Car Show Classic: 1982 Ford Mustang GT – Welcome Back

The poor old Ford Mustang had an awful time in the ’70s. It fell off the wagon in the late ’60s, gaining weight that culminated in the zaftig 1971-73 model. Next, in a drastic reversal, it became an anemic Super Pinto in the guise of the Mustang II. Ah, the Mustang II: They may have sold tons of them but then again, Nehru jackets, wide ties and leisure suits were also popular during those years. With the debut of the Fox-body ’79 Mustang, things finally started getting back on track. In 1982, Mustang desirability and performance levels returned to 100% with the return of the V8-powered GT.

Actually, it wasn’t the first time the 5.0-liter, 302 cu in V8 had been available in the Fox-based Mustang. In 1979, its inaugural year, a 140-hp version had been available as an option; then Gas Crisis II struck, after which it was withdrawn. Its absence left performance-minded Mustang buyers to choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder mill or a smaller 120-horse, 255 cu in (4.2-liter) V8.

That situation changed with the ’82 GT. The 302, now in “High Output” form, was back. Compared with the ’79 version, this 5.0 certainly had been breathed on with new valves, a more aggressive camshaft,  aluminum intake manifold and sand-cast pistons. In addition, GTs got cast-iron exhaust manifolds and a Y-shaped (2 into 1) dual exhaust pipe. The result of it all was a bump of 17-horsepower, to 157. Interestingly, the 4.2-liter V8 (with 37 fewer horses than the 5.0) was also available on the GT, but only with the automatic. It’s doubtful that many GTs were ordered that way.


Of course, there were a number of cosmetic upgrades as well. The biggest changes were up front, where an exclusive air dam, unique grille, Marchal fog lights and a non-functional hood scoop made for a much more aggressive face. Aluminum wheels, “5.0” badges on the front fenders, and a rear spoiler rounded out the changes. Additional and more-detailed information on the ’82 GT can be found here on

During the early ’80s, the Mustang just kept getting better and better. It could be argued that the 1982 model year marked the beginning of the Fox Mustang’s renaissance. Out of the 130,418 Mustangs made that year, 24,799 were GTs–a portion that would increase as the GT carried on and was developed further.

I have just one nit to pick. The 1983 GT lost the cool-looking grille, air dam and fog lights. Don’t get me wrong, the ’83 looks nice–I especially like the blackout stripe on the nose with the die-cut “GT” showing the paint color in the corner, but the ’82’s nose looked better. You could tell it meant business.

One year after the GT returned, a GT convertible reappeared after a ten-year absence. Finally, Ford was rebounding after having flirted with disaster during 1979-81. The Mustang II days were fading away as quickly as the Fox Mustang was becoming more and more desirable.

To its credit, Ford did not rest on its laurels and continued to make improvements. In just a year or two, the Euro-inspired SVO Mustang would join the GT and convertible, making for a very diverse lineup indeed. All three of these special Mustangs would capture the hearts–and wallets–of Mustang lovers for years to come.

Here we have the special seats and upholstery of the GT. This kind of reminds me of the “mod art” seats of the late ’70s Porsche 928. I like it.

Despite its Fairmont origins, the Mustang’s instrument panel included much more comprehensive gauges. I initially thought that “Powered by Ford” plate was original, but it appears to have been added later on. Note the radio delete plate.

I spotted this choice ’82 at a September 30 show hosted by my old employer, Dahl Ford. The featured club was the Quad City Mustang Club, but in addition to the fine selections of Mustangs–from ’65 to a new Gotta Have It Green ’13 GT–there were some cool cars of the non-Mustang variety, including a couple of ’85-’86 Cougars, a ’59 Edsel Corsair and a ’78 Mustang II King Cobra (stay tuned). Car show season certainly is winding down, but on this day the weather was great and I enjoyed myself. Really, is there any better way to spend a bright fall Sunday than looking at a bunch of neat old cars?