There was definitely something different about Thomas Clark's '79 Indy Pace Car when we spotted it sitting among the other Fox-body Mustangs at the Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Conventional lowering with big wheels and tires was not enough to make this car look sinister.
I discovered that Clark had performed a mini "C-notch," which permitted his '79 to be so low. What's a C-notch?
"I cut a notch out of the frame so when it is at its lowest point, the rear end sits up in the frame," Clark explained. Air bags alone would not allow the car to sit nearly so low.
"You would bottom out on the frame. I got another two to three inches of travel with that C-notch."
Clark also replaced the stock 7.5-inch rear end with a much stronger, custom-built 8.8, narrowed three inches on each side. Then, instead of squaring up the ends, in the manner of a serious Trans-Am racer he welded the axle tube ends back in place with a "degree of camber and toe on the rear wheels."
The stance gave Clark a great starting point for a Pro Touring type build. Due to budget restraints, Clark built his '79 in stages. This way, he could keep "driving and enjoying" his Mustang to stay "motivated." He's not finished yet.
The drivetrain will be the final stage. Currently, Clark is building a four-valve 4.6L backed by a T56 six-speed. The current 302 is basically the stock engine for this car but slightly modified with four-barrel induction and backed by a T5 five-speed.
The '79 Indy Pace Cars already have extraordinary looks. Maybe that's why few, if any, builders have tried to improve the theme. However, Thomas said he had to "clean up" the body.
He felt the coupe had "an incomplete look." The front air dam was hot enough, but in Clark's eye it didn't integrate smoothly into the bare-looking rocker panel and rear bumper. To improve the flow without losing the vintage appearance, Clark added side skirts and a rear bumper valance with aftermarket parts from Wings West. The design of each part is styled after the '93 Cobra and bolt to the coupe below the stock moldings. He also opted for SVO sail panels instead of the originals for a cleaner, more modern look to the area behind the quarter glass.
On the doors, Clark eliminated the "63rd Annual Race" and date lettering below the Official Pace Car logo. The body is much cleaner without the tiny print on the doors.
Clark was not satisfied with the interior either. The plastic interior panels tend to look cheap and often warp in the hot sun. He modified the stock plastic trim with custom "leather-like" upholstery, accented with carbon fiber and suede throughout. Everything is upholstered inside, including the door panels, dash, and rear quarter-panel trim. The console is a custom fiberglass piece. Sparco seats replace the stock buckets. A dash full of AutoMeter gauges replaces the original gauges in a custom layout visible through the spokes of an Isotta four-spoke steering wheel.
The young man from Ravena, New York, has built such a great-looking car that he has friends asking for help and advice.
"I haven't done a build for anyone yet, but maybe someday," he says. He's even got a name for his style of builds-- Sinis, as in sinister.
With this kind of sinis-ter attitude, one of these days Thomas Clark may have to quit his real job to build cars for a living.
SINIS '79 Specs
- Racecraft 2-inch drop spindles
- Team Z Motorsports tubu- lar K-member
- Team Z Motorsports tubu- lar A-arms
- RideTech AirStruts
- Steeda bumpsteer kit
- Budnik GTX 18x8-inch custom wheels
- KDW BFGoodrich 225/35x18 tires
- Custom 8.8 rearend
- Strange 31-spline axles
- 3:73 gears
- RideTech ShockWaves
- Custom lower control arms
- BMR adjustable upper control arms.
- Budnik GTX 20x10-inch custom wheels
- KDW BFGoodrich 285/30x20 tires
- Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors
- Maximum Motorsports K-member brace
- Team Z Motorsports mini- tub kit
- 14-inch Baer front rotors
- Alcon 4-piston front calipers
- 12-inch Wilwood rear rotors
- Wilwood 4-piston rear calipers
- '93 Cobra brake booster
- Sparco Chrono Road seats
- Twist Machine billet shifter
- AutoMeter gauges
- Isotta steering wheel
- Custom leather-like or suede upholstery
- Custom carbon-fiber accents
- RideTech Ride Pro air management system
- Kenwood CD head unit
Engine and Drivetrain
- Stock 302
- Summit 600cfm carb
- Edelbrock Performer intake
- Shorty headers
- Mac H-pipe and cutback exhaust
- T5 transmission
- 19-gallon RCI fuel cell
Body and Exterior
- SVO sail panels
- Smoked taillights
- Smoothed cowl vent
- H1 and H4 headlight conversion
- Wings West '93 Cobra- style side skirts and rear valance