Chevy Enthusiast via Hooniverse: The 1990 Chevy Beretta Convertible Indy Pace Car

Barrett Jackson Auction in 2009 with Chevy's Beretta Pace Car waiting to be sold.

This week, I decided to introduce you to my columns in Chevy Enthusiast Magazine, titled Weird and Wonderful Bowties. Yesterday, We discovered the all electric S-10EV, which was developed alongside the GM EV-1. Next up is the first Chevrolet Concept Vehicle that was drafted into use to pace the Indianapolis 500. Introducing the Beretta Indy Pace Car Convertible (that was killed before going into production).


There was a time when the Indianapolis 500 was considered the crown jewel of motorsports around the world, and was a rival to the 24 Hours of LeMans and the Formula 1 Series. That was before the split between CART and USAC, which almost killed open-wheel racing in North America and paved the way for NASCAR’s ascendancy. Highly visible at each year’s race was the selection of the car used to pace the 33-car field, a selection often used by the Detroit Big 3 to promote new models. This is the story of one of the most obscure Indy Pace Cars: The 1990 Chevy Beretta Indy Pace Car Convertible, and the eighth Chevy to pace the Memorial Day Classic. This was the first Chevy Concept Car to pace the field.
Chevrolet General Manager, Jim Perkins, posing with the Pace Car.

Reports as to how many pace cars were built are conflicting. Some report three, while still others report five, but they all started out as Beretta Coupes. They were converted by the engineering firm Cars & Concepts, which fabricated a number of special editions and prototypes for the major Detroit car companies. They chopped off the top, engineered the chassis, and installed a “don’t-call-it-a-roll-bar” structure, along with a power activated top.
Chevrolet spent a great deal of money to prepare the Beretta Convertible, but the rigidity of the coupe was lost when the top was removed, and no amount of modification to the underbody could help in regaining at least some of it back – which was rumored to be one of the reasons the production ragtop was scrapped.

Once the convertible was killed, Chevrolet did produce 7,500 Beretta Pace Car edition coupes, available in Yellow (1,500) and Teal (6,000). These cars received color-coordinated alloy wheels, Indy 500 decals on the doors and some trim components from the previous year’s Beretta GTU. The Beretta didn’t share its platform with any other GM product except for its sedan sibling, the Corsica. So, will the Beretta Pace Car Edition become a collectible? I’ll answer that with another question: When did you last see one?
In 2009 one of the original Pace Car Convertibles sold at the 2009 Barrett-Jackson sale, and sold for $22,000 with a scrap title, which is a far cry from its reported development costs of $20 Million.
Read the current issue of Chevy Enthusiast by clicking here!

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53 responses to “Chevy Enthusiast via Hooniverse: The 1990 Chevy Beretta Convertible Indy Pace Car”

  1. SVT2888 Avatar

    Do you know why they had a scrap title?

    1. P161911 Avatar

      All the GM prototypes were sold with a scrap title. Basically a CYA, "We told you not to drive it."

  2. TurboBrick Avatar

    Lovely CGA graphics inspired teal with purple letters. It doesn't get any more early 90's than that!

    1. john Avatar
      john

      yeah… my mom used to have this car… i always thought it was awsome when i was younger ^^

  3. Benito Avatar

    <img src=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/ApMOY8OaCsIGc74de43WqQ?feat=directlink>
    My first car was a base model '88 Beretta… with an auto. The asthmatic 2.0l I4 was terribly afraid of hills, and above 65 mph it felt as though you were piloting a cloud with a steering wheel- I'd suggest to it nicely to stay in a lane, and it would float precariously within the lines.
    The interior was solid blue, which matched the paint, that was cool, in a cheesy way.

    1. Syrax Avatar

      It looks better without the chin.

  4. lilwillie Avatar

    I can remember seeing that fleet of GM color around the Milwaukee Mile the week after Indy. They had about 10 GM cars of every possible bright color touring the track that day. Then they put them in the infield for us to look over. Those colors on the GM vehicles of the time influenced my color choice for the Apache, Silver flames to the light teal flame to the dark teal base color.

  5. LTDScott Avatar

    I was at a friend's house the other day and we were briefly watching the Mecum auctions on TV. One of the cars for sale was a '73 Caddy Eldorado Indy Pace car. My friend was pretty amazed that they'd use a boat of a car like that since most pace cars have been somewhat sporty.
    My reply was "Hey, they can't all be Berettas!"

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      An Eldo Pace Car? Never heard of such a thing. I love it. Yeah, it's a boat, but you can bet that they turned it into a powerboat by massaging the 500 V8. Old Caddys were never known as being gutless, and hell, an Indy Pace Car doesn't need to turn very much.

      1. BGW Avatar

        Massaged a bit, yes:

        The sheer weight of the Eldorado convertible forced the Cadillac engineers to take some measures to allow the car to reach the high speeds needed. The 8.2 liter (500 cubic inch) engine was tweaked.
        The smog control equipment and A/C had been removed. A new crank was installed as was specially forged pistons and a dual exhaust system, even the bumpers were replaced with polished aluminum instead of steel.

        1. CptSevere Avatar

          Oh, man, that has got to be the most awesome Cadillac since the ones that placed at LeMans in I think 1951.

        2. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

          I can picture that magnificent sight in my head. Awesome!

    2. TurboBrick Avatar

      F1 has had high-end Mercedes' as safety cars for what, over ten years now? While back I was watching a race from the early 90's. Bad accident, full course yellows, and here comes the safety car and it's a…. Fiat Croma.

    3. UDman Avatar

      I might just do a series of posts on all post WW2 Indy Pace Cars, broken out by decade. Would anyone be interested in that?

      1. engineerd Avatar

        Uh, yeah!

      2. Tomsk Avatar

        Um, YES!

      3. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

        Uh, yeah! Can you do it now?

      4. Charles_Barrett Avatar

        Yes please…!

      5. longrooffan Avatar

        This olelongrooffan will be up all night just trying to remember the ones I have seen. Bring it on UDman.

      6. CptSevere Avatar

        By all means, do so. That would make for great reading. Go for it!

    4. CptSevere Avatar

      An Eldo Pace Car? Never heard of such a thing. I love it. Yeah, it's a boat, but you can bet that they turned it into a powerboat by massaging the 500 V8. Old Caddys were never known as being gutless, and hell, an Indy Pace Car doesn't need to turn very much.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    As an engineer, I find the double turn signals on the front amusing. Redundancy?

    1. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

      In light of the horrible turning radius of '80s GM cars, those are "TURN! TURN!" signals. To reflect what you're yelling as you are forced to make a 3 point U-Turn in traffic.

    2. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

      GM knew they would break before the warrant period and they might have had to issue a recall or something. I call it foresight.

  7. Goingincirclez Avatar

    You ask, "When did you last see one?" Unfortunately, when I answer "I honestly cannot recall", I'm not referring to the Indy edition. I do recall these things being everywhere for a time. And I don't miss hearing that Fisher-Price bubble-mower exhaust note, not in the least.
    That said, they weren't unattractive cars for the time, and I always thought the hidden door handles on the coupe were kind of neat.
    I am more intrigued, however, by your revelation these were the sole cars on one platform – how often did GM not bother to badgineer something back then? I would have sworn/guessed the Pontiac Grand Am or Olds Cutlass were platform mates… but yes, turns out they were their own beasts. GM was even more of an internal wreck than I understood back then – they invented Badgineering and couldn't even get that right all the time.

  8. Goingincirclez Avatar

    You ask, "When did you last see one?" Unfortunately, when I answer "I honestly cannot recall", I'm not referring to the Indy edition. I do recall these things being everywhere for a time. And I don't miss hearing that Fisher-Price bubble-mower exhaust note, not in the least.
    That said, they weren't unattractive cars for the time, and I always thought the hidden door handles on the coupe were kind of neat.
    I am more intrigued, however, by your revelation these were the sole cars on one platform – how often did GM not bother to badgineer something back then? I would have sworn/guessed the Pontiac Grand Am or Olds Cutlass were platform mates… but yes, turns out they were their own beasts. GM was even more of an internal wreck than I understood back then – they invented Badgineering and couldn't even get that right all the time.

  9. muthalovin Avatar

    I was just thinking about Berettas. Now, that is a nameplate that GM should bring back. Just imagine…

    1. BGW Avatar

      "The choice of mistress-killers everywhere!"

      1. dculberson Avatar
        dculberson

        Plus, if you're R Kelly, you can rhyme it with "dresser!"

  10. James Avatar

    UDMan, this thing is horrible. I've dug all the weird chevs so far, but there are no redeeming attributes to a freaking Beretta. Let's be honest.

    1. UDman Avatar

      I wasn't specifically referring to the Beretta, it was the Beretta Pace Car I was focusing on. $20 Million in development to bring a convertible version of the car to market, only to get shot down at the vary last minute. The Pace Car (not the coupes with the decals) had a lot going for it, and really, it was a great looking car at that time. Given 15 or 20 years, the junior hoons we fathered may find these cars collectible, and fantastic. Oh who the hell am I kidding…..

  11. Luntburger Avatar
    Luntburger

    Yea, the Beretta wasn't the most refined car, but (according to Wikipedia, anyway) the Beretta GTZ seemed to be decent performer. 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, 0.92 g on the skid pad, a slalom speed faster than a Camaro and 27 mpg in 1990. That's decent performance from an econobox in 2010.

    1. Guest Avatar
      Guest

      Yeah but they had no structural stability whatsoever and folded up like paper in a crash. They were so unstable that the convertible had to have a basket-handle implanted so the car wouldn't collapse on itself. Modern cars are a bit heavier due to all the safety requirements — airbags, side impact beams, stiffened body structures, etc.

  12. FreeMan Avatar
    FreeMan

    Those teal things were everywhere here in Central IN for several years. A friend of mine picked one up (new, I think), and I got to ride with her a couple of times. I remember being very impressed the first time I walked up to it. Once I sat down inside, I was quite disappointed and was ready to go sit in my Fiat 131 again. Even though it wasn't running at the time. Again.

  13. FreeMan Avatar
    FreeMan

    Those teal things were everywhere here in Central IN for several years. A friend of mine picked one up (new, I think), and I got to ride with her a couple of times. I remember being very impressed the first time I walked up to it. Once I sat down inside, I was quite disappointed and was ready to go sit in my Fiat 131 again. Even though it wasn't running at the time. Again.

  14. James Avatar

    UDMan, this thing is horrible. I've dug all the weird chevs so far, but there are no redeeming attributes to a freaking Beretta. Let's be honest.

  15. UDman Avatar

    This is a question to all the Hoons…. I have two more of these Weird Chevy postings…. however, they haven't been published yet. If you want a sneak peek, just let me know. The involve the forward control Chevy Van, and the Cosworth Vega.

    1. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

      All of the above. Yes.

    2. BGW Avatar

      I think it's safe to say that anything involving the words "forward control" or "Cosworth" is a winner.

    3. Charles_Barrett Avatar

      I enjoy all of your writings, and will happily read anything you post.

    4. CptSevere Avatar

      You holding back? Break out the good shit! Roll up a big old forward control Cosworth hooter and pass it around!

    5. longrooffan Avatar

      FC Van….I am thinking Greenbriar….Please, bring it on, especially if it is not a Greenbriar….Soon!!

  16. […] Chevy Enthusiast via Hooniverse: The 1990 Chevy Beretta Convertible Indy Pace Car : Hooniverse […]

  17. Jim Avatar

    I know I'm late to this party, but I owned a base '89 Beretta with a 5 speed and the base 2 liter engine. Bought it new. It was fine. Not great, not awful, just fine. Comfortable enough – took it on many long trips. I figure I got about 10 seconds to 60. In eight years and 150,000 miles, only issues were a bad power steering pump, a failed wiper motor, and a broken ignition rack. I would have kept going with her except that by then I had two kids and a third on the way and needed a larger car.

  18. Marguerita Sulek Avatar

    my God, i believed you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

  19. Alethia Masero Avatar

    wonderful stuff thanx Such a usefule blog…wow !!!?!!

  20. Francis Frommer Avatar

    extremely good weblog, great operate, decent to examine.

  21. Arlyne Bagen Avatar

    Remarkable! With thanks! I often wanted to create in my world-wide-web web site a thing just like that. Am i permitted to quote a portion of this post to my weblog?

  22. guest Avatar
    guest

    When was the last time I saw one? Today in my garage. 55,000 original miles, still gets 27 mpg, and can still do 60 in 10 and would rate at least a 9.6 on the condition scale

  23. Dave Simpson Avatar
    Dave Simpson

    I own one also, bought it from a former customer when the rear brake lines rusted out. Has 279000 and runs like a champ and I'd give it about an 8 on cosmetics.

  24. Mike Avatar
    Mike

    I have a 1990 Chevrolet Beretta Indy Pace Car for sale. 5 speed manual transmission and 155,000 miles. Asking $1800. If anyone is interested in it, it is listed on Craigslist in Mankato, MN. Search Beretta and you'll see the ad.
    Thanks!

  25. Kevin Avatar
    Kevin

    These cars were the hip thing to own back when I was younger. Sporty, two door, and smoked almost everything on the road. I used to own an older gt model, although the interior didn’t last and the dash cracked and warped I loved that car. I abused it to no end but it always got me where I needed to go. I forgot about them until a yellow Beretta showed up at a local gathering, its been years since I owned or even seen one. Ever since then I’ve been thinking about buying another Beretta but this time I would want a nicer one to keep clean. Unfortunately the few nice Beretta’s still for sale are demanding higher prices, but I guess that’s to be expected when these cars were all abused like mine was.

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