More than 15,000 '78 Corvettes were ordered with the optional 25th Anniversary paint option. This one now wears another Anniversary color scheme-2003's 50th Anniversary Red. But you can't blame John Huette for making the color change when he repainted the '78. The original silver/gray colors had seen well over a half-million miles of daily driving since then.
John ordered his car new from Weaver-Yemm Chevrolet in Galesburg, Illinois, taking delivery of it on March 29, 1978. "That was the year they first came out with the sloped back [window], and they didn't have any in stock then, so I ordered it," he recalls from his Murrieta, California, home. "In fact, it was on the showroom floor after I'd put money down on it, but I couldn't go in to pick it up right away. Somebody offered the dealer $5,000 over the sticker price, but I'd already bought it, so they couldn't sell it."
The original window sticker, which showed a base retail price of $9,351.89, included the following options: 25th Anniversary Paint, power door locks and windows, air conditioning, aluminum wheels, a Delco AM/FM Stereo radio with eight-track tape player, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, and enough other features that boosted the sticker price to $12,095.89. Standard items included the L48 350-inch small-block V-8, the Turbo 350 automatic transmission, leather seats, Posi-traction, and tinted glass.
This wasn't a purchase through a hometown Chevy dealer, though. "I didn't live in Galesburg then, but I worked there," John says. "I'm an E.R. physician, and I lived 75-80 miles away from there, and drove from Lake Bloomington, Illinois." It wasn't his only Corvette then-he also owned a '72 convertible, which he regrets selling. "Like a dummy, I sold that one, and I had just the one for a long, long time," he says.
What really sets this Corvette apart from the rest of the pack is the original mileage. Right after John purchased the car, the miles began rolling by in a hurry, as many as 160-200 a day just getting back and forth to work. Two years later, he moved from Central Illinois to Arizona, then on to California a few years after that. Each place he lived, the '78 was his daily driver. "When I bought it, I told everybody that I'm going to drive it, because I'm not going to let a beautiful car sit in the garage," he says with pride.
As with any vehicle that covers well over 100,000 miles, John's Corvette eventually did need attention. "Over time, I overhauled the engine, twice" he says. "I also redid the undercarriage, because after that many miles I had to replace it all."
Instead of "personalizing" it with power-train, body, or chassis add-ons, he kept it factory stock-except for the exterior color, which he had done at a shop near his home. "That's actually the '03 50th Anniversary color," he says of the deep red that replaced the two-tone silver-over-grey. "I took it to a custom painter in Menifee, California, and he painted it." John kept the interior original, save for a Kenwood AM/FM/CD player replacing the Delco AM/FM/eight-track unit.
John may not be driving his '78 as many miles a day as he did in the past, but that doesn't mean that it's become a total garage queen. "I'm a member of the Corvette Club of Temecula Valley (COTV), so I drive it in events that they have," he says. "The club started about four or five years ago, and it's already up to 180 members." Plus, John has made up for one past mistake-in a way. "I bought a '71 Corvette convertible, which I'm restoring right now," he says of the drop-top Shark that replaced his long-ago-sold one.
If you're thinking about adding a Corvette to your fleet or considering making one your daily driver, John has this advice. "Don't let it sit in the garage. It's a wonderful, wonderful car to drive. That's the reason that I drove it so much. That, and I take so much pride in it. I've always enjoyed it."