Are you familiar with the '6411/42 Mustang Indianapolis 500 Pace Car? If not, belly up to the table and tune in to a story about the Greatest Spectacle In Racing and how it has affected Main Street for decades. It's not uncommon for an automaker that provides the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car each year to build a number of replicas for sale to the public. In 1979, for example, Ford built more than 10,000 replicas of the specially prepared Mustang that paced the race. Later in 1994, Ford did the same thing with the all-new SN-95 '94 Mustang, with approximately 5,000 replicas sold that year.
In 1964, Ford had the Galaxie poised to pace the Indianapolis 500. That changed when Mustang madness swept the nation. But Ford had a serious problem: not enough Mustangs to meet consumer demand, much less the added demand of a racing event where more than three dozen convertibles were needed. Extra challenge? They all had to be white and appropriately equipped for the Indy 500.
Why would the Indy 500 need more than three-dozen Mustang convertibles? It's an Indianapolis 500 tradition that select festival officials have access to pace car replicas for two to three months preceding the race to promote "the greatest spectacle in racing." Indy 500 officials from the period have told us that those responsible for the pace car program at Ford were scrambling to find suitably equipped Mustang convertibles prior to the race. To pacify Indy officials, Ford shipped 35 '64 Galaxie 500 convertibles in March, which were replaced by Mustang convertibles early in May.
The 35 Wimbledon White Mustang convertibles varied in the way they were optioned because many of them were sourced from Ford dealers within a sizable radius around Indianapolis. Each of these convertibles was D-code 289-4V-equipped. Interiors were red, white, or blue vinyl. Some had Cruise-O-Matics while others had four-speeds. Each had the Indy 500 graphics made for Ford by 3M.
Tradition had always been that Indy 500 festival committee members would have the option of purchasing each of the festival cars once the race was over. But not in 1964. Ford shipped these convertibles to Louisville, Kentucky, shortly after the race and sold them to dealers with the highest bids. Alderman Ford in Indianapolis successfully bid on a dozen or so of the pace car replicas. Needless to say, these cars sold quickly. What makes them hard to track is their status as run-of-the-mill production units. No special DSO codes or paint color.
While we don't yet know enough about the 35 festival convertibles, we do know something about the three actual Holman-Moody-prepared pace car convertibles built to pace the race. One paced the race. The other two were backup cars. Their vehicle identification numbers were 5F08F100240, 5F08F100241, and 5F08F100242, indicating all were 260-2V convertibles. All had significant chassis preparation. Each was fitted with a Holman-Moody-prepared 289ci V-8 engine. Although we tend to call these engines 289 High Performance V-8s, they were more custom-built, high-output 289s. Each of these Mustangs was fitted with grab bars and two-way radios. All three were produced as 260-2V convertibles and shipped to Holman-Moody. One of these cars survives today in Florida, owned by Bruce Weiss. The other two haven't been accounted for.
So, how do the approximately 190 Pace Car White Mustang hardtops fit into the pace car picture? For one thing, the pace car hardtop replicas really have little in common with the 38 Wimbledon White drop-tops at Indy. These pace car hardtops were Pace Car White (Color Code "C", 1964 only), had Trim Code 42 (white with blue appointments) interiors, and were equipped with the "F" code 260-2V V-8 with Cruise-O-Matic transmission.