2002 Corvette Indy Racing League Pace Car
The Indy Racing League and its crown jewel event, the Indianapolis 500, are uniquely American racing institutions. Its only fitting that America’s sportscar icon be selected as the pace vehicle for IRL events, and such was the case in 2002. C5 coupe was selected, its 345hp LS1 engine and world-class handling made it among the most capable machines ever to lead the field at the Brickyard. But the Vette wasn’t just at Indy, it paced all the IRL series events that year. This Millennium Yellow coupe was treated to a unique V-shaped checkered flag paint scheme that blends in nicely with the crossed-flags Corvette logo and paced the field for the IRL season (the Indy car was the same scheme in red.)
Diecast Reproductions has made a specialty of offering limited-edition Corvettes commemorating some of the more noteworthy moments in the history of America’s sportscar. Many of those were as pace cars (the Vette has paced the field at Indy more than any other model) and this yellow ’02 is one of the more vibrant. Based, as usual, on a Franklin Mint casting, the Diecast Reproductions Vette is limited to just 500 pieces (one for each mile at the Brickyard), making it as collectable as it is dynamic.
Exterior. As good as the Franklin C5 Vette casting is (and it isbetter in fact than the C6), this car is really all about the paint scheme. The yellow and white, separated by that fluid checkered V, is unmistakable and stands out even among a shelf full of scorching paint jobs. It should be noted that this is an unnumbered pre-production carmaking it even more rare than the 500 regular run piecesbut the paint looks fully production-grade. The crisp lines on the Indy Racing League insignia on the rear fenders testify to the care with which this car was decorated. It even comes with a removable targa top. If I had to find fault with this car’s finish, it would be in the area of the flip-up headlights, which are not particularly realistic looking when raised. But who would want to display a Vette with its lights up anyway?
Interior. This car was dressed in formal black inside for the Brickyard gala. Detail ranges from good (seats, center console) to excellent (dash and gauges). To facilitate more consistent drivingan absolute necessity when pacing a field of 33 700hp open-wheel race cars running in a tight pack and with no speedometers or brake lightsthe Vette has an automatic transmission, but revised shift programming and meticulous preparation of event cars means its quicker than your garden-variety street Vette. Here and there you can see some extrasthe fire extinguisher in the passenger footwell, a CD ejecting from the dash and a stealthy light bar under the rear hatchwhich are nice touches of flavor that further convey the special nature of this car. The Limited Edition plaque is under the back hatch too, and the conspicuous blank where the number would normally be lets you know this one is that much more special.
Under the Hood. “346 cubic inches” doesn’t really roll very easily off the tongue, but it rolls nicely on the throttle, which is what’s important. The 345hp LS1 was considered among the better Chevy smallblocks of all time. The casting quality here is quite proficient, but the engine with its black dust covers is not terribly interesting to look at. Check it out once or twice, then put the hood back down and admire that paint job some more.
Chassis, wheels and tires. Chevy engineers designed the C5chassis to be flat to help aerody
The C5 Vette was a revolution when it debuted, and the fact that it was still glamorous enough 5 years later in 2002its 50th anniversaryto pace America’s most prestigious motorsports event says much about its enduring quality. The paint on this car definitely helps it stand out among cars of its era. For Vette enthusiasts or Indy aficionados, this is one of the most compelling examples of a C5 in diecast.
» Articulated suspension
Diecast Reproductions Inc.; (813) 882-8482; diecastreproductions.com