1985 Indy 500 Pace Car: 1985 Oldsmobile Calais 500

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Speaking of Indy Pace Cars… This one is a 1985 Oldsmobile Calais Indy Pace Car and it’s located in Lenoir, North Carolina, a state that knows a thing or two about racin’. This gentle racer is listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $2,500 or make an offer. The interior is worth that much, it’s pretty wild! Barn Finds writer, Jamie, just showed us quite a find for the 1964 Indy 500, so I thought I’d follow it up with one that may be a just a wee bit less collectible and desirable, but still fun to see!

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There aren’t any photos of the right side of this car, which always makes me nervous. The seller says that this Calais has “has sat for a few years with frequent starting.” You can see the dead grass under it and the recently-inflated tires. Not to mention that North Carolina has a tendency to be humid 11.9 out of every 12 months, so the underside may be a little crinkly. Apparently, the first 3,400 miles put on this car were racked up by a GM executive, then it was sold to the current owner, a former GM employee who has had it ever since.

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This is the view that most other cars would have had of this rocket launcher! Well, not really, this was more of a badges and stripes exercise rather than a monster-engine exercise as far as providing a pace car for the Indianapolis 500. Actually, the real Olds used to pace the 1985 Indy 500 was a convertible, so these steel-toppers were really just an options package. The current “owner has neither the time nor the inclination to fully restore the vehicle and seeks someone who would enjoy restoring and displaying this rather unique automobile.” Ok, you’d better take a seat for this next photo.

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Wow! Not that’s an interior! None of this, “Should we give the public a black, gray, or tan interior?” corporate lemming stuff, this one is frickin’ silver and red! Come on, who doesn’t love this?! Ok, I see those hands in the back row.. put those down! This would have been a $29,450 car in today’s dollars. I guess that isn’t mind-blowing, my wife paid more than that for her Subaru Crosstrek. But, when the seller says that this car cost “$8,669 plus $4072 in options: (total $13,111),” 1985, that just seems like a lot for back then. Maybe because I was still sort of in college and working in a parking ramp. This car had options galore: “Deluxe floor mats, custom Leather trim, Deluxe Ornamentation, Black side molding, lower accent molding , rear spoiler, sport mirrors, two tone paint, suspension package, aluminum wheels and Rallye Cluster.  Power windows, doors, locks and seats, cruise control, rear window defogger, AC and AM/FM radio with cassette player.”

In 1985, I was driving a rusty, one-whole-side-dented-in, 225-six-cylinder Dodge van with one front fender and a cobbled-together-and-installed-backwards 3-speed floor shifter conversion; this Olds would have been like winning the lottery. I think this is a drop-dead killer (is that redundant?) interior, one of my favorite interiors of all time and I haven’t really seen one this closely before. I could just buy this car and sit in it for hours and not care if it ran or not.

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But, believe it or not, it does run! This is another one of GM’s Iron Duke four-cylinder engines, this one a 2.5L with just under, are you ready?.. just under 100 hp! For an Indy 500 Pace Car! No wonder this car makes almost every “Worst Indy 500 Pace Cars” list. The seller says that the “engine sounds good and the appears to be in good mechanical condition.” With an interior this fine it’s hard for me to believe that there is any rodent damage, which is nice. But, there may be more rust lurking underneath what rust is shown in the photos. This is an interesting car from an interesting period for US car makers. If a person were to amass a collection of Indy Pace Cars this one would be interesting, but there may be better ones out there. Would you drive this car? And, what were you driving in 1985?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Jamie Palmer JamieStaff

    In 1985 I was driving a $375 MG Midget with body filler that was literally 1-1/2 inches thick in the rear. I did end up pounding it out, fixing it and painting it and sold it to pay for my first wife’s engagement and wedding ring. Well worth doing and I’d do the same thing again. As far as this car…even though I actually like the multi-colored interior (I wish cars still had red interiors available) it’s not for me. But neither is a million dollar Mustang!

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  2. James Scott

    Ill see your pace car and raise you the one that just showed up on a local add http://www.kijiji.ca/c-ViewAd?AdId=1174438050&utm_source=alerts&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email_alerts 84 Fiero pace car

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    • Scotty GAuthor

      I fold!..

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  3. roger pence

    That is hands-down the most depressing car I’ve ever seen featured here. Or anywhere! Talk about your metaphors for the future.

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    • Scotty GAuthor

      Yes! I’m #1!!

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  4. DolphinMember

    Sad to say, GM sure was struggling back then. An Iron Duke-powered downsized Olds Indy pace car has to be one of the low points.

    Too bad Bob Lutz didn’t get to GM sooner than he did.

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    Weren’t the Indy Pace Cars kind of representative of the best of breed for the year for American Automakers? I was in my 20’s in the 80’s and what a great time to live but this is so utterly sad to see.

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  6. Kincer DaveMember

    A car like this should at least have a V6, don’t get me wrong the old Iron Duke 2.5 4 banger was a good motor GM put them in everything, sure they sounded like a broken washing machine but they run forever, but this should have some kind of high output V6.

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  7. Kevin

    While I do like that interior, these cars were junk when they were new and are still junk. A well preserved example might be interesting, but even as a pace car this is nothing but an extremely neglected and rotted out example of GM’s struggles in the 80’s.

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  8. Jeff D

    I owned one of these!!

    Found it in Anna, OH. It was a little bit weird…..it had gas receipts receipts in the glovebox signed by a Mrs. R Hulman. It was not powered by the Iron Duke but rather a 3.0L V6. There was no cat on the car — had a “test pipe” installed. And there was a yellow tag on the radiator support stating “this car prepared for racing by” and then someone’s signature. I had to get rid of the car as the sunroof was leaking water into the interior…badly!! It also had electronic gremlins galore. Fun car with the spaceship interior…..was fun while it lasted :-)

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  9. JW454

    It must have been a big shock for the Indy car drivers to be at race speed and then have to lock up the brakes to get behind a car like this for a yellow flag/restart. Too bad we can’t add sound effects on this site. I do a great motor boat/small car sound that would go with the image of this pulling onto the track to pick up the field for a pace lap. LOL

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  10. nessy

    I really like that interior. I like the car overall. The V6 would be expected in this car. I am an Oldsmobile fan as you can see, however, I would not stand in line to buy this car at 2500….

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  11. Anthony

    My Aunt had one of these new, but hers had the Quad 4 engine.

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  12. rangeroger

    In 1985 I was driving a 1963 Dodge D-100 pickup with a camper shell. 225 slant six with 3-speed on the column. Retired it in June ’85 for a brand new ’85 Chevy Suburban with a gas 350 and 4 speed floor shift. Still have the Suburban with over 400,000 miles on it. Never had the rocker covers or pan off.
    BTW, the Suburban was $16,500 new.

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  13. Miguel

    I saw this car at the Oldsmobile dealer when it was new. I wanted it at the time but didn’t have the money. This car makes me very sad.

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  14. Prowler

    Back in the lake with it….Roach

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  15. MikeK

    1985, My senior year of high school. – A 1972 Cutlass S with a 350, and unfortunately an auto transmission. It was sort of a cream yellow color w/ black interior, but with lots of little brown primer spots. I repainted it “spectra red” (1984 firebird color)

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  16. Jeff G

    Hey! It’s James Garner! lol

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  17. Steven C

    I would take gladly take the Citation over this thing

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  18. Roselandpete

    I had an 80 Toro in 85 but I find it hard to believe that this represented a pace car. Somebody’s palms were greased.

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  19. AMCFAN

    Seems to me I seen one of these (Pace car edition) back in the day but with a Quad 4. If that was an option no need for a V6. I mentioned this another time but my friends mom had a Black/Gold edition Quad 442 that still impresses me to this day. GM really missed the boat by not fixing the head gasket issues those engine would experience just out of warranty. They were really a powerhouse that would certainly have given GM an upper hand in the tuner car market. Sadly with all the rust and the Iron Duke I am in agreement worst Pace car ever. But in defense to the poor thing not the worst car ever on BF.

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  20. Paul R

    Its disturbing that we lived in an era where something like this was produced and sold.

    The 80’s were a bad time for American cars. Thankfully we have recovered and recovered well!

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  21. jaygryph

    Ya know, this might be amusing if you swapped in a supercharged buick V6 and beefier brakes, but left the rest of it as is.

    Pull up to some honda kids and see if it could compete in a straight line.

    I’d love to see someone flog this thing into shape making it meet that pace car standard.

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  22. Rando

    And folks say the Mustang II was the worst car ever….lol. The interior is intriguing, but the rest of the car? Nahhh

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  23. Betsie Marie Williams

    Hey i just bought one in perfect condition. It was stored for quite a while. I love it

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  24. Mike L

    I actually had one. I bought it from Gunn Oldsmobile in San Antonio, and it was the only one in town. I was just barely out of high school, and my dad warned me about spending so much on a car, the insurance ate my lunch. Literally! It was a great car which I enjoyed for about a year, until a friend totaled it. I really wish I had it back…

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  25. Betsie Williams

    They do have a v6 I have one in mint condition I love it but would rather sell it to a collector before I ruin it. I’m pretty hard on my vehicles. I’m trying to figure out what it’s worth

    Like 0

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