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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.