1979-86 vs 1987-93 Fox Body Mustang Differences

Created by Tyler Rodriquez / 11 min read
Date Created: 2/2/2024
Last Updated: 2/2/2024

LMR breaks down the differences between the early 1979-86 Fox Body Mustang and 1987-1993 Mustangs.

Viewing this install and using the information shared is subject to the terms set forth here - View the LMR Install Instructions Disclaimer.
Throughout the Fox Body Ford Mustang year ranges, Ford made many different changes from exterior to engines, and everything in between. The most notable difference in the 14 years of the Fox Body was the major body change between 1986 and 1987. Not only did Ford change the exterior of the beloved Fox Body, but there were also key interior, engine, and suspension differences between the two body styles. Follow along as we walk through the differences between the 1979-86 and 1987-93 Fox Body Mustangs.

The Key Differences Between The 1979-86 and 1987-93 Fox Body Mustangs

Before we dive into the differences between the two body styles of the Fox Mustang, let’s first look at what made each one unique.

About The 1979-1986 Fox Body Mustang

Ford's Fox platform was designed to create a lightweight and simple vehicle, aiming to replace the 1960s Ford Falcon-style cars. In response to the trend of downsizing vehicles in the late 1970s, Ford extended the Fox platform for the redesign of various models, with the Ford Mustang undergoing a significant transformation. By the mid-1980s, this platform was streamlined to exclusively accommodate the Mustang and Mark VII coupes.

What Is A Fox Body Mustang? - What Is A Fox Body Mustang?

The first Fox Mustang took shape well before its official release. Fueled by concerns about fuel efficiency and the shrinking size of vehicles, Ford engineers diligently worked to create a Mustang that aligned with current trends and customer preferences. In the mid-1970s, three Ford design teams, two based in Dearborn, MI, and one from a Ghia studio in Italy, engaged in a competition to shape the identity of the Fox Mustang.

What Is A Fox Body Mustang? - What Is A Fox Body Mustang?

By late 1975, the creativity of the redesigned Mustang began to materialize through sketches and clay models. Guided by the Fox platform specifications, including a 100" wheelbase and a mandate for at least two body styles (Notchback & Hatchback), the design teams presented a sportier iteration reminiscent of the Mustang II. Initial renderings showcased traditional styling but introduced innovative elements such as square bucketed headlights, a lower stance, and an upright grille. While the Fox platform was evolving from these designs, there remained room for further refinement as the years passed.

About The 1987-1993 Fox Body Mustang

In 1986, Ford made a significant shift by abandoning carbureted motors, prompting a comprehensive facelift for the Fox, both inside and out, to embrace a more contemporary aesthetic. The iconic "4-eye" front fascia underwent a transformation, giving way to the sleek "Aeronose," featuring a modern six-piece headlight assembly. The GT models sported a more aggressive appearance with a full body kit, including a bumper with round fog lights, lower body side skirts, a GT rear bumper, GT-specific moldings, and distinctive 15" turbine-style wheels.

What Is A Fox Body Mustang? - What Is A Fox Body Mustang?

The rear design saw the removal of amber turn signals in favor of clear lenses for turn signals on LX models, along with a body-colored louver-style lens nicknamed “cheese grater tail lights” for the GT. While the LX models sported a sleek and conservative look, the GT models received a comprehensive aesthetic upgrade that included more pronounced front and rear bumpers and side skirts.

What Is A Fox Body Mustang? - What Is A Fox Body Mustang?

Ford engineers upgraded the 5.0 motor to 225hp and 300 ft/lb of torque by introducing E7TE cylinder heads from the Ford truck line. The new 302 featured forged aluminum pistons with valve reliefs, enhancing internal strength. In 1989, the speed density setup was replaced with a more user-friendly mass air flow setup, simplifying modifications to the intake manifold, engine, and exhaust system. Although this resulted in a slight drop in horsepower, the ease of adding performance parts offset this for enthusiasts.


As the most drastic difference between the 1979-1986 and 1987-1993 Mustangs, the exterior of the Fox Body should be talked about first. While the debate on which body style is best will go on to the end of time among die-hard Fox fans, the upgrade in 1987 brought forth a whole new look for the Fox Body.

1979-1986 Mustang - Nicknamed “4-Eye”

From the 1979 Pace Car to the 1986 Mustang SVO turbo, and all of the Foxes in between, Ford utilized “bucket-style” headlights that were recessed into the front end of the early Fox Mustangs. This configuration included 4 headlights, two on each side, earning the nickname “4-Eye Fox”.
Throughout these years, Ford introduced a few different specialty Mustangs including the Mustang GT, Cobra, and SVO, just to name a few. While the headlight configuration stayed the same, Ford toyed around with different grille options throughout the years.

Looking at the side profile of the 4-Eye Fox, there were different body side moldings on the 1979-1984 and 1985-1986. These side moldings were changed once again in 1987 to match the new upgraded body style. The quarter windows were also changed as well across both the coupe and hatchback body styles.

Moving to the rear, the 1979-1986 Mustang utilized a different rear bumper and taillights when compared to the 1987-1993 Mustang. Interestingly enough, the 1979-1993 Mustang coupes/convertibles shared the same trunk lid.

During the 7 year 4-Eye run, Ford used a few different taillight setups on various trim levels. There were three different styles of taillights used from 1979-1986, not including the specialty trims such as the 93 Cobra and the SVO. The 1979-1982 Mustangs featured a vertical, block-style taillight that was reminiscent of the tried and true classic Mustang taillights. The 79-82 Mustang body had a unique taillight panel as well, adding a touch of black contrast to the rear end. 1979-82 Mustang taillights are not interchangeable with 1983-1993 Mustangs . On the 1983-1984 Mustangs, Ford went with a more horizontal, multi-color taillight that integrated the reverse light, blinker, and brake light all in one lens. This taillight design was split in the middle with a black accent trim piece. For 1985-1986 Mustangs, the taillight design was exactly the same as 1983-1984 Mustangs, but with a grey accent trim piece.

1987-1993 Mustang - Nicknamed “Aero-Nose”

The year is 1987 and Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” can be heard blaring out of every Fox Body cassette player from California to New York. Ford just released the new face-lifted Fox Mustang that took the muscle car industry by storm. While the frame work of the Fox remained relatively the same, there were many differences when it came to the exterior of the 1987 Mustang.

Starting at the front and probably the most notable difference, Ford took a whole new approach when designing the 1987 Fox Body. The popular bucketed headlights were replaced with a more modern 6-piece headlight configuration. This led way to a new hood, grille, and bumper design to compliment the new “aerodynamic” look. It did not take long for enthusiasts to dub this Mustang the “Aero-Nose” Fox Body.

There were two popular trim levels for the 1987-1993 Mustang, named LX and GT. The LX was a sleeker, more conservative trim level with no additional body kits while the GT featured ground effects on the front and rear bumpers, along with the side skirts. It also included large round foglights that gave the Fox Body GT a completely different look.

Ford engineers ditched the louvered quarter windows in favor of a larger, more pronounced quarter window on both the hatchback and the coupe Fox Bodies. The side trim molding also was redesigned for the 1987-1983 LX, GT, and Cobra models.

Moving to the rear, Ford kept it simple with one taillight design throughout all 6 years of the Aero-Nose Fox.


Early Fox Cabin (1979-1986)

The iconic 4-eye Fox interior featured separated, circular gauges, a style that was carried over from the classic Mustang. The shape of the dash was very boxy which was common for most early 80s vehicles, and gave the early Fox a more simplistic look when compared to later Fox models. Since this was before airbags were included as standard equipment, the steering wheel had a very simplistic design that fit this era of sports cars. A wide variety of seats were offered during this time and we break down each seat in our Fox Body seat guide. The simplicity theme carried over to the door panels as well, making them easy to replace during an interior restoration.

Updated Interior (1987-1993)

In 1987, Ford not only updated the exterior of the Fox Body, but the interior got a good upgrade as well. The gauges in the later Fox Bodies got a one-piece design, ditching the individual gauges for a more centrally located display. The headlights, fog lights (GT/Cobra Models), hazards, defrost (LX/Coupe Hardtop) and top (Convertible Only) switches were externally mounted on either side of the gauge cluster for easy access. Ford shaped the dash to be more rounded, which coincided with a more modern look that car manufacturers were going to. The center console got a redesign to a more modular configuration, which would eventually allow for various upgrades in the aftermarket. The door panels got upgraded as well with a new design and kick panel speakers. The 1987-1993 Mustang seats got an upgrade from the 1979-1986 seats as well, giving the interior a more modern look.


While there were many different engine options available throughout the Fox Body generation, in this article, we are going to focus on the V8 options to look at the difference between the popular carbureted and non-carbureted 302 5.0L offered from 1982-1993.

Carbureted 5.0

When the Fox Body debuted in 1979, Ford dropped in a 4.942cc, commonly referred to as the 5.0L engine for simplicity, but was only rated at a measly 139 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. Due to current events of mid-1979, oil prices rapidly rose, throwing America in an energy crisis. This led Ford and other car manufacturers to de-tune their engines, resulting in a smaller 4.2L engine that lasted until 1982 when the 5.0 engine was brought back. From 1982-1985, The V8 Fox Body was equipped with a 302cu 5.0L high-output engine topped with a carburetor. This engine saw a few different power-improving upgrades, including a steel camshaft and revised lifters in 1985 resulting in 210 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque.

Fuel Injected 5.0

In 1986, Ford introduced an electronic fuel injection 5.0 engine that had a slight drop in horsepower but picked up about 15 lb-ft of torque. This new engine featured a long runner aluminum intake manifold, high swirl E6 heads, a 2.25-inch true dual exhaust, and a factory H-pipe. In 1987, Ford equipped the 5.0 with E7 heads that were found on their F-series trucks, giving the Mustang a bump in compression to 9:1 and a performance boost to 225 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. In 1988, Ford equipped their Mustang engines with MAFs, or Mass Air Flow systems, allowing the ECU to adjust the fuel delivery based on the air that was being brought in. Throughout the rest of the Fox Body years, Ford would change out camshafts, pistons, emissions, and other engine components which helped performance and kept the Mustang compliant with 1980-90s vehicle standards.

Suspension & Brakes

While the suspension setup was relatively the same from 1979-2004, there were a few key differences when it came to the two different body styles of the Fox Body Mustang. All Fox Body Mustangs feature a 4 link rear suspension and a modified MacPherson strut front suspension.
The front suspension was made up of a k-member, lower a-arms, struts, and coil springs. The difference between this and a traditional MacPherson strut setup is that on the Mustang, the springs are not mounted on the strut.

The rear suspension featured 2 upper control arms, 2 lower control arms, 2 rear shocks, and 2 coil springs. Similar to the front, the springs are not mounted to the strut like traditional rear shock/spring combos. In 1984, a “quad shock” was added to the rear to reduce wheel hop. This is often removed when adding tubular lower control arms as these components help strengthen the rear suspension to where this quad shock is no longer needed.

As for brakes, there were a few differences which we will get into below, but for the most part, the majority of Fox Bodies features a single piston front caliper and a rear drum brake setup. There were differences in the sizes of front rotors and the use of rear disc brakes on specialty vehicles.

Suspension/Brake Differences

The big difference between the Fox Body suspension and brakes throughout the years was the front brake rotor size and spindle setup for the 4-cylinder and V8 spindles/front brake rotor size.

10” 4-Lug Front Rotor w/ Early Model Spindles

  • 1979-1986 V8 Mustang
  • 1979-1993 2.3L Mustang

11” 4-Lug Front Rotor w/ V8 Spindles

  • 1987-1993 V8 Mustang

11” 5-Lug Front Rotor w/ V8 Spindles

  • 1984-1986 SVO Mustang


While there are many other small, detailed differences between these two body styles, we wanted to touch on the higher-level differences. We hope that this has helped you get a better understanding of what you can expect when purchasing either body style and will help you find parts that fit you specific vehicles. As always, keep it right here with the Fox Body enthusiasts at!

Thumbnail image of the author of this article, Tyler Rodriquez.

About the Author

Tyler has written content for Late Model Restoration for nearly 8 years, producing over 300 articles. As an avid New Edge fan, Tyler has owned 4 2004 Mustangs and an 88 Convertible Fox Body. Read more...