Indy Pace Car Replica: 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88

In 1977, Oldsmobile was selected for the fourth time in a decade to pace the Indianapolis 500. It was a new record for the most Pace Car appearances by one make in a 10-year span. The ’77 full-size models were the first to be downsized across the board by General Motors. As many as 400 copies may have been made for use as pace and Indy Festival cars and another 2,400 for sale to John Q. Public. This car is likely one of the latter and needs some work to return to its 1977 glory. It’s available in Soddy Lake, Tennessee and here on craigslist for $3,500 OBO.

All the big Oldsmobile’s got smaller for 1977 as part of the shift to more fuel-efficient cars after the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. The Delta 88 was chosen to pace the Indy 500 that year, which is a bit surprising to me as performance cars like the Mustang or Camaro usually had that honor. James Garner would be the official pace car driver that year. While street versions of the pace car would be offered for sale, the real deals had some features all their own:

  • Targa roof with removable panels
  • Bucket seats with a floor-shifted transmission
  • Modified 403 cubic inch V-8 engine with a special cam, ported and polished heads, and dual exhaust

The general consumption replicas were not equipped this way and were largely production Delta 88’s with special paint and trim, like sport road wheels and steering wheel. These are the qualities that the seller’s car possesses and it has just 54,000 miles on the odometer. But it has not been babied over the past 43 years, as the seller says the prior owner began sanding on it and then put it away in a shed back in 2006. While it’s said to run and drive fine (excepting the A/C), the body and paint will need work. Most of the corrosion is likely surface rust, but there is no guarantee you won’t find more.

This car is for sale because the seller doesn’t have a good place to keep it. From the photos provided, there are quite a few older or vintage cars on his property that may be for sale, including an old Volvo, 1953 Buick, Chevy S-10 pickup, 1950-ish Ford, 1965 Chevelle, 1957 Chevy Bel Air, 1954 Nash Ambassador and a Sunbeam. We covered one of the replicas last year here on Barn Finds. That one looked to be in better condition than this one and was offered for $7,500. So, these replicas may only be priced slightly higher now than standard production Delta 88’s sold that year. Thanks for the lead on this one, Pat L.!

 

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Comments

  1. Sparky

    most pace cars are just not that interesting, and this is another example to drive that point home

    Like 4
    • Steve Clinton

      Or drive it around the track. (groan)

      Like 1
    • Skorzeny

      Well I like it. That’s a handsome Oldsmobile!

      Like 11
  2. Steve Clinton

    Once again, the first photo ‘nice’, the second photo ‘not nice’.

    Like 5
  3. Steve S.

    A little factoid-the 403 equipped 88s had a bigger wheel bolt pattern than the 350 models. I know this because my parents bought a ’77 88 Royale coupe and the dealer was going to swap the Rallye wheels from another ’88 but they wouldn’t fit. Turns out the 403 cars had the suspension, brakes, and axles from the heavier 98 which had the 5X5 bolt pattern.

    Like 8
  4. Patrick Curran

    You don’t see many of these but I would like it better if the graphics were on it. Not sure if they were dealer applied or not like the 1976 Corvette pace car.
    The aftermarket fog lights aren’t doing this car any justice.

    Like 2
  5. Chuck

    In 1980, I was involved in a chain reaction accident with one of those. My 74 Mercury Capri hit the Olds on the left rear, with the right front of the Capri. $300 damage to the Capri $4000 damage to the Oldsmobile. Bent the frame, buckled the roof. The car that rear-ended me was a brand new Trans Am that had less than 1000 miles on it. Tore the whole right side of it off on the left rear corner of my car. That little Capri was one tough car.

    Like 5
  6. Gus Fring

    Not worth restoring…find a mint example and save yourself some money (if you really have to have one).

    Like 3
  7. cmarv

    If it was closer it would be mine . I had a 77 2 door 88 that came with the 4bolt main 350 Chevy . I loved that car . @Patrick Curran , I thought 78 was the Pace Car Corvette ?

    Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      ’78 was the Corvette. ’76 was a turbo Buick Century.

  8. Mark Houseman

    Third time this has been on barn finds

  9. Brian Weyeneth

    The fact that it is in an auto yard should say something. Pass and I’m a diehard Olds owner.

  10. Don

    Never heard of a 403 Olds having a special cam and polished and ported heads ! Even when they put these in Trans Ams ( because they ran out of 400 Pontiacs ) they were a slug of an engine. If that is true though it makes this car worth the money !

    • RL

      The extra engine goodies were in the pace cars that had to stay up on high banks. The 403 in the Pontiac TA were for CA. cars and high altitude states not because the ran out.

      Like 1
    • Ralph

      I think that was only for the Pace Car itself, the replicas had a stock 403, though I’ve read the Pace Cars actually had blueprinted Olds 455’s.

      • James Spagnoli

        The Pace Cars had the 403

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