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.

We like the pod-style cockpit instrumentation, which first appeared for 1984 in the Mustang GT, although it wasn't until 1985 that Ford finally put the horn button back where it belonged-in the steering wheel.

Bob Fria, the owner of the first production Mustang hardtop (5F07U100002), also owns this '84 1/2 20th Anniversary Mustang GT Turbo convertible-one of only 104 produced. Bob's Turbo drop-top was ordered as a dealer inventory car on February 15, 1984, by Rock Springs Ford in Wyoming. Dearborn assembly bucked the body and the assigned VIN on March 20, 1984. As incredible as it may seem, the convertible was transported to Wyoming by tractor trailer.

Original owner Darrell Otto bought the car on May 18, 1984, for $16,916. It was ultimately assigned No. 2,614, an arbitrary number that had nothing to do with the VIN. Anniversary numbers were stamped into customer nameplates as paperwork came in from buyers after the sale.

Darrell enjoyed the convertible for two years, commuting 70 miles each way to work. He comments on the car's reliability, adding it was great for fishing trips and weekend outings. It was driven in snow and saw its share of Wyoming's gravel roads. By 1986, he was ready for something different, so he traded the Mustang for a new F150.

The '79-'84 Mustang Cobras and GTs had European-style faux dual exhaust tips, a distinctive nuance of Ford's early-'80s styling mindset. The objective was to infuse more European styling into the Mustang.

Rock Springs Ford wholesaled it to a used car dealer in Englewood, Colorado, where it was driven another 10,000 miles. It eventually ended up in the hands of Robert Whittington, who enjoyed the car for a short time before putting a "For Sale" sign in the window in 1989. Bob's brother, Dennis, spotted the car, knowing that Bob was looking for landmark Mustangs to add to his collection, which included a '94 30th Anniversary Indy 500 Cobra convertible. Bob bought the 20th Anniversary convertible and Dennis delivered it to him in Los Angeles a short time later.

When Bob got the car, it needed cosmetic work, including some minor body repair, interior restoration, and a set of the correct TRX metric wheels and Michelin radial tires to replace the Thunderbird wheels installed by a previous owner. Since then, the car has been mostly stored in Bob's climate-controlled garage.

In 1998, Bob drove the convertible to Las Vegas for the Bright Lights City Cruise, where he ran into then Ford president Jim O'Connor. Jim had been in charge of the 20th Anniversary project, including the GT350 stripes that got Ford into a lawsuit with Carroll Shelby over trademark infringements. Ford and Shelby settled their differences and the rest, of course, is history.

Although Bob's convertible isn't a low-mileage time-capsule car, it's surely an important slice of Mustang history. Bob's restoration efforts have included only genuine Ford parts, always mindful of his commitment to preserving the breed.

One of the quickest ways to identify a 20th Anniversary Mustang GT is the body buck tag, located on the radiator support. Look for the "ANN" somewhere on the tag. The six-digit consecutive unit number should match what's at the base of the windshield and on the certification sticker.

'84 20th Anniversary Mustang GT Facts

  • Oxford White clearcoat exterior paint
  • Mustang fender badging
  • Dark red beltline moldings
  • Red GT350 stripes
  • Unique white bumpers w/red accent stripes
  • Dark red SVO-style moldings
  • Canyon Red articulating Sport seat trim
  • Pod-style instrumentation
  • Special 20th Anniversary dash plaque
  • Special customer nameplate
  • Available w/all GT powertrains-5.0L V-8 or 2.3L Turbo Four
  • Five-speed or automatic overdrive
  • TRX Metric wheels w/Michelin radial tires
  • Sticker priced around $12,500, depending on options
  • '84 20th Anniversary Mustang GT Production Numbers
    5.0L-4V Five-Speed Hatchback2,604
    5.0L-4V Five-Speed Convertible587
    5.0L/CFI Automatic Hatchback934
    5.0L/CFI Automatic Convertible670
    2.3L EFI Turbo Hatchback362
    2.3L EFI Turbo Convertible104
    Total5,261
    (16 convertibles were Ford Executive Cars; 245 were exported to Canada)Courtesy the Official 20th Anniversary Mustang Registry (www.gt350mustang.com)