Once upon a time, the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro weren't exclusive pace cars for the Indianapolis 500. 1979 marked the first year for Ford's iconic Fox Body Mustang, and the new wedge-shaped pony was called upon to lead the field that year at Indy. As such, Ford built upwards of 10,000 pace car models for retail sale and this video from Throttle Junkies features one of them.
The old 'Stang has certainly seen better days. It fits the classic definition of a barn find, literally tucked inside a small barn in Kentucky where it's sat for years. Exactly how long isn't mentioned, but it's certainly long enough to collect layers of dust, debris, and suffer a bit of rot from moisture. But as the camera moves into the barn, the orange graphics and black cowl hood are still visible through the dirt.
Then comes the first surprise – a V8 engine under the hood. For 1979, Ford offered either a 5.0-liter V8 or a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine for its range-topping Mustang. A majority of the pace cars were equipped with the turbo four, producing 131 horsepower. The person in this video acquired the car as a project several years ago, and he states it was originally a four-cylinder machine.
That brings us to surprise number two. With a battery hooked up, the engine fires up almost immediately and settles into an idle. It's unclear if any additional tweaks were done prior to turning it over, but the V8 rumbles to life and sounds rather healthy to boot. Surprise number three is the car driving out of the barn on its own power, where we see Ford's "phone dial" wheels in place of tri-spokes, which were standard for the 1979 pace car. It also has an upgraded C4 transmission. Clearly, this Mustang has been modified at least a little bit over the years.
Aside from that, all the special pace car bits appear to be in place. That includes the original Recaro seats, the unique rear spoiler on the hatch, and the integrated fog lights in front. With it running well, the owner manages to drive it home, encountering one minor hiccup in the fuel system along the way. With a restoration planned, this is shaping up to be a barn-find story with a decidedly happy ending.
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