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

Have you checked out '79-'04 Mustang resale values lately? Prices are down, and you are invited to the greatest Mustang white sale ever. Rare, collectible Fox-body Mustangs will hold their value long term. But for now, most buyers aren't willing to pay high prices thanks to the popularity of the '05-'09 Mustang. Prices for '79-'04 Mustangs are at rock bottom and not likely to rebound any time soon.

The good news is, if you desire an affordable fun car, there has never been a better time to buy a Fox-body Mustang. Of course, prices will eventually rebound, much as the '65-'73s did in the '80s.

If you want to understand the ups and downs of '79-'04 Mustangs, look no further than events of the period-baby boomer trends and issues such as fuel prices and the economy. Ford introduced the '79 Mustang on the heels of an automotive meltdown that was the '70s. Detroit chloroformed the factory muscle car early in the '70s due to rising insurance costs and tougher government safety and emissions standards. In 1974, the Arab Oil Embargo stopped pleasure driving overnight as fuel prices doubled. Baby boomers also plowed into adulthood. Instead of sporty Mustangs, they were buying station wagons, minivans, and economy cars.

For '79, the Mustang was reengineered on an all-new platform, code-named "Fox," which first appeared as the '78 Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr to replace the Maverick and Comet. For the Mustang, the Fox platform incorporated European-style McPherson strut/four-link suspension, metric wheels and tires, slippery lines, sculptured console, and even optional turbocharged power. It was a car with a fresh attitude thanks to Ford's Jack Telnack, the new vice president of Ford North American Design.

With more than 4.3 million Fox-body Mustangs produced over 25 years, which should you consider and what should you do with it? Should you buy a '79 Indy Pace Car, '79-'81 Cobra, or other low-mileage original from this era? Much depends on how you feel about these cars. If they were hot when you were in high school and you would like to relive your youth, buy one and enjoy the memories. But don't buy one to restore because parts are hard to come by. Don't restore one with an eye on resale value because you're going to be disappointed.

Every so often, low-mileage time capsules show up on eBay or in trader publications, complete with the original bill of sale and factory paperwork. If you can find a seller desperate to move one of these originals, they're a terrific deal for buyers nostalgic for the '80s.

The '79 Mustang came out of the chute as the official Indy 500 Pace Car. Over 10,000 replicas were produced in a mix of V-8 and four-cylinder turbo models. These cars are good investments if you buy a low mileage original in showroom condition. As restoration projects, parts are hard to come by and values are marginal.

'79-'84: Deal Or No Deal?
When Ford redesigned the Mustang for '79, it was fresh and inspiring, yet it lacked traditional Mustang nuances. Despite its all-new status, it was disappointing to many because it didn't look like a Mustang. Gone were the Mustang's quarter scoops and three-element taillights. Also missing was the roar of a powerful V-8; the best you could get was a 302ci 2V small-block.

TRX metric wheels and Michelin radial tires would have been a terrific idea had the tire industry supported this short-lived idea. Try finding those metric radials today. Ford also moved the horn button from the steering wheel to the turn signal stalk where it stayed from '79 to '84. This was a ridiculous idea because no one thinks of the turn signal lever when it's time to sound the horn. The new Mustang also lost the richness of the '74-'78 Mustang II, especially the Ghia models.

Despite our criticisms, the '79-'84 Mustangs were important stepping-stones to the 5.0L Mustangs to come. If you can find a low-mileage weekend play-toy at the right price, these Mustangs make terrific rides. Here are some best buys, suggested because they're cheap whenever they come up for sale.

Best Buys
* '79 Indy 500 Pace Car replica-10,478 produced
* '79 Cobra 5.0 with four-speed
* '82 GT, the first of the HOs
* '83-'84 GLX 5.0L convertible
* '83-'84 GT hatchback and convertible
* '83-'84 GT Turbo