Peter C. Sessler
March 2, 2005
The '79 pace car certainly had the looks of a hot street performer. All were painted Pewter with orange, red, and black trim.

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.

For 1980, the Cobra was the sole performance Mustang powered by the unreliable turbo 2.3 four-cylinder or the 4.2 V-8. At least it looked good.

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.

1979
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.

The year 1981 was more of the same for the Mustang, with the exception of the 2.3 turbo. Ford decided to withdraw it because of reliability problems.

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.

Now we're getting somewhere! This is the Mustang GT for 1982. It had the same basic styling as the Cobra, but with it, the 5.0 was reintroduced with more power.

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.

1980-1981
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.

Fox Colors 1983-1984

1983 ColorsGLXGT/GLXGT/GLXGT Turbo
SedanHatchbackConvertibleHatchback
P26FP28FP27FP28W
24 Red584,29963781
27 Bright Red424,8131,63994
35 Light Cadet Blue31117298n/a
61 Medium Yellow3044140n/a
1B Medium Charcoal Metallic985,11836267
1C Black1236,424992174
1G Silver Metallic392,19625967
2G Bright Bittersweet104844n/a
3L Midnight Blue Metallic36100341n/a
5C Dark Cadet Blue73117369n/a
5U Dark Walnut Metallic513549n/a
9D Polar White1314,5501,14873
9N Medium Desert Tan Glow469060n/a
9Q Light Desert Tan464431n/a
Special Service356n/an/an/a
Total1,17027,9956,369556

1984 ColorsLX 5.0/GTLX 5.0LX 5.0/GTGT TurboGT TurboSVO
ConvertibleSedanHatchbackConvertibleHatchbackHatchback
P27MP26MP28MP27WP28WP28T
35 Light Academy Blue27664102 1n/an/an/a
1C Black1,1352146,471996541,446
1E Silver517673,04893433976
2A Medium Canyon Red652503,061923811,021
2E Light Canyon Red1,190613,636128408n/a
5C Dark Academy Blue246123168n/an/an/a
8Q Light Desert Tan7913519 1257n/an/a
9C Bright Copper7318840 19108n/an/a
9L Oxford White2,6081817,1351987311
9N Desert Tan Poly323364n/an/an/a
9W Dark Charcoal8351234,098894691,063
Special Servicen/a448n/a n/an/an/an/a
Total7,6431,39529,1427313,2414,507

If you look closely, you'll see this car is not a GT. It's a GLX. It lacks the GT's paint scheme, and the interior has wood trim.

1982
This was a pivotal year for the ponycar. The GT, absent since mid-1969, was reintroduced, and the 5.0 V-8 once again powered the Mustang. Ford decided to rethink the Mustang. No longer would it be built to satisfy all motorists, but rather, it would fit in a certain niche where performance would be king. Production, though, would continue to slide-only 130,418 Mustangs would be built in 1982.

Sporting a large two-barrel carburetor, a special cam, and a single exhaust, the resurrected 5.0 put out 157 hp. The output certainly doesn't sound like much in this era of 390-horse supercharged Cobras and 300-horse GTs, but it was big news in 1982-a huge, positive step in the right direction.

The first restyle for the Fox Mustang came in 1983. It was basically a freshened front end and a different rear. The year 1983 saw the introduction of the GL and GLX Mustangs, taking the place of the previous Ghia models. This is an '83 Mustang GT.

Four colors were designated for the GT-red, bright red (late introduction), silver metallic, and black. But production figures show other hues sneaked through. For example, 154 were painted medium yellow.

In all, there were 11 colors in addition to the official 4. There were 35,435 GTs built.

1983
It's interesting to see the Mustang's reawakening. In spite of new styling, more power for the 5.0 (175 hp), and an advertising campaign touting "The Boss Is Back," sales continued their slide down to 120,873 units, making 1983 the lowest point to date for the Mustang.

Two new models were added to the lineup-the Turbo GT and a convertible. The Turbo GT was Ford's second attempt in making a go of the turbocharged 2.3 engine. This time around, it had electronic fuel injection, among other improvements, and the engine put out 145 hp. It was mated to the five-speed transmission, and it was not available with air conditioning. It was not well received by the buying public. The reality was that the 5.0 was faster, more reliable, and cheaper, too. Only 556 were made, making the Turbo GT quite rare.

Rare is the '83 Turbo GT. It has a small, loyal following. The only identification is on the fenders and rear deck.

The other new entry was the convertible. An outside company-Cars & Concepts-handled the conversion. It proved to be a popular choice.

For the collector, 1983 is probably a wise decision-after all, there can be an advantage to low production. It is a year of "firsts." First year for the Turbo GT, first year for a four-barrel carb on the 5.0 GT engine, and first year for the convertible.

As mentioned before, production for the Turbo GT was low, and next in line would be the convertible. Coupled with production of certain colors (see 1983 Colors), some interesting combinations emerge. For example, only 31 Light Desert Tan convertibles were built, and even with the notchback, 5.0 production figures show only 10 Bright Bittersweet units built.

Ford finally made the Turbo 2.3 reliable. It's a nice little engine, but it didn't find much market acceptance.

1984
If you go to a big Ford show, you'll see lots of Mustangs, and of the early Fox cars, you'll see plenty of '84s. Why? First, it was the 20th anniversary of the Mustang, a long time for any kind of car. A commemorative edition was offered, and these always have a large following, no matter what the production.

The 20th Anniversary was available as a hatchback or a convertible-all were Mustang GTs with appropriate 20th Anniversary identification. A total of 5,260 were built, and according to the figures from the 20th Anniversary Registry, some interesting combinations are possible (see Production Figures table below).

There were minor styling changes for 1984. This particular GT has the stock GT wheels rather than the more popular TRX wheels.

The year 1984 also brought the unveiling of the Mustang SVO, which tried to run in the same league as European cars. It was powered by yet another version of the 2.3 turbocharged four-cylinder, one that put out as much horsepower as the 5.0 V-8. The SVO had the correct suspension and brake pieces, and it was luxurious. Though unpopular with buyers at the time who were drawn to the cheaper, faster, 5.0 GT, today's collectors and enthusiasts usually flock around such cars, and the Mustang SVO has proved to be no exception. There were 4,057 SVOs built.

At the same time, 1984 is a year of "lasts." The Turbo GT was put to rest as Ford decided to put engineering energy into supercharging. The Turbo GT, like its predecessors, never really caught on. There were 731 convertibles and 3,241 Turbo GT hatchbacks built.

Some interesting color combinations are possible as production records indicate. One is the Turbo GT convertible painted in Light Academy Blue-production records show that only one such car was built!

Our next article will cover years 1985 to 1993.

Fox Production Figures 1979-1984

1979
66B Two-Dr Sedan 156,666
61R Three-Dr Hatchback 120,535
66H Two-Dr Sedan Ghia 56,351
61H Three-Dr Hatchback Ghia 36,384
Total369,936
All with 5.0 47,568
Pace Car Replicas 10,478

1980
66B Two-Dr Sedan128,893
66H Two-Dr Sedan Ghia 23,647
61R Three-Dr Hatchback Sport 98,497
61H Three-Dr Hatchback Ghia 20,285
Total 271,322

1981
66B Two-Dr Sedan 77,458
66H Two-Dr Sedan Ghia 13,422
61R Three-Dr Hatchback 77,399
61H Three-Dr Hatchback Ghia 14,273
Total182,552

1982
66B Two-Dr Sedan 45,316
66H Two-Dr Sedan GLX 5,828
61B Three-Dr Hatchback 69,348
61H Three-Dr Hatchback GLX 9,926
Total130,418

1982 Exterior Colors P16F GT/GLX
24 Red 11,881
27 Bright Red 871
61 Medium Yellow 154
69 Dark Curry Brown Metallic 61
1C Black 12,910
1G Silver Metallic 8,066
1982 Exterior Colors P16F GT/GLX
1P Medium Grey Metallic 319
3D Dark Blue Metallic 266
3H Medium Blue Glow 158
6Y Medium Vanilla 124
6Z Pastel Vanilla 57
8N Dark Cordovan Metallic 157
8D Bittersweet Glow 137
9D Polar White 270
Special Service 4
Total 35,435

1983
66B Two-Dr Sedan 33,201
Two-Dr Convertible 23,438
61B Three-Dr Hatchback 64,234
Total120,873
P28F GT 5.0 Hatchback 27,995
P26F GLX 5.0 Sedan 1,170
P27F GT/GLX Convertible 6,369
P28W Turbo GT Hatchback 556

1984
66B Two-Dr Sedan 37,680
Two-Dr Convertible 17,600
61B Three-Dr Hatchback 86,200
Total141,480
1984 Mustang 20th Anniversary Edition
Three-Dr Turbo GT 350
Three-Dr 5.0 GT 3,333
Two-Dr Convertible Turbo GT 104
Two-Dr Convertible 5.0 GT 1,213
Ford VIP Convertibles 15
Ford of Canada (total) 245
Total 5,260
Source: 20th Anniversary Registry

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