The Famous and Infamous Indy 500 Pace Trucks

Before the 2022 Indy 500 starts on Sunday, May 29, the pace car will be out front. Race series use pace cars (or safety cars) to keep the race cars at a safe speed during a race. At Indy, that speed is 140 miles per hour, so you need a fast car, so this year a 70th Anniversary Corvette Z06 will lead the pack, and it will be driven by Indy podium-finisher Sarah Fisher. But it’s not always cars. Over the years several companies have fielded trucks, and even an SUV, to keep the cars on pace.

The company that provides the official Pace Car usually also provides the trucks that are used on the infield to haul stuff for teams. In the past, they were outfitted with gas pumps, with cranes for taking wrecked cars off the track, or as fire trucks. Those “official truck” editions are then sold to the public, but usually, they’re regular trucks only with special paint jobs. Usually, but not always.

Ford’s purple PPG pace truck

Ford 1991 Pace Truck | Bring a Trailer

In the early 1990s Ford was trying to punch up its performance credibility. This was the era of the first-generation Ford Lighting, after all. So, in 1991 the company partnered with some big names in motorsports to make its pace truck a real race truck: McLaren Performance Technologies and Roush to make this pace truck. Roush, of course, was already a Ford partner and makes Mustangs faster. McLaren makes Indy cars and Formula 1 cars. And, since paint maker PPG sponsored the series in the 1990s, the truck had to have wild paint. And, it does.

Interestingly, the 1991 Truck has rear seats. They face backward and are covered by a fiberglass tonneau cover and protected by a roll bar. They were designed for the winner of the race to ride in. It has, as was the case, an 85-mph speedometer, and two cupholders.

The black-and-white 1993 Chevy Silverado

1993 Chevy Silverado Pace Truck
1993 Chevy Cilverado Pace Truck | Jacob Frey, Wikimedia Commons

In 1978 Chevy fielded both a Corvette Pace Car and a Chevy Indy Pace Truck.  The truck was painted in two-tone red and white. It was a V8, and it was rear wheel drive. Trucks then weren’t the rolling castles they are today. The ’78 had two big innovations for the time: tilt and power steering.

Several Chevys have paced the Indy over the years, mostly Corvettes.

The most famous trucks, though, must be the black-and-white Silverados from the 1970s or the 1993 with a very 1990s paint job. Chevy only made about 1,200 of the 1993 trucks. They had two bucket seats, and not much else in the way of options. Ironically, the Camaro Z28 was the pace car that year, but Chevy decided to sell official Indy 500 trucks anyway.

The Indy Ram was Dodge’s attempt

A dodge Indy Ram truck.
Dodge Indy Ram | Greg Gjerdingen, Wikimedia Commons

Not to be outdone, Dodge put together a special edition of its 1996 Ram 1500 for the 80th anniversary of the Indy 500. It was painted in racing blue, had a pair of white racing stripes down the middle, and came with a matching tonneau cover. It had the standard 360-cubic-inch V8, but sat on special 17-inch rims with performance car tires. All Indy Rams were the mid-level Laramie trim, with a four-speed auto. The center console flips up, too, so you can fit three people in the front bench seat. Later, Dodge would create several performance trucks by dropping in the Viper’s V10, but these trucks were more show than go, despite their quicker 3.92 rear end option. The Indy package was a $1,350 option on Laramie trucks.

Pretty much every GMC pace truck, ever

A vintage ad of a GMC Pace truck
1977 GMC Indy 500 | GMC via AutoWise

GMC fielded Indy Pace Trucks for several years, including 1925 (really), 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1984. You can easily spot a GMC Official Truck by their wild paint jobs, with some badged Indy Hauler on the bed. They were basic trucks in many ways, but like their Chevy siblings, they too, have tilt and power steering.

Oldsmobile tried their best with the Bravada Indy Pace Truck

A Bravada Pace Truck? Why not?
An Oldsmobile Pace Truck Bravada | Wikimedia Commons

Ohh, was Olds trying hard with this one. Oldsmobile engines were famed at the old Brick Yard, and Indy fans will remember that Oldsmobile’s turbocharged V6s from 1983 to 1997 dominated and won many 500s. That engine was based on the Oldsmobile V6 that the public could buy. But a Bravada? Olds called it a “Pace Truck.” We call it an SUV. But in its day, this was a fast SUV that a number of modifications made to it so it could handle the 140 mph speed pace cars need to maintain. There were both 1999 and 2002 versions of the Bravada Pace Vehicle. But, a Bravada? It’s fine, but it’s no performance SUV.

Chevy tried with the SSR pace car … err .. . truck

A yellowish Chevy SSR Pace Truck
Chevy SSR Pace Truck | Barrett-Jackson

Some people will argue that the Chevrolet SSR is not a truck. Those people are probably right. But Chevy called it a truck. Chevy tried to give the SSR some performance credibility, so it painted an SSR purple, stuck on Pace Car stickers and ran it. It used the same truck, as seen in the picture, for several NASCAR races in 2005. The Pace Truck version had the regular small-block V8 and a four-speed auto. The SSR did fine as a pace car…er…truck.

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