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Tim Chesney's 1964 1/2 Mustang Indy Pace Car
Rags to Riches Journey: From barn find to concours restoration, Tim Chesney’s original 1964 1/2 Mustang Indy Pace Car
“You were an integral part in the discovery of this car,” Tim Chesney said, as he kicked back in a lawn chair looking at a 1964 1/2 Mustang Indy pace car. Tim shook my hand enthusiastically and proudly displayed the results of his labor at the MCA’s 40th Anniversary show in Indianapolis, Indiana, in September 2016. This car looked entirely different from five years earlier.
Tim had emailed us pictures for a “Rare Finds” story during summer 2011, so we were surprised to see the pace car completed and looking like a concours show winner at the Indy show five years later. Tim walked around the lettered hardtop to point out special features—some 1964 1/2 details and others specific to his pace car build.
Later, we looked up the “as found” photos and the old “Rare Finds” story, which appeared in Mustang Monthly’s February 2012 issue. In 2011, Tim and his son AJ were building Mustangs on the side in their business called TAJ Motorsports [(601) 616-5510; email@example.com]. Tim’s full-time job at that time had been as the Lauderdale County Network Administrator. There, a lady had told him about a Mustang hardtop parked in a sleepy old airport hangar (with grass runways) on the outskirts of town near Meridian, Mississippi.
“I looked at the car two or three times, and it was just another 1964 1/2 coupe, as far as I was concerned,” Tim says. However, he did write down the VIN and the codes off the original door data plate. Chesney was more into building hot Mustangs than alphanumeric decoding. “If you’ll remember that’s when I called you, Jerry, because I couldn’t figure out what the paint code ‘C’ was.”
It turns out paint code C was Ford’s 1964 1/2 Mustang code for Pace Car White, which got Tim fired up. What had he found, exactly? Perhaps a car that had paced the Indy 500? That night, he began researching Mustang history. He discovered that Ford had built three pace cars to pace the 1964 Indianapolis 500 race, but they were all convertibles.
Tim’s hardtop could not be one of those three. Ford had also built 35 Mustang convertibles for dignitaries and VIPs to drive during Indianapolis race festivities. Tim’s hardtop could not have been one of these cars either.
Instead, his 1964 1/2 hardtop fits into the third group known as the “replica” series. Ford built these replica pace cars with a special formula: Pace Car White (C-code), a white with blue appointments interior (trim code 42), and a 260ci two-barrel V-8 (F-code) backed by a Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. Ford produced about 180 of these cars consecutively in April of 1964 at Dearborn Assembly in Dearborn, Michigan.
Ford had built these Indy Pace Car replicas for their “Checkered” and “Green Flag” sales contests. Ford dealers competed, not individuals. The dealers with the best sales increases would get free pace cars. In the end, Ford gave away 105 pace cars. Dealers picked up their cars in Dearborn where Lee Iacocca, president of Ford, presented each dealer with the keys to their new Mustang. Ford shipped the balance of the 180 pace cars to dealers and offered a $500 discount. Due to inconsistencies in the contests, Ford had to build about 10 more pace cars for dealers than originally planned, making for a total of about 190.
Convinced this 1964 1/2 Mustang was one of the sale’s incentive pace cars, Tim contacted one of his clients, Jimmy Alexander, also of Meridian. Jimmy likes hardtops, and when he heard about the pace car, he had to buy it. Tim and Jimmy realized this car’s value lies in a correct restoration, so that’s what they did. Luckily, though in poor condition, the old hardtop still had many of the original features. That helped TAJ Motorsports complete a correct restoration, as Tim showed me that day in a very appropriate setting—the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield in front of the famed pagoda tower.