Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 13, 2011
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

They brought the Mustang out of the doldrums of the 1970s. The '79 Indy Pace Car gave us a glimpse of what could be done with the Fox-body Mustang, but it was the '82 GT, with its new 5.0 HO engine and "Boss is Back" ad campaign, that put Mustang back on the road to popularity. By the late 1980s, an entire industry had blossomed around the lightweight, inexpensive, and amazingly quick 5.0 Mustang, with performance mail-order companies, parts manufacturers, racers, sanctioning bodies, and even magazines springing up to claim their piece of the 5.0 pie. Some describe the '87-'93 Mustang as the 1980s equivalent of the '67-'69 Camaro in terms of aftermarket performance parts.

Now it's 20 years later. And like the '65-'73 Mustangs before it, the Fox-body Mustang has become a nostalgic journey back in time for the people who grew up in the 1980s. If you were 18 in 1989, you're now closing in on your 40s. Maybe you were lucky enough to own a 5.0 Mustang back then and you want to relive those days of 5.0 thunder. Or perhaps you simply admired the Saleen in your neighbor's garage and now you've reached the point in life and career where you can justify adding one to your garage.

Some Fox-bodies are already coveted as collector cars, mainly the low-production, high-performance versions like the SVO, Saleen, '93 Cobra, and even the SSP police cars, which have a fanatical following all their own. Any '82-'93 with a 5.0 is popular, especially the '87 and later coupes and convertibles, and they can still be found in used condition for reasonable prices. The problem, however, is a lack of parts for restorations. But that is quickly changing as mail-order companies and restoration parts manufacturers rev up for what they see as a Fox-body revival.

You only need to look at National Parts Depot's Florida warehouse from the air to see how much the company has invested into Fox-body Mustangs. Last year, NPD completed a 202,000 square-foot expansion at their Gainesville headquarters, so the birds-eye view of the old-versus-new roofs clearly demonstrates that the already huge facility has nearly doubled in size.

Not all of the expansion will house '79-'93 Mustang parts, with NPD also looking to expand into other car lines. But a big part of the investment lies in what they see as a bright future for Fox-body Mustang restorations.

"We've devoted a big section of the warehouse to the late-model Mustang line," says Matt Laszaic, NPD's marketing director for Fox-bodies. "And we're devoted to putting product in as many locations as we can. Right now, we have Fox-body product in three of our four stores around the country; hopefully, it will be in California soon. We've devoted an enormous amount of space so we can facilitate that market no matter where people are."

Earlier this year, NPD released its first catalog for Fox-body Mustangs, a 164-page candy store for Fox-body owners. Laszaic says the first printing is only the beginning; he's continuing to search for new parts that can help '79-'93 owners build, restore, and maintain their cars. For example, NPD is working with their suppliers to fill the void for direct replacement exhaust systems. Remember those factory systems you cut off and threw away?

Shannon Guderian has been ramping up for a Fox resurgence ever since he started his company, Latemodel Restoration Supply, in 1999. The upswing has taken a little longer than expected, but now LRS, like NPD, is ready for a new rise in popularity. Just as the value and popularity of classic Mustangs soared during the 1980s, LRS sees a similar trend for 1980s Mustangs today.