Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Fox Mustang Production Numbers, Part 1
A look at the historical side of some of our favorite Mustangs. This month-the '79-'84 models.
The Fox-body platform served the Mustang well from 1979 until 1993, and in modified form (Fox-4) it actually lasted until 2004. Of course, there were changes and improvements made throughout the years. Still, the Mustang managed to live on quite happily, thank you, and it has outlasted all its competitors.
Not so well known by the general public (though fairly common knowledge in the Mustang community) is that the Fox platform was used in other forms. In fact, the Fox-body was used in 25 different configurations, ranging from the Mustang and Mercury Capri to the 112-inch-wheelbase Lincoln Continental. In between came the Cougar, the Granada, the T-bird, and the Mercury Marquis, while the first vehicles to use this platform were the '78 Ford Fairmont and the Mercury Zephyr.
As 1979 marked the third time the Mustang went through a major change, it retained the same basic dimensions of the predecessor Mustang II, but without the Mustang II's styling cues. Good thing, too, because the Mustang II's mixture of old Mustang styling cues coupled with '70's "Deluxe" left a lot to be desired.
In this article, we'll cover each model year of the Fox, pinpointing the highlighted cars.
The car was well received by the general public in its maiden outing, with a total of 369,936 sold. That's higher than any other year since. In fact, it was like the "old days" at Ford-the Mustang was considered both cutting edge and futuristic. In the uncertain '70s, it was once again a hot property. There were five engines, two body styles, and plenty of options from which to use. It was a car for everyone, and the future looked promising.
By far, the most interesting '79 Mustang was the pace car replica. A special run of 10,478 Indy pace car Mustangs were assembled to commemorate the specially prepared Mustang chosen to lead the pack at the Indy 500. Although the actual pace cars (of which three were built) were all powered by higher-output-than-stock 5.0 V-8s, the replicas could be had either with a 132hp 2.3 turbocharged four-cylinder or a 140hp 5.0 V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor. We'd recommend the 5.0 V-8 rather than the 2.3 four-cylinder on a car that is loaded with options. The four-cylinder had reliability issues and was pulled from the Mustang line in 1981.
Of the three actual pace cars, two remain at the Roush Transportation Museum (Roush built all three), while the other is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. It doesn't seem likely any of these three will ever become available.
Besides the pace car, the performance Mustang in 1979 was the Cobra. It was equipped the same way as the pace car-with either the 5.0 or 2.3 turbo.
With 369,936 '79 Mustangs built, one would think there'd be plenty of them available today. The reality is just the opposite. There were only 47,568 built with the 5.0, and most of these, sad to say, are gone. Apart from the pace car, there wasn't much interest in restoring, racing, or saving them. As for the rest of the line, the bulk of them were four- and six-cylinder models-not all that interesting.
There were 271,322 Mustangs built in 1980 and 182,552 in 1981. The venerable 5.0 engine was withdrawn and replaced with a 4.2 V-8 (255 ci) rated at 115 hp (wonder what the rear-wheel horsepower was on that turkey). This anemic version of the V-8 is also the low point for Mustang-besides sporting a two-barrel intake, a single exhaust, and an automatic transmission, it had tiny intake/exhaust ports with 1.68-/1.46-inch valves. You can say the Cobra was still around, but with a 115hp 4.2 as the "hot" V-8, it was severely lacking in venom.
Ford was planning to concentrate on the turbocharged 2.3 four-cylinder-rather than the V-8-as the new performance engine, but the 2.3 had so many problems, Ford was forced to withdraw it in 1981. This author has written books on the Fox-body cars, yet the only source of photographs for them is Ford Motor Company. Not a single car has been found, yet.