On the historic first day of Mustang production in March 1964, three identical convertibles rolled off the production line and were delivered by Ford to race car builders Holman Moody of North Carolina. The cars were to be prepared as Indianapolis 500 pace cars, and after a quick evaluation, it was determined they required modifications in order to fulfill their mission. Their 164-hp, 260-cid engines were replaced by Holman Moody-built 289-cid engines patterned after those used in the famed GT40 racing program. Equipped with forged pistons, modified heads, special exhaust and other exclusive pieces, the engines developed 450 hp, sufficient to take the cars to their required top speed of 140 mph. Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmissions were installed for further durability.
The cars’ suspensions were lowered and the cars were given oversized tires and special under-hood chassis bracing to improve high-speed handling. Furthermore, the cars were fitted with larger radiators to eliminate the threat of overheating. They were then painted bright Pace Car White for better visibility on television and photos.
One of the two Mustang pace cars built in time for the 1964 Indianapolis 500 race will be offered in Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic, which will be televised.
Only two of the three convertibles were completed in time for delivery. One car was chosen to perform pacing duties and the other was appointed as a backup, but the designated car developed problems.
Restorer and Ford aficionado Bruce Weiss is the proud owner of the car that was called into service on race day. Photos and documentation indicate that, after the race, the Mustang was returned to Holman Moody for refreshing before serving pace car duties at Sebring in July 1964, after which it became a daily driver for the next 28 years. Weiss began restoring the car in the mid 1990s, during which time he was able to confirm the car’s provenance and authenticity.
To capitalize on the Mustang’s selection as the official 1964 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car, the company held two sales contests for its nationwide dealer network. The Checkered Flag Contest was followed by the Green Flag Contest. Checkered Flag winners were awarded a new Mustang coupe finished in Pace Car White with graphics replicating those of the official pace car convertibles, while Green Flag winners won the option to purchase a pace car coupe for resale. An estimated 190 cars were awarded to dealers across the 36 sales zones, an additional small group was built on May 1, 1964, to fill orders overlooked in the program’s frantic pace. Lee Iacocca presented the keys to the winning dealers at a special Dearborn ceremony.
Painted in special Code C Pace Car White and fitted with the Code 42 white and blue interior, all the pace cars were equipped with the 260-cid V-8, C4 automatic transmission and a 3.00:1 differential. Decals declaring “Official Indianapolis 500 Pace Car” accompanied each vehicle. Overwhelmed by car demand, some dealers stripped the pace car prizes of graphics for customers who just wanted a new Mustang without the flash, leaving many celebrated machines lost in history.
It is only fitting that the original 1964 pace car owned by Weiss, along with a grouping of five Mustang Pace Car Editions, will be offered for sale at Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic Auction, just one week prior to the Indianapolis 500, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The event will be broadcast live in HD TV May 15-18 on Discovery’s HD Theater channel for all to see.
For TV programming, to bid or to simply enjoy as a spectator, go to www.mecumauction.com.