Seldom does a color code uncover the heritage of a Mustang. The code "C" on this '64-1/2 hardtop did just that. Tim Chesney waited two weeks to follow up on a lead outside his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi. After all, the Mustang was simply a coupe and nothing special like a Hi-Po.
Chesney called me from the small airport hanger last July. There, the coupe lay sleeping, its body woefully cobbled and disjointed, parts lying inside the cab with seats uprooted and upside down. The engine was an F-code 260 two-barrel with a typical C4 automatic. So far, no big deal.
"What does color code 'C' stand for?" Tim asked.
I'm sure most treasure seekers would not have concerned themselves with color. But Chesney could not find color code "C" in his pocket decoder book. That bugged him. I looked it up in a larger reference manual. The "C" stood for "Pace Car White."
After a brief moment of silence, Tim asked, "So this is an Indy Pace Car?"
"I don't think Ford painted '64-1/2 Mustangs in Pace Car White unless they were pace cars," was my answer.
Now Chesney was very interested. The open-air hanger's roof offered minimal protection to the Mustang and other old American iron, including a '50 Chevrolet sedan and a '37 Chevy one-ton truck. In the same area, the owner stored vintage biplanes that, unlike the old vehicles, were in working order.
After work that day, Tim started researching Indy Pace Car Mustangs. He discovered that Ford built three '64-1/2 Mustang pace car convertibles for the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Ford also built 35 additional convertibles for dignitaries and VIPs to drive during the race festivities. Chesney's coupe could not have been one of these cars.
However, the '64-1/2 hardtop find did fit into a third group known as "replicas." Ford built approximately 190 replica pace cars in a special combination - Pace Car White (C-code), white interior with blue appointments (trim code 42), and a 260 two-barrel V8 (F-code) backed by a Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. Ford produced these cars consecutively in April of 1964 at the Dearborn Assembly Plant.
Chesney's Rare Find shows a build date of D17, decoding as April 17, 1964, the actual introduction date for the Mustang. Of course, the build date also fits the window of production for the pace car series.
Ford produced these Indy Pace Car replicas for "Checkered" and "Green Flag" dealer sales contests. Basically, dealers with the best sales increases would get free Mustang pace cars. In the end, Ford gave away 105 of the unique Mustangs. Dealers picked up their cars in Dearborn where Lee Iacocca, then-president of Ford, presented each dealer with the keys to their new Mustang.
Ford shipped the balance of the pace cars to dealers and gave them a $500 discount. Due to inconsistencies in the contests, Ford built about ten more pace cars for dealers than originally planned, making for a total of about 190.
Convinced that this '64-1/2 Mustang was a pace car, Chesney contacted one of his clients, Jimmy Alexander, also from Meridian. Alexander prefers coupes over the more popular convertibles and fastbacks. When he heard about the pace car, he told Chesney, "Okay, let's buy it."
Chesney’s pace car find could...
Chesney’s pace car find could be among these 105 hardtops that were presented to Ford dealers in 1964 as part of a special sales promotion.
"That was music to my ears because I knew if he was going to buy it, he was going to get me to restore it," Chesney said. Chesney's full-time job is Lauderdale County Network Administrator, but his hobby business is TAJ Motorsports.
Chesney picked up Alexander and they drove out to look at the hardtop. This time, the owner was there to sell the car. Overall the body is in good condition with no corrosion other than surface rust. It will need floor pan replacement. The original engine is gone, but the rest of the car is complete. Chesney hopes to fill in the history of the car back to the original owner.
During his research, Chesney uncovered details about chalk and grease pencil markings on the radiator support of Pace Car replicas. Although not visible in the pictures, Tim said, "If you stare at the radiator support, you can see the faint outline of 'PACE CAR.'"