1979 Ford Mustang Pace Car - SOLD
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With just over 54,000 original miles, this is a really clean survivor.

I’m sure there will be plenty of you who scoff at this attractive 1979 Ford Mustang Indy Pace Car and its somewhat unorthodox 2.3 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. That’s easy to do from the comfort of the fuel-injected 21st century when 600 horsepower cars can be purchased directly from a Ford dealership. But for 1979, this car was revolutionary for Ford and represents the very first seeds of the performance revolution that inevitably led to the current crop of high-horsepower pony cars. Instead of looking at in comparison to today’s cars, look at it the way you’d look at a 1965 Mustang: you don’t expect it to be as fast or as comfortable as a modern car, but it sure is fun to own and drive. Better yet, it will always stand out in a crowd—something that very few late-model performance cars can do. Sure, they’re faster but everybody and their dad owns a late-model Mustang; only 5970 guys got to own a turbocharged Mustang pace car, and how many of those have survived the test of time? If you’re a fan of Mustang history or just want a cool car that stands out and doesn’t cost a fortune to buy or maintain, then this tidy little pony might just be the coolest car you’ll see today.

The Indy 500 typically chose an all-new car to serve as pace car each Memorial Day, and the Mustang was certainly entirely new in 1979. The Mustang II was finally dead and the all-new third-generation “Fox body” Mustangs ushered in a new era. It was lighter, stronger, and faster than the car it replaced, and got better fuel economy, too. The angular styling was a dramatic departure from the Mustang II’s watered-down look, yet still incorporated familiar styling cues that ensured nobody mistook it for anything else. And given that the Fox platform was in production for 14 years, well, that should tell you all you need to know about its popularity and fun-to-drive quotient. The pace cars received a unique look, starting with unique Medium Gray metallic paint with specific black and orange Indianapolis 500 pace car graphics. Up front there’s a deep air dam with built-in Marchal driving lamps (the same as found on the 1967 Shelby GT500) and a taller cowl-induction hood. The overall look has aged rather well, particularly with the continuing popularity of the Fox-bodied Mustangs, and for a product of the ‘70s, this neat Mustang looks quite contemporary today.

With just over 54,000 original miles, this is a really clean survivor. It has not been restored or repainted, and even the decals are original equipment. From that you can easily see that it has been someone’s cherished toy since it was new and never had to endure the daily grind. The paint has a nice shine and all the decals remain well-adhered to the bodywork without any cracking or peeling. The sections that are finished in satin black, including the hood scoop and lower rockers, are in excellent condition with some slight streaking that’s probably inevitable on satin-finished parts. Important areas like the rubberized window sills and the slates behind the quarter windows are in excellent condition without the usual chalky look that these parts tend to develop when they’re left out in the sun. Yes, there are a few nicks and scratches here and there, but nothing noteworthy and certainly nothing that would require a repaint. If you were there, this is how you remember it and if not, you’re going to love the way this car look.

Pace cars also received significantly upgraded interiors, starting with a set of grippy Recaro seats with unique zebra-pattern upholstery. Remember, it was the ‘70s! Cool mesh headrests were a European styling cue, suggesting that Ford was inspired by leaner, meaner performance cars from overseas. The fabric remains in great condition with only light discoloration and both front chairs are still firm and supportive. A full set of gauges was standard, including a tachometer, all visible through the spokes of a great-looking (and feeling!) three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel. A full-length console houses the 4-speed manual shifter, which was the only transmission available with the turbocharged engine, as well as a cool information center and digital clock. Pace cars came loaded up, and this one includes working factory A/C, a tilt wheel, AM/FM/cassette stereo, and a sunroof, which is a great feature for cruising. ‘Turbocharged’ emblems indicate that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill Mustang, but if you’ve ever driven a Fox Mustang before, this one will feel very, very familiar. Fold-down rear seats make this a surprisingly practical pony car and there’s a neatly carpeted trunk area under the hatch. You’ll also find the original spare tire that has never been down as well as a factory jack assembly.

Admittedly, the 2.3 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine isn’t going to win any drag races, but it was a great step forward for 1979. It only gives up ONE HORSEPOWER to the 5.0 liter V8 that was also available, and given what we’ve learned about turbos in the past 40 years, I would call this one an opportunity waiting to happen. This one remains fully operational and still a lot of fun to drive, with a nice, fat torque curve and a pleasant whack of boost that comes on after a bit of lag. It’s quite clean and very stock under the hood, right down to the original hose clamps, so this survivor would be great for preservation-class judging and proves that it hasn’t been abused. It starts easily, idles nicely with a somewhat unorthodox soundtrack from the single Flowmaster muffler, and it’s perfectly happy to drive around town without complaint.

A big part of the car’s fun-to-drive quotient comes from the standard 4-speed manual transmission and 3.45 gears out back. The car feels light on its feet and keeps up with traffic without a second thought—you’ll be driving it like you’ve owned it for decades after just a few minutes. The Fox platform brought improve steering geometry and a strut-style suspension, so it rides and handles far better than the car it replaced, and power front disc brakes were standard. You’ll note that this one is a little grungy underneath but there is no rust or rot to worry about—it has never seen winter weather. Floors and rockers are completely solid, the subframes haven’t been tweaked, and it shows signs of routine maintenance over the years. The aforementioned Flowmaster exhaust system is recent and might improve horsepower a little bit and it sits on unmarked aluminum TRX wheels with correct Michelin TRX radials, which are still available.

Extras include the original owner’s manual, a full set of shop manuals, the sun shade for the sunroof, original pace car jacket, and even a model of the car for your mantle.

I like this car. A lot. It’s distinctive yet very affordable. It’s fun to drive but economical to feed and maintain. And it’s a Mustang, which will always be America’s favorite pony car. There are thousands of Fox Mustangs running around, but you don’t see these all that often anymore and especially not this well preserved. So get over the horsepower numbers and embrace the rebirth of performance and a fun Mustang that does everything well. Call today!

Vehicle: 1979 Ford Mustang Pace Car
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 116042
Mileage: 54,354
VIN: 9R03W481242
Engine: 2.3 liter turbocharged inline-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.45
Wheelbase: 100.5 inches
Wheels: TRX aluminum wheels
Tires: 190/65 390 Michelin TRX radial
Exterior Color: Gray
Interior Color: Black and white cloth
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