Jim Smart
October 1, 2008
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

I joined Mustang Monthly for the first time in March 1984, just in time to watch Editor Donald Farr thumb through our first press copies of the April-May 1984 special edition celebrating the Mustang's 20th anniversary, cover-blurbed with "Twenty Years of Mustang." [Editor's note: It's the only issue in the magazine's history with double months, done to align the cover date with Mustang Monthly's then-new presence on the newsstand].

On the cover were two Mustangs: 5F08F100001, a Wimbledon White convertible known as the first production Mustang and an '84 1/2 Mustang GT 20th Anniversary convertible in Oxford White with red GT350 stripes. In truth, it wasn't an '84 1/2 20th Anniversary GT convertible at all, but instead an '83 GLX convertible engineering mule dressed in 20th Anniversary cosmetics and sport wheels.

Especially interesting was Donald's Hoofbeats editorial in that issue. He began his editorial with, "Twenty Years Ago. To those of us old enough to remember 1964, it's tough to believe time flies so fast. Lyndon Johnson, the Beatles, Roger Maris, the New York World's Fair, 25-cent per gallon gasoline, Vietnam. They all seem so remote, so long ago. Especially Roger Maris' crew cut." Reading baby-faced Donald's editorial from 24 years ago makes 1964 seem even more remote today.

The 20th Anniversary Mustang GT got the same basic seats as the Mustang SVO but without adjustable lumbar support and optional leather. These classic Fox-body Mustangs felt good to drive, with good shifter placement and driver to steering wheel positioning.

The limited edition '84 20th Anniversary Mustang GT is approaching 25-a contemporary classic for those of us old enough to remember Ford's decision to build this car in the first place. Ironically, Ford never intended to celebrate the Mustang's 20th anniversary. In fact, the Mustang wasn't even on the company's radar in those days due to struggling sales and escalating fuel prices. Instead, Ford was focusing on the Escort and Tempo subcompacts, the mid-sized LTD, the redesigned Thunderbird, and the downsized Ranger pickup. They were hot-selling nameplates at a time when fuel prices had doubled and car buyers still had fresh memories of those gas lines in the '70s.

A Nov. '83 interview with Edsel Ford II in Mustang Monthly put the Mustang back in Ford's product planning agenda for 1984. We will likely never know how the '84 20th Anniversary Mustang GT unfolded behind the scenes, except that Edsel, serving as Ford's product planning manager at the time, was glad to know there was so much interest in the Mustang. Edsel, only 35 at the time, was a performance enthusiast, which didn't hurt the corporate attention the Mustang so sorely needed.

Several months later, Ford made the decision to build 5,000 '84 20th Anniversary Edition GT hatchbacks and convertibles. Ultimately, 5,261 were built, including 15 Ford executive units built in May and one lone convertible assembled later in June. Mass production of the 20th Anniversary Mustang began in March and ended in April, with the only exception being 16 Ford executive units built in May and June. Production happened in segments, which enabled the Dearborn assembly plant to dovetail these cars into production without disruption.

These Mustangs weren't without their challenges for Ford and the consumer. Quality issues plagued these cars, including dust and dirt fallout in the paint, interior flaws, air cleaner graphics chaffing, and 20th Anniversary plaques and customer nameplates that were either stolen or never delivered. Some buyers didn't fill out the paperwork necessary to get the customer nameplate.

Nonetheless, the '84 20th Anniversary Mustang put the most successful car line in Ford history back on the product planning agenda. The Mustang was suddenly back in the saddle, ready to take on the Camaro and Firebird with fresh looks and new power. For 1985, there would be roller tappet technology, dual exhausts, and Quadra-Shock rear suspension. In 1986, the Mustang had port fuel injection and a more heavy-duty 8.8-inch rear axle. By 1987, an all-new aero Mustang with an exciting demeanor was ready to groove into the future.