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Pace Car! 1965 Cadillac DeVille Convertible

This one had me scratching my head. I noticed the goofy looking spy perch before I saw the odd brackets protruding from either front fender. That was a “What da hey?’ moment. It seems like a very unusual outfit for a refined luxury car like a 1965 Cadillac DeVille convertible. This one will require a deep-dive. It is located near Springfield, Massachusetts, and is available, here on craigslist for $4,500. Thanks to Peter R for this tip!

Where things get odd, is that this Cadillac was a pace car. Not a pace car in the sense of a ’69 Camaro Indy 500 pace car but a harness racing pace car! This Cadillac would pace the horses while an announcer would sit up in the perch and announce the start. The brackets on either side of the front fenders were to attach the starting gates which in turn lead the horse-drawn “sulkys” up to speed for the start of the race. Note the announcer’s observation tower on top of the Suburban.

A bit outsized, a ’65 Cadillac DeVille convertible cuts an impressive swath. While still a big, heavy car, its ’65 redesign gave it more of a fleet-of-foot bearing. This Caddy is listed with a “reported 1187 miles” – that seems unlikely though I suppose that would be possible if pacing races is the only road action this DeVille ever experienced. The body of this pace-setter is in fairly good shape, there is some trim missing, along with a passenger-side fender skirt, the chrome is weak and the next owner will have to decide what to do with the modified convertible top. I’m not sure what’s up with the non-matching trunk lid.

Under the enormous hood of this DeVille convertible is a 340 HP, 429 CI V8 engine. The seller makes no mention of this convertible’s operating prowess but there is a very faded inspection or registration sticker on the windshield which looks to be from the early ’80s. It also appears to be from the state of Indiana though this car was supposedly used at Hinsdale Racecourse in New Hampshire. If the sticker is accurate, this car may not have operated for a very long time as harness racing ceased at Hinsdale in 1985. And residency in Indiana, with use in New Hampshire, and now domiciled in Massachusetts pretty well debunks the mileage claim. The sole transmission choice for Cadillac in 1965 was GM’s almost new Turbo-Hydramatic 400, three-speed automatic transmission.

The interior has been modified with a driver’s bucket seat to accommodate the announcer’s perch. It’s actually in fair condition with a thorough cleaning being the first order of business. The instrument panel is sort of clear and complete and of note is the “Comfortron” automatic air conditioning/heater system. I had a ’66 Impala with that blasted system and it is monstrously complicated – it must have 200 feet of vacuum tubing, in six-foot lengths, running every which way. The parts are very hard to source anymore.

And now for the announcer’s control stand and microphone! It makes for an interesting conversation piece, to say the least. I guess the decision is whether or not to leave it in place. It seems that removal would destroy the uniqueness of this car and turn it into another, pedestrian ’65 Cadilac convertible. But driving around with it in place would be “odd”.

I have no idea what I would do with this Caddy. It’s fun as it is but leaving it as such consigns it to probably taking up a lot of expensive storage space. Modifying it and there’s goes its character. That begs the question, what would you do with this most unusual 1965 Cadillac DeVille?


  1. Rustytech Member

    This needs to be taken back to its pre modified glory. These were the top cruisers of their day, and it should be again.

    Like 18
  2. Jake8687

    This car may need a horse or two to get around.

    Like 5
  3. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    I added a pedestal like this to a 19′ boat so that the spotter had a higher viewpoint when towing a skier. Not that I’d want to hydroplane with this 19’er…

    Like 4
  4. Skorzeny

    I have loved horse racing all my life, spent many hours at the track, but NOT harness racing. There are a few horrific videos of what can go wrong with these cars on YouTube.
    I say just return to a stock condition and cruise it.

    Like 2
  5. EPO3

    For 4500.00 it should be in my shop even if it has 2011000 what a flip

    Like 1
  6. Steve S.

    I used to see commercials for the Meadows harness racing track near Pittsburgh when I was a kid in the 70s, and it showed Cadillacs and Lincolns being used as pace cars there. I wondered why at the time, but its probably the same reasons why they were used as ambulances; with heavy duty chassis and big powerful engines, they performed and handled like cars instead of trucks which were in no way performance vehicles back then.

    This car’s history is kind of interesting, but I’d restore it back to stock.

    Like 6
  7. 1-MAC

    These are good cars Very dependable and havy duty. Restore to stock and enjoy for many years to come.

    Like 2
  8. RNR

    In harness racing it’s not a “pace car” but a “starting gate”. Batavia (NY) Downs used a mid ’60’s Imperial convertible for several years (I recall it being white in color). The deck lid was removed, and the entire starting gate assembly, perch and all, was inserted into the trunk – the passenger compartment was left untouched if memory serves correctly.

    I imagine that much added weight in the trunk made for interesting handling in the turns.

    Like 3
    • C5 Corvette

      I seem to remember a white starting gate car for both Batavia and Buffalo Raceways. It would travel thru Clarence, NY from time to time.

      Like 0
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Having been raised in Maryland horse & hunt country, with numerous horse track in the region, I remember seeing starting gate cars on a semi-regular basis. Most didn’t have a trunk lid because that is where the mounting equipment was placed. The brackets you see on the front fenders were to hold the wide sections of the gate after they were folded forward.

      They were always convertibles, and from what I remember, the rear seats were removed for the starting official/announcer’s desk & seat, the tops usually were left retracted, and the cars stored undercover. I guess with colder temperatures up north, the track owners wanted to keep the guy in the seat from freezing.

      Like 0
  9. tommy c

    AND……….There off!

    Like 3
  10. DuesenbergDino

    Al Capone owned a race track in Cicero, Illinois across the street from another racetrack in Chicago. He was kicked out of Chicago so the story is he walked across the street which was another county and illegally ran his own track.

    Like 3
    • Michael Dutka

      Hawthorne Park (Harness racing) and Sportsman Park (Thoroughbred racing) were both in Cicero and both in Cook County. I lived a couple of blocks away in the 70’s. I never heard anything about Capone owning either of the tracks, but he probably did have involvement in them.

      Like 0
  11. Steve Clinton

    This pace car needs a pacemaker.

    Like 2
  12. JoeBob

    I did valet parking in the mid 60s. I was just a kid but always enjoyed parking or retrieving a 65 DeVille. They were very comfortable and I thought, classy looking in a sort of understated way. I don’t suppose Caddy parts are widely available, but it’d be nice to see this one go back to how it was when it new.

    Like 0
  13. John T O'Malley

    We have the Hall of the Fame of the Trotter, nearby in Goshen, NY. I’m sure they would love it. Perhaps we could work out some kind of crowdfunding or something to buy it for them!

    Like 2
  14. Hound59

    Love the snow tires.

    Like 0
  15. Ralph P.

    Luxury automobiles have been used as trotter/pacer starting gates for decades–it’s part of the image harness racing likes to project.

    Like 1

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