About

In 1980, PPG became the sponsor to the CART Indy Car World Series.

Formed in 1979 by racing teams who had split from the previous sanctioning body, USAC, over how races were promoted, the way that television contracts were handled and what they believed to be the small size of the winners’ purses, the ‘80 PPG Indy Car World Series had 12 races on the schedule and featured drivers like Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Mario Andretti and Bobby & Al Unser.

To help promote the events, PPG worked with different manufacturers, constructing modified and sometimes one-off prototype pace cars to lead the race. The PPG Pace Cars also provided lucky guests with a hot lap around the track, eventually piloted by PPG’s all-female driving team.

As the CART Indy Car World Series grew over the years, so did the PPG Pace Car Team.
In 1996, history repeated itself and CART split off into the Indy Racing League over a dispute with Tony George, owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. CART no longer had access to the Indianapolis 500 and was able to survive, for a while. After a few years, teams began to return to the Indy 500, eventually moving permanently to the IRL. After steadily losing teams and drivers, sponsors, and manufacturers, and after a series of major financial setbacks, CART filed for bankruptcy in 2003. The remaining assets were purchased and Champ Car World Series was born the following year. By 2008, Champ Car was bankrupt and was absorbed into the IRL, creating a unified series for the national championship for the first time in 30 years, now competing under the name IndyCar Series.

Along with many other corporations, PPG ended its multi-million dollar CART sponsorship contract in 1999 for the 2000 season, but renewed shortly after, providing the PPG Pace Cars once again. Eventually, some PPG Pace Cars would be re-badged as Champ Car Fast Lap Cars.

Later in 2008, when Champ Car went bankrupt, many of its assets were sold off in Indianapolis, including many of the PPG Pace Cars from as far back as the early 80’s. This put many of the vehicles in the garages and showrooms of enthusiasts and private collectors.

There was little to no documentation available for the majority of the PPG Pace Cars. Some of them were crushed, some donated to auto tech schools, some sold back to the manufacturer (for the usual amount of $1) and others became privately owned. A couple have even been discovered deteriorating outdoors on private property.

 

This website was created to document the PPG Pace Cars of the 1980’s and 1990’s, as well as the team behind them.

My interest in the PPG Pace Cars started when I was just a kid. My dad worked for PPG and took me to the Cleveland Grand Prix and Mid-Ohio Indy Car races. I remember the PPG hospitality tent well and the immaculate, often futuristic pace cars that were parked nearby. Still a few years from getting a driver’s license, he snuck me a ride in a Corvette Pace Car around Mid-Ohio. I don’t remember the driver’s name, but I remember she went through a corner at 70+ mph, planting me in the seat bolster with g-force I hadn’t experienced before, even at Cedar Point. I don’t doubt that experience further refined my future as a gear head. After the lap was over, my dad told me to exit the car quickly, as passengers had to be 18 years old to ride. He wasn’t directly involved with the PPG Pace Car Team, but he knew them all by name. Once in a while I went with him to the Strongsville, OH office in the mid 90’s, and he would bring me to the giant warehouse around back, full of PPG Pace Cars. The last time I went with him, in the late 90’s, there was an auction as PPG was liquidating the inventory from the Pace Car program. It was the end of an era. No more tickets, no more PPG hospitality tent, never another PPG Pace Car ride.

My dad passed away in 2000 after battling cancer. I found therapy in using his tools and learned to work on my own vehicles with the help of manuals and the internet. Every once in a while, I googled “PPG Pace Car” and added photos to the collection of Pace Cars I had saved on a zip drive, figuring I’d put them all on a website one day. After years of collecting as more previously unknown cars surfaced, I had about 85 different Pace Cars saved on my computer. (That zip drive was long gone!) In 2018, I discovered a Facebook group dedicated to pace cars, and learned that I was a small part of a large cult following of the PPG Pace Cars. There were stories, scanned photos from the 80’s and 90’s and links to PPG Pace Cars that ended up selling on ebay.

As time goes on, people pass, photographs wear and old webpages disappear. With all the information I had, it was time to start building an online catalog.

The majority of photos used on this site are not my own, but gathered from Facebook and Google. I left all watermarks or credits within the photos that have them. If one of your unmarked photos appears on the site, please let me know and I will credit it to your name.

Special thanks to Pascal Michels and Bill Behlman from the Pace Car and Truck Owners and Enthusiasts FB group for sharing so many previously unseen photos, which I added to my collection, pushing me to get this project started.

If you have any photos, details, or stories of the PPG Pace Car era that you would like to share, please contact me.

I would like to acknowledge all those on the PPG Pace Car Team, from the drivers to those who spent all day waxing the cars. I’m looking forward to adding a Team/Bio section to this site and would like to include anyone interested.

Finally, thanks to John Sullivan for my gear head DNA and memories of the PPG Pace Car program.