General Motors’ overlapping segments of the automotive world in the late 1980s and early 1990s make for a barrage of “Oh yeah, that car existed” moments when diving down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. Things like the Buick Skylark’s prowed nose, the Chevy Celebrity’s totally mundane appearance, those are things and in that same forgotten-GM mold come both the Chevy Corsica and its coupe cousin, the Chevy Beretta. To that end, this evermore-rare teal 1990 Beretta caught our eye during a recent junkyard trip not just because of its dated paint scheme, but because of the pink tape-striped graphic on the driver’s door.
This was no mere Beretta, it turns out, nor was it any of the alphabet-soup “performance models” like the GT, GTU, GTZ, or Z34. Rather, this was a one-year-only 1990 Beretta Indy.
If you’re still reading at this point, you’re probably wondering why mention a Chevy Beretta at all, let alone one that resembles an automotive Trapper Keeper. The 1990 Indy version of the Beretta commemorated, as you might guess, the time that a convertible Chevy Beretta served as the Indianapolis 500’s pace car.
With the picnic-basket-handle rollhoop and Saved By the Bell color scheme, the actual Indy Pace Car Beretta Convertible was, for better or worse, a period-representative vehicle for the 1990 version of the 500-mile classic. Among the iconic cars used as Indy 500 Pace Cars like the ‘69 Camaro, ‘64-1/2 Mustang, or even the garish ‘98 Corvette, the Beretta surely ranks as one of the most bizarre choices.
To make things stranger, the convertible Beretta—based on a car that was already three years old at that point—never went into production. To commemorate the historical(ly strange) pace car choice, Chevy instead made a limited production run of pastel Berettas with tape-stripe “Indy” graphics in proper Baywatch font. Inside, the two-color seats had matching “Indy” text sewn into the headrests.
Other than those textual indicators, the Beretta looked pretty standard with the 140-horsepower, 3.1-liter version of GM’s 60-degree V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission.
The Beretta also featured the door-mounted seatbelts that were perhaps only slightly less annoying than the door-track seatbelts that plagued cheap 1980s cars. Chevy eventually replaced this in later model years—the Beretta incredibly was sold through 1996—with standard mounting on the B-pillar.
While the Beretta Indy wasn’t going to set any track records in 1990, Chevy’s entry in the SCCA’s Trans-Am Series in 1990 was a Beretta. Sure, it was a tubeframe “silhouette” car with rear-wheel drive and a big 4.5-liter V6, but it was surely the most memorable Beretta in racing history. Tommy Kendall and Chris Kneifel handled the the Berettas in 1990 with Kendall taking five wins to take the championship, which was the first-ever for a V6 in Trans-Am and prompted the SCCA to outlaw the six-cylinder engines. Kendall still owns one of the three Berettas built for Trans-Am with one being sold at auction and another currently raced by a vintage racer in British Columbia.
Slightly less famous was the ’89 Chevy Beretta that ran for a couple years in the 24 Hours of LeMons. At the only LeMons race held at Mid-America Raceway in Nebraska in 2010, the Beretta won Class C and the Index of Effluency with an Airborne Rangers theme. The car got a fresh NASCAR-style Binford Racing livery and a higher-ouput 3.4-liter version of the 60-degree V6, which actually scooted the Beretta well enough to keep up with many of the BMWs. Of course, that wasn’t enough, because the Beretta crew wanted to blow past the BMWs, so they slapped on the Eaton M90 supercharger from a junkyard Buick 3800 V6.
Sadly, this junkyard Beretta Indy tells that old tale of “rare-not-valuable” too well. Tape stripes and special seats can’t keep it from heading to the crusher, despite the good shape of the interior. This was obviously a well cared-for car that is just past its expiration after 26 years and 139,000 miles.