Pace Car Survivor: 1979 Ford Mustang 5.0

1979 was a big year for the Mustang. It was the 15th year of the model and the first year of the famous Fox platform Mustang. The new model was a home run for Ford, the ’79 Mustang was a sales hit and the basic design was used well into the 1990’s. When the time came to choose a pace car for the Indy 500, the Mustang was an obvious choice for ’79 in my opinion. When a pace car is used the manufacturers usually harness the opportunity to create a limited run of pace car replicas for sale to the public, the ’79 Mustang was no exception. Let’s take a look at this survivor grade example for sale here on eBay in Westfield, Massachusetts with a BIN of $6,500 or a starting bid of $4,000.

The ’79 Mustang is a nice design, but the ground effects and black grill add a mildly aggressive touch that sets the design off well. This Mustang360 article gives a good overview of the ’79 Mustang pace car. Ford produced around 10K pace car replicas for ’79 so the model is not extremely rare but of that number, only about 2100 were made with the 5.0 and automatic, most were powered by the turbocharged 2.3 liter 4 cylinder. The pace car package came with some unique equipment like upgraded suspension, metric wheels, Recaro seats, ground effects kit and special gray and orange paint scheme with graphics. Interestingly, this car is missing the Indy 500 door graphics. On other pace car models, I have heard these graphics were dealer installed and sometimes left off, I am not sure if this is the case with the Mustang.

This car is described as having original paint which looks to be accurate, but it is not perfect. There are some dings and even some rust spots on the paint but overall it’s not bad. The seller has owned the car for 3 years and it was a barn find when it was purchased. The car is currently located in Massachusetts so let’s hope rust is not an issue, it is not mentioned where the car came from before the current owner purchased it. Mileage is listed as 58,481, looking at the condition of the car it is believable it hasn’t rolled over.

The interior looks great, the Recaro seats are in excellent condition from the view of the pictures, the design of the fabric is awesome. The dash is in good condition and the factory radio is still there, I personally like the dash layout of this generation Mustang and the placement of the interior door handles is cool and unique to the ’79 model year. I would prefer to see a manual shifter.

Things look ok under the hood except for the missing air cleaner, let’s hope its included. The 302 is equipped with a 2 barrel and should produce around 140 HP from the factory which seems low but that was common during this era. This will not be a stunning car in the performance department but it will still be a fun car to cruise around town in. This is a good drivable project car, the seller has gone through the fuel system and replaced the power steering gear and pump so the car runs and drives well but some work is still needed. If the paint is indeed original let’s hope most of it can be saved, but some touch-up work is needed at least. The interior is very nice but the headliner needs to be replaced. Given the rising popularity of the Fox Mustang, the price seems to be in line. I would like to see this car get a minor restoration while keeping it as original as possible.

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  1. JAYP

    This is Honestly a steal, even at the BIN price. If I was a bit closer, I would buy it, drive it home and empty all the fluids and store it. This WILL be a collector car 15-20 years from now.

    • Billy007

      Heck, five years from now. The younger crowds already love them, but you must remember that a late 80s Fox Mustang is going to rule the roost as they have the performance to back up the image. Of course many a late Baby Boomer who now has spare cash might enjoy this as they came of age with these. I feel the 79s are the best looking of the bunch too. MY BIL in college had a new 79 Capri that I really loved, even with that Pinto engine and the 4 speed, it was a joy to drive.

  2. Fordguy1972

    My wife had one of these ’79 Pace Car Mustangs with the 302 but hers was a stick shift. Nice car that had a 4-barrel upgrade. The seats needed to be re-done but the OEM material was hard to find and expensive even in the ’90s. I picked out a Porche material, black cloth with grey seat and back. It went well with the interior and she loved it. If I recall, the wheels are an odd size so tires might be expensive. While she really liked that car, her only complaint was that in the summer the cabin got very hot and the car didn’t have A/C. Still, it was a fun car to drive and with the Pace Car graphics, it really stood out from the herd. Would love to have another some day.


    We had one in the 90’s. That thing would fly and handled well. Liked to eat brainboxes for some reason.

  4. Don Rositch

    I had one back when they were new, it was just like this one. I drove all of the different versions and settled on the V8/automatic. The turbo 4 was rough and sounded like the pistons were swapping holes, the four speed was really a three speed with overdrive (ratio spacing was really big from third to fourth- similar to the ’66 Shelby). It was a tough little car and a bright light after the M2 years. The seat upholstery in the center didn’t hold up well, but the rest was pretty durable. Horsepower was around 140 but the car didn’t weigh much so it was pretty quick. The tires were pretty bad, like crayons. I’m sure it didn’t get driven in the snow or ice since it is helpless in those conditions. Mine would just spin the rear tires while sitting at a stoplight, no traction with those tires. I took it from Lincoln Nebraska to Redwood City, California and it was a much better car in that environment (new Goodyear Wingfoot tires helped greatly). The graphics came in two sets, mine had the standard set as does the car in this ad. You could get the full set from the dealer (not sure if it was an option or just an accessory). I left mine off and removed some of the others for a cleaner look.

  5. Fanglemeister

    The dreaded TRX metric wheel, 390mm with rubber by Michelin. There are some nice looking 16″ TRX knock-offs from companies like for much better selection @ 16″ rubber. Pace car stickers are out there too in repro form, if that’s what floats your boat…I don’t care much for all the Indy-stickered cars built over the years, but at least these Mustangs had nice Recaro seats and some other unique amenities. Of course the best part of any Fox Mustang, building a sleeper 302 is dirt simple these days, it’s got that going for it!

  6. Maynard Reed Jr

    My cousin in northern Vermont has one each. An original 5.0 auto and a 2.3 turbo missing the engine. Neither one of his has the ind y 500 door graphics, though I have seen one with in northern New York.

  7. chrlsful

    these have come in/R coming in now for those who restore for mrkt. The target population likes either motor. Still some good deals. Buy now, enjoy, hold for rising prices. My idea w/every rig anyway.

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