PPG pace car 1982 Buick Skyhawk Turbo
Showcasing Buick’s turbo technology in the early Eighties was this one-off model, the PPG Buick Skyhawk Turbo, that was built to pace the Budweiser Cleveland 500 in 1982…
From here to obscurity
Buick and turbocharging have a rich history stretching back to the pioneering days of the Sixties. General Motors did much to push forced induction into the mainstream, but the car pictured here wasn’t a production model. It was something that bit more bespoke. Scroll back to the Eighties and paint firm PPG Industries was the corporate sponsor of the CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) Indy Car World Series and this led to the creation of umpteen special vehicles that were touted at various rounds. The car pictured here was briefly a major draw, acting as a pace car during the latter half of the 1982 season, but nowadays it is largely forgotten.
The Buick Skyhawk Turbo was based on the new-to-1982 front-wheel-drive J-Body platform and shaped within the GM Design studio in Detroit. The regular car was sold in two- and four-door configurations, but the outline here differed greatly. For starters, it was a full convertible with ‘a body-integrated roll-bar’. Only the rear light clusters were common to the Skyhawk production car. It was also shorn of such fripperies as door handles, weather equipment and rear glazing, but then it was built to be used to go around in circles in perfect weather – and little else – so they were clearly deemed superfluous. The ensemble was painted in various shades of silver and blue with pinstripe delineations and obligatory Turbo decals.
Inside, the cabin was equally special thanks to the leather-clad one-off seats. That, and the computer that was built into the dashboard. There was also a kill switch that cut off power in the event of an accident, along with a plumbedin fire extinguisher, as befitted a vehicle that would be spending time at high speed on a circuit. And being a track car, albeit one that headed the field, but never competitively, it required a reasonable amount of power. It had it, too, the McLaren Engines-prepared turbo V6 featuring mechanical fuel-injection among other mods. If the period stats are to be believed, it produced 258bhp at 5200rpm. No performance figures were revealed, though.
What the future looked like in 1982.
The brochure claimed: “This Skyhawk was built to fly beyond its natural limits. It’s high tech, high style and one of a kind. Because it has only one assignment, to pace the world’s fastest and most sophisticated race cars in the CART-sanctioned PPG Indy Car World Series.” The car was pressed into service for the first time during the inaugural Budweiser Cleveland 500 in July 1982 (subsequently the Cleveland Grand Prix), the race being won by local hero Bobby Rahal. The car continued to be employed to the end of the year, and it appeared at various race meetings and shows into the following year before it was quietly pensioned off.
However, unlike so many other cars of this ilk, the Skyhawk Turbo wasn’t dispatched to the scrapper once it was no longer of use. PPG Industries retained the car prior to donating it to the Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection in Cleveland, Ohio. It remains as per its last on-track appearance, save for the lack of an overhead light bar, the special split rim Gotti wheels having also been replaced with less fancy rolling stock at some point. As to whether it is in running condition, your guess is as good as ours.