Hooniverse Weekend Edition: Indy Pace Cars from 1980 – 1989

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. We have already discovered the Pace Cars of the 50s, the 60s, and the 70s, so let’s go onto the perplexing 80s.

In 1980, Pontiac chose to provide the car for the 64th annual running of the Indianapolis 500. The car they chose was the 1980 Pontiac Trans Am, dressed in Silver and White, sporting a Turbocharged 301 CID V-8, producing a wheezing 210 HP. Here is a car that was at least a decade old, pacing the premiere motorcar event.

The following year, Buick was once again tapped to supply a car for Pacing Duties, and this time they chose the Buick Regal. Modifications included a chopped roof (in keeping with the Convertible Theme), and a highly modified Turbocharged V-6 displacing 252 CID, and producing 281 HP.

The Chevrolet Camaro made a return appearance for 1982, clothed in a new chassis, new body, and equipped with a modified 350 CID V-8 that produced less power then the Turbo V-6 Regal of the year before, at 250 HP. However, Chevrolet did produce a little over 6000 Commemorative Editions.

Because of the success with Buick, the division was once again chosen to produce a Pace Car for the 1983 model year. This time, the vehicle chosen was a 1983 Buick Riviera Convertible, with graphics that were modest yet tasteful. Powering this Front Wheel Drive rag top was a twin-turbocharged 252 CID V-6, producing almost 450 HP.

As backwards as the Trans Am of 1980 was, the next Pontiac was as forward thinking as any Pace Car ever. It was the 1984 Fiero, and it was the first four cylinder car ever to pace the Indianapolis 500 since 1912. It also holds the distinction of being the smallest Pace Car ever. That little 165 CID I-4 was massaged to produce 232 HP! There were also 2000 Indy Fiero Replicars produced this year.

In 1985, Oldsmobile decided to supply a radical pace car to Indianapolis in the form of a four cylinder, altered Oldsmobile Calais. The top was completely chopped off, and the 2.7L engine was massaged to produce 215 HP. This is really one of the more forgettable Pace Cars, and images were hard to find.

The 1986 edition of the Indy 500 saw another Corvette lead the pack of open wheel race cars. During race day, The Yellow Corvette Convertible was piloted by none other than Chuck Yeager. It was basically a stock Corvette, with the 5.7L V-8 producing 230 HP.

Chrysler got it’s groove back in 1987, and had the chance to provide a brand new LeBaron Convertible, with a modified 2.2L four cylinder Turbocharged power plant that produced 230 HP.

Oldsmobile provided yet another pace car to the 500 for 1988, and this tie it was the all new, front wheel drive, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The car was altered to make it a true convertible, and under the hood was a highly modified 2.3L Quad Four engine tuned to produce 250 HP!

Pontiac closed out the decade by providing the Indianapolis event another Turbo Trans Am Pace Car, only this time it was a Buick 3.8L Turbocharged V-6 that powered the Buick Grand National GNX. This time, the power output was 250 HP, instead of the anemic 210 HP thaw the 1980 Turbo Trans Am produced. Pontiac even saw fit to produce 1500 Replicas for the general public.
As the 80s closed, I want to know what were your favorite 80’s pace car editions?

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  1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    That's a whole lotta mullet in one decade.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    I'm sort of surprised to see how close GM had to to a full grasp on the decade – I'm also intrigued by the idea of a 450hp Riviera convertible.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I remember reading about the Riviera pace car when it was announced, and I thought it was cool, especially the 1930s retro wire wheels. It still looks sharp, IMHO.

  3. Matt Avatar

    The Riviera really intrigues me, never heard of that before. The Calais is probably the most forgettable, such a shame that Olds put out such a lame product. All turds with suped up engines really, still cool though

  4. engineerd Avatar

    How much did GM pay to dominate the Pace Car selection for the '80s?

    1. muthalovin Avatar

      Probably as much as they did in the 00's. I am genuinely surprised at the lack of diversity.

  5. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    Without question the '89 turbo T/A was the best of the decade, IMO, followed closely by the Fiero. The Riviera was the biggest turd, if only because that POS should have never had that glorious name attached to it.

  6. Virus Removal hartford Avatar

    My daughter sent me to this website, and she was totally right in every way. keep up the great work

  7. bluehillsmike Avatar

    Rough decade, the 450 hp Riv interests me. It appeared to be a nice day for a White Wedding.

  8. APPLEJAX Avatar

    Have a 83 Rivera front wheel drive..got bad ass 355 n it..hate that's its front/////can't I put a regal frame under the Rivera to make it. Rear wheel drive….. Applejaxkcmo@gmail.com email……..some ones got to know help please..got to show them ..