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Thomas Lord

1981 Regal Pace Car replicas: Factory, or dealer spin-offs?

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Back in the late 1980s, I read a magazine article that stated there were no factory replicas produced of the 1981 Buick Regal Indy pace car.

I locked away this information, and accepted that it could never be part of my personal 'dream car ultimate collection'.

Last evening I happened upon a 1981 Regal "pace car replica" at TurboBuick.com. I immediately dismissed it as a homegrown appearance package, probably installed at prominent Indiana Buick dealerships.

In trying to locate any verification that these 150 so called 'pace car replicas' had anything to do with Buick Motor Division, I didn't expect to find any connection. Here are a few links.

First the eBay listing:

<!-- m -->http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Buick-Re ... 27b4faf780<!-- m -->

The seller has declared this car "SOLD" on TurboBuick.com. Otherwise, I would beg to ask what the factory option code is for the 'pace car replica'.

Here is another one of the 150 'imposters' for sale for an absorbant price:

<!-- m -->http://www.americandreamcars.com/1981bu ... 110607.htm<!-- m -->

If Buick actually built a 'replica' wouldn't you think they would have at least duplicated the special colored seats?

<!-- m -->http://deansgarage.com/2009/1981-buick- ... -pace-car/<!-- m -->

CODA: This site sheds more light on the exsistance of the 150 'replicas'. However I do not readily believe that all 150 were "used at the track" as the bottom paragraph states.

<!-- m -->http://www.beforeblack.net/81pace.htm<!-- m -->

Can you visualize 150 street version Regals parading around the track during any given cerimony? The track would be kind of crowded.

It would also cause considerable congestion in the infield, if they were to parade them a few at a time.

Anyone here have special knowledge of these so called 'replicas'?

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Thomas,

I was at Indy on one of the qualifying days in 1981. On my site, Dean's Garage, there is a photo of a number of replicas in the gallery linked at the bottom of the page about the 1981 Regal Indy Pace Car (?81 Regal pace Car at Indy and ?81 Regal pace Car at Indy). I don't remember how many replicas there were, but there were quite a few (not 150, probably). They had T-tops, but didn't have the open rear seating area like the actual pace cars. Whether they were just a few cars made up for the Indy event, I couldn't say. It could be that the "replicas" were nothing more than a T-Top option on a normal silver Regal and a set of decals to be installed at the dealer. I'll make some inquiries to see if I come up with more concise information.

Gary

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Whimper. To think, this could have been the turbo car and car representing the '80s in my collection. Sigh.

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I've seen the Pace Cars in the past. I can tell you the expensive car listed above is not correct. The Buick logo was not on the front window. The orange was not on the 1/4 windows. The Buick Billboard was in Black, NOT orange. There's not enough detail to tell for certain, but it looks like the door graphics are also all orange which is wrong. They were gradient from maroon to orange.

Gary's photos show the 81 pace car accurately. The pace cars were not turbo cars, all N/A cars.

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It could be that the "replicas" were nothing more than a T-Top option on a normal silver Regal and a set of decals to be installed at the dealer. I'll make some inquiries to see if I come up with more concise information.

Gary

Thanks for the response, Gary. It's nice to hear from someone with first hand experience on this subject.

I am not looking to start up a firestorm of controversey, here. It's just that there wasn't a great deal written about the '81 pace cars before the internet. And still not a whole lot of information now, compared to most other low production vehicles.

What I quoted from your post is precisely what I suspected about the 'replicas' being discussed in the TurboBuick.com forums. It wouldn't be too much of a problem for some dealerships to create their own replicas from garden variety Regals. Just order silver coupes equipped with T-tops, red interior, floor shift console, etc... and add a stripe kit, decals and paint the hood. I'll admit the gold wheels with special center caps are pretty convinciing.

I seem to remember that style cast wheel was available on 1980 Regal Sport Coupe models, however. So it may have been a carry over that was available on any 1981 Regal.

Dan, I do know that the original Pace Cars from the 500 were N/A high compression 4.1 powered.

And I was not surprised at all to see the eighth digit of the VIN in all these 'replicas' was an A .

To my knowledge, every 1981 Regal that came off the line had the VIN A 231.

I could have gotten the wrong information about that also, but I welcome any corrections.

Tom

Edited by Thomas Lord (see edit history)

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Other than the dealers or Local Marketing Group having the cars "built" in their dealership service departments and body shops, I rather suspect that BUICK had them done with an off-site conversion vendor shop. The black paint on the hoods might have qualified as "special mask" at the assembly plant paint shop, but would have required a LOT of other things to happen there . . . which would not have been "worth it" for that small number of vehicles. Hence, the off-site conversion shop would handle all of the paint and decal items unique to the vehicles AND very possibly supplied them to the race operatives directly rather than being built by the dealers. Not unlike what Chrysler did with the Plymouth Superbirds and Dodge Daytonas OR other "Detroit Specials" over the years . . . or ship cars directly to new vehicle shows via the regional zone office, in more recent times.

Trying to authenticate these things via the GM parts book can be problematic, too. In the case of the Buick GNX, for example, the parts unique to the GNX were in a Technical Service Bulletin ONLY, not in the regular parts books. Still, though, there would very possibly be some unique option codes which would be related to "show cars" or similar and not the normal vehicle population.

But I seem to recall the side graphics were an RPO item. Adding some trim items, fancy wheels, some "BUICK" graphics were probably added to the existing option mix, plus interior trim or other equipment items would allow many normal production items to be used for a special purpose with little added expense. BUT only a few dealers, I suspect, would order that particular mix of options for their normal stock vehicles! If the bulk of these things might have been planned, in advance, to be RPO Pace Car items, then they could have been done for little additional expense with existing factory supplier contracts. When the limited number of vehicles was built, the spare parts would have been gone too, usually leading to the decals being painted on in the case of collision repairs. Yet, I still highly suspect that the decal package would be installed by an off-site conversion shop rather than "in plant"--quite a bit different from normal pin stripes of the day.

The OTHER thing which might be investigated is the particular VIN sequence for the cars. I suspect they would have been run as "a batch" rather than as a part of the normal production mix. Might there be some "registry" information in this respect?

The actual pace car, and its back-up/reserve counterpart, could well have begun life as 3.8L V-6s, but the conversion shop (which did the other chassis and engine upgrades to make the vehicles more suitable for pace car duty) could have replaced the 3.8L V-6 with a modified 4.1L V-6 (which would have then been on display at the Indy Museum soon thereafter--might even still be one in the archives. I don't recall the 4.1L V-6 being an option in those cars, although they were used in some fwd cars and Cadillac DeVilles, even with a 4bbl carb.

After the group of promotional "clones" (which usually happens with pace car replicas) were used for executive use by various people associated with the Indy 500 that year, they probably went to the local dealer group to sell, on a dedicated number per dealer allotment. Not unlike what happens with Chevrolet vehicles used at NASCAR races--if you see a vehicle with a brand name decal in the tint band of the windshield, it was probably one of those special-use vehicles . . . especially if you're situated near a NASCAR track.

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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I went to school in Indianapolis and during the month of May, there was a lot of days missed at school to go to the track. Since I am not an expert, I looked at a 1996 book byPublications International called "Indy 500 Pace Cars" for information. Here are some of the things they say.

(1) here is a statement by Ralph Kramer, Director ,Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum... "In recent times, only two or three specially prepared versions of the dozens of pace cars a company might send to Indianapolis each year actually see track duty. The Speedway keeps one as part of the Hall of Fame's collection. The car company usually keeps another. The car given to the winner is a street legal replica of the real McCoy track car.

Other replicas are usually made available for purchase.

(2) from the same book... the engine was a 4.1 V6 found in larger Buicks. No turbocharger but the compression ratio was raised to 12.5:1 and was highly tuned producing 281 hp at 5100 RPM. The book describes the colors as a silver-grey body with a maroon "Maple" stripe on the hood and multi-colored lower body stripws. Inside there were custom Recaro leather seats featuring orange, gold, and maple inserts. The wheels were special gold-lace alloy.

From my memory.... some manufacturers did offer replica pace cars and with a little digging you can find the "official" numbers of those built. The info I have on the 1976 Buick Century pace car shows 1290 built with pace car colors by Hurst. Buick does not show any "official" cars. Same with 1981, of "official" replicas. However, while Buick does not call the replicas, each manufacturer supplies some number of cars to take advantage of the advertising oppertunity. Anyone that has attended Indy 500 will know there is a 500 parade and each of the drivers is in a "pace car" there are "pace cars" provided for the queens, officials, etc. In many cases there were painted like the pace car but were referred to as "parade cars"

I have some picture take from the stands, down at the pit area and they parked all the "parade cars" together in a reserved area. When you consider there are 33 drivers, plus officials that get the use of these cars during the month of May, there would probably be between 75 and 150 of these cars made available by the manufacturer. I recall seeing cars that all had the outside paint scheme but the inside might be different between cars. There were also station wagons and pick-up trucks with the "official" paint job... it is a big marketing show.

Willis probably has some input on how these cars were dispursed. If they were just "official" painted parade cars, they probably went to the corp auction. In the years that "official" replicas were offered by the manufacturer, those were ordered by the dealer and sold to the public

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Many thanks to NTX5467 for the detailed explaination, and to Barney Eaton for adding more good information on the subject.:)

I am quite sure that I read the factoid of "No street version replicas produced" from more than one source all those years ago.

Once you have some information in your head for so long it gets harder to believe otherwise. So I was kind of shocked when I opened up that thread and saw photos of a car that was never supposed to have been produced.

I have seen a few '76 Century pace car replicas in the past and knew they existed. Also the 1975 Spirit of America cars.

Here is the link to the one sold last week, for brevity:

1981 Buick Regal Indy Pace Car, Indiana - TurboBuick.Com

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For the 1976 USA Bicentennial, GM has a whole series of "Sprit of America" cars. They, at least the Chevrolets, were all white with white vinyl interiors, red and blue pin stripes, and special ornamentation. Not sure about other GM divisions.

The reason that the other pace car replicas would not have the same engine mods as the "track duty" pace cars would be related to EPA regulations. If they didn't pass emissions, they could not be street-driven or licensed, unless they would be exported to countries where such things might not have been important. So, they generally became museum pieces.

I remember seeing one of the Camaros used for pace car track duty. While on display in the Indy 500 museum, it still had the rubber residue . . . EXPENSIVE rubber residue . . . on the lower areas of the car, behind each wheel, from "cornering tire wear" . . . even after it was washed. Quite neat!

After the horsepower rennaisance overtook Detroit, with chassis upgrades as a part of particular performance packages, the need to highly-modify existing engines for pace car track duty decreased markedly.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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