April 1985

Marketing Material: 1985 Oldsmobile Calais 500 adIn 1985, Oldsmobile’s new compact, the Calais, was selected by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pace the 69th Indy 500. That was the seventh time (out of a total of ten) that an Oldsmobile had held the distinction.

To commemorate the honor, Oldsmobile offered the special edition Calais 500.



There is a special feel in an Oldsmobile
1985 Oldsmobile Calais 500 adAlthough I am unsure exactly how a vehicle is officially selected to pace the Indy 500, it seems the nominees are submitted by the manufacturers themselves. Having last paced the event in 1977, with an 88 Royale Coupe, the rocket division’s ticket once again came up eight years later.

Oldsmobile’s Indy 500 pace cars had always been equipped with a V-8 and rear-wheel-drive. That is, until 1985.

That was the year that Oldsmobile launched a handsome new compact called the Calais. It was front-wheel-drive and the most cylinders offered in it was six.

Ready to maximize the opportunity to parade their new product in front of hundreds of thousands of race car fans, Oldsmobile rapidly prepared the pace car and a replica to sell in limited quantities.

1985 Oldsmobile Calais pace carPer IMS regulations, the one-off pace car was made convertible, and includes a hardtop and roll bar that are individually removable. Safety lights were added along with unique wheels and a number of aero tweaks. It also includes a fire extinguisher that can be used manually or triggered automatically, based on preset conditions.

1985 Oldsmobile Calais pace car engine RPM limiterUnder the skin, Olds substantially upgraded the suspension, transmission, engine management electronics (including a key-operated RPM limiter restricting revs to 4,500 when set to “modified” or 6,500 when set to “full”), and the engine itself.

The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine’s displacement was increased to 2.7 liters by stroking the crank by 0.25 inch.

1985 Oldsmobile Calais pace car engineIn conjunction with other modifications, the engine’s output was more than doubled from 92 HP, to 215. That no doubt helped the car meet the IMS’ strict 85 to 110 MPH acceleration requirements. (That was the average speed range traveled under yellow flag conditions when the pace car was in use. It may sound excessively fast but the actual race cars weren’t suited to travel any slower for extended periods because they would over heat or even foul-out spark plugs if driven below that range.)

While the replica Calais 500 was nothing more than an appearance package, it was sold in limited numbers. I was unable to obtain any sales figures for the one-year commemorative model but at this point, any remaining copies would be past the quarter-century mark. That’s why it pains me to share the picture below.

1985 Oldsmobile Calais 500 in junkyard

In this picture, we can see the penalties of time. This poor example has found its way into a scrap yard. One can only hope that there is enough of the little replica left in good condition to warrant saving by some collector. (That photo is sourced from TenFlatTires on Photobucket.)


Click on the image below to see a larger version of the ad.

1985 Oldsmobile Calais 500 ad

1985 Oldsmobile Calais 500 ad