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25 Reasons The Fox-Body Mustang Is The Perfect Muscle Car

Vukasin HerbezJanuary 3, 2020

Ever since April 1964, the Ford Mustang has been the ultimate muscle car, and not just in the United States, but all over the world. The first generation defined the concept and Ford sold millions of them. The Mustang went on to win many championships and established the name.

However, the second-generation Mustang that Ford presented in 1974 was much smaller. Also, it was more modest and disappointingly slower. Some fans even said that the Mustang II was not worthy of the Mustang name. But despite all that, the car helped Ford keep the name alive during the dark ages of American performance. But then a new period in Mustang history started in 1979 when Ford introduced the third-generation Mustang. They called it the Fox Mustang because they based it on the Fox unibody platform. It was modern and sleek, and better yet, it was aerodynamically efficient and much cooler than the Mustang II.

The Fox-body Mustang turned out to be smashing success. In fact, Ford sold over 2.6 million of them over in its 14-year production run. This is the car that saved the Mustang name and the legacy from extinction. Today, Fox-body Mustangs are as relevant as ever, as well as the perfect muscle car. We looked at 25 reasons why right here.

  1. The Legend

Every Mustang generation is legendary, from the early 1964 and 1965 cars right up to the modern-day GTs with the Coyote 5.0-liter V8 engines. Even the desperately slow and ugly Mustang IIs have earned a following among certain car enthusiasts. However, the Fox-body cars that Ford produced from 1979 to 1993 are universally loved and respected.

During that period, the Mustang regained its respect by offering brisk performance, at least by the standards of the time. Also, it had more power, returning to its classic pony/muscle-car roots. Once again, it was an affordable, attractive performance machine with great styling. It reminded the car community of what the Mustang is all about, setting the course for the future. Apart from the first-generation Mustang, Fox-bodies are probably the most important cars of them all.

  1. Performance

Although stock Fox-body Mustangs are slow by today’s standards, they were one of the fastest domestic cars you could buy new back in the ’80s. Ford’s quest for performance started immediately after they presented the first Fox-bodies with 2.3-liter turbocharged Cobras. In 1982, they presented the 5.0-liter GT model in 1982. The 1984 to 1986 SVO Mustang was a real gem with its 2.3-liter turbo engine. It could pump out 205 HP, which provided some respectable performance numbers.

The performance champion of the Fox-body era is the famous 5.0-liter V8 engine, which buyers could order in the base LX or the upscale GT model. Starting in 1987, this engine produced 225 HP with 300 lb-ft of torque. That meant that the Fox-body was faster than the Camaro or Firebird. With a little modification, it could catch the Corvette C4.

  1. Availability

Ford has made over 10 million Mustangs so far. The Fox-body production numbers are a bit over 2.6 million. That means every fourth Mustang that Ford has ever made is a Fox-body, making the availability of this generation immense. In fact, they are everywhere.

The oldest Fox-bodies are now 40 years old. While time, crude modifications, and abuse have taken their toll on the Fox-body generation, there are still lots of nice examples. You can find some high-quality restoration projects and even some pristine low-mileage garage queens with little effort.

  1. Daily Drivability

Most classic muscle cars belong to cruise nights, car shows or museums, not in everyday traffic. The dynamics of modern-day driving, safety concerns, fuel economy, and more makes classic muscle cars obsolete and out of their element. But not Fox-body Mustangs.

You can use your Fox-Body Mustang daily without any real problems. Look for a well-equipped car like a late-model GT, for example. It will have working A/C, front disc brakes, power steering, power windows, driver airbags, and cruise control. That’s practically everything you need to cruise in style and comfort. The interior is comfortable, and in the hatchback body style, you get a decent trunk too.

  1. Aftermarket Support

From the beginning of the Fox-body generation, numerous aftermarket companies, as well as the Ford Performance division have produced parts and components for them. Over the years, the Fox-body aftermarket had become an industry itself, with countless items for sale.

You can find all kinds of performance parts, crate engines and suspension components can transform your car any way you want. Also, there is a wide range of prices from the quality “Made in USA” parts to the bargain-priced Chinese products.

  1. Price

If you are a classic Mustang fan, you know it’s impossible to find a decent early model for less than $20,000. However, you can find a good quality Fox-body for a fraction of the price. That’s because the ’80s cars don’t have the same appeal as the ’60s models, so prices are lower.

Another factor is that a lot of Fox-bodies have been beaten to the ground by their ambitious owners, weekend racers or a lack of maintenance, so be careful what you buy. Make sure to have a decent mechanic check it for you first and always ask for repair and maintenance records.

  1. The Investment

In early 2019, a special, practically-new 1993 SVT Cobra R crossed the block at the Barrett-Jackson auction, selling for a whopping $132,000. This Cobra became the most expensive Fox-body they ever sold, starting a price hike for this particular Mustang generation.

Suddenly, more people started buying the Fox-body Mustang. Soon, the prices of the quality, low-mile and unmolested examples steadily rose. Although the Fox-body Mustangs will never be more expensive than the first-generation models, they will continue to grow in popularity. So, if you want to buy one, act soon before the prices become astronomical.

  1. The ‘Cool Factor’

The cool factor is important when it comes to collector cars. Nobody wants a dull or uninspiring vehicle in their collection. However, those Fox-body owners shouldn’t be worried since their Mustangs are one of the coolest cars of the ’80s.

Many Fox-body fans remember their high school or college parking lots and backstreet racing in their 5.0. These memories make something precious, and many owners have an exciting story about their Fox-body Mustang and why they are so cool.

  1. The ’80s Vibe

In the last couple of years, there’s been a return to the ’80s aesthetics, music, fashion and culture. The Top Gun sequel is almost in movie theatres, and neon signs and synth-pop are cool once again. Remember the Fox-body Mustang in Thrashin’ starring Josh Brolin from 1986 and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989?

Many car collectors are searching for cars from this decade. Since most of them are over 30 years old, they qualify as classics. If you love Mustangs and the ’80s, find yourself a nice Fox-body if you don’t already own one.

  1. Workability

Like all cars from the period, Fox-body Mustangs are easy to work on and straightforward in terms of mechanics. You will be able to perform essential maintenance, even if you keep your car in your apartment parking lot.

Those enthusiasts with mechanical know-how can perform some of the more demanding operations with the help of a service manual and a regular set of tools.

  1. The Parts Prices

Even though new Mustang parts are affordable, Fox-body owners can source many components from junkyards and auto salvage yards for far less money. Fox-body Mustangs are just one of 15 Ford models they built on the same platform. In fact, many Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models have interchangeable parts.

The fourth-generation Mustang is the SN95 model. It uses a modified Fox platform, so you can swap a lot of parts from the later Mustangs. For example, if you want more power for your 5.0-liter V8 look for cylinder heads from an old Ford Explorer, which you can find at low prices. There are numerous inexpensive ways to mix and match parts from other Ford vehicles to make your Fox Mustang faster.

  1. Simplicity

Apart from the electronic fuel injection and engine computers in later models, Fox-body Mustangs are wonderful mechanical contraptions. That means there are no complicated systems and sensitive components. That means you don’t need a laptop to service your car.

For people who like old-school machinery and tinkering with their cars, the simple Fox-body is refreshing in a sea of complicated and demanding vehicles.

  1. Low Weight

Everybody knows that one of the secrets of Fox-body performance is its low weight. The lightest base-model 1979 Mustang weighed just 2,550 pounds. The heaviest, late model Fox-body GT convertible tipped the scales at a relatively light 3,442 pounds, especially compared to modern cars.

If you are looking for performance, make your car lighter by installing aluminum heads and removing the rear seat. Removing any extras will make the car weigh less and go faster.

  1. Drag Racing Credentials

Drag racing, legal or illegal, has been the main muscle car’s battling ground ever since muscle cars exploded on the car scene. The Fox-body marked the triumphant Mustang return and has been an integral part of the racing scene for 40 years.

Whatever drag meet you go to, you will find dozens of Fox-body Mustangs ready to bolt down the strip with loads of smoke and glorious soundtracks. So, if you are interested in a capable street racing machine, the Fox-body is the way to go.

  1. The Engine Swaps

Thanks to the straightforward mechanics and a reasonable amount of space under the hood, it easy to do engine swaps. Because they are so common, there are numerous engine choices. They range from crate engines from the Ford Performance division to the modern-day 5.0-liter Coyote engine. You can even get a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 from the Shelby GT500.

However, in recent years, some Fox-body owners have decided to install GM LS V8 engines. This is considered heresy among Fox-body loyalists. Even if the LS engines produce a respectable amount of power, you may want to stay true to the Ford badge.

  1. The Size

With a 100.5 inch-wheelbase and an overall length of around 179 inches, the Fox-body Mustang is just a few inches longer than the Ford Focus. That means the third-generation Mustang has the same dimensions as a compact car.

The compact size of the Fox-body means it can fit any garage or parking space. Also, thanks to its small size, it is easy to maneuver. Along with the low weight, the Fox-body feels more agile than other Mustangs and models from the same period.

  1. Toughness

Due to the proven mechanics, simple construction and solid built quality, Fox-body Mustangs are dependable muscle cars that will reward careful owners. They are not perfect by any means since the torsional rigidity or rust protection could be better.

However, compared to some other cars from the period, the third-generation Mustangs are tough cars. They can withstand numerous burnouts and other street racing abuse. Just make sure that you maintain your Mustang properly and use high-quality parts.

  1. The Variety

Although there are fewer special versions from 1979 to 1993 than for the first-generation Mustang, there are more than enough Mustangs to choose from. For instance, you can get a 2.3-liter four-cylinder, a straight or V6 in the early cars, or a potent V8. There are turbocharged models, as well as the high-performance 1993 Cobra SVT and even some pure racing Cobra R cars.

There are three body styles, notchback coupe, hatchback coupe and convertible. They even produced some early Fox-body Mustangs in RHD spec for the Australian and UK markets. If you are looking for a rare model, pay attention to the Saleen or SVO Mustangs. Also, there are several special editions like the 7UP Mustang and other classic 1979 Pace Car models.

  1. The Song by Vanilla Ice

Even though the famous rapper Vanilla Ice is a one-hit-wonder, he is an interesting cultural icon from the early ’90s. It is the era when Fox-body Mustangs ruled the streets. His famous song, Rolling in My 5.0, is a love letter to Fox-body Mustangs. Just listen to the song and read the lyrics:

“It’s not a Benz or a Jag, if a 5-0 with a rag

And I don’t wanna brag, but I could never be stag

When I’m cruisin’, to A-1-A

Zero to 60, 4 seconds don’t play

This ain’t no joke, and you can see the smoke

I’m burnin’ rubba.”

  1. Racing Heritage

Fox-body Mustangs were victorious on every drag strip in the country as well the road racing circuit, as well. After the turbocharged engines of the early ’80s, Ford teamed with Roush Racing to produce a Mustang race car they loosely based on a production car. They equipped it with a naturally-aspirated V8 that produced approximately 650 HP. The IMSA GTO Mustang proved to be highly successful, so they raced a variety of those models right up to the mid-90s.

But, that isn’t all there is to the Mustang Fox-body story. Those Fox-body Mustangs also battled in Australia and Europe. They even participated in the legendary DTM championship in Germany. In the late ’80s, they only allowed German cars to participate. However, one small team managed to enter the Mustang GT to fight the Mercedes, Audi, and BMW factory teams. Those DTM-prepared Mustangs pumped out over 550 HP in race trim.

  1. Competition

The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro are the archenemies of the muscle car culture. For more than 50 decades, those two cars battled each other on the streets, drag strips and racing circuits all over the world. But during the ’80s and early ’90s, this battle was particularly fierce with the addition of the Pontiac Firebird and Trans Am.

From this perspective, the Fox-Body Mustang turned out to be a better car, and for a few significant reasons. It was more affordable, better built, lighter and a bit faster than the Camaro and Firebird. Although the GM Fox-bodies had larger engines, stiffer suspensions, and more power, they weighed over 200 pounds more and were significantly more expensive.

  1. The 1993 SVT Cobra

Even though most people tend to dismiss it as another Fox-Body Mustang, the SVT Cobra is much more than that. It is a proper performance car, blurring the lines between classic muscle cars and sports coupes.

Ford produced the SVT Cobra for one year only, in 1993. Sadly, it marked the end of the Fox-body Mustang generation. Under the hood was an SVT-prepared 5.0-liter HO engine with trick GT40 heads and various other upgrades. The 0 to 60 mph time was well under six seconds, and 1993 Cobra handled perfectly thanks to the revised suspension. Ford made just 4,993 examples in 1993, so if you want one, hurry before they become the Shelby GT350 of the 21st century.

  1. Recognition

Due to the immense popularity of the third-generation Mustang and its presence in the media, the Fox-body is one of the most recognizable cars you can own. Back in the day, it looked quite ordinary with its ’80s styling and “cheese grater” taillights. But today, most Fox-bodies stand out on the street and look super cool.

If you happen to drive your Fox Mustang daily, you will get a lot of thumbs up. You’ll have lots of people telling you how nice it is to see an old Mustang still cruising the streets. If you take your Mustang out daily, you may make a lot of new friends.

  1. The SSP Mustang

One of the coolest members of the Fox-body legend is the famous SSP Mustang. The SSP stands for Special Service Package and it includes a 5.0-liter V8 engine, heavy-duty suspension, engine cooling, brakes and lots more. This is a special order package for Fox-body Mustangs they produced from 1982 to 1993, selling them to various agencies and military organizations.

The package became so popular, that when they ceased production in 1993, Ford had sold more than 16,000 Mustangs SSPs. They sold them to numerous fleet buyers in almost all the U.S. states as well as Canada.

  1. The 5.0 HO V8 Engine

As one of the best-known muscle car engines, the venerable 5.0-liter V8 is a great reason why you should buy a Fox-body. The 5.0 V8 was available right from the start, but it delivered only 140 HP in 1979 Mustang. However, when the engine returned for 1982, it came with the GT package with 160 HP. Due to some fine-tuning, it gradually rose to 225 HP and 300 lb-ft of torque for the 1987 model year.

But despite that, those were great performance numbers for the late ’80s. The real benefit of this engine is that it’s highly tunable. Also, there is a lot more power coming from the stock block and internals. The reason so many Fox-body Mustangs have tuned engines is because the owners added performance parts as soon as they left the dealership.

Today it is even easier to raise the horsepower from your 5.0 V8. However, be careful since the stock blocks are known to crack at around the 450-HP mark.

Now that you know the 25 reasons why the Fox-body Mustang is the perfect muscle car, do you want one? If you do, you should hurry up before prices go sky-high. As the years go by, these cars will become more collectible and desirable, and so will their costs.

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