Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
1986 Ford Mustang. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site

Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Jeff Burry

Photo Gallery:
Fox-Body Mustang, 1979-1993

Remember the late 1970′s? It wasn’t a particularly kind period for the automotive industry, at least in terms of sleek design, “eyeball” effect, and horsepower ratings. However, at Ford Motor Company as early as 1976, designers and engineers responsible for the next generation Mustang were crafting a vehicle to replace the Mustang II which occupied the roadways of North America from 1974-1978.

Aerodynamics, light weight and fuel efficiency were three areas important to Ford at this time, not to mention returning the vehicle to its proper place in the hearts and minds of Mustang enthusiasts.

Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
1985 Ford Mustang. Click image to enlarge

The code name “Fox” represented a “new look” Mustang, but it would be a vehicle sharing parts from other cars produced by Ford at the time. For example, the compact platform of the Fairmont/Zephyr could and would form the basis of the revised Mustang, just like the original models from the 1960s were built on the existing Falcon platform.

For the next 14 years, from 1979 to 1993, Ford would stick with its new design, making this the longest continuous generation in Mustang’s history.

The Mustang in 1979 was introduced with MacPherson struts in front and a live rear axle. Although larger in size as compared to the Mustang II, it weighed less. Ford offered six engine displacement choices ranging from a 2.3-litre four-cylinder producing a mere 88 horsepower, to a 5.0-litre V8 producing 134 hp. Production numbers for the 1979 model year were pegged at 369,936 units.

To help celebrate the new model, Ford arranged to have a Mustang pace the 1979 Indy 500 and sold approximately 11,000 Pace Car replicas, a car that today is gaining the respect of collectors.

Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
1987 Ford Mustang (top) and 1986 Ford Mustang SVO. Click image to enlarge

In the following years, Ford tinkered with the various options and models available, but never messed with the wedge-shaped design. It seemed, however, that there was a model for everyone – two-door coupe, hatchback, convertible and even one sporting T-tops.

In 1984, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Mustang, Ford released a special Twentieth Anniversary GT model. This model featured a GT 350 badge, but it turned out that Ford had never licensed that name, so the model was discontinued after only one year. A total of 5,260 such models were built, making them somewhat of a rare find today.

Ford also introduced its SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) Mustang midway through the 1984 model year. With an eye towards performance, it came with a modified 2.3-litre turbocharged inline-four with a new intercooler for the turbo that raised horsepower from 145 to 174. Visually, the SVO Mustang could be identified by the centre-placed hood scoop. The SVO Mustang was capable of 0-100 km/h times in the 7.7 second range.

The big news for 1985 was improvements to the V8 powerplant, now breathing through a true dual-exhaust system and sporting stainless steel tube headers. Power output increased to 210 hp. This model year would be the last of the carbureted engines, with Ford switching to a fuel injected system for 1986. Although quick, the 7.1 seconds 0-100 km/h time for the V8 was only slightly faster than the SVO Mustang.

Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
1990 Ford Mustang; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

The model line-up was simplified in 1986 with Ford offering LX Mustangs in either coupe or hatchback formats. Engine displacements included the 2.3-litre I4, the 3.8-litre V6 and the 5.0-litre V8. One could also choose a Convertible or GT. Besides minor trim and colour options, the car basically remained the same as the previous model year.

For 1987 there was a significant restyling of the Mustang, though Ford continued to stick with the wedge-like shape. The company perfected its electronic fuel injection system on the 5.0-litre V8 which now produced 225 hp. The Mustang GT acquired front and rear air dams as well as aerodynamic valances with scoops to the front and rear brakes. This new exterior treatment gave the car a more aggressive appearance, and a more obvious “performance” stance.

From 1988-1993, there were no major styling or mechanical changes made. However the Fox-body Mustangs were coming to the end of their run. There was not much more that could be done to tweak the Fox platform.

To generate consumer interest, a Limited Edition Mustang was produced in 1992. It was a 5.0-litre convertible that featured a vibrant red exterior and a white or white/red interior. Dealers sold 2,019 such units in North America. Occasionally, you will find one on the Trader or eBay sites, but they tend to be comparatively expensive.

Modern Classics: Fox Body Mustang, 1979 1993 modern classics
1993 Ford Mustang. Click image to enlarge

In 1993, the final special edition Mustang utilizing the Fox platform was produced, and most likely represents the most powerful Fox-body Mustang available from the showroom floor. The Cobra was introduced at the 1992 Chicago Auto Show. Developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, the Cobra was rated at 235 hp and received side skirt treatment, a re-designed rear wing, and Cobra identification tags on the front fenders and grille.

All in all, the Fox-body Mustangs for Ford represented a significant step in the right direction to restoring the vehicle to its proper place as an automotive icon. The car is still popular, and there are still plenty on the road appearing at car shows across North America. There are numerous performance suppliers to help modify the Fox-body Mustang for additional performance.

As a former owner of an Oxford White 1986 Mustang GT, what I remember most was the stiff clutch, but it was probably one of the most fun cars I have ever driven. If looking to purchase a Fox-body Mustang today, one can still find them in relatively good condition for between $5,000 and $7,500. The “power” to fun ratio remains very high.

Manufacturer’s web site

Ford Motor Company of Canada