This weekend marks the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. The legendary 500-mile race dates all the way back to 1911, when the track consisted of 3.2-million bricks. Aside from pauses related to both world wars, The Greatest Spectacle in Racing has brought motorsports fans from around the world to Indiana's 2.5-mile oval, usually taking place around the end of May.
With over 100 years in the books, many production cars have held the honor of pacing the field. None have done it more than the Chevrolet Corvette, which returns in 2022 with the new Z06. It's the 'Vette's 19th appearance as the official pace car, and it's not by coincidence. General Motors inked a deal in 1997 to be the exclusive provider of Indy 500 pace cars, and since 2001 it's been an all-Chevrolet show. The 2000 Oldsmobile Aurora was the last pace car to not wear a bow-tie badge. The 1996 Dodge Viper GTS was the last car from another brand.
As such, most Indy 500 pace car models you see for sale these days are Corvettes. With the annual race nearly upon us, we decided to step beyond America's favorite sports car to search for some alternative options. With a little help from duPont Registry, we compiled a shortlist of classic Indy 500 pace cars you could buy right now if you wanted. Such cars are quite hard to find, but when you see one, it certainly stands out in the crowd.
Even before the exclusive contract with Indy, Chevrolet was gracing the Brickyard with pace cars. The Camaro's first production year saw it leading the field wearing a shade of white with blue stripes and a blue interior. Chevy built four cars for actual pacing duties, with an additional 100 replicas made for race officials and other VIPs involved with the event. This particular 1967 Camaro is a tribute car built to the same specifications as the original 104 vehicles, which are obviously extremely rare.
Just two years later, the Camaro was back at Indy. Sporting a slight facelift and trimmed with orange instead of blue, the 1969 model saw 80 examples built for the track but 3,675 were offered to the public in a limited-edition run. In RS/SS trim with the optional Z/28 package and a 300-horsepower 350 cubic-inch (5.7-liter) V8, this Camaro is listed as an original pace car with 41,500 miles.
All Indy 500 pace cars are special, but the Hurst/Olds was the first featuring a collaboration between an automaker and an aftermarket company. Hurst shifters appeared in Oldmobiles starting in 1968, and in 1972 the Cutlass-based Hurst/Olds still packed a massive 455 cubic-inch (7.5-liter) V8 that made 300 hp for official Indy duties, and 270 hp in production models. Only 130 convertible versions were built for the public, and less than 50 are believed to still exist. But this isn't one of them – it's listed as one of 54 Festival Parade Cars for the race.
The 1980s saw two turbocharged Trans Ams as Indy pace cars, and the evolution from one to the other is nothing short of extraordinary. The 1980 Turbo Trans Am was fraught with problems and offered lackluster performance at best. This car, however, is the 1989 Turbo Trans Am – one of the fastest cars of the 1980s and actually, among the fastest factory Trans Ams of all time. Pontiac built 1,555 pace cars for the public, featuring a tweaked version of the turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 from the Buick Grand National. This car is listed as having just 37,791 original miles.