As the decade of the 1970s entered its final days, there was at least one reason for the automotive performance world to be optimistic.

After watching horsepower numbers dip and curb weights rise for years, a flagbearer for the next generation ponycar appeared on the horizon. And though we didn’t know it yet, the new-for-1979 Ford Mustang would soon indelibly imprint the word “Foxbody” into the gearhead lexicon.

We came across this modified 1979 Mustang Pace Car at last year’s Goodguys Summit Racing Nationals. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

And what better venue to capture the performance world’s attention than the Greatest Spectacle in Racing? Even better, when the 1979 Ford Mustang was tapped to pace the upcoming Indianapolis 500, Ford decided to build replicas for the public.

Dig Pace Cars? Check this out: Corvettes at Indianapolis: 10 of the Coolest Indy 500 Corvette Pace Cars

Like the 1978 Corvette before it, the 1979 Mustang Pace Car received an exclusive graphics package. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Released a few months after the 1979 Ford Mustang debuted, the 1979 Mustang Pace Car edition certainly looked the part of a bona fide pace car, wearing a vibrant decal package, unique front air dam, and raised cowl hood.

Though the real pace cars (of which three were built) were equipped with T-tops, Ford gave the replicas an opening sunroof instead.

Here’s a good look at the Pace Car’s special louvered cowl hood. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Inside, Pace Car buyers got a special interior, complete with Recaro seats.

Under the hood, you could opt for either the 2.3L turbo(!) four good for around 130 horsepower, or step up to the mighty 5.0L making about 140 horsepower. The Turbo Four got a four speed manual, but 5.0L buyers could get either a three-speed auto or a five-speed (four+OD) manual.

Though this particular Mustang is fitted with an aftermarket gauge cluster, you can get a glimpse of its Recaro seats—another feature of the Pace Car edition. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

As performance began to climb with seemingly every model year after its introduction, the 1979 Mustang Pace Car got shuffled into relative obscurity. That’s why we were glad to see this particular one show up at last year’s Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio.

Though it’s far from stock.

The unmistakable numbers 363 are visible on this Windsor’s valve covers. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

As we peered under the hood, the numbers 3-6-3 told us this Pace Car is likely propelled by a Stroker version of Ford’s 8.2 inch deck Windsor small block, the same block that begat the 289 and 302.

To get to 363ci, you take a 4.125 bore and give it a 3.400 inch stroke, and voilà, you’ve got a seriously wild Windsor. Sadly we couldn’t track down the owner to get the details, but we bet this thing rips.

1979 Mustang Pace Cars could also be fitted with a unique rear decklid spoiler. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

All told, from its wild stripe package to available 5.0L V8, the new Foxbody Pace Car edition signaled to the automotive performance world that the Mustang was back on track.


Racing world, meet the Foxbody. You two will become good friends. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

If you’re into rare 1970s Mustangs, you’ll probably like this story as well: The 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra: A Goodbye Hiss from the Mustang II

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.