1983 Buick Riviera Indy Pace Car

High Drag
I did work on the ’83 Riviera Indy Pace Car, but my contribution was minimal. They seemed to know what they wanted; I just helped execute someone else’s design. The “Great Gatsby” beige and cream Riviera didn’t do anything for me. On the other hand, there was nothing that could possibly be done to that car to make it suitable as a performance car no matter how it was painted. I remember going over to the GM Research Lab Wind Tunnel just south of Design Staff at the Tech Center to witness the tunnel testing of the Riviera. The convertible had the top down, four dummies in the car, and two yellow flags hanging from the rear. When they brought the air up to speed, that Riv was flying, the dummies were shaking, and the flags shredding. It was floating in the breeze like an airplane and that didn’t exactly give me warm feelings about it being stable at speed. I was glad I didn’t have to ride in it at the track. If memory serves me correctly, I think they told me that it registered the highest drag of any car tested to date.

 
1983 Riviera Indy Pace Car sketch

1983 Riviera Indy Pace Car. I wonder if Tom Sneva, the winner of the race, was disappointed. Considering the fact that the car faired so poorly in the wind tunnel, not having added a roll bar seems to be a major oversight.

Bustle-Back Seville Wind Tunnel Test
Speaking of the wind tunnel, rumor had it that they tested the Cadillac Bustle-Back Seville at the wind tunnel, and it had a very high drag coefficient. Just for the heck of it they turned the car around backwards and it did quite well. I can’t verify if that story is true.

1983 Cadillac Bustle-Back Seville

4 Comments on “1983 Buick Riviera Indy Pace Car

  1.  by  Jim G

    I worked at a Buick dealership in 1983 in Indiana and we were VERY fortunate to have “THE” Pace car on our showroom. It was taken off the showroom and I was given a ride in it as a few others were too. It was beyond fast and listening to those 2 turbos wind back down was a sound I will never forget. I understand there is only one in existence. I met a guy last year who said he worked on it some time back when it was being moved from one location to another. He said it “choked and puked” for a while but once it was dialed in, it was very fast. We compared stories and I had a great time talking about it. I am very greatful for the experience and being part of some automotive history. Thanks, Jim G.

  2.  by  Brian Jackson

    I got to see this car in 2006 at the Buick Horse Power Nationals at IRP. GM Heritage brought many Buicks to this event. They also let me take a picture of my 1983 Buick Indianapolis 500 ball cap on top of the Riviera Pace Car that my Father-Inlaw gave me. When I got the hat I thought it had a different color and then I understood when I got to see the car. The car was pristine and the engine with the twins looked perfect. 20th anniversary for the Riv the fender emblem has XX after “Riviera” Brian Jackson

  3.  by  Bobby Berry

    My friend Tom Sneva from Paradise Valley Az, and winner of the 1983 Indy 500, still has the official 1983 Buick Regal Pace car he received as the winner of that event, sitting in his garage. What’s it worth; I’ll tell him.

  4.  by  Ed Mertz

    As I recall, there were five or six ’83 Riviera pace cars. A “real one” that was used, a back-up “real one,” and 2-3 replicas. The pre-pace laps started with 3-5 cars and with each lap one of the replicas dropped off while the others continued until the start of the race. I rode one lap in a replica and it was a thrill. Ed

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