Hooniverse Weekend Edition: Indy Pace Cars from 1950 – 1959

In observance of the annual Indianapolis 500 Race that took place over the weekend (and was historically run on Memorial Day) I thought I would dive into a pictorial history of the cars that paced this once great race, starting in 1950, and run by decade all the way up to 2010. Let’s start with the 1950’s.

In 1950, Mercury was selected to pace the field, and as with tradition, it was a Monterey Convertible pacing the racers. Unlike the car pictured, the Pace Car was finished in a cream yellow shade called Mirada Yellow. It was equipped with a modified 110 HP 255CID Flathead V-8.

In 1951, Chrysler was chosen, and the model selected was a Chrysler New Yorker Convertible with the new “Fire Power” Hemi Head V-8 producing 180 HP. I could not fine a suitable picture of this vehicle in a large enough format, so I included a shot of the Brooklyn 1:43 scale Die Cast Model.

Independent Auto Maker Studebaker was celebrating it’s 100th anniversary as a vehicle manufacturer in 1952, and it was chosen to pace the field with it’s revised 1952 Commander Convertible Coupe. This car was equipped with the Studebaker 232 CID V-8 packing 120 HP.

Ford completely reworked their 1953 line, and it was chosen to be the Pace Car for the Indianapolis Race for 1953. This was the last year for the venerable Flathead V-8, and produced the same 110 HP as the 1950 Mercury did.

The Dodge Division of Chrysler supplied the pace car for 1954, with the Royal 500 Convertible. Under the hood was a smaller version of the Chrysler Hemi Head V-8, displacing 241 CID, and producing 170HP.

The All New 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air was called to pace the 1955 field at Indianapolis, with Chevrolet’s first V-8 displacing 265CID, and producing over 180 HP.

1956 saw the flashy DeSoto Fireflite Convertible (Painted to look like the wild Adventurer Hardtop) head the field at Indianapolis. This was a Chrysler 300, only disguised like a DeSoto, with a 350 CID Hemi Head V-8, Torqueflite Transmission, and producing 255 HP. It needed all the power it can produce, since it weighed over 4,000 pounds.

For 1957, Mercury selected a Convertible Version of their outlandish Turnpike Cruisers. This car produced 290 HP from the 368 CID V-8. The only pace car built was equipped with Air Conditioning, Merc-O-Matic Automatic Transmission, and weighed in at 4,125 pounds.

Another heavyweight that paced the 1958 edition of the famous race was the 1958 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible. Under the hood was a Fuel Injected, 370 CID V-8 that produced 310 HP. 200 of these cars were produced so that they could be used in NASCAR competition.

For 1959, Buick furnished the Flashy Electra 225 Convertible, equipped with the largest V-8 ever to pace the field so far, a 401 CID Nailhead V-8, that produced 325 HP.
I have a question to all of those Hoons out there. Which 1950’s Pace Car would be your choice, if you could afford one. I will soon have postings up for the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the 2000’s today, so stay tuned.

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  1. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    Im easy. Put me down for the sentimental favorite, the 55 Chevy. A real close second would have to be the 53 Sunliner. The rest are just too glitzy for my tastes.

  2. Balestra Avatar

    I know it's cliché, but it''d have to be the Bel-Air. I just love those looks. After pacing the race i'd drive it stright to the beach, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to cite but a few would be the soundtrack of choice.

  3. PowerTryp Avatar

    Ohhh I want that 1953 Ford. Flathead V8, classic Ford badge and a vert? It wins my heart.

  4. longrooffan Avatar

    Unlike Joe, I've always liked the garishness of American styling of the later 50's so I have to go with the '58 Pontiac although that '57 Turnpike Cruiser is a head turner as well.

  5. jeffpollak Avatar

    The 1957 Turnpike Cruiser gets my vote. I loved that car when it was new, built many models

  6. John Avatar

    I have included a link above which may help in my search of a certain futuristic car that fielded a Indy race in the mid 50’s as a parade car.
    Are your picture archives extensive?
    The link is about 1/4 th of the story about this remarkable car.
    There are other links on the net, but this one conatins pictures.
    With respect and hopes that you can help.

  7. kheer Avatar

    Chiken Pakora is one of the dishes which usually served in Middle East. Pakistan, india, Bangladesh… Chicken pakora is easy to make, and its tasty and delicious food. Chicken Pakora, try this dish at home and you will love it

  8. Rinesh Narain Avatar

    Great info over again. Thanks!

  9. bluehillsmike Avatar

    Deuce all the way!