Automotive Mileposts  

1973 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado
Indianapolis 500 Official Pace Car

1973 CADILLAC FLEETWOOD ELDORADO CONVERTIBLE PACE CAR AT A GLANCE:

Years Available:
1973 only
Number Built: 566
Paint: Cotillion White (paint code 11)
Convertible Top: White (top code A)
Interior Trim: Medium Red (Scarlet) Sierra Grain Leather (trim code 488)
Accent Striping: Red (color code 8; striping unique to Pace Car Replicas)
Price: Varied, according to options included. Pace Car without options over Convertible base price was $40.00

Image: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Indianapolis 500 Pace CarThe 57th Indianapolis 500 Race was held on May 28, 1973. A Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible was chosen as the Official Pace Car. Veteran Indy driver Jim Rathmann drove the actual pace car, and led the pack to start the race.

This event marked the fifth time the Indy 500 race had been paced by a Cadillac, with 1927, 1934, and 1937 LaSalles serving duty in previous races, and a V-12 1931 Cadillac also having been chosen.

1973 was only the second time a front wheel drive vehicle had paced the 500, with the first front wheel drive pace car being a 1930 Cord, which also held the honor of E. L. Cord himself as driver!

Image: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Pace Car leather interiorA total of 566 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible Pace Cars were built, all identified by option number SR-X20. They were all finished in Cotillion White, with White convertible tops and Medium Red (Scarlet) Sierra Grain Leather interiors. Of those, two "Official" Pace Cars built, with one of them being a spare in case something happened to prevent the actual car from being used. The VINs were 6L67S3Q423072, which was the actual Pace Car, and 6L67S3Q423212, which was the spare or back up Pace Car. Both had specially modified engines that would allow the production Eldorado Convertible to reach the high speeds necessary to lead the powerful race cars. The modifications included removing the emissions control equipment and installing a new crankshaft. Specially forged pistons were used, and a low restriction dual exhaust system was fitted, as were special high speed tires. Neither car was equipped with factory air conditioning, in order to reduce weight. The front and rear bumpers were also said to be made of polished aluminum, also for weight reduction. Hood pins were fitted on both cars to ensure the big hoods didn't fly up, and flag pole mounts were also attached to the rear of both cars. After modifications, it was reported that the big 500 cubic inch, 8.2 litre engines cranked out close to 500 horsepower! When you compare that to a stock engine, with an advertised horsepower rating in the low 200's, this was quite an achievement.

There were a total of 53 Eldorado Convertibles built for Indianapolis 500 Festival duty, all of which were delivered to the track and used in the Festival events preceding the race. Of those 53, only 45 were built with the "Festival rear bumper," option number SR-X30, which included the flag pole mounts. Twelve of the 53 cars were used for the Celebrity Escort Service, and had "Festival Director" lettering located above the front wheel openings, as well as circular "500" Festival logos on the rear quarter panels, just behind the front doors. These cars were used to transport various VIPs and officials, and as such had special markings that no other cars had, including the Official Pace Cars. Cars with the Festival rear bumper came equipped with two sets of flags: a pair of matching yellow flags, and a green one (to be used on the left side), and a black and white checkered flag (to be used on the right side).

Image: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Pace Car replica dash plaqueThe 564 cars that were not modified for high speed use as the Official Pace Car or its back up, are considered "replica" cars, and had a special plaque (shown at left) that was mounted on the instrument panel to the left of the clock identifying the cars as replicas. The plaques featured a back and white checkered crossed flag insignia at the top, and stated in red script below, "This Eldorado Convertible is a limited edition replica of the 1973 Indianapolis 500 Official Pace Car".

The remaining 513 replica cars were delivered to Cadillac Dealers around the country to be used as promotional tools, and were usually later sold to customers. Graphics were provided in the trunk along with templates to attach the decals to the cars, should the owner decide to do so. (See illustration below for correct placement of decals.) Reports indicate that most owners did not choose to have the graphics attached to the car.

Two developmental models were built prior to the Pace Car production run, for officials at Cadillac and of the Indianapolis 500 to evaluate. Identified by VINs 6L67S3Q423028 and 6L67S3Q424306, the latter of the two was used to photograph the publicity shot shown above.

As one of the sponsors of the race, Cadillac Motor Car Division also provided six Fleetwood Eldorado Coupes, 2 Sedan deVilles, 2 Coupe deVilles, and 1 Fleetwood Brougham for use at the race track, in addition to the 53 Eldorado Convertibles.

Image: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Pace Car replica graphics