HomeFeatured VehiclesPick of the Day: 1971 Dodge Challenger Pace Car

Pick of the Day: 1971 Dodge Challenger Pace Car

A PR debacle makes for an interesting collectible


Indy pace cars are cool, right? A vehicle that has paced a race, was a parade car of such, or is just a replica of those on the track can attract a lot of enthusiasts, especially those that feature special paint jobs and limited production. But one of those hallowed pace cars is surrounded by an enigma: the 1971 Dodge Challenger convertible. It’s our Pick of the Day, and you can find one listed on ClassicCars.com by a dealership in Geneva, Illinois. (Click the link to view the listing)

Starting in the 1960s, pace car replicas became a thing. Depending on the year and the model, manufacturers started making them available for the general public, with possibly the 1969 Camaro completely exploiting it to the tune of over 3,000 examples. The Oldsmobile 4-4-2 and Cutlass Supreme both were available with the Y74 pace car package, with 268 and 359 respectively being built.

But, in 1971, things were a little different. For some reason, none of the manufacturers were interested in submitting a vehicle in that role, so four Indianapolis  Dodge dealers teamed up to supply 50 Dodge Challenger convertibles for the event, all being EV2 Hemi Orange with white interiors and white tops. Most were equipped with the 318, while a handful featured the 383 two-barrel, 340, and 383 four-barrel. The reason why the Challenger R/T convertible wasn’t chosen was because Dodge produced no such vehicle — for 1971, Dodge discontinued the R/T convertible, even though Plymouth continued the similar ‘Cuda convertible.

Eldon Palmer, owner of Palmer Dodge, drove the pace car, had set a flag to indicate when he should begin braking. However, the flag went MIA as he was coming out of turn four into the pit lane, so the marker he was depending on confused the situation and Palmer ended up skidding into a photography stand at the end. Around two dozen people, mostly photojournalists, were injured.

As you can imagine, this was a PR debacle for Dodge, even if the manufacturer wasn’t involved with the promotion. Perhaps this explains why Hurst was more than happy to partake in the festivities for 1972?

This 1971 Dodge Challenger convertible pace car is documented as being number 31 of the 50. “Older restoration with presentable driver-quality paint. Good chrome,” says the seller. “Good clean interior, newer power convertible top.” Like 42 of the pace cars, this Challenger features a 318 V8 mated to a TorqueFlite automatic transmission. For $105,000, you can close your eyes and pretend you’re pacing Al Unser Sr.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in the Southwest.


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