November 1, 2005

His First MustangI am searching for my first car and I like the body style of the '87-'93 Mustang hatchbacks. Should I get a hatchback or a coupe? I want it to be a daily driver with decent fuel economy. What year did fuel injection come out, and will it affect fuel economy or performance? What is the difference between the GTs and LXs? Do they both have the 5.0L V-8? What would be the best performance modifications to make without sacrificing too much driveability and on a short budget?Taylor Wulff Westminster, CO

Any '87-'93 Fox 5.0 is a great car to have as a first Mustang. Condition should be your main priority. Check our Jan. '05 issue for a story on Fox Mustang restoration tips; there's some good buying advice in there, too.

The difference between a coupe and hatch is mostly a matter of preference in terms of looks. A 5.0 LX hatch has a clean, uncluttered look that's hard to beat (see the photo above of a super-clean red LX hatchback for an example), while the coupe looks a little less swoopy but has an appeal all its own. The main difference is practical because the hatchback cars can carry considerably more stuff. A friend of mine easily got a 27-inch TV in the back of his '87 GT. Try that in a coupe. However, the coupes are more rigid in terms of general structure because of their rear-glass area and trunk, so they make better drag race-oriented or open-track cars. For the street, though, the difference is negligible.

The first EFI 5.0s came out in 1986 (one year before the aero bodywork you like), and all '87-'93 GTs are 5.0s. Many LXs were four-cylinders, but LX 5.0s are mechanically identical to the GT models in terms of suspension and drivetrain. The main difference between LX 5.0s and GTs are cosmetic and, in my opinion, the LXs have a more clean and streamlined look with their unadorned bodywork. As for performance, the '86-'93 fuel-injected cars always get better fuel economy than the carbureted cars, and the performance is on par if not better than any stock carbureted 5.0 from '79-'85.

With regard to performance mods, the sky's the limit with a Fox 5.0. Exhaust upgrades, gears, and components that improve engine breathing are a good start, such as a throttle body, an intake manifold, and, down the road, better cylinder heads. I'd shop for a mass air, fuel-injected '89-'93 LX hatchback with a five-speed stick that's in good shape (automatics are also good, but they're slower). Keep an eye on our pages (and the late-model mags, too) for upgrades, and read as much as you can about various mods you can do before spending your hard-earned money.

Her First MustangIt's time for my daughter to have her first car, which will probably be a Mustang. While I like the '65-'68 cars, I believe they lack the safety features that a first car should have. What years did disc brakes, ABS, and airbags become available or mandatory in Mustangs? Bill Latch Portland, OR

Good disc brakes are easily attainable on vintage cars, but this column is about late-models, so we're sticking to that here.

The '90 models were the first to have a driver-only airbag, which was the status quo through the '93s. Dual airbags and ABS appeared on SN-95 cars beginning in 1994, as did four-wheel disc brakes. While all '79-'93 Fox Mustangs had at least front disc brakes, and four-wheel discs were standard on '93 Cobras, the brakes on Fox Mustangs were never anything to write home about.

For a young teenage driver, any '94 or newer Mustang is good choice from a safety standpoint. The V-6 engines in the '99-'04 cars are also good runners with plenty of power (190 hp) and they'll be cheaper to insure than a 5.0 or a 4.6 V-8 Mustang.