warner, with the exception that the transmission now uses a new tailhousing. This new tailhousing was necessary because the '79 transmission rear reverse idler now had a new needle bearing thrust washer, replacing the basic thrust washer from the previous model year.
:::1979 Rear AxlesAll '79 Corvette rear axles are stamped with an alpha-numeric production code. The seven-digit code contains the axle code prefix, manufacturing plant code, a date code, and the build shift code.
On the '79 Corvette IRS rear suspension, the differential code is stamped on the bottom of the differential carrier housing just forward of the rearend cover. The axle code reads from left to right. The two-letter prefix designates the gear ratio and any other specific information about the axle. The third digit is the plant code. The next three numbers designate the actual day of the year this axle was built (001-365). The seventh digit represents the shift the axle was manufactured on.
From Corvette by the Numbers by Alan Colvin, used with permission of Robert Bentley Publishers.