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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Your handy 1979-93 Ford Mustang (Fox-body) buyer's guide | Hagerty Media

Like the Falcon before it, the Ford Fairmont (and the Fox chassis underneath) was the right vehicle for its time. Hailed as the "Best selling new car ever introduced", the Fairmont didn't just lead to the third-generation "Fox-body" Mustang; it created something magical long after its template became obsolete.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/buying-and-selling/1979-93-ford-mustang-fox-body-buyers-guide/
65 REPLIES 65
tiger66
New Driver

Very comprehensive, well-done guide. However as a former 13-year owner of a '90 LX 5.0 5-speed vert, I would offer a much shorter guide:

1. Skip the pre-1986 cars (why deal with a carburetor given today's carburetor-unfriendly fuel?).
2. Skip the non-V8 cars.
3. Skip the automatics.

Fox Mustangs were great when they were cheap V8 fun. Now that they are no longer cheap, I don't see the appeal. A 2005-09 Stang costs less, is more powerful, better looking and has better brakes and handling as well as a lighter clutch that won't blow out your knee in stop and go traffic. Plus they can be found for under $10k all day long. They are bit large, like everything else these days, but are a much better value than a Fox, which wasn't that great even brand-new.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I can't argue with any of this. But as a Fox chassis fanatic myself, and after writing this, I really, really, reeeeealllly want a Mustang Ghia notchback with a vinyl top. Or maybe a 1982 GT, because the boss is indeed back. 

Oldroad1
Advanced Driver

Skip the pre 86? The Carbureted 5 liter power netted more HP and torque than the multi injected versions. Plant an Edelbrock Performer under that carb and the net will increase handsomely. You can make carburetor unfriendly fuel friendly with Marvel Mystery Oil 4oz fuel tank treatment twice a month. Those gargantuan upper plenums were heavy, clumsy and real pains in the a$$ to R/I. Sorry but I hated them.
Sajeev
Community Manager

More HP and TQ compared to 1986, yes. I'd rather have a 1986 and put 1987 heads on it, and stomp all over a 1985 with 300 lb-ft of torque thanks to that gargantuan upper plenum on a short stroke V8. 🙂 

Oldroad1
Advanced Driver

Nuff said. Wasn't knocking performance with the right combinations, just the work. I used to have to R/I those things least once a week for one reason or another back then. Trucks were even worse.
Oldroad1
Advanced Driver

Have you ever combined a Performer and factory 600cfm Holley on a 85? Also, I was referring to stock short block applications as your mentioning "a short stroke V8". That to me does not sound like a 5 liter factory short block. Since we're cross dressing factory parts here. How bout an 85 w/ Performer, Holley and 87 cyl heads with some non computerized distributor curve work? Ok plus one after market performance manifold (not factory). Going back to "short stroke V8". I don't think a 5 liter is considered as such since a 302 is a moderately stroked 289 w/ the same bore.
Sajeev
Community Manager


@Oldroad1 wrote:
I don't think a 5 liter is considered as such since a 302 is a moderately stroked 289 w/ the same bore.

That's a perspective thing, I guess.  In my eyes the 5.0 has a short stroke compared Chevy 350, and especially compared to the 4.6L motors that replaced them.

Oldroad1
Advanced Driver

Guess I'm picken fly poop outa pepper while your talken generalities. I enjoyed the back and forth though, thanx.
OHCOddball
Detailer

Don't discount the early cars. Engines can be changed. Carbs can be changed. Many kits out there to put fuel injected engines in earlier cars. Turbo 4 is nothing to sneeze at either so don't leave them out. They can make high horsepower if properly built and it saves weight. Fox bodies were good for their day, but what isn't? Progress is progress. Buy what you want be it a Model T or the latest whatever. People hated the Mustang II, but they were actually pretty good looking and performing cars. Yes the engines were weak on HP, but nothing that a good rebuild with proper speed parts can't fix.
RichH
Detailer

I did blow a clutch cable in the left lane of the 101 in afternoon rush hour with my 79.
😱

Tim
Instructor

An '87 GT was my favorite at the time, with all the power and the better looks than the LX. I didn't care if the LX was faster, I'd take the GT or GT convertible. I wouldn't begrudge anyone opting for the LX, and '87 appears to be the high-water mark for power through the end of the Fox years and well into the 4th gen's run.
BossGreg
Intermediate Driver

Yes , skip the early cars so my favorite Fox's stay more attainable and especially erase the turbo history as that also doesn't really matter to anyone. Don't be a guide to All Fox bodies, just be a guide for the "technological elite" Fox's. Especially don't mention the early patrol cars which history has proven to be a horrible investment and their technology is inferior.
TG
Instructor

I run a number of carbureted cars, and the only time the new fuel is unfriendly is if you let them sit - particularly in a car with a dirty fuel system. One thing ethanol is pretty good at doing is cleaning out the fuel system, then depositing the results as a ring of muck in your carb bowl if you let it sit long enough for the fuel to evaporate. Drive 'em and you'll have no problems
espo70
Intermediate Driver

The pre-86 cars can be just as much fun. And with an occasional modern additive-problem free as well. Also, I for one and many others feel the 4 eye cars look better and have more character/individuality. For those that have only driven FI cars-there’s nothing like the sound of a Holley 4bbl opening up into a set of flowmaster 40s.
ChrisCurtin
New Driver

Nice guide. You missed a few things
- the Turbo GT was available with the same SVO engine (sans intercooler) in 1983
- never heard of an '84 1/2' SVO usually you see mention of the '85 1/2' because of the headlight changes

No mention of the Mercury Capri siblings? Again an 83 RS Turbo with the SVO engine, I have an 84 RS Turbo with the same engine and arguably better 80's style (bright red and orange stripes! Big RS and Turbo orange and red badges!)

https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51113383485_41f865e971_h.jpg
Sajeev
Community Manager

Thanks for your input! 

1. I added the GT Turbo for 1983, and it makes sense since the Thunderbird Turbo came out the same year. 

 

2. Changing SVO back to 1984 not 1984.5. 

 

3. I briefly mentioned the Capri in the 1979 section now, mostly because it deserves to be its own buyer's guide...and this beast is too long already. 

Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

The SVO's, early GT's, later LX's and especially that last Cobra are always going to be favorites of mine. Crude and primitive by today's standard but still great performance at a still affordable budget. Except the Cobra's they seem to have gone to be still easy to come by. As for the Carb cars there is always the Holley EFI to try. Get the car you want and the mods are there to make it better.
Saanich2006
New Driver

Your article said that for the 1979, "The 5.0’s manual gearbox had an overdrive..." While in college I had a 1979 Mustang with the 5.0 V8, four speed and it did not have an overdrive. Also, while in college a friend had one of the 1979 Indy Pace Car editions, with the 5.0 V8, and he did not have overdrive either. So are you saying this was an option or standard feature - because it was not standard and I have never seen one with an overdrive?
RichH
Detailer

4th WAS OD.

I think I was taching about 2500 at 60 mph.

Sajeev
Community Manager

It had overdrive and here's a snippet from the 1979 sales brochure stating this: 

 

Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 11.42.03 PM.png

JohninNC
Advanced Driver

Calypso green/ blue coupe (notch) with a stick would be my dream foxbody at the moment. Lower it just a touch, a few bolt on goodies... A guy I know has an ex state trooper car... that would be cool too.
JK
Intermediate Driver

There is more on the story on the original design creation under Jack Telnack. He had just returned from a highly successful tour of duty as head of design for Ford of Europe. I was told that over the weekend of his arrival, before even starting back at work in Dearborn, he received a phone call from a very senior executive complaining about what was at that time the Mustang proposal created under Bordinat's direction. That led to a crash program to create what became the 1979 Mustang as we know it.

Those European influences in its design can be attributed to Jack's time running the Ford of Europe operation.

Jack would go on to ascend to VP of Design upon the retirement of Bordinat. Some very splendid designs came from Telnac's tenure.
RichH
Detailer

79 capri.jpgI had a 79 Capri - 1st year of the little Fox - which had MUCH nicer lines than the Mustang. In fact, I would argue that these early Capris (with the flat rear window) were the styling sweet spot of the entire Foxtang/Foxpri range. I ordered it loaded: 5.0, 4 speed with OD, AC, moonroof, tilt wheel, rear wiper, TRX wheels/tires/suspension, black lower body paint, pinstripes and Ghia interior. Pretty sure the PS and PDB were standard. THANKS for reminding me about the stalk mounted horn that I hated!

 

The 302 2BBL was not particularly powerful (same 140 ponies as my Miata), but these cars were light - maybe the lightest stangs other than the Pinto-based, ugly as sin, fake-stang Mustang IIs. With the CAFE rules they could not guaranty my car would be built, but it was. 4 spd stick with OD was not as good as a 5, but that's all they had back then.

 

Put 100k miles on it and sold it to the new owner with something like 250 miles on the clock in 1986. It looked like it just rolled out of the showroom. Only maintenance besides filters, oil, brakes and tires was a set of 4 KYB gas-filled shocks.
Very well balanced and a joy to drive on twisty roads or the highway. NOT good in the snow!
SO sorry I sold that one. 😞
- Coulda upgraded the drivetrain bigly and easily!!!

 

I just remembered that I ordered this car while waiting for delivery of a white 79 RX-7. When that car FINALLY came in I sold my delivery position to someone else. That one woulda been a keeper too. 

TG
Instructor

My 91 had aftermarket air bags in the rear coil springs. Every winter I would load up the back with semi-truck flywheels and pump the bags up until the bumper was back to proper ride height and ride all winter with no problems
BROD
New Driver

What about the McLaren Mustang? Fox body but I never see anything about them, right ups, values etc. I own a ‘87 black with tan top and interior, it’s 1 of 26 in color combo. Just waiting to see the values of these models go up. I’ve owned several fox bodies and regret getting rid of them but will never sale the McLaren do to it’s rarity and dad gave it to me. Just wish I could read more about them, anywhere. I seem to have to dig for info on them since I never see anything on them.
BossGreg
Intermediate Driver

I take it you know about the ASC McLaren website? I have an 1 of 1 89 in it's paint and trim. It baffles me how cheap you can get these still and how forgotten they are.
chrlsful
Instructor

I skimmed the long article quickly, back w/more time - but did not see much on the LX (like the SSP U filled out on) a 4 dor. The 'fox' brought my attention as 1982 - '04 (SN-95) AND beyond mark this model (105 inch WB give or take a few). The wagon models have been my interest (1st essix bent6 ina Granada a full yr B4 the others, fairmont/zepher) onto the LTD/Marquis (confusing as there was the Grand Marquis and Crown Vic on the 'panther' platform). 20 + yrs is a good run for parts swap-ability !
TIJERANDY
New Driver

Back in 1978 I read all the advance reviews of the New Mustang...rave reviews for styling, aerodynamics, new body/unibody etc...I was quite impressed. So on Christmas Eve, I strolled into one of our 2 Ford Dealers and made a deal on a Ghia V6, auto, A/C, upgraded stereo/cassette, in Powder Blue with Dark Blue velour interior. In about 6 weeks the car arrived. It was stunning, and I was so excited. In the next week, the hatch whistled like a flute. There was a hole in the Headliner. When I shifted into gear, it hesitated and then threw me back with a loud CA-CHUNK. Then trim started popping off side and quarter windows. Trim also on hatch was popping up every time I shut it. When I stepped on the gas, the engine roared, but the car moved like a slug. So I visited the Dealer. The Service writer looked at my list and said: "We'll need it for few days to take care of all this"...plus I had added a few more. I just looked at him. Do I get a loaner? "No, he said, but we'll give you a ride back to work." I needed the car for work; I drove about 400 miles per week for work, plus commuted 15 miles each way home to work. Disgusted, I drove across the street to the Dodge/Chrysler dealer. Sitting on the used lot was a 1979 Fire Arrow, White with red Velour. I drove it; it was HOT with 2.6 4 Cyl, auto that layed rubber when it shifted into 2nd. No wind whistle, no loud engine (remember the twin balance shaft?) The car was quiet and solid. It was the Dealers Demo, with 3k miles on it. I traded it straight across - no money exchanged. End of My Fox Mustang Story...and I have never bought another Ford Since. Funny how ONE LEMON can affect one's decision.
beeser
Intermediate Driver

V-6 (3.8 Litre "Essex") wasn't available until 1983. '79s would have the in-line six.

 

How long did that Arrow last? Those balance-shaft Mitsubishis are notorious for trouble; the balance-shaft chains would stretch and break, leading to loss of oil pressure; the carburetors would wear beyond repair, and the head gaskets would blow at around 80k miles, unless the head was re-torqued at regular intervals (and what American re-torques head bolts?). My brother and his friends put themselves through college buying used, low-mileage Colts, Arrows, and Mitsubishi-engined K-cars, replacing the head gaskets, and flipping them.

espo70
Intermediate Driver

The 2.8 liter V6 was available in 79. I believe it was from the European Capri.

beeser
Intermediate Driver

Ack! You're right. I forgot about the Cologne 2.8. Great engine, BTW; it's 4.0 decendants powered Rangers and Explorers into the 21st century, until it was ruined by making it OHC. Overall, a much better engine than the balance-shaft Mitsubishis.
Reinhold_Weege
Advanced Driver

You wrote what I was already thinking as soon as I read about what he traded for, lol.
LamboEd
Intermediate Driver

Glad to see an article on the FOX body as I have one! I have an 88 black LX coupe and of course a 5-speed (would not have bought it if it wasn't a stick!). Got it about 10 years ago and I am the second owner. 40K original miles, now just over 50K as I bought it to drive it occasionally. Perfect condition inside and out, car is completely original and I am keeping it this way! Not the best handling car I have or the fastest by any means, but I love it! Whether I take it to a show or go to the grocery store I always get comments, just yesterday "Nice FOX body, you just don't see any!". And I frequently get asked or I find notes on the car, "Interested is selling". The answer is NO, I have no reason to sell it as I enjoy it! With FOX body prices increasing it is tempting, what would I buy with the money?, so NFS!
Tim
Instructor

Sajeev, your knowledge of Ford's of this era (not just Mustang) is impressive. The detail in this guide is a must-read for anyone shopping a Fox body. If I ever see an '87 GT that lures me in, I;lol know exactly what to look for.
Sajeev
Community Manager

You are very kind, and I appreciate it. Foxes kinda got me into cars, so writing this was a passion project of sorts! 

Maestro1
Instructor

Sajeev, well done indeed.
I've wanted one of these as a Ghia (I'm showing my age) but time and life interfered. Very
handsome cars.
Sajeev
Community Manager

After writing this beast of an article, I want a Ghia pretty bad. Make mine a 5.0 notchback with a vinyl roof. 

sego
Intermediate Driver

Great article. I remember Clarice Starling driving a 5.0 LX in Hannibal. You could here the pipes long before seeing the car!
Zephyr
Advanced Driver

Never cared for any of these when they were new, but by today's standards they look pretty good.
MattK
Detailer

I'm partial to the Fox Capri, I love that Bubbleback rear window and the overall style of the car.
83ragtop50
Intermediate Driver

Love the picture of the red '83 GLX convertible. I bought one new in September, 1983 that looks exactly like the picture. And it is sitting in my garage as I type this. A fun car.
basmith302
Pit Crew

Excellent article. It is well-written and very interesting.
The 1993 Cobra color you refer to as "electric blue" is actually called Teal Metallic.
T tops were indeed available on coupes, not just hatchbacks
This one is not a correction to anything you said, but another factoid not mentioned. The 5.0 HO was not required when ordering a 1982 GT and neither was the 4 speed. You could order the GT package with the 4.2 V8 and an automatic. IF you ordered the 5.0 HO, the 4 speed was required.
Lastly, the 5.0 HO camshaft had numerous revisions and thus different part numbers throughout the years all the way to 1993, which accounted for some of the HP decrease in stated HP numbers.
Thanks for this very complete and well-written article! I knew we would get the respect we deserved one day!
Sajeev
Community Manager

Thank you for your kind words! You clearly know your stuff, so I am glad to see you enjoyed my article. That said: 

  • I am fixing the 1993 Cobra color...sad, because I knew this fact but it somehow lot lost in the sauce when I was writing this article. Ugh!
  • I have never seen a T-top on a coupe, and the sales literature I looked over said it was for T-tops only. 
  • You are correct, I am making it clearer that the 1982 GT had a 5.0 optional. 
  • You are correct again, the cam changes were numerous from 1979-1995 (not just 1993), but that detail woulda made this article even longer AND Ford said that 1993's change in rating power was the reason why it dropped. I even remember reading it on their salesman training materials back in the day!  
  • Thank you again!!! 🙂 
RickL
Intermediate Driver

I am the original owner of a 1984 20th Anniversary Model, 5 speed, 4 barrel, hatchback. I have almost 200,000 miles on it with the original engine intact. Sure, I have upgraded items over the years and took a 15 second car to high 12's for not a lot of money. I was 26 at the time, it was my first "new" car and all these years later still own it. I know what it is, how simple, how crude, not very good quality control, but I love it for the simplicity of it. Mustangs were cheap dollar wise compared to the competition back then. I prefer the four eyed Mustangs but have a brother that has a beautiful 93 Cobra. I know that the new ones are great cars, just as the Camaro and Challenger are. Appreciate and enjoy them while you can.
Flipper155
Pit Crew

I ordered a red 82 Gt 5.0. It had a sunroof, tilt wheel, Recaro interior (black) TRX suspension and an am radio- stupid me did not order AC, power windows/ locks or cruise control. I was driving an 81 rx7, which handled like it was on rails and that oh so unique rotary engine. But the lack of a back seat and some other issues prompted me to move into the Mustang. It finally arrived and I got there to pick it up, fresh from being “prepped” by the dealer. The right front fender had a large dent in it and the huge front spoiler wasn’t quite the same shade of red. I pointed out the flaws and notes were made for a future repair date. But boy did that thing haul the bacon down the road! The speedo only went up to 85, but out on some desolate farm road i had it wound up pretty high in 3rd gear with the speedometer needle pointing just about straight down against the trip meter reset button. I estimate 120-125 or so, and then as I was coming up a slight rise in the road , the county sheriff appeared going the other direction. Long story short- I pulled over and waited for him, and he wrote me for 70 in a 55. And I thanked him.
Then 1989 came around, the GT had about 60k on it and we realized that this was not a family car (and it certainly was no good in the Northern Illinois winters either!) and it wasn’t very easy to put our son in and out of the car seat in back without doing some sort of Triple Lindy back screw maneuver-we traded the GT in on a new Tempo LX. It was practical and comfortable and had power everything and AC! And with 4 doors it was much easier getting the boy in and out of the car seat.

Fast forward to now, we just picked up a 94 GT convertible, totally unmolested except for the radio and a pair of Flowmasters. Not the quickest Mustang, but it’s just right for summer nights and driving around Eastern Tennessee- I think I’m keeping this one for a while!
MustangJim
Detailer

Great article, very thorough. The only one that I wish was included ( I know it cannot be as it's not really a mustang) is the 84 and 85 ltd lx. I've always wanted one but at the time I needed economy as I was driving 20 to 30,000 miles a year. I should have bought one anyway.
Sajeev
Community Manager

As the owner of an 84 LTD LX and an 85 LTD Brougham, trust me, I want to write something like this for the 1983-85 LTDs. 

TG
Instructor

I had an 89 and a 91... both were a lot of fun but the 89 was a 4 cylinder car that had a 5.0 transplanted into it and one of the tailpipes of the hastily installed dual exhaust came off shortly after i bought it, so I threw it in the back of the car for 'later'. My plain-jane looking 5.0 with one tailpipe surprised a lot of folks when the light turned green
SJ
Instructor

Great article. I have owned 4 Fox's. Unless you have found something different I believe the FI '85 was still 165 HP, there were rumors they paired it with the roller engine but there is no evidence to support it. I actually mistakenly bought one thinking it was carbureted, that's what I got for not doing my homework for once. I did get the 4 bbl. '85 later though. Also the main T5's weakness were the shift forks that bent during aggressive shifting, easy fix to put in an aftermarket shifter and adjust the stops. I put in an old school Hurst Shifter with the White Ball, just like my first Mustang a '67 GT 2+2.
Again one of the better succinct overviews.