Despite Ford's long association with NASCAR, a Mustang has only served as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 on three occasions: 1964, 1979 and 1994. It was the second of these appearances that merited the production of the Mustang Indy Pace Car, a 1979 special edition that was built to replicate the three cars specially commissioned by Ford to be sent to Indianapolis. The Indy Pace Car Mustang turned out to be a surprise hit for Ford, selling over 10,000 units.
Here's a look at what this special edition brought to the table:
The three Mustangs sent to pace the Indy in 1979 each featured a specially tuned 5.0 with a Holley carburetor, aluminum high-rise intake and 351 Windsor heads. Unfortunately for the average driver, the Mustang Indy Pace car featured none of these Roush-supplied upgrades. Instead drivers had a choice between the stock V8 and a turbocharged 2.3L four cylinder. The V8 produced 140 hp and 250 ft/lbs of torque, while the four banger delivered just 131 hp and 142 ft/lbs.
All Indy Pace Car Mustangs featured the TRX performance package, which improved the stock suspension with the addition of front and rear sway bars and shock valves.
The car's exterior was where the special edition's upgrades were most prominent. The car featured a distinctive two-tone black and silver paint scheme, as well as extensive decaling on the hood and sides. The Indy Pace Car also featured a large rear spoiler and a set of front fog lights.
The Indy Pace Car Mustang’s interior included a number of upgrades from the stock pony car. Recaro seats came standard, as did special front seat belts with "Firestone" and "Indy Replica" printed on them. Each car was also delivered with an official "Pace Car" card on the dash.
Other Mustang Pace Cars
Ford would go on to produce two more Pace Car Mustangs in 2011 and 2012. These special editions marked the Mustang pacing the Daytona 500 and Kentucky Speedway respectively. Occasionally, one of the actual Mustang pace cars comes up for auction, although prices usually reach into six figures.