The year was 1955 and the decision was made that Chevrolet would be the manufacturer whose car would lead the Indy 500. The date of the race was May 30, 1955. The weather was overcast and chilly, the temperature was in the mid-fifties. Chevrolet had a banner secured to the apron of the grandstands that proclaimed "Chevrolet - The Pacemaker On Any Road".
Chevrolet was pulling out all the stops by providing Belair convertibles to escort the 29 ambassadors of the North and South American countries invited to participate in taking a ceremonial lap around the track. They also provided the funding for the network broadcast of the race over 200 radio stations throughout the US.
Tom Keating, General Manager at Chevrolet, was at the wheel when the time came for the official pace carstart of the race. The 1955 Belair convertible was two-tone, Gypsy Red and Shoreline Beige. The tires were Firestone 500s. Under the hood was the new Chevrolet power packed V8, rated at 180hp. The car also sported dual exhausts and most of the other equipment you'd find on a normal production car.
The markings on the car that can be seen in this picture show the the car sported the 1955 Indy race logo and the rear quarter panels read "Official Pace Car" with "500 Mile Race" below it.
As other car companies have done, Chevrolet built not only the car that paced the race, but also a number of replicas too. Not all the replicas were identical in markings to the pace car, some has a dealer name on the lower quarter panel. The replicas also differed in the number of accessories added to them. Some were equipped with bumper guards.
The pace car duties were mostly ceremonial, On one lap prior to the race the car was driven by Harry McQuinn, his passenger was the "Queen of the 500 - Dinah Shore". They escorted the Borg-Warner trophy that would be awarded the winner of the event.
The actual pace lap driven by Mr. Keating lasted only about three minutes. He reached a speed of about 100 mph before leaving the track into the pit area, leading to the start of the race. The race that day was won by a driver named Bob Sweikert and as a tradition at Indy he was awarded the pace car as part of his winnings.
If you'd like to read more about the 1955 Chevrolet, you might pick up a copy of a book written by Pat Chappell called "The Hot Ones".
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