Uptown Automotive Hobby Shop
The Biggest Little New and Used Car Showroom in Central New York

To Pace, or Not to Pace

As we know, American auto manufacturers are honored to have one of their vehicles chosen to pace the famed Indianapolis 500 mile race. However, 1991's choice caused some controversy. Dodge was selected as the car company to provide the pace car. As is the practice, the company chosen, also supplies "official" cars and trucks for use in support of the race. While the support vehicles also represent the chosen manufacturer, the actual pace car is usually a top of the line performance car, or sometimes a uniquely modified vehicle.

For 1991, Dodge offered their then new Stealth R/T twin turbo, all wheel drive, 300 horsepower coupe, which was certainly adequate to bring the pack of Indy racers up to speed on race day. However, that choice caused consternation among the United Auto Workers Union, because the Dodge Stealth was in actuality a Japanese car, having been based on the Mitsubishi 3000 GT vr4.

This presented a quandary, because in 1991 the only other Dodge offerings were front wheel drive "econoboxes", none of which would have been suitable as a pace car. In a "stealthy" move, Dodge instead offered the not-yet-in-production VIPER as an alternative. The Viper R/T 10, still in gestation, was "on the shelf", intended to be introduced for sale to the public as a '92 model, and had a V10 engine with 400 horsepower. Thus, the May 1991 Indianapolis 500 race was paced by a Doge Viper, a vehicle which was not available for purchase to the car buying public until January 1992. The Viper pace car was truly an American car through and through, and was driven by an American "icon", Carroll Shelby, who was instrumental in its design and DNA.

How does all of this relate to we "model citizens"? Actually, with similar intrigue (though not an Oldsmobile). The Stealth being a new car in 1991, Dodge contracted to have promotional scale models made and in Dodge dealer's hands when the actual cars hit the showrooms. The plastic promotional models were available in red, with black roof, and in solid black.

Here's where it gets interesting. Since it was initially thought that the stealth was to be the Indy Pace car, the initial run of the promos [I don't know exact numbers] included Indy Pace Car decals (stickers, actually), while later ones did not (see accompanying photos comparing promo box ends).

When the plastic kits of Stealth models came out, kit #6956, "New '91 Dodge Stealth..." with the box art showing a red car with black roof, then later kit #6806, Indy 500 "official car," (not official "pace" car), depicted a yellow car with black roof on the box cover.

In '92, Stealth models were available as snap together kits, glue together kits, and promotional models. 1992 also saw models of the Viper: first the promo, then the kit (#6808). Sometime thereafter, the 1991 Indy pace car Viper promotional model became available.

As if to reinforce its American ethnicity, the pace car promo wore a subtle reminder, in a small American flag on each side of the targa bar (see photos).



-Jim Amado, May 2022

page updated 12/22/2023