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Best Mustangs of 1979-1993: The Fox Revival
Mustang returns to its former glory with the Fox-body and a revised 302 cubic-inch small-block called the 5.0
Drag racer “Stormin’” Norman Gray was among the thousands of enthusiasts who flocked to the lightweight, inexpensive 5.0-liter Mustang as their quarter-mile weapon of choice. With nitrous oxide, Gray’s black ’87 GT convertible ran consistent 11-second times as he drove the car to the track, bolted on a set of slicks, and then drove home. Later, Gray sent his GT to Roush Racing, where it was transformed into one of the top Pro 5.0 drag Mustangs.
Return of the Convertible
After ’73, the Mustang soldiered on without a convertible model in the lineup. But that changed in ’83 when the ragtop was once again offered, although they started life as factory-produced hardtops before their conversion into convertibles at Cars & Concepts.
Light and Fast
As soon as enthusiasts realized that the 5.0 LX hardtop was some 400 pounds lighter than the hatchback, they grabbed them for street performance and drag racing duty. Hardtops are still coveted today for the same reason. Plus, they look cool!
We Have a Roadster
When the Mercury Capri was discontinued after ’86, ASC/McLaren moved its roadster body style to the ’87 Mustang GT. It was one of the coolest Mustangs ever with its two-seater configuration and unique tonneau cover for the classy cloth top. Former ASC/McLaren employee Henry Huisman purchased the company’s parts inventory, including much of the tooling, when ASC disbanded its Mustang program after 1990. Today, Huisman is known as “Mr. McLaren” as he continues to supply parts for McLaren Mustang maintenance and restoration.
As the Fox-body era came to a close in the early 1990s, Ford sought out ways to generate interest as potential buyers began hearing rumors about a restyled Mustang for ’94. At mid-year ’92, the first “Feature Car” LX convertible arrived with a 5.0-liter engine and monochromatic Red paint, followed by equaling stunning ’93 models in Chrome Yellow and Vibrant White.
Going Out with a Bang
Ford’s newly organized Special Vehicle Team (SVT) gave us the best factory-produced Fox-body at the end of Fox-body production and provided a glimpse of the Mustang’s performance future with the ’93 Cobra. Sporting a unique grille and “turbine” aluminum wheels, the SVT team added 30 more horsepower to the ’93 5.0-liter thanks to GT-40 cylinder heads, a special intake manifold, and a hotter camshaft. A limited-edition Cobra R deleted the rear seat, A/C, and radio and added larger five-lug four-wheel disc brakes to provide a turnkey version for racers.
When Fox-body production ended after ’93, the ’79-’93 Mustangs became typical used cars and often fodder for race and street machines. However, as the first Foxes reached their 20th birthday, enthusiasts and collectors began coveting some of the more unique and special models. At National Parts Depot, Jim and Rick Schmidt managed to corral “bookends” of the Fox era by acquiring the first ’79 Mustang and the last ’93, a red GT convertible.
Over 20 years after the last Fox-bodies rolled off the Ford assembly line, the ’79-’93 Mustangs are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, although, unlike the ’65-’73 Mustangs, owners are less likely to restore to original and instead build these lightweight machines into modern-day performance cars. At Muscle Mustang & Fast Fords magazine, Marc Christ showed what can be done with a Fox-body by resurrecting a ’88 GT hatchback into “Project Hypersilver,” a tastefully-done Fox with a Jon Kaase 427 and vintage stack-style injection.
Power in the Hands of a Few
When Ford nearly overlooked the Mustang’s 25th anniversary, Steve Saleen commemorated the occasion with a special SSC—for Saleen Super Car—version of his Saleen Mustang. A racer himself, Saleen followed Carroll Shelby’s formula from the 1960s to acquire Mustangs from Ford, starting in 1984, and converting them into high-performance Saleen models at his facility in southern California. He’s still building Saleen Mustangs today.
For Special Service
The 5.0-liter Mustang gained another notch on its performance handle when it was chosen by many law enforcement agencies as their high-speed pursuit vehicle. Equipped with a Special Service Package (SSP), these smaller hardtops replaced the big sedans used by many states, including California, Florida, Georgia, and Michigan (pictured). When their service ended, the SSP 5.0 Mustangs were sold at auction, providing enthusiasts with a chance to cheaply purchase a performance Mustang with law enforcement history.