Bright colors and gaudy graphics weren’t exactly Buick’s thing in the mid-1970s…or, for that matter, any time. The 1970 Buick GSX came close, but Saturn Yellow and Apollo White were still safe choices and the black stripe pattern was relatively sedate compared to it’s peers. But by 1975, “performance” was a punchline, and everybody knew it. Cars that had been tire-melting performers just a couple of years prior were now neutered, heavier, gaudier, and were fitted with chromed battering rams at both ends. Even the sexiest 1975 offering..well, wasn’t. So when Buick got the nod to pace the 1975 Indianapolis 500, Buick had to create something to stir up some excitement, and that would take some stretching.
Starting with what was supposed to be a bicentennial celebration “Free Spirit” graphics package (which basically turned a Buick coupe into a rolling American flag with hawk symbols on all sides), the official Pace Car was something special, driven by James Garner and packing a 455ci V8. The street cars were decidedly more soft, packing the 145 horsepower Buick 350, barely acceptable for a nearly 4,000 pound two-door. It wasn’t meant to rip up the streets in, it was made to be seen in, and unless you’re as blind as Stevie Wonder, you saw it. Somewhere between 400 and 1,800 “Free Spirit” cars were built, but tracking them is a chore, mainly because they didn’t sell…something to do with nobody wanting a Buick with that kind of graphics package.
It’s loud, it’s proud, and it could probably be seen from low-level orbit. We can’t really knock the design of the Colonnade Buick, but the graphics might be a little much for us. But what do you think? So offbeat it’s cool, or is this as welcome as the drunk guy at a NASCAR race running around shirtless yelling “‘MURICA!” at the top of his lungs?