1 of 150: 1981 Buick Regal Indy 500 Pace Car

Before there was the Buick Grand National series and even the limited production GNX models, there was the Regal Indy 500 Pace Car. They were a group of 150 automobiles that were built to identical specifications to appear at the 1981 Indianapolis 500 and then sold to the public. All of them were numbered, this one is #027 and it appears to be in excellent condition with just 19,000 miles on the odometer. This babied Buick is in Des Moines, Iowa and available here on Hemmings Classifieds for $25,900 and the seller says this price is firm. Our thanks to Barn Finds member Boot for bringing this beauty to our attention!

Beginning in the early 1980s, Buick wanted to spread its awareness throughout the racing world and tested the waters with the 1981 Regal Pace Car. That lead to the creation of the Grand Nationals in 1982, which were named after the NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National Series and would quickly begin winning races. The GN and GNX (the ultimate GN) were available in the Buick catalog through the 1987 model year after which GM’s intermediate cars went to front-wheel drive.

When the Regal was chosen to be the official pace car for the 1981 Indy 500, Buick assembled two official pace cars for use on the “big day.” Those vehicles featured heavily modified and carbureted 4.1-liter V6 engines, custom convertible roof sections to handle their T-Tops, and a unique silver and maroon paint scheme with orange decals. As is usually the case with pace cars, Buick built another 150 units that might be considered replicas, but unlike many knock offs, these cars all made an appearance at the track. While identical in appearance to the two on-track cars, they used Buick’s “regular” 3.8-liter V6 motor instead.

#027 here was found by the seller after conducting an exhaustive search. He had always wanted one, but most that he found were too well worn to suit his tastes. Then he found this pampered edition in dry storage in Alabama. With its low mileage, it could very well be the nicest one remaining, except for the first two that went straight to museum duty. While the seller doesn’t mention if the paint and decals are original, they very well could be, and he assigns the exterior appearance of the car a rating of 9.9 out of 10.

Having had only two prior owners to help put so few miles on the car, the interior is said to be all original and shows quite well. The plaque with the car’s production number is properly affixed to the dashboard and the seller rates the appearance of the passenger cabin at 9.5. The car starts and drives as it should with no mechanical issues other than that the factory air conditioning will need a charge to cool down its occupants.

This beauty comes with a boatload of documentation and even the Buick hat that came with every one of the cars when they were delivered. It’s hard to imagine that a car such as this could be purchased new 40 years ago for under $12,000, but bread, milk and gasoline were all cheaper back then, too. Other than the bumper fillers and headliner which have been replaced, everything but replenishable items are said to be original. While you’ll see a Grand National turn up on Barn Finds fairly often, one of these ’81 pace cars is a rare siting.


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  1. Mikefromthehammer

    Russ the spelling police are out in full force today. (Fly low and stay under the radar).

    “rare sighting” not “rare siting”.

    Like 3
  2. Tony Primo

    Nice find Boot!

    Like 2
    • Boot

      Thank you, sir.

      Like 1
  3. Randy Lee Martin

    Never knew about this car. I had my nose in the books in college.

  4. Jcs

    Nice example.

    Unfortunately these were all saddled with the early 3.8 six, a dog of a motor with only 110 HP. To make matters worse, the fuel economy was really no better than the V8 offered in the other Regal (and Cutlass, et al.) as a result of having to run at full throttle all of the time. Reliability issues also ensued, most probably for the same reason.

    Like 7
  5. Thomas Michael Benvie

    Is there a VIN list or registry of all the cars somewhere?

  6. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    You rarely see one of these.

    Great find.

  7. jason

    Im a huge G body fan and I didnt know these exisited. Super cool! Always learning on this site I love it. Thank you.

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