The Look of the 500: 1980s

Published On October 31, 2014 » 5232 Views» By Heather Lloyd » Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500, Photography, The Look of the 500

In the 1980s, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway looked like an episode of “I Love the ’80s” on VH1. For a decade that was all about fast cars, beautiful women, and expensive hobbies, the Indianapolis 500 served as the perfect playground.


1984 Pre-race ceremonies

For the first time in 1989, the winner’s share of the Indy 500 prize exceeded $1,000,000. A fitting tribute to an era where cash was king. And no one was afraid to show it.

1989 - Emerson Fittipaldi and his winnings

1989 – Emerson Fittipaldi and his winnings

Cable television came along in the ’80s and changed the world as we knew it. And when a channel launched playing music videos, the MTV generation was born. Suddenly, it was the rock bands of the ’80s setting trends from hair to fashion (they didn’t call them “hair bands” for nothing).

This group of female fans knew how to properly do the 80s. Big hair … check. Reebok high tops … check. Acid-washed jeans … check. Dangling earrings … check.

1988 - Fans in Gasoline Alley

1988 – Fans in Gasoline Alley

But again, it was mostly about the hair. I swear, my mother had this exact same hairdo in 1983, even down to the color. Only back then, it wasn’t called highlighting, it was “frosted.” Sadly, Mom did not have the heart-shaped sunglasses to go with it.



For men, one hairstyle in particular represented the ’80s and its work hard/play hard mentality. “Business in the front, party in the back” was the mantra. But as a look, it was tricky to pull off. Because, I mean, who really looks glamorous in a mullet? Two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, that’s who!

1989 - Arie Luyendyk

1989 – Arie Luyendyk

The celebrities who appear at the Indy 500 are always iconic figures of their time. But, perhaps none quite so fitting as this celebrity guest in 1986. Yes, it’s David Hasselhoff, better known as “The Hoff.”

1986 - David Hasselhoff

1986 – David Hasselhoff

Before he was famous for his role in “Baywatch,” Hasselhoff starred in “Knight Rider”. And before he hung out with beach babes in red swimsuits, he hung out with “500” royalty at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

1987 - David Hasselhoff

1987 – David Hasselhoff

And some trends were even set at the Indy 500. Racing equipment spokesmodel Linda Vaughn was famous for draping herself over cars long before Tawny Kitaen became a household name for doing the same thing in a Whitesnake video in the ’80s.

1984 - Linda Vaughn

1984 – Linda Vaughn

Inspired by Michael Jackson, breakdancing was also a big ’80s thing. Doing it in the mud was not a thing, but leave it to the “500” crowd to try it anyway.



And did you think I’d leave this out? For the first time in 1985, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted members of the Indianapolis Colts, who had just played their first season in their new city and finished with a record of 4-12.

1985 - Blaise Winter

1985 – Blaise Winter

Bigger and better things were on the horizon for the Indianapolis Colts. And the same can be said for the Indianapolis 500 in the next decade. The ’90s would bring more horsepower and more star power to The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.


More in “The Look of the 500″ series: 1911-1920, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s , 1990s, 2000s, Today, The Best of The Look of the 500


About The Author

Heather Lloyd

Heather Lloyd is an Indy sports blogger who grew up in Minneapolis, graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, worked as a news anchor, then moved to Indianapolis where she became a professional fan. A die-hard Colts, Pacers, IndyCar, and Big Ten fan, when she’s not watching her teams, she’s either talking about them, writing about them, or tweeting about them. You can find her at and follow her on twitter @TheBlueMare. Ms. Lloyd has been known to blow off barbecues, birthday parties, and baby showers to watch sports. And she isn’t sorry.