Jim Smart
April 1, 2009

Neil's Pace Car is one of 5,970 '79 Mustangs produced with the carbureted 2.3L OHC Turbo Four, the beloved overhead cam Pinto/Mustang II engine on steroids, which despite Ford's best intentions wound up falling short in terms of reliability and performance. Turbocharger failure was quite common due to high operating temperatures. Once the warranty was up, most didn't survive as turbo cars. Many were fitted with V-8s or became four-cylinder economy cars just to keep them going. Some continued operating with seized turbochargers. The rest were deposited in salvage yards, stripped, and forgotten.

Ironically, Neil's Mustang wasn't one of those cars. It was pampered and well cared for, living to see a renewed life as a limited-production car that could easily have hit the skids. Even the air conditioning works quite well, although Neil will tell you it consumes a lot of power when the compressor clutch kicks in.

Because Ford wanted these turbocharged Mustangs to be peppy, you could only get a four-speed behind the 2.3L Turbo Four. In back, 3.45:1 gears enabled you to keep the revs high and, therefore, at peak horsepower under hard acceleration. These engines were about horsepower, not torque.

Ford gets high marks for its development of the sixth-generation Mustang. A lot of thought went into the redesign-or more accurately, the reinventing of the Mustang. It would be the most aerodynamic Mustang to date with a long nose, short deck, and slippery lines. The result was improved fuel economy, better handling, and a fresh foundation for a new generation of Mustang performance, one that was perfect for pacing America's greatest race.

Pace Car Quick Facts

  • The '79 Mustang Indy Pace Car was a stand-alone, limited-edition ride with the following features that made it unique:
  • Medium Gray Metallic with black and burnt orange Indianapolis 500 graphics
  • Choice of 140hp 5.0L 2V V-8 or 139hp 2.3L OHC Turbo Four 5.0L 2V V-8 available with four-speed or C4 Select-Shift 2.3L OHC Turbo Four available only with four-speed
  • TRX suspension with stiffer spring rates and performance shocks/struts
  • Heavy-Duty sway bar
  • Metric wheels with Michelin radial tires
  • Ground Effects
  • Driving Lamps
  • Twin European-style dual exhaust tips
  • Disc brakes with semi-metallic pads
  • Recaro Bucket Seats
  • Indy 500 Pace Car specific vehicle identification number beginning at 480001

Pace Car Production Numbers
2.3L OHC Turbo Four5,970
5.0L V-8 with Automatic2,106
5.0L V-8 with Four-Speed2,402

Does not include the three specially prepared '79 Mustang Pace Cars used at the race.

Dearborn, MI Plant:7,634
San Jose, CA Plant2,844