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Pace Car Survivor: 1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88

When you think of Indianapolis 500 pace cars you think of zoom-zoom like a Camaro SS, Corvette or a Buick Grand National GNX, not a car like an Oldsmobile Delta 88 unless it’s still 1949. Well, variety is the spice of life and auto manufactures never miss a marketing opportunity to sell more cars. And that’s exactly what happened in 1977 when Oldsmobile got the opportunity to pace the Great American Race with their newly downsized “B” body Delta 88 just like this example, found in St. Peters, Missouri and available here on craigslist for $7,500. Thanks to Ikey Heyman for the tip!

To narrow things down a bit, there are a few actual pace cars employed for exactly that purpose, pacing the race. Then there are a group of “Festival” cars used at the track on the day of the race for various festivities and then finally, replicas that anyone can purchase via the appropriate dealership. This example is an actual festival car, number 107, according to the seller. The true pace cars used in the ’77 race had a Targa top design but that was not carried over to the festival or retail models. This example does, however, have a sun-roof which was an option on standard Delta 88 models. During the malaise era, such as 1977, the actual pace cars were usually hopped-up a bit so they could attain the necessary track speeds to pace the race. I have no information available regarding the ’77 race as it pertains to pace car modifications, so I’ll ask our informed readership to comment on that matter.

There are no images of the engine for this pace car but we do know that they all came equipped the same way with an Oldsmobile 403 CI V8 motor, good for 185 net HP. The infamous “Chevymobile” scandal (Chevy engines passed off as Oldsmobile “Rocket” V8’s) got started in 1977 but that had no impact on the Indy pace car series of cars. The seller makes scant reference to how the engine runs but does say that it is ready to drive. The standard drivetrain also includes a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 350 transmission. Included in the sale is a service manual and service guide so at least the new owner can learn all about the technical and mechanical specs for this Delta 88.

The listing references no rust and from what can be detected from the included images, that appears to be the case, none visible in usual places. The unique Indy pace car graphics and striping appear to be intact and non-faded. The predominant “black” theme in the color palette still looks strong as well.  The red-painted rally wheels were part of the pace car package, option W44, which also included the special paint scheme and graphics, aluminum hood, aforementioned 403 CI engine, raised white letter tires, sports steering wheel, and body-colored sport mirrors.

All pace car interiors came in typical GM red velour. The images provided are a bit limited but from what can be spied, it all appears to be neat and clean. The seller indicates that the carpet and headliner have been replaced.

The first Indy pace car that I can remember was the 1969 white and orange Camaro SS model. A good friend of mine had one back in the mid-seventies and it was a lot of fun cruising around with the top down. One feature that I liked about my friend’s pace-setter was the absence of the side graphics and lettering that promoting the race; I always thought that seemed a bit over the top for general motoring but it is a subjective choice. This pace car is a bit obscure because of what it is, a full-size model, but that adds some allure to it as well. This is a nice clean, low mileage example, I think it would make a nice inclusion to someone’s pace car collection.


  1. Sam61

    Neat car. I live in Noblesville, IN…someone in our subdivision has a pristine Delta 88 pace car like the subject car.

    AJ Foyt won his fourth 500 in 1977. James Garner drove the pace car. The actual pace car is best described as a “targa” with no roof panel. The door/window frames were removed along with rear side glass/frame/roof. There was no roof from the A pillar to the start of the C pillar.

    Our family had a new 77 Delta 88 sedan with a 350. Navy blue like our towns new 77 Impala police cars…easily to confuse. I tested the limits of our Delta 88, being a good teenage driver, and found the performance to be adequate, as Rolls Royce would say.

    Like 5
    • Chuck

      The 1977 Indy Pace Car was the first car I bought. I bought it from my Dad who bought it new from the local Pontiac dealer. I loved that car. I was young and traded it in 1981 for a Z-28. I kick myself in the head now.

      Like 1
      • Nicholas

        I bought mine at 17 yrs old in 05 for 1500$ sold it 2 yrs later for 2k. I absolutely miss that damn car. 1st week owning it I had to throw new tires on er.

        Like 0
  2. Bud

    A sheep in wolves clothing .

    Like 7
  3. Will Fox

    I like these; they sure beat the weak FWD Cutlass Pace Cars produced in the 80s. Say what you want, this was the start of GM’s downsizing of their B & C-body cars, and they had ample power for day-to-day driving and less obese overhang that the `71-`76 models had. The glass Astroroof was a seldom seen option, and nice to see on this car. Malaise era cars are just now starting to be recognized, I think mainly because the notable ones are still somewhat affordable. The price isn’t bad on this to me; if the carpet/headliner were done well, that helps although I have to wonder if a sunroof leak may have mandated the headliner change, or did it simply have the typical GM weak glue problem that was so evident on these back by the rear glass? Still a nice car..

    Like 4

    Always thought these were a bit gaudy but they are growing on me.

    Like 3
  5. Daved

    A very pristine example sold recently at Mecum….



    Like 4
  6. Ike Onick

    When are you officially “Too Old” to drive a car that looks like this? I’m thinking 28. Thoughts?

    Like 1
    • Superdessucke

      If you’re asking about fashion, this would be a tough one to pull off. It doesn’t have the cool factor of a 1960s muscle car and definitely looks old and bold. So being young would help but anyone would need a strong sense of style and confidence to go with It. In other words, drive ironically!

      Like 0
    • Roger Lindsey

      Yes Ike I bought one new when I was 28

      Like 0
  7. Vin_in_NJ

    “Not your father’s Oldsmoble”

    Like 3
  8. Ralph

    I think all of the festival cars had the sunroof to match the open roof pace car.

    The were kind of an interesting off shoot, pretty much the last performance intended full size Oldsmobile, too bad the console interior didn’t become available on these until 1978.

    Like 0
  9. Roy Nielsen

    You definitely do not see any of these cars at a car show but I’m going to change that now lives in Michigan in it is gonna go to a few car shows

    Like 0
    • Jeff Lawrence Member

      Let me know if you ever sell. My Dad did the actual body mods for the real pace car. I have some pics of when he was doing it. He also painted Johnny Rutherfords cars that year.
      Jeff Lawrence

      Like 0
  10. Damon

    I’m interested in the car

    Like 0

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