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Buick Pace Cars


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Hi-I am researching the Indy 500 Pace cars and need help with the Pace Cars from Buick, mainly the 75 and 76 cars, and the 83 Riviera. I have seen the website on the Rivieras, and have info on about 50 of the cars.   Some were white cars with red interior, others were the Riviera XX hardtops. Does anyone have info on these cars, or collect VINs, owners names, etc?


I did find the sheets on line for the 75 Indy Cars.  these sheets were made out by Indy as assignment sheets to keep track of who received the car for the Indy Festival.  The cars were often loaned for a week-month to local dignitaries, and members of the 500 Festival Committee. I do have these sheets  for a number of years, but nothing on the 76 or 83 cars.  Any help on the history, VINs, assignments, etc of these cars would be helpful.


I have a few Facebook pages on the Cadillac Allantes that paced the 92 race, the Ford Mustang and Cobras in 94,  I also found all 200 Riviera Silver Arrows and have a Facebook page on them as well. (This post won't accept the links to these pages, so just do a facebook search).  


Thanks for any help.



Edited by tbenvie (see edit history)
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There was just one actual pace car, it was a convertible version of the 1983 XX..  The white cars, etc. were what were referred to as parade cars - hauling dignitaries around town and in the parade.  Here are a couple of pictures I took of the car when it was on display at the 2005 ROA meet in Eureka Springs, AR.  This came from the Buick collection in Flint.  It was my understanding at the time that the pace car was given to the race winner.


I think there is a lot of information on these cars out there on the WWW

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Edited by RivNut (see edit history)
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Automakers produce two actual pace cars - one for the Indy 500 Museum and one to keep.  Buick either gave its cars to the Sloan Museum in Flint or, in the case of the 1983 Riviera, kept it in their historic vehicle collection. All others are parade cars or replicas.


We had a showing of the pace cars at GM Durant-Dort Factory One in Flint in 2017, along with the Buick Bug.

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As a native Hoosier,  I spent a lot of time at the Speedway in the '50's and '60's.    I do not claim to be an expert....as the Speedway changes the rules whenever they choose.

Attached for reference are two publication on Indy Pace cars.     Indy 500 Pace Cars was published in hard bound in 1996 by the editors of Consumer Guide.

The Collectible Automobile Indy Pace Cars was published in 1997 and the descriptions for the various cars is identical.... the 1996 hard back has more photos of each car, but not much additional facts.

There is often confusion among collectors between the actual Pace Car,  Pace Car replicas,  and parade cars and service vehicles supplied by the manufacturer.   All the manufacturers vehicles used at the

Speedway had decals often saying it was a pace car.

The Forward from the Consumer Guide (see copy) ... in the 5th paragraph it states that 2 or 3 specially prepared versions for the race (in case one has problems) were prepared.

and goes on to state that after the race the Speedway got one for the museum and the car manufacturer got one....and the winning driver got a street legal version. 


Buick supplied pace cars in....... 1939 a Roadmaster  4 dr convertible,  1959 Electra 225 convertible,  1975 Century Custom (coupe with removable roof panels),

1976 Century turbo V6 with removable roof panels,  1981 Regal turbo V6 with the top modified (removed) and a roll bar added,

1983 Riviera twin turbo V6 (see attached page)  the interesting story of this also the 20th anniversary of the Riviera,  so they built a XX coupe that looked more like the 500 pace car than the actual Pace Car

replicas.   The XX used the same tan/cream colors of the actual pace car as well as the real wire wheels.   What is call the Pace Car replica was a white Riviera convertible with red burgundy interior.   In the information

about the pace car,  they say that Buick offered  both convertible and coupe replicas.....but I have never seen a coupe.   Maybe the author was referring to the XX version.  

Hope this helps



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I worked as an engineer on the 1983 Pace Car doing the cooling tunnel work at high speed and on the circle track at the Mesa Proving Grounds.  These were mules without the fancy paint.  25 years old and going 140 MPH. Hot damn. 


George Claypool was the lead engineer.  Ray Smith did all the high speed chassis development. 


Tim Perry and Terry Clark hand built the twin turbo engines.   There were several engines built, dyno developed and tested. The final engines were all dyno tested also.  These cars and engines were designed, machined/fabricated and hand built by a whole team of talented people at Buick Engineering. I can still see the guys on the second floor blocking and painting the bodies and the trim shop making the custom interiors. They were works of art when they got done and scary fast.  They were significantly de-tuned and still made ~600 HP.  All the car could handle.   We made lots more HP in the dyno room. 


The car had lots of suspension updates more like a racing chassis including huge racing brakes. You came into pit row ‘hot’ as they say and stood on them. 


There were two identical pace cars at Indy.  One was a backup.  Both were ready to go.  Having a failure and no Pace Car was not an option. 


There were several clones with none of the special chassis or engine updates also. 

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I've seen both but don't recall if there were both back in 1983.  I just remember thinking how fortunate I was to have driven the real thing in mule form.


Several other interesting stories on the 1983 cars. 


They were supposed to have BBS aluminum wheels like in the attached.  Before I moved to the Cooling assignment I was in Chassis test and had sent the BBS wheels to GM Tire and Wheel at the Milford Proving Grounds to be tested.  The BBS wheel test results came back and did not pass.  I called out to Mesa where the track work was being done and they brought Roger Shumacher in off the track.  When the wheels were examined, all were found to have cracks starting.  When I was out there a week or two later, Roger and his wife took me out to dinner.  Roger was the finest Special Tester / Driver I ever worked with and I worked with him a great deal on many cooling test trips.  Nothing against BBS wheels but the design selected were not up to the assignment and that's how they ended up with the wires which were steel and extremely strong.  Remember, the front wheel drive Riv has a great deal of reverse offset in the wheel.


Remember also this was a front wheel drive platform not RWD.  We were promoting the future and front wheel drive along with Buick.  And a bunch of HP.  As a Buick engine guy, we were worried about the special transmission from the Team in Ypsilanti (Hydramatic)  I do not recall any transmission issues.  Not sure what they put in it , but certain they put forth their best effort including the kitchen sink just like we did.  Also remember this was the infancy of computer controlled engine and transmission calibrations.  The controller had to be flawless too and being 'mechanical' was not an option, the car was and had to be state of the art.  The controller and cal guys knew they were thought to be the weak link.  They knew it and stepped up.  Since the engine hardware did so well way beyond ~600 HP in the dyno we were confident that rolled back to 600 was going to be easy.


Pacing the race is easy.  60 MPH and loafing.  Once the green flag is dropped you have to accelerated to 120 MPH in something like 2 seconds and get out of the way and into the pit or you get run over.  Next you have to go 120 to 0 MPH in a very short distance.  The expectation and our requirement was when that was all done, there would be no stinking brakes, no klanking of exhaust from heat, no screaming cooling fans or burp or smell of coolant.  George said the car had to pull into its parking space like nothing had just happened 5 seconds ago 'like pulling into grandma's driveway for Sunday dinner'.  And it did, all 600 HP.  It was the ultimate 'sleeper'.  All with how many thousand car people watching? 


I did a bunch of laps for a week doing just that out at Mesa with Roger as we combined the cooling and brake testing.  You were either stuck back in the seat or full into the restraint and recording data the whole time and making sure you hit your mark on the accelerometer so the test run was valid.  You knew you were special since they cleared the track of any other testing when we ran.  They also brought out the Proving Ground fire truck and ambulance and idled them in the track infield when we ran.  I never mentioned that to my mother.

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Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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Can you be more specific or have pics?


What you are describing sounds more like what the Show / Special Products Team may have done.  They were always working on something. 


The Pace Car was a huge effort by every discipline in Engineering. 


The best one off that most never knew of was Tommy’s Toy.  A light blue Regal that Tom Wallace the Chief Engineer drove. It had every conceivable GNX type goodie well beyond what was in the Production GNX. Every Group put whatever development special concepts they had in that car. It would walk away from a GNX.  No badging.  Looked like a secretary’s Regal just huge tires.  You name it, it had it. 


Every Monday you would hear what broke.  Tom and his two sons were really tough on it and it was always a good thing when it came in on the hook and it wasn’t your part that failed or better yet if it was in Tom’s executive parking spot Monday morning meaning nothing broke. Whoever was the responsible engineer for what broke got poked pretty bad all week by the rest of us.   Lots of pride in your stuff not breaking and good feedback too from Tom.  And while the responsible engineers fixed their part we all checked or updated our parts and then it was ready again for the Wallace Boys on Friday.  


Again, if you know what breaks, you can make the production design better. It was a great sandbox and most importantly a great team building tool.  Nobody wanted their part to be the reason it came in on the hook.   I had the crankshaft, bearings and oiling system design responsibilities at that time.   The car had a billet crank that was hand made.  It was bulletproof.  Still wet sump but a huge oil pump. I had them change the oil every week and dissected every oil filter. 

Edited by Brian_Heil (see edit history)
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The car actually got a custom pearl white paint job somewhere along the line and showed up at Tom’s Going Away event as he moved on to be Chief Engineer of the Corvette. 


Maybe they wanted the the guy who knew how to make a Regal outrun a Corvette?


Always liked this bumper sticker. 


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