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Mustang II Prototype, Pace Car Replica Star at Vegas Exhibit
50 (plus) Years of Mustang History on Display
One of the greatest things about any big anniversary is that it gives one the opportunity to reflect on where you’ve come from, and the 1963 Mustang II Prototype and 1964 ½ Mustang Pace Car replica on display at the 50th anniversary Mustang celebration at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway are two of the cars that certainly offer the opportunity for Mustang history buffs to do just that.
While the official debut of the Mustang at the 1964 New York World’s Fair was 50 years ago today, most hardcore Ford and Mustang historians know that there were prototype vehicles produced before then that helped shape the car which eventually rolled off the assembly line. The Mustang II, which was first unveiled at an event at Watkins Glen in 1963 by none other than Lee Iacocca, was one of those cars. Built as a bridge of sorts between the Mustang I two-seat prototype and the eventual production car, the Mustang II has several unique, cobbled together features, such as its ill-fitting hardtop, bumperless look and headlamps with metal grates, decorative rear bench seats and rims with a Mustang II center cab. It’s powered by a modified 289 Hi-po engine.
It was later was saved from the crusher and reportedly used as an engineering test bed, and has resided at the Detroit Historical Museum since 1975. We’ve featured the car before in Mustang Monthly more than once, which you can read more about by clicking here and here. It’s an amazing, unrestored marvel.
Motorsports is also a key component of the Mustang lineage, and the 1964 ½ Mustang Pace Car replica you see here that was built to help promote the Mustang’s pacing of the 1964 Indy 500 is one of the cars that helps signify the long and storied intersection between the Mustang and racing. This hardtop coupe was one of 190 units built for dealers as part of a special sales promotion.
The original owner of the car on display reportedly had the stripes and pace car decals removed from the Pace Car White sprayed vehicle (if he only knew back then). It apparently bounced around between a series of owners before the present owner rescued and restored it. It’s said to be one of only 9 of the 190 cars that still exist today. All of the dealer pace cars replicas were powered by a 260 ci V-8 with 164 horsepower mated to a four-speed automatic, power steering, and even an AM radio! This particular car was also featured in Mustang Monthly.
Of course, the Mustang has become synonymous with motorsports, helped along by a certain Texan named Shelby. The first Pace Car replicas helped launch that connection and it’s good to see that a few still survive to celebrate as we celebrate anything and everything Mustang during its 50th anniversary.