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1976 Buick Century INDY PACE CAR FREE SPIRIT 1 OF 1,290 for sale in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, United States

Item location: Cross Plains, Wisconsin, United States
Make: Buick
Model: Century
Type: Coupe
Year: 1976
Mileage: 28970
VIN: 4H57H6H205436
Color: Silver
Engine size: 350 5.7 V8
Number of cylinders: 8
Power options: Tilt Wheel, Bucket Seats, Console, Hurst Hatch T-Tops, Gauge Package, Tinted Glass, AM/FM Stereo, Air Conditioning
Fuel: Gasoline
Transmission: Turbo Hydromatic 350 Automatic
Drive type: RWD
Interior color: Black
Drive side: Left-hand drive
Vehicle Title: Clean
Want to buy? Contact seller!

Description for Buick Century 1976

I’ve already put more miles on my old cars than I have in many years, a record number of miles, in fact.On the surface, thatdoesn’t seem possible. But, for me, old cars are my therapy during these unknown times. The evenings are my favorite: windows down, the sweet smell of the local prairies, and listening to the medicating drone of two harmonizing mufflers exiting out the back while winding in and out of the country roads out here in western Wisconsin. I think there are more folks out there like us; folks who just need to escape from this craziness for a couple hours, or even a couple days. I can’t think of a cooler, more unique car to show off a little with than a 100% original paint ’76 Buick Century Indy Pace Car survivor. Yeah, those are Hurst Performance, Hurst Hatches you see on the roof…

Since 1998, I’ve been selling classic cars, trucks, and collectibles on eBay, with 100% positive feedback since day one.I’mincredibly excitedto share more about this jaw-dropping, survivor, Indy Pace Car. Please open your favorite beverage and take all the time needed to look through the 350+ photos and nearly an hour of HD video. Every inch of this special Pace Car is photographed or on video. An entire binder of documentation stays with this car and photographed…Hurst Hatch guides, Pace Car press release, Warranty card, Indy race ticket stub and program, etc, it’s all there. Even the rare, rare, rare Hurst Hatch box survived and is included with a full price purchase (sold separately if price is negotiated).This is as honest a car as it gets.

This is a consignment sale, so a buyer will be working with me to conduct the sale, but the actual purchase and title exchange will be with the very friendly owner of the car.

The StoryCars rarely have 28,970 original miles without a great story, and this Pace Car is no exception.This is a true, low mileage, untouched survivor car; a piece of American automobile history. Please take the time to read this gorgeous car’s story…

Our country’s bi-centennial birthday in 1976 was a huge deal. If you recall, EVERYTHING seemed to be painted or dressed in a patriotic theme that year. Post office mailboxes and fire hydrants received red, white, & blue paint, and Independence Day celebrations were over the top across the country. Even the American car manufacturers got in on the action. Bold paint schemes, and special, patriotic –themed model names were available options just for the ’76 model year. In the midst of a flat economy and rising interest rates, Bi-Centennial celebrations were something to look forward to, and the Indianapolis 500 Race kicked off the bi-centennial party on May 30th.

When Buick was approached to lead the Indy car pack for a 2ndyear in a row, they wanted this year’s Pace Car to participate in the bi-centennial celebration, but in a “Buick” way. Instead of a wild red, white, and blue paint scheme, Buick went “wild” in their own way. First, it didn’t take execs long to choose the newly redesigned and sportier Buick Century to lead the race. Its metallic silver paint with orange, red, and burgundy graphics, finished with large soaring eagles on each door, looked absolutely killer on television. “Free Spirit” and “Buick” decals adorned the car, letting everyone know Buick was in on America’s Birthday celebration. The red painted rally wheels looked bold against the silver paint, and the Pace Car was finished off with aluminum trim on the roof and opera window area, and a stylish rear spoiler. However, Buick had one last beautifully thought out secret weapon planned for the ’76 Indy Pace Car. With the help of nearby Hurst Performance, the Pace Cars were fitted with custom “Hurst Hatches”, which look incredible on this car.

Backed by the elegant, yet sporty styling of the A-body “colonnade” style, sales of the consumer version of the 1976 Indy Pace Car were swift.Buick limited production to about 1,290, so the cars were mostly sold by early Summer. Although not known for performance, these colonnade cars are still widely regarded as the most comfortable driving cars GM ever made, which helped push sales as well. Folks also enjoyed Buick’s bold work with graphics on these cars, and people drove the wheels off ‘em. So much so, that by the late ‘80s, these ’76 Pace Cars had all but disappeared. Plagued by body and frame rot issues, a vast majority of these already rare cars are left unaccounted for and assumed long gone.

So, where does our car fit in?

Back in 1976, the Indy 500 race was a really big deal, and tens of millions tuned in to their TVs to watch the race Memorial Day weekend. James Schmitz of Madison, WI did one better in 1976; he was at the race (see photos of the ticket stub and program included with the sale). Securing a ticket from a friend who had an extra, James made a weekend of the special event in Indianapolis. Plagued by rain most of the day, the race itself wasn’t all that exciting. However, just being there with the crowd and listening to the deafening roar of the cars was enough for James to come home with an ear to ear smile. Something else caught James Schmitz’s eye that rainy Sunday:the gorgeous silver Buick with the Hurst Hatches leading the pack.

James loved cars, he absolutely loved cars.But with a young family, he knew that a performance car like a Trans Am didn’t make a lot of sense.Seeing the Buick on race day, got him thinking that he could possibly have the best of both worlds. It didn’t take long for fate to intervene; just a week after the race, James spied what he thought was a Pace Car sitting on the showroom floor of Zimbrick Buick in Madison while he was driving home from work.James took a quick peek at the Buick, and by the following Wednesday, a deal was struck to bring the Pace Car to James’ home on Madison’s east side.

Just as he said he would, James DROVE his Pace Car. The bucket seats had tons of padding and were (and ARE) sincerely comfortable. The interior had ample room for his family, too. Outfitted with the mid-level powertrain, a 350 2 Bbl, the car had enough power for the time, but still got pretty decent gas mileage. By April, 1978 (check out the door sticker!) James already had just over 20,000 miles on his Pace Car. It cruised as well as his buddies said it would, and life was good. By the early 1980’s, though, life got busy for James and the car started sitting in his garage. Little League with the kids, family trips, and work kept James from putting many more miles on his beloved Buick Pace Car. You know how it goes, this is the fate so many classic cars faced back in the day.

Wait, there’s more. James was unaware that another intervention of fate was coming...

By the early 1980’s, Dick Tarnutzer, of Lake Mills, WI (just east of Madison), owned a prospering, and nationally recognized, collection of classic and muscle cars at the Dells Auto Museum, in Wisconsin Dells. Dick, along with his son, Lance, built a jaw-dropping collection of cars for the public to come see. Shelbys, Hemi cars, and big block Corvettes were just some of the ultra-rare pieces of American history people stopped by in droves to see up close. But, there was another star of the Dells Auto Museum, a group of very special cars Dick started collecting in his younger days:Pace Cars. Some guys have an impressive number of Pace Cars in their collection, with two or three under the lights of their shop. At its height, it’s rumored Dick had 47 different Pace Cars. If you figure that Pace Cars didn’t really start being reproduced by manufacturers for public sale until the 1930’s, you’ll see that Dick didn’t have just any ordinary collection of Indy Pace cars. Besides a few early cars, Dick had a production version of NEARLY EVERY Indy Pace Car ever built. In a small vacation destination town in Wisconsin, one of the good guys in our hobby amassed a collection of Pace Cars folks came from all over the country to see.

You know where this is going…

Dick was missing a few Pace Cars, though, and as discussed earlier,’76 Pace Cars were already scarce in the early 1980’s. Dick kept searching, and soon heard through a friend about a ’76 just 30 minutes from his home. With only 28,000 miles on it, it was Dick’s kind of car for the museum: original, and untouched.As outlined earlier, James was at a different stage in life, and ready to sell. Always a gentleman, it’s told that the deal came together quickly, with Dick paying a fair price for the car. Soon, it was driven to Wisconsin Dells to become part of one of, if not the best Pace Car collections in the world. For about the next 30 years, this 1976 Buick Century Free Spirit Pace car was rotated in and out of the museum, with very few additional miles added.

Changing Times, Tragedy, and Passing the Torch

By 2005, the Wisconsin Dells landscape was quickly changing. Families were now frequently drawn to compound-style water parks on the edge of town, and weren’t walking the downtown tourist area like they did for previous decades. With heavy hearts and after 29 years, the Tarnutzer family decided the 2005 season would be it for the Dells Auto Museum.

Fully immersed in the hobby like so many of us, Dick continued his passion for classic cars until his passing in late 2011. By 2012, the Tarnutzer family decided to begin parting with some of their collection, and the 1976 Buick Indy 500 Pace Car offered here found its new home with the current owner, just outside Madison, WI. Still stored in a climate controlled building, looking the way it did when leaving the museum building in 2012, and only minutes from the dealership where it was sold new, the car’s current mileage reads 28,970.

The Car

This is likely one of the lowest mileage ’76 Pace Cars out there. Its interior sincerely looks and smells like-new and its body wears factory paint and the original custom Pace Car graphics. The glass, trim, and chrome are also excellent, and the painted wheels look terrific. The car has a bit of light undercarriage scale, likely from being driven regularly its first couple years, and the body has some nicks, light scratches, and marks from being driven, as well as from being moved around in the museum over the years. Dick purchased a set of NOS wheel well trim for the car, which will be included with the sale. Early in its years at the museum, the passenger side door suffered a crease that is seen in the photos and videos. With the advancement of paintless dent removal, I’m curious to see what a pro could do to remove the crease. Also note in the photos that a set of replacement rear bumper fillers will be included with the sale, as the right side has deteriorated over the years. We weren't sure if a new owner wanted to leave the car untouched, so we thought it would be best to include the parts and let the new owner decide.

Mechanically, the car runs and drives remarkably well, as evidenced in the videos.Please take time to see how well this car starts, idles, and drives. HOWEVER, I would not recommend driving this car regularly without some thoughtful mechanical investment. Things happen with old cars, and although the car has incredibly low miles and some mechanical parts have been replaced over the years (shocks, calipers, belts, tune-up, etc), parts deteriorate from sitting. The fuel in the car has high quality additive in it, but is also old and should be replaced. The Goodyear Eagle GT tires are its 2ndset and look near new, but are still from the mid 1980’s, and shouldn’t be driven on regularly. The car had a professional tune-up in 2012 (receipt included with the sale), but from sitting, should likely be gone through again. Because of age, the brakes, cooling system, and fuel system should be looked over by a professional.To the best of our knowledge, the car has been driven approximately 5,000 miles in the last 40 years, so no, I wouldn’t recommend driving it back to Colorado. As with all of my sales, I can offer some recommendations for shipping companies.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to come on this journey with me. If this Pace Car belongs in your garage or collection, don’t hesitate to message me, I am happy to help with any questions along the way.

Sale Terms and Conditions

Please let the 350+ photos and 8 HD videos of this incredibly gorgeous Pace Car make you comfortable with a purchase. However, don’t hesitate to call me with a specific question. Please remember that your purchase is a COMMITMENT TO BUY this vehicle. Because opinions of vintage cars and trucks can vary, please have the truck inspected or inspect the truck in person PRIOR to bidding.Any inspection fees are the responsibility of the bidder. I cannot stress enough that I am asking bidders to follow through on their commitment if you purchase.A $500 non-refundable deposit and communication from the high bidder is due immediately at purchase. The deposit can be paid via Paypal or cash, and I will eat any Paypal fees. The balance is due in full within 7 days of the auction's end, paid via cashier's check (must be verified), wire transfer, or cash in person.Because of its age and mileage, this vehicle is sold strictly as-is-as shown, with no warranties expressed or implied. If you haven't owned a classic car, please remember that this isn't a 2019 Honda CRV. Older cars, even those with low miles, require an increased level of maintenance and attention.

When you place a bid on a vehicle, you are entering into a legal and binding contract to purchase the vehicle. This arrangement is outlined in the eBay User Agreement. We also reserve the right to cancel bids at our discretion.

We will not be liable for any cancellation of this auction for any reason. We reserve the right to cancel bids from bidders with negative feedback or a bid retraction history and members with zero (0) feedback need to contact us for approval to bid. As with all bids, bidders need to be 18 years or older.

As stated above, shipping charges are buyer's responsibility. We will assist a buyer with shipping the car anywhere in the United States or Canada from zip code 53560, but will not be responsible in any way for claims arising from shipping damage. We assume no responsibility for damages incurred after the vehicle leaves our possession. We are not affiliated with any shipping carrier. Any claims or other communication regarding shipment of vehicles will be between you and the shipper, not with the seller.

The terms of sale shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Wisconsin without regard to any conflict of laws or provisions thereof that might indicate the applicability of laws of any other jurisdiction. The venue for all legal proceedings shall be in Dane County, Wisconsin.


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