Indy Pace Car! 1983 Buick Riviera

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Indy Pace cars have covered a broad swath of American auto brands and models – this beige Buick Riviera coupe doesn’t look like one – it looks more like grand ma’s drive once-a-week car. Nevertheless, it is an official 1983 pace car replica, one of 500 and worthy of a closer look. This Riv is located in Scottsdale, Pennsylvania and is available, here on craigslist for $5,500. Thanks to Chuck F for this tip!

In more recent years, pace cars were often based on flashy, high-performance pony cars or Corvettes and had the stripes and side billboards to remove any doubt of their intended role. A convertible is usually part of the mix too, and that was the case in ’83 as Buick offered a convertible as one of the Riviera’s body variants. But the true pace cars were a bit different than this example, as the seller offers, “The on-track pace cars that led the race was an automotive engineering marvel at the time. It had a 4.1 dual-turbo V6 that produced well over 500 horsepower. It was a convertible with beige two-toned paint and wire wheels. It’s believed that there are only a few of those in existence“.

Unfortunately, this comparative pace car has had to make do with a 140 net HP, 5.0-liter V8 engine which appears to be an Oldsmobile 307 CI motor. Interestingly, the engine is mounted longitudinally in spite of its front-wheel-drive four-speed automatic transaxle – much like the ’60’s Oldsmobile Toronado. Operating aspects aren’t revealed and “great shape” is the only descriptor used. With 155K miles on its clock, this Buick/Olds will still have some life to it mechanically, but its long-term outlook will be a bit confined.

Externally, this repainted Riviera presents well. The finish is two-tone beige with brown trim and pinstripes, just like the 499 other examples. There is also a golden “Riviera XX” emblem adorning both front fenders to denote this Riv’s exalted status as an Indy pace car. I’m honestly not certain what XX (roman numeral 20) references. The wire wheels were made by Appliance and were painted in the same beige with chrome beauty rings and hubcaps. Unique Riviera logs for this edition were etched in gold on the hubcaps. That’s a nice identity touch, too bad the caps are missing. The seller mentions that the rear bumper fillers are starting to crack, a typical problem with GM cars of this era, but overall, this Riviera checks out.

The images of the interior are poor. There’s a good one of the carpet but most potential buyers are going to be a bit more interested in the seats, dash, instrument panel, door panels, etc. Anyway, there is lots of gold and brown slathered around with seats that are upholstered in suede and leather. There’s more “burled wood” than you would find in a lumber yard. I’m guessing that it’s “burled plastic” but I could be wrong. The interior has a very ’80s GM feel about it from what can be spied.

OK, this car has some uniqueness to it but it’s not exactly going to start juices flowing like the ’69 Camaro SS, ’70 Oldsmobile 442, ’71 Dodge Challenger, or many others that have paced the great race with more sporting aplomb. It’s mostly just a nice ’80s GM front-wheel-driver that happens to have a non-remarkable V8 engine. But for many, that will be enough, would it be enough for you?

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  1. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

    I’d rather have the pace car from the 1911 Indy, a Stoddard-Dayton. It’s probably faster than this anemic Buick.

    Like 9
    • Joe Machado

      I sold my 1912 Stoddard Dayton about 5-6 years ago.
      So rare and love the fact a Stoddard won a race at Indy, before it was The 500.
      Then they were the first pace car if memory serves

      Like 4
  2. A.G.

    1983 was the twentieth anniversary of the Riviera’s introduction.

    Like 13
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      Good one, thx!


      Like 1
  3. JoeNYWF64

    Some sort of gov stds by ’83(or even as far back as ’79 like on the new mustang) for no more chrome door mirrors(but not for bumpers? – i see some chrome on this Riv’s).
    JCW tacky …
    If the mirror was at least attached to the METAL DOORSKIN, a much nicer earlier mirror possibly could be substituted.
    At least this is a comfortable riding lux car, unlike today’s low profiled tire 4 door only “appliances”.

    Like 0
  4. Pete Kaczmarski

    O.K. respectfully time for the author of this article to get an education. This car is the XX (twenty anniversary) Riviera. It should have suede leather seat inserts, real wood inside and the emblems are real “Gold” plated. They were $35k new and rare then as they are now.

    Like 2
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got the 20th-anniversary thing from A.G. and responded, thanking him for that tidbit.

      I also mentioned the leather suede combo interior. I missed it on the wood but it’s still ersatz looking regardless. Gold plated emblems, huh? OK, I’ll stifle my response to that gem.

      So this is a rare bird that cost a hard to imagine $35 large in ’83; are you suggesting that this 140 HP Luxo-cruiser is still worth that, or…?



      Like 5
  5. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster

    I have always liked and wanted a Pace Car replica, missed a 71 Challenger for $4500, passed on a $1,000 1984 Fiero though. This would be a great driver, I had a 83 Rivie coupe that was a decent luxury driver, but no room at the moment. Not to mention I finally got my Pace car.

    Like 1
  6. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster
  7. Gerard Frederick

    A pitiful shadow of what Riviera used to stand for. I wouldn´t drive it gratis – this is a typical low-rider to be found in Compton Ca.

    Like 0

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