1979 Ford Mustang Indy Pace Car: Fueling Childhood Dreams
1979 Ford Mustang Indy Pace Car Replica
In 1979 I was 13. And like most 13 year olds my favorite cars were the ones that looked fast and had loud graphics to boot. For less than $11,000 or so, you could buy a Mustang replica pace car with all the loud graphics you could ever want. I had to settle for a Monogram model kit (which I still have)to get my fix. The Mustang, Trans-Am and Escort were favorites cars of mine in 1979 (I’ll explain the Escort later) when I was a bit more impressionable. As the 1980s dawned, automotive design from Ford was exemplified by the then new Fox bodied Mustang with its boxy, yet aerodynamic European inspired shape. Like a one two punch, the new Mustang was launched in 78′ then shortly after the new Escort in 79. The shapes were similar, but with different scales and missions.
The Escort represented everything I liked about European cars; small, efficient and sporty. The Mustang would take some of those attributes like the practical hatchback design and give it a decidedly American sporty bent. Front engine, V8 power and rear wheel drive made it like it’s GM competitors, but it was a notch above in packaging. Just the transitional car a kid who would eventually abandon muscle car fantasies for the likes of the Alfa GTV6 and Nissan 300ZXs of the world.
1979 Magazine Ad
The 1978 Mustang arguably was the most attractive of the pony cars from the big three, but my interest really peaked with special edition pace car replica to celebrate the 68th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1979. The first time since 1964 that a Mustang was a Indy pace car. F1 racing legend Jackie Stewart drove one of three identical pace cars prepared by Roush Performance. The cars used the stock 5.0 litre engine with a Boss 302 crankshaft and a special dual plane alumium manifold. It also had a special Holly four barrel carburetor that push power to 280. The TRX suspension was lowered one inch while Cars and Concepts
1979 Indy Car Interior
installed the T-bar roof. The Pace cars were actually built in two locations: California and Michigan arriving
with the same 140 hp 5.0 V8 from the GT. A lighter 2.3 L 132 hp turbocharged four-cylinder was also available and offered the best overall performance. The Indy Pace Car replica duplicated the look of the original down to the new front spoiler and Recaro seats and pewter grey paint scheme. The rear and front chin spoiler design would carry over to the 1980 Cobra and 81-82 GT. Unique three spoke aluminum wheels would become standard GT fair until 1984 and pop again slightly altered in later Fords like the Probe in 1988.
The flashy graphics featuring the script announcing pace car status and the prancing horses could be toned down by deleting the option altogether (leaving the orange stripes along the sides of the car). The Pace Car replicas that came with turbocharged fours had only a four speed manual transmission. V8s with shipped with either 4 speed manual or automatic transmissions.Not quite 11,000 replicas were built with most not surprisingly being 5.0 V8 powered and automatic. The most rare were the 4 cylinder cars, a direction that would
define later Mustangs as emissions and fuel economy standards toughened. Like any low volume Mustang, the 79 Pace Car Replicas became instant collectables, with many owners buying them and leaving them in storage with plastic still on the seats. Interestingly enough one of my other favorite cars of the era was the pace car the next year; the Pontaic Trans-Am.
Now in my 40s, I still like the 79 Pace Car Replica Mustang and wish that Ford had continued on the path that it started and gained steam with by the SVO era. After a needed course correction, the current Mustang is better than any stock version of the car in the past. Yet somehow, I’m not as enthused about the new cars as I was those. Those big Saleen or Roush decals just don’t do it for me on the new cars. Some childhood dreams just die-hard.
1979 Ford Mustang Indy Car Replica