Nineteen-seventy-nine is one of the forgotten years. Like the Corvettes made, for example, in '59, '64, '76, and '85, the '79s have no real defining character. In each instance there were no big changes, no noteworthy accomplishments, no special editions, no exciting options, and no real distinguishing features. As a result, like an automotive Rodney Dangerfield, they just don't get no respect.
Immediately following the '78 models didn't help, either. That's because, in several significant ways, '78 was a very special year for America's Sports Car. It was the 25th anniversary of the Corvette's birth and to help commemorate that milestone, Chevrolet created a Silver Anniversary model. There were several modest but notable styling changes in 1978, the most conspicuous being the new "bubble" back window, and a fairly extensive redesign of the interior. And, of course, 1978 was very special because Corvette was chosen-for the first time-to pace the Indianapolis 500. Exactly 6,502 Pace Car replicas were built featuring special black and silver paint, graphics, interiors, and wheels
The models immediately following the '79s also contributed to that particular year's semi-orphan status. The '80 model got a fairly extensive facelift, including new front and rear fascias with integral spoilers. And 1982 will always stand out because it was the last year for the long-running Shark series, as well as the special Collector Edition commemorative model. And in addition to being the last of the Sharks, the '82s were the first Corvettes to feature electronic fuel injection and an overdrive transmission.
So, when most people think about the later Shark years, the models that immediately come to mind are the '78s and the '80-82 models. Where then do the '79s fit in? When considered in the correct perspective, they are nothing less than great cars. They run, drive, and handle every bit as well as a Pace Car, Collector Edition, or other more collectible Corvette of the era but typically cost far less. And that lower market value means you can buy a much nicer example for a given amount than if you were buying a '78 or '82. And that "lower value" translates into much more enjoyment insofar as a '79 will likely be driven a lot more.
Driving is exactly what New Yorker John Waluk does with this beautiful '79. Readers with unusually good memories may recognize John's name, as another Corvette he owns graced the cover of VETTE several years ago. That car, a Cortez Silver '70 coupe, is powered by an LS5 big-block and features a bevy of desirable options. John had meticulously and correctly restored the '70 to showroom condition and it has won essentially every honor that there is for a Corvette to win. While he does drive the '70 regularly, it is just too nice-and too valuable-to take on long trips where inclement weather might be encountered, where security could be an issue, or where minor road scars are likely to accumulate.
Worry-free and totally enjoyable long trips are exactly where John's '79 earns its keep. He thinks nothing of driving it halfway across the country to a Corvette show or, recently, out to Pocono Raceway to watch a vintage race event. Of course, while he was at Pocono, John took advantage of the special track time allotted to visiting Corvettes. "That's what I bought the car for," he explained. "It's a straight, original car and I take excellent care of it, but I did buy it to drive and I'm really having a ball with it!"
Having just over 41,000 miles means the '79 runs and handles like a dream, attesting to the fact that it was treated gently right from day one. "Actually, it was never even off Long Island until I took it on a road tour to St. Paul with the NCRS a couple of years ago," John noted.