Jim Smart
October 1, 2004

Aside from the Corvette, no other automotive marque has paced the Indianapolis 500 as often as the Mustang. In its 40-year history, the Mustang has been at Indy three times: 1964 for the Mustang introduction, then 1979 and 1994 when the Mustang changed body styles. And you can bet it will be there again in the future, possibly next year with the new '05 model.

In 1979 when the Mustang was beginning a new renaissance, the Indianapolis 500 invited Ford to pace the race with the all-new, Fox-body Mustang. To celebrate, Ford produced replicas to be sold to the public, just like 15 years earlier when Ford produced an estimated 190 white '6411/42 Pace Car replica hardtops.

Ford was more aggressive with the Indy 500 Pace Car replicas in 1979. It built 10,471 to be distributed through a vast dealer network. Of the 10,471 units, 405 were shipped to Canadian Ford dealers. Most (5,970) were fitted with the 2.3L-2V Turbo four. Fewer (4,508) were equipped with the 5.0L-2V V-8 with either automatic or four-speed manual transmissions.

All of the '79 Indy Pace Car Mustangs were equipped with the TRX suspension, which included TRX metric wheels, stiffer springs and shocks, sway bars, and Michelin tires. The bodies were dressed in Pewter with black and burnt-orange appointments and Indy 500 Pace Car graphics. Groovy ground effects, fog lamps, and twin European exhaust tips adorned the rest of the body.

On April 17, 1979, the Mustang's 15th anniversary, Wilroy Ford in Rosemont, Minnesota, ordered this '79 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car replica, which was purchased a month later by Loyal Jerome Thompson, who drove the car sparingly.

In 1988, Ride America in Clarksville, Tennessee, purchased the car from Thompson with just 461 miles showing. Ride America, owned by the Ronnie Keen family, kept the car until 1990 when the original Minnesota title was transferred to James Newton Felts of North Carolina. When it was sold to Felts, the odometer showed a mere 476 miles. In the 13 years that Felts owned this car, it was never driven.

This leads us to Dave and Susan Landow, owners of the car today. The Landows view their Mustang Pace Car as a rolling museum piece, so it doesn't roll very often. When they purchased 9F03F480581 late last year, it still had 476 miles showing. Not being ones to let the car just sit, they have driven it a double-digit number of miles in the year since. The current odometer reading is 506 miles.

In its 25-year history, very little has been done to the Landows' slice of American pie. There are always maintenance issues with a car like this because even a car that sits requires preventative maintenance, so the original hoses, serpentine belt, and fuel filter have been replaced. The Landows believe in doing what it takes to keep the car as original as possible without hurting originality. They drive it about 10 miles a year to keep things lubricated. Enjoying the drive isn't bad medicine either.

The Landow Pace Car is identical to 2,106 others produced during the spring of 1979. It has the 5.0L V-8 with C4 Select-Shift.

When Dave fires the engine, it takes us back to the disco era when we drove sporty, new Fox-body Mustangs. Sitting behind the wheel gives us that nostalgic rush. And that's the whole idea behind museum pieces like this. They help us keep pace with the steady movement of the clock, reflecting on where we have been and, more importantly, where we are going.