Indy 500 Festival Heritage: 1979 Mustang Pace Car

The trouble with pace cars is so many of them have little historical significance beyond being produced in limited numbers at the time of a momentous occasion. There are legions of replicas running around, deflating values of other pace cars everywhere. This 1979 Ford Mustang Pace Car here on craigslist bucks that trend, as it is one of 50 “Festival Cars” supplied by Ford to be driven in town leading up to the Indianapolis 500 and at the event itself. It’s rusty, but absolutely deserving of restoration. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. 

These 50 Pace Cars were all non-A/C cars equipped with automatics and the 302 V8. They also had unique badging on the fenders that signified these cars were involved in the Festival activities. The seller of this car has also uncovered the remains of a sticker that shows this car was number 42 in the contingent of Festival examples. Another tell-tale sign of Festival cars is a low serial number, and this car is just the 58th one built. The seller has also provided a Marti report of the ‘Stang to help verify its past.

Despite the rarity, it is quite tired cosmetically and does not currently run. The factory Recaro buckets look salvageable but will definitely need some work, along with other trim surfaces. The seller offers that only seven genuine Festival cars are known to still be in existence, which is entirely possible given the low production numbers. However, given how few clues there are to indicate whether a Pace Car was a Festival example, it’s entirely possible there are more cars out there with those clues stripped away.

Many of these Pace Cars were the turbocharged variety, so even without the Festival Car lineage, this would still be a rare example. The photos show at least some of the rust, which appears to be bubbling up around the pop-up sunroof. It still retains its original fog lights, body graphics and TRX wheels. While it does have cosmetic needs, the originality and heritage are two factors that could make this a compelling purchase for the Pace Car collector in your life.


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  1. Geebee

    I wonder why no a/c ?

    • Big Mike

      No A/C because the Indy 500 and all of the festival leading up to it are held in May, which is still normally a cooler time of the year in Indiana. Like today high of 75 with low humidity, and the same for the rest of the holiday weekend. I got to go to the 1998 Indy 500 and it was cold everyday were where there. I have also bought 3 cars and a truck that lived their life in Indiana and Ohio, and neither of them had A/C because of the colder summers than SE Missouri. Of course 1979 A/C was still an option for some car manufactures’.

      • SSPBill

        My Dad bought a ’79 mustang (not a pace car) new as a 2nd car. It had only 2 options, passenger side mirror and rear window defroster. Yes, both options, it was a simpler time. A/C was indeed an option because we didn’t have it.

  2. Steve

    Crazy over priced, and in need of a new roof. Just buy a nice one for 10k.

  3. DAN

    neds LS3,lol

  4. Mike

    I don’t think I would want to drive a car with OFFICIAL PACE CAR plastered on the side. It’s kinda corny and half the population wouldn’t know what it meant. It really should just have that year’s Indy 500 logo on the side. Maybe I should take my daily driver Honda and have OFFICIAL COMMUTER CAR emblazoned on the side.

  5. Mike_B_SVT

    IIRC, the tires for the TRX wheels are metric sized, and have been out of production for a loooong time. But I do wonder if Coker or Kelsey have started reproducing them.

    • Steve

      Coker has repo’s. Not cheap thou, and will add another $1200 to the resto cost.

    • Mark

      Michelin TRX was the brand, had them on an 81′ Ghia w/ T-tops that got back-halfed and now a drag car to someone else.

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