As a child of the ’80’s, I’ve always liked Fox-body Mustangs. The generation’s best years of ’87-’93 correspond exactly with my high school and college days, when I would have loved to have had a new 5.0 Mustang. No such luck, it was ’70’s cars for me and the dream has long gone unfulfilled. I still stop and look at any nice one I see, though. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy this all-Fox article.
The Fox-body Mustang (1979-’93) is one of the most enduringly popular cars to come out of the ’80’s and ’90’s and is emerging as a legitimate collector car, with the best examples bringing prices comparable to many performance cars from the ’60’s and early ’70’s. The old car hobby has always been driven by nostalgia, and many people who were young when they were new are now middle aged and in their peak earning years. Some of them now want to get back the car they let go years ago, or more likely the car they wanted but were never able to get at the time.
Towards the end of my long day at Barrett-Jackson, in one of the last giant indoor tents one comes to if coming in from the outside fields, I came upon a sight to behold: eighteen Fox-body Mustangs lined up chronologically representing almost every year of the body style. They were all in perfect, apparently original condition and with less than 20k miles, some much less. Needless to say, I stopped and looked. A lot. If you like this generation of Mustang, it was pretty much Fox Nirvana. I hadn’t heard about it before hand, but there was some publicity around Dennis Collins, of TV’s Fast ‘n Loud, selling his collection of Mustangs. If you ever watch the show when he’s on, it’s pretty clear he knows his cars and has plenty of money to indulge his automotive passions. Must be nice, if I had lots of money I might be tempted to amass a collection of the best Fox Mustangs I could find, too!
This generation was a huge breath of fresh air after what most Mustang fans consider the dark era. Really, Ford seemed to have lost the tune with the ’71-’73 BloatStang and the ’74-’78 Mustang II. I think they clearly got their groove back with the Fox Mustang. It took a while for the platform to mature and engines to develop fully, but by the mid-’80’s the Mustang was a worthy spiritual successor to the original Pony Car.
I’ll show just a few highlight cars below.
The first year for the Fox-based Mustang is represented by a 1979 Cobra. The Cobra package came standard with a turbocharged 2.3L four cylinder engine making 131hp, or a 140hp 5.0L (302cid) was optional. This immaculate, all-original V8 example had 16k miles and sold for $19,800.
At least Ford had the good sense to introduce the new Mustang with an available V8 (unlike the 1974 Mustang II), even if power output was nothing to brag about when a Pontiac Firebird was still available with 220hp. It did weigh almost 1000lb less than a Firebird, so performance wasn’t too shabby by the standards of the day. Unfortunately, Ford dropped the 5.0 for 1980 and ’81, which are the only two years not represented in this collection. Those two years, the only V8 available was a 255, which made 119 and 115hp in 1980 and ’81 respectively. The turbo 2.3 did make 150hp for 1980, then was dropped for ’81 due to reliability issues. The very bottom of the malaise era!
By the time this 1984 GT was made, the 5.0 had been back for a couple of years and had worked its way up to 175hp. Detroit was slowly shaking off its malaise, thank goodness. This car also had 16k miles, but brought a bit less that the ’79 Cobra: $18,700. This is the last year for the TRX metric wheels/tires.
The carbureted 5.0 really didn’t have a bad looking engine compartment at all by ’80’s standards. There’s a lot going on on the front of the engine, but the engine itself is visible and the dual snorkel air cleaner with stainless lid is rather attractive.
This is a car you don’t see very often, a 1986 SVO. The Special Vehicle Operations team (later SVT) put a lot of engineering work into a special Mustang that was sold from 1984-1986. It had a much improved version of the 2.3L four with turbocharger, intercooler and electronic fuel injection, making 205hp by 1986. It also sported special wheels and tires and improved suspension over the GT. It was never destined to sell a lot, though, as the the price was close to twice the GT’s with similar performance numbers and lacking the GT’s V8 rumble and low end torque. Just like in the mid-’80’s, at $33,000 this SVO would cost you close to double what you could have paid for the ’84 GT above or the 1985 GT convertible.
My favorite Fox Mustangs are the LX 5.0’s, which had the same drivetrain, suspension and wheels as the GT, but wrapped in the plain base Mustang wrapper. I really like the police versions, when starting in the mid ’80’s many state highway patrols and even some municipal/county departments ran the Mustangs to counter the anemic performance of full size cruisers at the time. This 1990 LX 5.0 is not listed as a police package car, but it was ordered just like one with vinyl seats, radio delete and 5-speed manual. With just under 8k miles, it also brought $33,000.
The top seller in the collection was the 1993 LX 5.0 convertible, representing the end of this very long-lived body style. Of course, the chassis would live on still for 11 more years. This one had 341 miles and sold for $53,900. You could buy a new one in 1993 with more miles than that!
Here’s the new owner with his car. He looks pleased, but not nearly as happy as the guy hanging out in the back!
The electronic fuel injection set up of ’86-’93 greatly improved power, efficiancy and driveability, but it pretty well covered the engine and made the ‘Stang less charismatic underhood. The bracing is not stock, but was added when the car was new. The parts are BBK brand, which is the company of the new owner. Guess the Mustang world is pretty small after all.
If you’re interested, here’s links to the rest: 1982 GT, 1983 GT, 1983 GT convertible (gray), 1983 GT convertible (black), 1984 GT350, 1987 GT convertible, 1988 ASC McClaren convertible (weird one!), 1989 GT, 1990 convertible (green 7-Up edition), 1991 LX 5.0 hatchback, 1992 GT convertible, 1993 LX 5.0 convertible (supercharged)
Since this is Curbside Classic, here’s a pallet cleanser after all the high buck, powerhouse Mustangs. Silver had a mint 1990 LX convertible without a 5.0, but instead it had a 4 cylinder and automatic. I don’t know how much it sold for, but I’m sure it was a fraction of any of the Collins Mustangs.
I have to confess that I don’t remember what year this car was and I don’t have a picture of the window placard. As far as I know, it could be anywhere from 1990 to 1993. Do any of you know any little details to narrow it down? (update: Dave Skinner inferred from the engine picture below that it had to be a 1990 model. Impressive knowledge!)
The turbine hubcaps and whitewalls look good on this mild Mustang. They say, “I don’t want to win any races, I just want to have fun in the sun. Wanna come?”
For the ’87-’93 Mustang, Ford pared the engine choices down to just two. It always struck me as kind of absurd that there was such a big spread between the two engines. If you didn’t want to go for the 5.0 V8, you got the 2.3L I4 which made 88hp in 1990, then all of 105hp in 1991-’93. The 4 cylinder in this sweet little Mustang makes it a nice laid back cruiser, just don’t make the mistake of thinking you can go anywhere fast.
In the same vein, Russo and Steele also had a pleasant looking base model droptop, a 1985 LX convertible. This one has the 120hp 3.8L V6, so it might at least be able to get out of its own way.
I’ve always liked the ’85-’86 front end, maybe more than the ’87-’93. In person the car is not quite as clean as it looks in the pictures and not nearly as sharp as the Silver convertible above, but I’ll bet the new owner went home very happy after paying only $2500.
If you want to get into a Fox body 5.0 and don’t have $20-30k to spend, there are choices, even at Barrett-Jackson. They had this 1990 GT convertible which sold for only $7150.
No, it doesn’t have zero miles and it’s not completely stock or original under the hood. However, it looks good, the interior is in great shape and it has a 5 speed manual. Ready to rock and roll!
I hope you enjoyed this look at some fine Foxes, as well as the previous parts with Thunderbirds and first-gen Mustangs. Feel free to tell us about your Fox memories or what you think about these cars in the comments section.
Previous articles in my 2018 Scottsdale auction series: