The Fox Body Mustang is the third generation of the Ford Mustang, introduced in 1979, and used Ford's Fox chassis platform. The Fox platform is the longest-produced vehicle architecture by Ford Motor Company and featured a rear wheel drive, unibody chassis designed for compact and mid-sized vehicles.
Ford designed the Fox platform to be relatively lightweight and simple to replace the Ford Falcon style vehicles of the 1960s. At the end of the 1970s, most manufacturers were looking to downsize their vehicles. Ford followed suit by expanding their Fox platform for redesigning their vehicles, the Ford Mustang being one of them. This was later reduced in the mid 1980's to just the Mustang and Mark VII coupes. The Fox platform was used in the Ford Mustang lineup from 1979-2004.
Vehicles On The Fox Platform:
Years before it's initial release, the Fox Body Mustang was already taking shape. With concerns of fuel economy and vehicle sizes shrinking, Ford engineers were hard at work designing a Mustang that met all of the current trends and customer demands. In the mid 1970's, three Ford design teams, two from Dearborn, MI and one from a Ghia studio in Italy started competing to give the Fox Mustang some shape. In late 1975, sketches and clay models were being brought to life and showing the creativity of the redesigned Mustang. They were given a few guidelines to work off of the Fox platform that included a 100" wheelbase and a minimum of two bodystyle (Notchback & Hatch). The design teams came up with what people considered a sportier Mustang II. These early renderings featured traditional styling but introduced a few new concepts such as square bucketed headlights, lower stance, and an upright grille. While the Fox Body was taking shape from these design teams, there was still much to be improved on.
In May of 1979, Ford claimed another victory after the Fox was chosen as the official pace car of the Indianapolis 500. Ford introduced a 1979 "Indy 500" Pace Car model mid-year to celebrate this accomplishment. Only 10,478 1979 Pace Cars were made and included various new features. The Pace Car's new features includes a unique front air dam with fog lights, full length cowl type hood scoop, a new spoiler, black interior with Recaro seats, and either a 2.3L Turbo or 5.0L motor. The production cars were manufactured with a factory sunroof while the actual pace cars featured a t-top.
Following it's debut year, the Fox Mustang did not see too many changes from the 1979 model. The iconic 5.0 motor was replaced with a 256 4.2L V8 to conserve fuel to meet consumer demands. High back bucket seats were introduced along with multiple colored interior options, brighter halogen headlights, and a few other options were made available. The Cobra package was also offered through 1981 and was dropped in 1982 to make way for the return of the Mustang GT. In 1982, we also saw the birth of the SSP Mustang (Special Service Package Mustang) but was not released to the public until 1983. .
WIth the introduction of the new Fox in 1979, Ford also brought back the Cobra model where only 17,579 were produced. This Cobra model featured black trim and grille area, chrome door handles, stainless steel lock sets, stainless steel antenna, aluminum roof drip rail, body colored sail panels, black lower body-side paint, color-coordinated dual pinstriped in the wraparound body style moldings and bumper grooves, an optional snake decal for the hood, and Cobra lettering on the doors. Unlike the 1980-1981 Cobras, the 1979 version did not feature a spoiler. It was later added after the Pace Car package made it's debut. In 1980 and 1981, the Cobra was revised with a new front bumper and air dam featuring fog lights, a cowl type hood scoop, and the pace car style spoilers. The exterior trim, door handles, keylocks, antenna, and sail panels were all painted black for 1980/1981. They can also be distinguished from the 1979 by the belt-line stripe, hood decal, and COBRA decals on the side windows and rear spoiler.
With the decline in big block motor popularity and growing concerns of fuel economy, the California Highway Patrol requested Mustangs to test as high speed enforcement vehicles in 1982. After an 18 month test of the 1979 Chevy Camaro, the CHP decided not to keep them as a part of their fleet. The California Highway Patrol adopted 406 Mustangs into their fleet in 1982 with only 5 of them being Hatchback models. In 1983, Ford offered the Mustang to other law enforcement agencies and labeled them "Special Service Package". Read more about the SSP Mustang
Reaching the 5th year of the Fox Mustang, Ford engineers redesigned the sports car's features and brought back the option for a convertible. The front facia got a facelift with a more rounded nose and a reshaped grille. The vertical sectioned taillights were replaced with a wider horizontal design with a dedicated amber turn signal that gave the rear a much cleaner look. The Mustang GT was released in 1983 sporting a four-barrel carburetor and a new intake manifold that pushed the 5.0 engine up to 175 horsepower. A fuel injected, turbocharged 2.3 engine was also offered pushing the 4 cylinder to 145 horsepower. After failing sales of the 3.3L Fox, it was replaced with a 3.8L Essex V6. Ford dropped the GL & GLX trim options and left the L, LX, GT, Turbo GT, and a new SVO trim level. (Read more about the SVO Mustang). 1984 marked the 20th anniversary of the Mustang and Ford celebrated by releasing the Mustang GT350. The GT350s with a limited run of GTs & Turbo GTs available only in oxford white exteriors and canyon red interiors with red GT350 rocker striped and tri bar Pony emblems on the front fenders. The 302 also got a revision and was available in two options, a carburated 5.0 for manual transmission cars and a 165 horsepower electronically fuel injected 5.0 for automatic equipped cars. The slapper bars and horizontally mounted axle shocks were ditched for a new Quadra-Shock rear suspension.
The front fascia got another redesign in 1985 with a grill-less nose and a horizontal air intake slot. The Mustang GT engine got bumped up to 210hp with the help of new E5AW cylinder heads, a revised Holley four-barrel carburetor, a more aggressive roller camshaft, better flowing exhaust manifolds, and a pseudo-dual exhaust system. With these new additions, Ford also dropped the L and Turbo GT from their options leaving only the LX, GT, and SVO.
In 1986, Ford completely dropped the carburetor engine for the new fuel injected 302 rated at 200hp. Ford also ditched the 10" clutch for a bigger 10.5" clutch. The 7.5" rear end was also dropped in V8 models and the SVO and replaced with the stronger 8.8" rear end. The 2.3L and 3.8L motors kept the 7.5" rear ends throughout the Fox's remaining years. Third brake lights were relocated to the standard rear spoiler on hatchbacks, inside the bottom of the rear window on the coupes, and on the rear edge of the luggage rack on convertible models. 1986 would be the last year of the early design looks of the Fox Body Mustang
The SVO Mustang was a Mustang built by Ford's Special Vehicle Operations Department and was in production from 1984-1986. The SVO sported a turbo 4 cylinder motor with unique body panels, 5 lug axles and hubs, unique SVO interior, and many other small differences from the production Mustangs of it's time. The SVO was built from a performance Fox Body built for the Quaker State Oil Longest Day Of Nelson race but quickly made it into production for a short time. Learn more about the full History Of The SVO.
After ditching the carbureted motors in 1986, Ford designers completely facelifted the interior and exterior Fox Body for a more modern look. The previously bucketed "4 eye" front fascia was replaced with what was nicknamed the "Aeronose" which included a more modern 6 piece headlight and either a fog light equipped GT bumper or a more conservative LX bumper. Rear amber turn signals were ditched in the taillights and replaced with clear lenses for the turn signals on LX models and a body-colored triple sectioned louver style lens. While the LX models sported a sleek, more conservative look, the GT models got a full body kit. The GT's featured a bumper with round fog lights, lower body side skirts, GT rear bumper, GT specific moldings, and 15" turbine style wheels.
Pushing the 5.0 motor to 225hp and 300 ft/tq was easy with the addition of E7TW heads sourced from Ford's truck line. The previously flat topped pistons were replaced with forged aluminum pistons with valve reliefs making the new 302 much stronger internally. The famous speed density setup was discontinued in 1989 and replaced with a much easier to modify mass air flow setup. This did drop the horsepower a bit but with the ease of adding more performance parts, most enthusiasts did not mind. The MAF system made modifications to the intake, engine, and exhaust system easier to recognize and compensated for by the ECU allowing for correct air to fuel ratios to make optimal power. Starting in 1990, the driver's side airbag became standard along with a small galloping horse logo on the passenger side dashboard (an ode to the 25th anniversary of the Mustang.
From 1989-1993 The Fox Mustang did not receive too many changes due to Ford focusing on a complete body redesign in 1994. A few important events did happen that would give the last years of the Fox some extra importance. In 1990, Ford ran a limited run of emerald green exterior/white leather interior 5.0 convertibles with the 15" turbine wheels for a contest by the soda company 7-up. The contest was cancelled at the last minute, leaving Ford with 4,103 special edition Mustangs which they decided to sell as is, giving birth to the 7-up edition Mustang. Three special edition LX 5.0 convertibles were also released in 1992 and 1993. The "Summertime" edition was a vibrant red with oxford white interior released in 1992. In 1993, a vibrant yellow with black or white leather interior and a vibrant white exterior with white leather interior. The forged aluminum pistons were dropped in 1992 for a hypereutectic piston making the GT put down 205hp and 275 ft/tq.
The last and possibly most popular Fox Body edition for the 1993 was the introduction of the 1993 Mustang Cobra and Cobra R. SVT, or Special Vehicle Team, created 2 souped up versions of the 1993 Mustang offering more power, better features, and a slick new body styling. The 93 Cobra and Cobra R featured a 302 5.0 that put down 235hp and 280tq, thanks to the new GT-40 high performance engine upgrades. Exterior wise, the Cobra featured a new Cobra rear bumper, front bumper, side skirts, a unique Cobra rear spoiler, Cobra emblems, SVO style taillights, and a special cobra grille insert. The Cobra R included larger brakes, Koni shocks and struts, engine oil cooler, power steering cooler, and a rear seat delete. The Cobra R Air conditioning and a stereo system were not offered on the Cobra R due to it's racing intended purposes. Only 107 Cobra R's were made while 4,993 1993 Cobras were made.