The Indianapolis 500 has an actual yard of bricks, and the annual winner does chug from a cold bottle of milk. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Mustang is also part of the Indy tradition, but will its price garner it a DNF?
BMW has yet to field a car at Indy, but if you wanted to drive to the track, 66% of you felt yesterday's tidy 1989 325i might be an excellent companion, despite the stigma of its salvage title. The lithe and athletic 3-series has at times been a target for special editions of Ford's evergreen Mustang, including the mid-eighties SVO. However before then, the Mustang offered a unique model the purpose for which was wholly American.
When the 68th running of the Indy 500 took place, Memorial Day weekend in 1979, Jackie Stewart drove one of three identical Mustang pace cars that year to set the field, and show the crowd just how wee a Scotsman could be. To commemorate the Mustang's first Indy pace car duty since its inception year of 1964, Ford built 10,478 Indy pace Mustangs for the buying public. The car that Jackie drove was prepped by Roush Performance, and featured a built 302 putting out 280 Indy-lapping horsepower. The commemorative street editions were made available with either a 140-bhp 5.0 and automatic, or, as is the case with today's exceptionally well preserved example, with a 132-bhp turbocharged edition of the Lima four, and a 4-speed stick.
The Fox platform Mustang debuted in '79, and proved to be the longest lived of all Ford's ponies to date. Like its lamented predecessor, the Fox-stang was available in either boxy coupe or gaping hatchback body styles, however the Indy Pacer option was only offered on the latter. Checking that box on the order form got you special graphics - which, for introverts, could be deleted - as well as plastic fantastic body kit, GT handling package, and interior bits. Sans the garish decals, the overall package would provide the template for performance Mustangs for years to come.
This dealer-proffered 3,852 mile example appears in the pics to be factory fresh, even down to its potentially seizure-inducing seat pattern on the Recaro front, and bench back seats. The rest of the interior is as plastic-y as possible - a foible of all this generation's ‘Stangs - but none the less even includes the vinyl bag for the pop-out sunroof. The stock faux woodgrain on the 6-dial dash has been replaced with a somewhat odd black-hued engine turned pattern, but that, along with the three-spoke wheel, period-correct AM/FM cassette deck and LED-rich maintenance readout are all in near perfect condition.
On the outside, in addition to the loud and proud Indy graphics, the pace car replica gains the square-jawed Marchal-packing front airdam and dimpled hatch spoiler that became common GT attire a few years later. The hood gains a ramp so massive Shawn White would eye it for some major grindage. Wheels are three-spoke metric TRX affairs which means no BFGs for you. Making up for that? Louvers!
Ford has, over the years, gone through panics regarding the balance of performance and economy, vacillating between stonking V8s and nervous turbo fours as means to an end of powering their performance ponies. The lighter 2.3 turbo, backed by Ford's plain jane 4-speed provided the better overall option over the V8-slusher in the Indy pace car and this one appears completely bonkers stock. That of course means it's a draw-through carbureted engine and the turbo lacks life-extending water-cooling for its bearings. Extended warranty much? Still, its 5-PSI of boost is relatively modest, and as long as the car's seals and hoses aren't drier than Tutankhamun's bunghole, then with proper treatment both engine and turbo should function for years to come.
When Ford released the original Mustang back in April 1964, people slept in the cars in dealerships so as not to lose the purchase. When the first Fox-‘Stangs hit the market in '79 sales went through the roof, the company pushing out over 150,000 more ponies than in the year previous. The '79 through '93 Mustangs have proven over the years to be cheap, durable fun, seemingly able to fill nearly any role asked of them.
This '79 Indy Pace Car edition represents perhaps not the platform's most interesting iteration, but it's still unique and is in rare shape for a car of its age. Will nearly any car today out perform it? Well yeah, but that's not the point. Its raison d'être is to harken back to an age when cars were crap and Ford tried to de-crapify theirs as best they could. This Indy Mustang is a part of not only that Memorial Day classic, but of the Blue Oval's history, and represents a first step in returning the Mustang to its former pony car glories. And that's got to be worth something.
The seller of this ‘Stang hopes someone will think it's worth a Lincoln shy of fourteen grand. Finding a Mustang from this era that's unmolested and with such few miles may make that price palatable, but then again, that's what we're here to find out. What do you think, does $13,995 set the pace for this special ‘Stang? Or, is that a price that puts this Mustang a lap down?
H/T to the very excited Greg Smith for the hookup!
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