’79 Mustang Indy Pace Car At Nelson Ledges

This is one of those times we remember well, and one of my cars I remember affectionately: my 1979 Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car. As soon as I had it, I was taking it to high speed open track type events. 30 years later, I don’t remember my lap times… I think I managed to get to just under 115 at the end of the main semi-straight. The details of this car: a 302 V-8 and 4-speed manual. Ford’s own Indy 500 Pace Car. I had modified it with adjustable Konis, larger sway bars, and springs. Along with a 3:45 limited slip diff (taken with the entire axle from a Fairmont cop car – and featuring extra large cop car rear brakes). Goodyear “Wingfoot” tires (instead of the factory Michelins). Factory Recaros (real German ones, even featuring Porsche checkered cloth) made for a great driving position. Also ”true” dual exhaust (custom fabricated, replacing the factory single), and a large dual-snorkel air cleaner from an ’82 gt. The net net was a really nice track car for that day and age. Nelson Ledges isn’t a particularly unique track – there are any number of little club tracks in existence. The facilities were terrible; the track wasn’t in very good shape. However, who cares, this is racing and all of that can be expected. Instead, it’s the people at the track who make it what it is – especially the folks who put on the infamous Longest Day of Nelson Ledges events back in the eighties. I don’t remember the name of the group who ran this particular Open Track event, but it was my third year of experience at the ‘ledges and I was getting to know the track fairly well. The best was yet to come, however. This was also the first year I attended the Longest Day of Nelson Ledges 24 hour endurance race the track. I worked as an scca Pit Marshall in the Ford pits – and Ford brought the svo prototypes to compete. Needless to say, it was tremendously encouraging to my own efforts to watch theirs. At this early point, I still hadn’t run the track in the wet, but I did know that would be an issue someday. There were several treacherously slick parts of the track even when it was dry, especially coming out of the back carousel (which also, very inconveniently, had a perpetually enormous pothole right in the wrong place). My “oh h*** moment” would come in 1986, in an event run by a group out of Toronto, which was run despite a 100% downpour. I had a major league “off” entering the main straight just after the carousel. I saved it and was safe, but managed to pick up probably 400 pounds of mud. That also just happened to be my last event ever at Nelson Ledges. But I would like to hit the ‘ledges someday again!

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