HomeFeatured VehiclesPick of the Day: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Pace Car

Pick of the Day: 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Pace Car

One of 35 Festival cars


Most pace cars we see are replicas of the actual track cars. However, when it comes to the Indianapolis 500, there’s more than pace cars –  festival cars play a supporting role and may be a different model from the actual pace cars. One of those festival cars is our Pick of the Day: a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera Festival Pace Car convertible for the Indianapolis 500. It is listed for sale on by a dealership in Greenwood, Indiana. (Click the link to view the listing)

The pace car for the 1985 Indianapolis 500 was Oldsmobile’s brand-new Calais. While the Calais often shares association with the Quad 4 engine, that engine did not appear until 1988. Power for the Calais during its debut fell upon the 92-horsepower Tech IV 2.5-liter (Pontiac’s “Iron Duke”) paired with a standard five-speed manual with overdrive; optional was Buick’s 125-horse 3.0-liter V6. Two trim levels were available: Calais and Calais Supreme. Somewhat underwhelming, even for the Malaise Era, the Calais replaced the Omega “X-car” that had caused headaches for GM several years earlier.

For some reason that only GM’s accountants likely know, the Calais was chosen to be the pace car for the 1985 Indianapolis 500. Called the Calais 500, the actual pace car had its top chopped for its assigned duties, plus another 2,998 hardtop replicas were built for public consumption. All were painted Flame Red metallic with Platinum metallic lower body plus black-out trim all around. They featured a special Calais 500 emblem on the hood, Calais 500 badges on the doors, and Indy 500 emblems on the C-pillars. Inside, the seats were decorated with special silver leather with Carmine vinyl trim, plus Indy 500 floor mats. Any engine and transmission combination was available – three in all. Aluminum alloy wheels measuring 14×6 were wrapped in Eagle GT blackwalls. Pace Car lettering could be installed at the discretion of the buyer. James Garner had the honors of driving the real pace car.

Among the festival cars, Oldsmobile furnished 35 examples of the Cutlass Ciera to be used by Indy 500 festival directors. Since the festival directors also sponsor the Indy 500 Festival Parade, they wanted convertibles to carry drivers and other personalities, so all 35 cars were fabricated by Cincinnati’s Hess & Eisenhardt Company at a cost just over $6,000 each. All were white with black tops and enhanced with special striping, lettering, and an Indianapolis Motor Speedway insignia on each front fender. The interior was dark burgundy leather. Other accoutrements included wire wheel covers, luggage rack, plus fuel-injected 3.8-liter V6 and the usual power accessories. Total price amounted to $17-19,000 each.

This 1985 Cutlass Ciera Indianapolis Festival Pace Car convertible is Car #4 of the 35 commissioned by Oldsmobile. Its odometer shows 43,000 miles, no doubt due to the easy life given by its original owner, the president of the festival. “Stored in the garage of the original owner’s vacation home, this beauty comes with a fresh set of unused original GM pace car decals, alongside a replica set installed on the car for that authentic touch,” says the seller. Included with the sale are the “coveted” #4 festival plates.

While this car is a peak Malaise relic, its collectability is not hurt by its origins. For a very reasonable $14,900, this Olds has as good a value/special-interest quotient as any car on

Click here for this 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 metropolitan Phoenix.


  1. Re: 1985 Olds Pace Car:

    ” Let’s look at this thing from a point of Status” . . . ‘What have we got on the ship that’s good?” – Gene Krantz, Apollo 13


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