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1981 Indy Pace Car

Photo from April 1981 Motor Trend.

For the fifth time in the history of the Indianapolis 500, a Buick was chosen to lead the race cars to the starting line. For 1981, a Regal with a V-6 engine was the official pace car.

The Regal started out as a standard production coupe with the available hatch (T-top) roof. The rear section of the roof was removed and a special mini-convertible top was installed. Between the hatch and convertible sections, was an eight inch wide roll bar. The exterior was painted metallic silver and maple (dark maroon) with orange, maple, and dark brown stripes. The front fenders have a large Buick V6 decal affixed to them and the shadow "BUICK" is used in the rear. The trunk lid from the enlarged spoiler lip and down to the tail lights is painted flat black.

The interior colors compliment the exterior. The Recaro seats and door panels are done in orange, maple and gold leather. The body work and interior were done by the American Sunroof Company (ASC) which is well known for the later '87 Buick GNX conversions.

The engine is a highly modified, naturally aspirated, 4.1 liter V-6. It is rated at 281 hp @ 5100 rpm and 262 ft-lb. torque @ 4000 rpm. Compression ratio is 12.5:1. Heavy duty and reworked production components were used throughout to handle the increased power output.

1981 Indianapolis 500 BUICK Pace Car Press Release Kit
1981 Indianapolis 500 Official Program

Original drawing by Buick Designer Steve Pasteiner

1981 Indy Pace Car Close-Ups!

At the 2000 GSCA Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Buick, as usual, brought some cars from the Sloan Museum. GNX #001, a Saturn Yellow 1970 GSX, several new concept cars and the 1981 Indy Pace Car! There are actually two "real" pace cars (a back-up is required by race officials). The other is kept at the Indy 500 Museum. The two cars should be identical, but I believe that they had different wheels. The Sloan Museum car is pictured here, and the Indy Museum cars may have stock "Turbine" wheels.

FENDER - This close up shows the paint/decal scheme and the wheels. The top stripe is yellow and orange. The bottom stripe is actually five colors: yellow, orange, red, maple and dark brown (or black?). The wheel opening molding and other trim (grille, HL bezels, etc.) are actually "blacked-out" with brown paint. The wheels can be seen in detail. The center cap has the V6 logo and the tires are Goodyear Eagle GTs.

QUARTER PANEL - This close up shows the BUICK shadow decal. The decal is black. Compare this to the quarter panel decal used on the '82 GN. Notice the profile of the rear spoiler.

RIGHT REAR - This close up shows the right rear of the car. The panel is painted black. The spoiler is one piece, molded and extends over the quarter extensions. The hole in the rear filler is for the checkered flags (see picture at top). Compare the BUICK decal to the rear decal used on the '82 GN.

INTERIOR - The colorful inserts can be seen. Notice the sport steering wheel and it's special horn button. There is also an ETR radio, analog clock delete, and special plate affixed to the right side dash plate.

Close-Up Photos by Rich George

1981 Buick Regal Indy Pace Car Replicas

WANTED: A good picture of a '81 Pace Car Replica!

There were a total of 150 Regal Pace Car replicas sold to the public. Each was used at the track. These cars unfortunately did not have the modified motor, or the special exterior and interior modifications performed by ASC. They do however, have the silver/maple paint scheme, Indy badges, stripes, shadow lettering and the V6 logo which were applied by Cars and Concepts (the same company responsible for the 82 GN conversions). Each was also loaded with full options including T-tops, bucket seats, gold painted aluminum rims and a special leather wrapped steering wheel. Additionally each car was individually numbered 1 through 150. The number appeared on a dash plaque, on the backside of the rearview mirror and on a special front Indy 500 license plate.

This was the first of General Motor's new body styles to be modified as a special edition for sale to the public. The styling changes made to the pace car had obvious influence upon the design of the '82 Regal Grand National. The similarities often lead to confusion between the '81 Indy Pace Car replicas and the '82 Grand Nationals.

Source: Michael Meyers. Mike owns replica #86 and maintains a registry for 1981 Regal Pace Cars.

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