Tom Wilson
April 1, 2009
Rick is actually the original owner of the last Fox ever built. He read a magazine story about the '93 rolling off the assembly line on August 26, 1993 at 1:25 p.m. That's when the Fox era officially came to a close. Fortunately for Rick, the story made note of the car's VIN and receiving dealer. He immediately tracked the car down, and bought it for $500 over invoice. Luckily, he was the first to call, as the dealer, Carlisle Ford in Clearwater, Florida, received several offers for more money. He even got $1,000 cash back from Ford, as it was the end of the model year and the anticipated '94 Mustang was on the way.

So the Fox revolution crept slowly, fostered by improving technology and management busy elsewhere and happy enough to let the Mustang program run on autopilot once it hit its stride.

Thus, in the beginning Ford gave us 1979-1981 Mustangs with four, six, and barely eight cylinders, each less inspiring than the next. In '80 and '81 the 302 was even downsized to 255 cubes in order to save fuel. The highlight was an Indy Pace car version in '79, but no one was fooled by its fake hood scoop or decals.

The first glimmer came in 1982 with the new performance-oriented High Output GT. That Detroit could build a souped-up Mustang was too much to hope for, yet there it was in two-page magazine ads touting the "5.0"-hey, we knew it was just a 302 with a new name, but at least it was a 302-along with its marine camshaft and two-barrel Holley carburetor. A Holley carb! Man, we hadn't had one of those in over a decade, even if it was a lousy two-barrel. Was it really true? It was, and people were ready for a performance car that didn't have 100,000 miles on it already (imagine if the hottest thing on the road today was a '98 Mustang GT; ever since then Dearborn had been selling a Focus with Mustang badging, and suddenly Ford came out with the Performance Improved Two-Valve modular in a new Mustang chassis).

Today an '82 GT doesn't get glanced at in car shows except by Editor Turner, but it was the right car just in time. And Ford was nearly paranoid over weight when they developed the Fox. Reduced mass was the only way to improve mileage-and gain whatever performance that could be had with a smog-strangled 122hp small-block V-8-the best Ford could do in the early Mustang II days when the Fox was developed.

Normally we would photograph a convertible with the top down, but we weren't about to drop the top on the last Fox ever, so we shot it as it sits with the window sticker still in place. During the short time we spent with this GT, it was like a blast back to the heyday when these cars were rolling off the dealer lots. The car still smells new, the ashtray door isn't broken, and the paint is immaculate. Even still, it is a convertible Fox, so the chassis does flex and creak even when the cars are in like-new condition.

The Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr sedans were the first Foxes, and if you put a drop light in the engine compartment the fenders would darn near glow like a Japanese lantern. Passengers stepping into the backseat of a Fairmont would audibly oil can the floor pan they were so lightly built.

So the '82 HO Mustang didn't need much power to feel sporty. It's new 5.0 High Output was enough, and the twin-snorkel air filter housing certainly recalled the '60s glory days. Power was up 17 horses from the base '79 302, yielding 157 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. In those days you weren't an enthusiast if you couldn't shift, so all 5.0 HO GTs came with a four-speed manual tranny and 3.08 gears in a Traction-Lok 7.5-inch rear axle.

Humble though it was, reaction to the '82 HO was positive. Sales were good and magazines started comparing the new Mustangs to classic '60s performance models. That was when we started to learn the new Mustang could easily out-handle the classic cars, even if acceleration was obviously lacking. But performance was back.

In 1983 the 2-barrel Holley was replaced by the obvious 600 cfm four-barrel Holley alternative. That delivered a welcome 175 hp. Just as important, the first Borg Warner T-5 five-speed transmission was fitted, although the four-speed Single Rail OverDrive four-speed remained as well.

In 1984 there was a 20th Mustang anniversary to celebrate-with stickers only. More substantive was the introduction of the LX model-which had all the GT's mechanicals, but didn't bother with some of the trim excess. Also noteworthy was the introduction of the first EFI Mustang. These were 5.0s with Central Fuel Injection; it was standard with automatic-transmissioned GTs. The CFI was a first attempt at fuel injection for emission and mileage reasons. Obviously it was a complete mystery to everyone, didn't support hot rodding of any kind and mustered 10 fewer horsepower than the carbureted 5.0 HO. In most respects CFI combined the worst aspects of carburetion and fuel injection and set the enthusiast world against EFI as an expensive, complex, weak and unresponsive alternative to carburetion.