Peter Epple
June 1, 2009
Photos By: Jim McIlvaine

On May 27, 1979, a Fox-body Mustang was seen by millions as it led the Indy car field to the green flag at the 63rd annual Indianapolis 500. Leading "The Great Race" was only the start to a great era of Mustangs. Over the course of the Fox-body's 14-year lifespan, there have been many limited and special editions, but the '79 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car started it all, and to this day that Fox remains an icon.

Thirty years later, the Fox-body Mustang is very much alive and well, and Damon Dais of Wirona, Minnesota, whole-heartedly embraced the heritage behind his '79 Indy Pace Car. At the youthful age of 16, while working as a bag boy at a grocery store, Damon didn't have the funds to finish his '64 Mercury Comet project car. When the opportunity came to trade it for a '79 Mustang with fresh paint and newly upholstered interior, he jumped at it. "I had a stock, rebuilt 289 with a carb, intake, and headers on it," Damon tells us. "I threw it in and went racing. The Mustang went down the dragstrip to a mild 14.68, but I was hooked."

Over the next 15 years, Damon's Stang has seen massive changes. The now nitrous-fed Fox has a host of aftermarket goodies that helped power it to a best quarter-mile time of 9.11 at over 150 mph.

When Damon plays with the loud pedal, the power comes from a stout 363ci stroker built by Lawson Racing in Wirona, Minnesota. An FRPP "R" block houses a Scat 4340-steel crankshaft that uses Eagle 4340 H-beam rods to move the JE pistons, which squeeze out a potent 13:1 compression ratio. A custom solid-roller camshaft manipulates the valves inside the sizeable AFR 225 aluminum cylinder heads that rest atop the short-block.

The fuel mixture is delivered by way of a 1,000-cfm Pro Systems carburetor, and the exhaust escapes through a set of Kooks headers into a cross-pipe and out through a set of Dynomax bullet mufflers. The dual-stage nitrous system consists of a NOS Pro Race Fogger that comes on at the initial hit of the throttle, and an NX Super Sucker plate system that kicks in about 0.08 seconds into the run for a combined shot of 450 hp.

Transferring this power is not something to be taken lightly, and Damon again turned to Lawson Racing, this time to build the gearbox. The 3,500-stall Dynamic converter flawlessly transfers power to the fully built C4, and the transbrake allows Damon to routinely rip off low 1.30-second 60-foot times at the strip. The C4 uses a Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft to turn the 3.89 gears inside the Ford 9-inch. The "chunk" is fitted with a Moser spool and spins the 33-spline Moser axles connected to the Mickey Thompson wheels and tires.

Damon's pace car utilizes a 363ci mill with two stages of nitrous and has run a best e.t. of 9.11 at over 150 mph.

To help keep the rubber firmly planted to the pavement, Damon called on a set of Strange 10-way adjustable shocks to assist the stock rear springs during launches. UPR upper and lower control arms, along with an antiroll bar keep the 9-inch square under the car during hard acceleration. Up front, Strange 10-way adjustable struts and 125-pound Afco springs handle the weight transfer, and a tubular k-member from D&D Performance cradles the powerplant.

The appointments in the cockpit are simple yet functional. A custom dash panel filled with Auto Meter gauges looks back at Damon as he guides his quarter-mile killer down the track. Black Kirkey race seats and Simpson 5-point belts keep him secure inside the 10-point rollcage, which is NHRA-certified to 8.50.

Over the years, Damon has raced his Stang at many of the NMRA and FFW events in the True Street class. With multiple wins, Damon is a strong contender to lead the field every time.

Although the Fox-body Mustang has been out of production since 1993, thanks to mean machines like this one, its legacy lives on. Stunning looks, insane power, and great drivability have definitely secured the Fox's place in the muscle car history books.