Now the car was working and it was healthy, he could start thinking about mods. "Originally my plan was to build it up as more of a drag car - skinnies up front, massive rubber out back, that kind of thing." But he began to realize that going around corners could be fun, especially in a solid axle Mustang with a torquey 302 up front, so he decided instead, to build more of a handling car. "It's got Monroe Sensatrac struts and shocks on it and I installed some Ford Racing C-springs. I've also got some Pro 3i lower control arms at the rear and every bit helps. I don't have a lot of spare money right now, so I have to carefully consider what upgrades I do, but the suspension changes definitely make the car handle better." And Chirico hasn't confined his improvements purely to the suspension either. "I've done some motor work too," he adds. And he's been resourceful about it.
The 302 still runs Speed Density metering, but Steve took the stock E7TE heads off and had Mike Shuttle of Thumper Performance in Orange Park, FL port them and treat 'em to a five-angle valve job. "I've also got Crane Cams 1.7 roller rockers working with the stock cam; a Trick Flow Track Heat intake on it now; and it's got a Professional Products 65mm throttle body and a K&N filtercharger." Chirico glued on a pair of Felpro gaskets before installing his ported stock heads and although he's still running stock 19 lb injectors, he bumped fuel feed by fitting a 155 lph pump inside the stock 15.5 gallon EFI gas tank. The car also now rides on 17 inch Cobra R rims and Hankook 245/45R17 rubber - a little bit of an improvement over TRXs no doubt. One of the biggest changes he's done however, since getting the Pacer on the road, concerns the transmission. "It originally had the AOD in it when we put the car back on the street, but I decided to swap it for a T-5. It was a good decision as the car is a lot more fun to drive, but changing the pedals over was a chore." So here we are now, some four years later, and does Chirico still think his '79 is an ugly duckling? "You know what, it's really grown on me. There were kids in high school who thought it was junk, but they were driving rice rockets (says it all really - Ed). The longer I had the car the more it grew on me. I really like the four-eyed front end, the air dam and the dash, it's old school, but to me it looks cooler all the time - in fact I'd say that the '79 Pace Car is my second favorite Mustang of all time now, right after the Boss 429." So clearly the relationship has gone from hate to pure, unadulterated love, but like any such thing, there have been a few moments of joy and woe along the way.