Hilton Head | Lot 169
2003 Chevrolet Corvette
$50,000 - $60,000 USD | Not Sold
| Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
31 October 2015
- 5.7-liter, 350-hp OHV V-8
- Six-speed manual transmission
- One of two Pace Cars built for use at Le Mans in 2003
- Only one with a six-speed manual transmission
- Rare low VIN Pilot Car
- Ex-General Motors Heritage Collection
- Under 2,500 actual miles
- Pace Car used by Slot Car company Fly for Le Mans 2003 (One model included)
- Pace Car, a Pilot Car, Anniversary Car, streetable track car
Corvettes have been successfully competing at Le Mans since 1960, but it was not until 1999 that one was chosen to pace the world’s most famous 24-hour endurance race. This all-important product placement marked the beginning of Chevrolet’s ultimate plan to reinforce the Corvette’s image as a true world-class sports car for the new century. The other important component in this strategy was the debut of the C5-R, a new GT racecar that could compete and win on an international stage. Under the Corvette Racing banner the GM-engineered and factory-supported C5-R program dominated the GTS class at Le Mans between 2000 and 2004, winning three times.
So after two consecutive GTS Class victories for the C5-R, it was no surprise that the Chevrolet Corvette was once again chosen by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the race’s sanctioning body, as the official pace car for the 71st 24 Heurs du Mans in 2003. This also nicely coincided with the 50th anniversary of “America’s Sports Car,” and would be another great opportunity to showcase the extremely capable production Corvette to the world.
For this important role records indicate that Chevrolet sent a total of six new 2003 Corvette coupes to France; two to act as Pace Cars while the others were used as Safety Cars. All were similar in appearance being painted the distinctive “Anniversary Red” (color code 94) and given Champagne-colored aluminum wheels as well as all of the special 50th anniversary badging. Each had the 1SB Preferred Equipment Group of options and the new F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control system. These cars were all powered by an aluminum 5.7-liter Chevrolet LS1 V-8 rated at 350 horsepower making them more than capable of performing their duties on the track.
The car being offered here is one of the two 2003 Corvette Pace Cars used at Le Mans that year. According to its VIN, it is a very early example making it a “Pilot Car.” This car differs from the other known car sent to France in that it is the only one with a six-speed manual transmission. Along with its special event graphics scheme and North American Signal Company roof-mounted blue marker lights, it also is equipped with a Simpson three-inch wide five-point safety harnesses for both the driver and a passenger. There is also a Pe Mall hand-held fire extinguisher mounted on the rollbar in the rear compartment. Interestingly this car is set up as an export model with amber rear side marker lamps, a slightly different style tail and reverse lights as well as an elegant provision for the longer European style number plates. Also included is an operator’s manual in French. There are strobe lights in the front, rear and side lamps.
General Motors retained this particular 2003 Corvette Le Mans Pace Car after the race as part of their Heritage Collection. It was subsequently sold when the company was going through bankruptcy proceedings in 2009. Since then it has been maintained in remarkably original conditional two private owners. It currently has less than 2,500 total recorded miles. The car is equipped with a special low restriction exhaust as well as some other modifications to ready the car for its official Pace Car duties. When the car was sold to the public, General Motors issued a branded title from new (copies of this and other paperwork is included in the sale). The car was not damaged, however, it appears GM wanted no part of potential warranty claims for a car that has seen track time and has modifications from original. The car is currently licensed and titled and is road driven sparingly and by an adult. Needless to say, it is a hit at car shows when the lights are activated.
This very special Le Mans Pace Car represents not only the opportunity to own a piece of international racing history, but also a very early pre-production Corvette or “Pilot Car.” As such, this car was used by Chevrolet to refine the production process for all 2003 Corvettes. Not often does a collector car qualify as both.