Jim Smart
June 1, 2002
Contributers: Jim Haskell Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

Are you familiar with the '6411/42 Mustang Indianapolis 500 Pace Car? If not, belly up to the table and tune in to a story about the Greatest Spectacle In Racing and how it has affected Main Street for decades. It's not uncommon for an automaker that provides the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car each year to build a number of replicas for sale to the public. In 1979, for example, Ford built more than 10,000 replicas of the specially prepared Mustang that paced the race. Later in 1994, Ford did the same thing with the all-new SN-95 '94 Mustang, with approximately 5,000 replicas sold that year.

In 1964, Ford had the Galaxie poised to pace the Indianapolis 500. That changed when Mustang madness swept the nation. But Ford had a serious problem: not enough Mustangs to meet consumer demand, much less the added demand of a racing event where more than three dozen convertibles were needed. Extra challenge? They all had to be white and appropriately equipped for the Indy 500.

Why would the Indy 500 need more than three-dozen Mustang convertibles? It's an Indianapolis 500 tradition that select festival officials have access to pace car replicas for two to three months preceding the race to promote "the greatest spectacle in racing." Indy 500 officials from the period have told us that those responsible for the pace car program at Ford were scrambling to find suitably equipped Mustang convertibles prior to the race. To pacify Indy officials, Ford shipped 35 '64 Galaxie 500 convertibles in March, which were replaced by Mustang convertibles early in May.

The 35 Wimbledon White Mustang convertibles varied in the way they were optioned because many of them were sourced from Ford dealers within a sizable radius around Indianapolis. Each of these convertibles was D-code 289-4V-equipped. Interiors were red, white, or blue vinyl. Some had Cruise-O-Matics while others had four-speeds. Each had the Indy 500 graphics made for Ford by 3M.

Tradition had always been that Indy 500 festival committee members would have the option of purchasing each of the festival cars once the race was over. But not in 1964. Ford shipped these convertibles to Louisville, Kentucky, shortly after the race and sold them to dealers with the highest bids. Alderman Ford in Indianapolis successfully bid on a dozen or so of the pace car replicas. Needless to say, these cars sold quickly. What makes them hard to track is their status as run-of-the-mill production units. No special DSO codes or paint color.

While we don't yet know enough about the 35 festival convertibles, we do know something about the three actual Holman-Moody-prepared pace car convertibles built to pace the race. One paced the race. The other two were backup cars. Their vehicle identification numbers were 5F08F100240, 5F08F100241, and 5F08F100242, indicating all were 260-2V convertibles. All had significant chassis preparation. Each was fitted with a Holman-Moody-prepared 289ci V-8 engine. Although we tend to call these engines 289 High Performance V-8s, they were more custom-built, high-output 289s. Each of these Mustangs was fitted with grab bars and two-way radios. All three were produced as 260-2V convertibles and shipped to Holman-Moody. One of these cars survives today in Florida, owned by Bruce Weiss. The other two haven't been accounted for.

So, how do the approximately 190 Pace Car White Mustang hardtops fit into the pace car picture? For one thing, the pace car hardtop replicas really have little in common with the 38 Wimbledon White drop-tops at Indy. These pace car hardtops were Pace Car White (Color Code "C", 1964 only), had Trim Code 42 (white with blue appointments) interiors, and were equipped with the "F" code 260-2V V-8 with Cruise-O-Matic transmission.

The hardtops were produced for the Checkered and Green Flag contests, which were dealer incentives designed to both promote the new Mustang and indicate the Mustang's status as the official Indy 500 pace car for 1964. Each sales district arranged its dealers into groups based on sales volume in the preceding 12 months. A sales objective for April 1964 was established for each dealer in each group. Dealers who exceeded their sales objective by the greatest percentage in its group qualified to compete against all other group winners in the district.

Ford had already decided the total number of winners because the pace car replicas were assembled consecutively in mid-April 1964. The total number of winners, by district, was also predetermined since each of the pace car hardtops had a standard two-digit DSO code on the warranty plate. There were five standard-order DSO code pace car Mustangs per sales district for a total of 180 units. Each sales district determined the allocation of winners based on the best percentage of sales. The very best were declared Checker Flag winners. Second Place winners were Green Flag contest winners. Ford was aiming for an even split between the two contests. But it didn't turn out that way.

Since each sales district had considerable flexibility in conducting their contests and determining winners, the number of winners of each contest was inconsistent among the districts. There were many ties between dealers, particularly small-volume dealers. This created logistics issues across the land. Ford had already produced 180 hardtops for the two contests, but they needed more as a result of the ties. Approximately 10 more Pace Car White hardtops had to be produced in early May to meet the need. We say "approximately 10" because it has never been determined with documentation how many were produced. This is based on available documentation that addresses winning dealers.

Because these additional pace car hardtops were ordered internally by Ford, with no idea who the winning dealers would be at the time, they were ordered as DSO 84 (Home Office Reserve) units.

Checkered Flag winners (105 of them) were invited to Dearborn, Michigan, to pick up their free Mustang pace car hardtops in a nice ceremony with then-Ford Division General Manager Lee Iacocca. Dealers had the option of driving their winnings home or having them shipped. Green Flag winners had to stay home and pay for their prize with a $500 discount.

Who the winning dealers were might surprise you. Most of them were small-volume, small-town Ford dealers in communities with 5,000 or fewer people. Over 20-percent of these dealers were from towns with fewer than 2,000 people!

If you would like to know more about "In Search of Mustangs," write to us at Dept. MM, P.O. Box 883, Annandale, VA 22003. You may also e-mail us at smartj@primediacmmg.com for a prompt and personal reply.