Pace Cars of the Indy 500 is a quaint slice of motorsport history wrapped in a coffee table book

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Image of the article titled Pace Cars Of The Indy 500 is a picturesque slice of motorsport history wrapped in a coffee table book

Photo: Ron McQueeney / General Motors (Getty Images)

We take many traditions of the Indianapolis 500 for granted, including the introduction of the race car, so any book that focuses on the detail of the year-to-year changes in those traditions hooked me long before it even happened. to open the cover. And that’s exactly what happened with Indy 500 Pace Cars by L. Spencer Riggs.

My aunt sent me Indy 500 Pace Cars a few years ago as a Christmas present, and he ended up getting lost in the melee of my apartment after abandoning it during the COVID-19 pandemic. As I was packing, the glossy cover of this book immediately caught my attention, and I made sure to pack it with the things I was bringing home, not to put away.

The format of the book is quite simple. Each year the Indy 500 that featured a racing car gets, at a minimum, a two-page release. One page offers information about the car and the other is a large black and white photo of the car in question. Over the years, Riggs often includes two more pages of photos, many of which are in color.

In terms of information about the car, Riggs usually includes the specifications of the car – its horsepower, engine size, weight, and price at the time. He also frequently shares a bit of history about the car, the automaker, the driver who drove the car on the speed lap, the driver who won the car as part of its award and what happened to the car later.

Essentially, pace cars – formerly known as pacesetters or pacemakers – have become a way for automakers to evolve some of their best technologies. It was a huge honor for your car to be selected to survey the Indy 500’s terrain, especially since Riggs also includes this model’s sales figures, which have generally seen a significant increase after the selection of the car.

While the book doesn’t go into tons of historical detail, it ends up offering an encapsulated history of American automobiles in the sense that there are so many automakers who have bent over or taken years to be selected because ‘they just weren’t considered iconic enough. Cole, for example, seems to be one of the author’s favorite brands, but I don’t think most car enthusiasts recognize the name today.

It was also a lot of fun watching the evolution of the Speedway in the background of the photos. From brick to sidewalk, from the original pagoda to today’s iconic track feature, from front-engine roadsters to rear-engine racers, there is so much history shared in the images that it’s worth to them. only the purchase of the book.

The perfectionist in me had a little trouble using commas willy-nilly in this book, but that was my biggest complaint. Globally, Indy 500 Pace Cars is an exceptional piece of history, filled with wonderful photos of cars that you may never have heard of. Any Indy 500 fan – or historic automobile fan – will love flipping through this one.


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