What Is the Mustang Indy Pace Car?

What Is the Mustang Indy Pace Car?

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

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.

1979 Mustang Indy Pace Car driving fast

Here's a look at what this special edition brought to the table:

  • Engine: The three Mustangs sent to pace the Indy in 1979 each featured a specially tuned 5.0L engine 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.
  • Suspension: 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.
  • Exterior: 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 decals on the hood and sides. The Indy Pace Car also featured a large rear spoiler and a set of front fog lights.
  • Interior: 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.

The 2011 Mustang Pace Car

2011 Mustang Pace Car on display in a parking lot

50 Mustang GT Pace Cars were made in 2011, one of which was the actual car used to pace the Daytona 500 that year. Using the GT as a base, special upgrades included a Ford Racing suspension kit, muffler and strut tower kit, Brembo brakes, 19-inch rims, and a modified front valence. Available only in Race Red, the 2011 Mustang Pace Car featured special decals and red, white, and blue stripes.

The 2012 Mustang Pace Car

The following year, an additional 46 Mustang Pace Cars were produced for sale to the general public. Officially called the Kentucky Speedway Pace Car, the 2012 edition was again based on that year's GT, and it featured a number of cosmetic upgrades including a red and blue lower bodyside stripe and Kentucky Speedway and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series graphics. The 2012 Mustang Pace Car also offered as standard features the GT's accessory and performance packages, which added black leather seats, hood and side scoops, 19-inch premium wheels, and more.

Image Credit: Barrett-Jackson

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