The 1981 Buick Regal Indy Pace Car graphics originated as one of a variety of assignments for special promotional vehicle illustrations that Herb Fishel had me do freelancing under the name of Performance Design, including the Buick Grand National. See “Early History of the Buick Grand National and Performance Design” for the background as to how that happened. I was assigned to Buick One Exterior Studio, but the Regal was in Buick Two Studio. One day I was working at my drawing table when Herb walked through the studio toward Buick Two with my pace car sketch under his arm. I didn’t know what would happen since I didn’t think anyone knew of my freelance activities. Nothing was ever said about it, however. Even though I did the concept, Steve Pasteiner, Assistant Studio Chief in Buick Two, executed the design. He held to the sketch pretty closely, perhaps because Herb told them that’s what Buick wanted, I don’t know.
Original concept rendering dated 1980 of the 1981 Buick Regal Indianapolis Pace Car by Performance Design.
This was Steve Pasteiner’s rendering of my earlier proposal.
Publicity photo included with Buick’s press kit.
The 1981 pace car did not have a turbocharged engine, but rather a modified 281 hp 4.1 liter V6. Oddly a sheet was included in the press kit showing Moly’s Turbo Six logo with the following explanation. I didn’t write this, but I do remember something like this as part of the original pitch Herb used to sell the logo to Buick management. Comments in brackets are mine.
About the Buick V6 Logo
This text was on the back of the page with the logo imprint found in the Pace Car’s Press Kit. Molly created the logo.
As the Buick V6 becomes more dominant in the market place, the Buick V6 logo will take on increasing significance. The logo represents a “6” which is emphasized to indicate the Buick V6 is unique and special. Additionally, the logo represents a lower case “b” which could be utilized to develop a performance image logotype exclusively “Buick” [That’s really a stretch]. The flow of the logo is also symbolic of the spinning or turbine action of a turbocharger. Turbocharging can also be emphasized by using warm-to-hot color combinations [the advantage of turbocharging is using waste exhaust gas to spin an impeller. But that process also heats the incoming compressed air which is a disadvantage solved to some extent by an intercooler]. The arrowhead draws attention and gives forward, aggressive motion [except it’s facing backwards]. This is complemented by the slant of the logo—again emphasizing aggressiveness. The logo symbolizes the Performance Engine of the Future [but there is no turbo in the pace car].
I never liked the Turbo logo.
My trip to Indy
There is an interesting story relating to the ’81 Pace Car. Many months passed from the time Herb first carried my Pace Car sketch into the studio and May, 1981. Then one day I received a phone call in the studio asking me if I’d like to go down with the group that developed the Pace Car at Buick to Indy for one of the qualification sessions in early May. I readily accepted, and I was told I would receive a written invitation. So, I thought, Herb must have arranged to have me be included even though my only contribution was only the original proposal. It’s not like I wasn’t part of the real team. Steve Pasteiner also was going, and I met him at the Flint airport the morning of the flight to Indy. I found it odd that I never received the written invitation, but as they checked our names as we boarded the aircraft, my name was on the list. I remember there was some confusion after we arrived. They seemed to be short one set of credentials and a jacket that delayed things a bit.
Me at Indy, May 1981
Back from Indy compete with complementary jackets.
I did learn that another member of the group was an engineer also named Gary Smith, and surmised that the call I received inviting me to the event was a mixup. I figured this out early in the day, maybe even on the plane, and my heart sank. But by that time I was already there. No one ever said anything about it. It was a great day. The best part is that they flew me home.
Images of the Pace Car garage and the Buick group from Flint on the first day of qualifying.
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