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42k Original Miles: 1953 Ford Sunliner Pace Car

When a vehicle manufacturer is given the honor of supplying the Official Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500, they are rightly proud. As a result, those companies will usually produce a limited-edition vehicle to celebrate this milestone. Ford was no exception when the Crestline Sunliner was chosen for the 1953 Indy 500. In fact, they broke new ground by being the first manufacturer to produce a Pace Car replica limited edition. They built 2,000 of these, and today, they rate as one of the most highly-sought of the Pace Car editions. This one is a spotless example, and apart from receiving a single repaint, it is claimed to be original. The owner has chosen to part with it, so he has listed it for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Boise, Idaho, and while there is no asking price, the seller states that it is valued at $68,000. I have to say a huge thank you to Barn Finder David R for spotting this beautiful Ford for us.

As is the case with Indy Pace Car special editions, the ’53 Sunliner was available in a single exterior color. In this case, it is White Sungold Ivory and includes all of the signage and badges commonly seen on vehicles of this type. This Ford has received a repaint in the past, and it presents superbly. The paint holds a beautiful shine, with no signs of any damage that would spoil its appearance. All of the correct signage and unique badges are in place, while the trim and chrome are faultless. There is no evidence of dings, dents, or previous accident damage, and no signs of rust. Numbers vary slightly, but several sources confirm that either 2,000 or 2,001 examples of the Sunliner Pace Car were produced, with construction falling between February 18th and May 5th, 1953. Some less honest dealers sold clones of the Pace Car, so their authenticity needs to be checked carefully. However, this can be easier than you might expect. All that a buyer needs to do is to look at the Data Plate. It should show “SS” for both the color and trim code. If it doesn’t, there will be some questions to be answered.

Working on the “one size fits all” premise, the Sunliner Pace Car was available with a single drivetrain configuration. What you got for your money was a 239ci flathead V8, backed by a 3-speed Ford-O-Matic transmission. With 110hp on tap, the Sunliner wasn’t that fast. The journey down the ¼ mile would take 21.3 seconds, while the car would run out of breath at 86mph. Still, this was 1953. Indycars that could top 200mph were several decades away, so the Ford could complete its assigned task quite competently. The engine bay presents well, but I believe that the original radiator has made way for a painted aluminum item. I would like to know if the owner still has the genuine radiator because a car like this deserves to have that component restored and refitted to preserve its originality. He isn’t terribly forthcoming with information because while he claims that the Sunliner has a genuine 42,000 miles showing on the odometer, he doesn’t indicate whether he holds evidence to verify this. More fundamentally, he provides no information on how well this classic runs or drives.

The interior of the Sunliner presents just as well as the rest of the vehicle, with the upholstery finished in the correct Gold and White leatherette. Another unique feature of the interior was the Gold dash, which some buyers liked, while others didn’t. This interior is largely original and shows no signs of any problems. The upholstery is in good order, and there is no evidence of any wear on the wheel. One curious item is the “Limited Edition” badge on the passenger side of the dash. This looks like it is a later addition because I haven’t seen one in any other genuine Pace Car.

If this 1953 Ford Sunliner is confirmed as a genuine Pace Car edition, and I don’t see any reason to doubt that, then the valuation is probably close to the mark. A standard ’53 Sunliner in mint condition can easily push towards $45,000, while the last confirmed sale that I could find for a Pace Car (they don’t come onto the market very often) saw the vehicle sell for $54,000. That was around 2-years-ago, and tracking the value trends of these over the previous decade would seem to confirm the owner’s valuation. With only 2,000 examples being built, these were already a rare car when they were new. Today, only around 25 cars are known to exist. So, if you are a blue-oval enthusiast and are on the hunt for something a bit different, this could be a classic that is worth a closer look.


  1. Joe Haska

    Having owned one 53 Ford car and four 53 Ford P/U’s, and still have one, I love the car and if I could afford a collection ,this would be in it. I was a little surprised at the value, but it is a neat piece for sure.

    Like 4
  2. gary rhodes

    My dads cousin had one of these back in the 70’s when I was a kid. It too had a dash plaque. I think it said ” Built especially for the Indianapolis 500, 1953″ Its been 45 years so that may not be word for word. It was a beautiful car

    Like 3
  3. Jeff

    1953 Indy top speed was less than 140 mph. Offenhauser was the only player in the game and really woke up in 1966 with the introduction of the turbo charger.

    Like 3
  4. Robert baime

    It’s a shame Ford didn’t wait to the following year with a new y block ohv v8.

  5. Mountainwoodie

    Beautiful car. Original. Not.

    If there is one place that originality ( with the paint and lettering) that was put on in 1953, would inure to the cars’ value, it is here.

    I know this is picky and some would say picayune, but otherwise this car is a recreation. Probably doesn’t matter to a buyer who would drop sixty large on this..because it is a seriously cool looking car and I would love to have a ’53 Sunliner. I just dont want to pay for a recreation.

    Like 3
  6. Sean

    Hey BumpStick ….. read the article. There is a sure fire way of telling if the car real or not. That information was placed in the article, and it’s extremely easy understand.

  7. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Had a 53 Vicky a nice runner with a 283 hooked up to the original three on the tree and don’t want another. This is a nice car – hope it finds a new forever home !

  8. deak E Stevens Member

    home! Thing I can’t afford it,I would have alot of people mad at me. First thing I would do is get rid of that paint job,I can hear the people yelling now,because racing is not a part of my world and can’t see how you sit there and watch cars go in circles,it will get you dizzy,went to long beach grand prix 2 times and it sucked both times.

    Like 1
  9. bobhess bobhess Member

    I guess deak and I would not agree on anything about cars but I do agree that much money for a non-original car is a bit much. My mother owned a ’53 two door hard top, white over blue paint, and in her words “really slow but dependable”. Just about the best looking Ford up to that point.

    • deak E Stevens Member

      Don’t get me wrong I love cars,and I love watching drag racing,but Indianapolis and grand prix are like going to a horse race around and around.i love racing just not that kind,and we would agree on things about cars I love them,take care bobhess.

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