This intriguing what-if item comes to us from our ace contributor, artist and UK correspondent Tony Matthews: Look, a pencil drawing he was commissioned to do for a proposed Buick-branded, Ilmor-built V8 for Indy car racing. Obviously, it never came to be.
In the summer of 1991, Ilmor co-founder Paul Morgan asked Tony to produce the artwork, which also included a full-color painting to pitch to the Buick people in Detroit. Unfortunately, that piece is now lost in the mists of time, apparently. However, the pencil drawing asks enough questions on its own.
Buick’s involvment in Indy car racing is well known. Through the ’80s and ’90s, turbocharged Buick V6 engines ran at the Speedway with varying levels of factory backing. While the program was successful in building awareness for Buick’s turbocharged passenger cars—which was the point of the exercise, after all—the production-based V6 was never truly competitive against purpose-built racing engines.
With two valves per cylinder and six cylinders, vs. four valves and eight cylinders, the Buick had roughly 31 square inches of valve area, compared to 40 or more for the Cosworth and Ilmor V8s. Even with a considerable displacement and boost advantage built into the rules for stock-block engines, the Buick was doomed. It was more of a marketing stunt than a real racing mission.
This proposed engine would have changed Buick’s game altogether. An extension of the wildly successful Ilmor Chevy V8 package, perhaps even a simple rebranding, the Buick Ilmor V8 would have put GM’s Buick division on an entirely different footing at the Speedway. But obviously, the program never got the green light, for reasons we can only guess at—though we can think of plenty. What we are left with is one very interesting drawing.