1975 Buick Century Indy Pace Car Graphics
I worked on four Indy Pace car paint schemes, all Buicks. The first one was a 1975 Buick Century with the last year of the old couple A-body design. I don’t remember anyone dictating or suggesting the flag graphics on the body side. The body design itself seemed to suggest to me a waving flag, so that’s what I proposed. Studio management bought the idea from the first sketch (probably to get the project over with as soon as possible). The country was anticipating the 1976 bi-centenial, so the paint scheme was in anticipation of all things patriotic.
Original proposal for the 1975 Buick Century Indy Pace Car
Buick’s buyer demographics was the aging car buyer, and “Free Spirit” was a marketing term attempting to capture more youthful image. I don’t remember where the Hawk silhouette came from. I do remember having a battle over the orientation of the “Free Spirit” hawk graphic. Whenever the graphics was attached to a car, designers were laying the hawk back on it’s tail. I insisted that it be vertical, like the old Richfield emblem. I must have gotten my way.
The 1975 Buick Century Pace Car had a 7.5 litre (455cid) V-8 and was anything but stock. There was really nothing very performance oriented in the Buick production lineup by 1975. The replicas had 350s, GR70x15 radials, and heavy-duty suspension. They shared the same graphics with the real pace cars. I believe that the 1975 Buick pace cars may have been the first to be retrofitted with removable roof panels, or a T-tops. They first appeared on the 1968 Corvette.
1975 Buick Century Pace Car Publicity Photo
Me posing in front of a replica at a Buick dealer in 1975. It’s not that I thought it was such a great design, but I had only been at GM two years.
1975 Buick Century Pace Car on a billboard somewhere in Detroit.
1976 Buick Century Pace Car Graphics
The 1976 Buick Century Pace Car had more extensive styling and mechanical modifications. One thing to note is that the real pace cars and the replicas differed graphically. The replicas didn’t have the front air dam or the blistered hood. The replicas did have the originally proposed side scheme that started at the front of the doors. The idea was to have the shapes coming from the hawk like an abstract stop motion photos of flight. Bill Mitchell made me extend the graphics to the front of the car in front of the hawk for reasons unknown. His change didn’t make it into production. My guess is that it was cheaper to make. I think the shorter graphics look a great deal better.
A bit of trivia. Buick lettering at the time looks like all capital letters, but in fact the “U” is in lower case with the stroke to the right side enlarged to go with the other letters.
1976 Buick Century Pace Car replica with the short graphics
1976 Buick Century Pace Car on the cover of Motor Trend. Photo shows the full graphics that were on the actual pace cars. That car looks pretty good blurry.
The front and rear air dams and the hood blister were modeled in the studio. This photo of the 1976 Buick Century Pace Car model photographed in the Design Staff Styling Auditorium shows the hood blister and front air dam.
Why did the 1976 Buick Century Pace Car have a turbocharged V6?
The ’76 pace car had a turbocharged 231 CID V6, almost half the size of the 455 in the ’75 car. It developed around 306 hp. Why did Buick use a V6, and how did Buick get involved with turbocharging? Everything was downsizing in the ’70s, and Buick needed a smaller engine. Instead of developing a small V8, they bought back the V6 that was developed in the early 60s from American Motors where the V6 had found a home in various Jeeps. They reinstalled the tooling for the engine in the original room where it all started. According to Mike Knepper, Motor Trend June 1976, the turbocharging program came along by accident. During the same time that the ’76 Indy Pace Car program began development, an Explorer Scout post sponsored by Bucik decided to try turbocharging the “new” V6 engine as its latest project. One Buick engineer who had been volunteering his time to help the Scouts mentioned the project to another engineer working on the pace car project. According to Mike, “You can fill in the rest of the story, from ‘Impossible,’ to ‘Let’s try it,’ to ‘It works.’” The output of the engine tripled from the stock V6 thanks to 20–22 psi of boost.
Glen Stringfield’s 1976 Buick Century Pace Car purchased from the original owners in Ohio.