Fox Body Mustang: Ford’s Most Underrated Muscle Car

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1979 Fox Body Ford Mustang

Often criticized for its looks, the third generation Mustang was the pioneer of the modern era pony car.

People outside of the Ford community are often quick to badmouth the Fox Body Mustang for a variety of reasons, but when you discuss American performance cars from the 1980s, the five-o-powered pony car was one of the leaders of the pack. Even today, decades after the Fox Body was first introduced, you are guaranteed to see at least a few examples of this generation of the Mustang during any trip to the drag strip.

The folks at AutoClassics.com recently did a piece looking at the history of the Fox Body Mustang, providing us with a look at the unique features while also looking at the car that almost served as the follow-up to the 1979 through 1993 pony car.

The 1979 through 1993 Ford Mustang offered a modern look and affordable performance, making it one of the most popular American performance cars of the era. The fact that they sold so well for those 15 model years has made them readily available and relatively inexpensive in the current market, making these Mustangs the perfect option for a project car.

1987 Fox Body Ford Mustang

Fox Body arrives

Ford introduced the Fox Body Mustang for the 1979 model year as a replacement for the 1978 Mustang II. The Fox Body design departed fully from that of the previous generations of the pony car, sporting a sleek, angular silhouette and the familiar four-eye front end design. It was completely unlike the previous Mustang, but more importantly, it was unlikely any other American performance car at the time. The Camaro wouldn’t adopt the front fascia design with molded bumpers until 1982, making the Mustang the best competitor for the new-look performance cars coming from overseas.

1981 Fox Body Ford Mustang

For the 1979 model year, the Fox Body was offered with three engines; an 88-horsepower four-cylinder, a 109-horsepower V6 and the 140-horsepower, 302-cubic inch V8. The 5.0 was killed off in 1980, as the Motor Company moved to a smaller 4.2-liter V8 that offered just 120 horsepower, making it the least-powerful V8 ever offered in a Mustang. During that same period, Ford offered a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 132 horsepower, making it the top choice for those who wanted the greatest performance.

1982 Fox Body Ford Mustang

Fortunately, the 5.0-liter V8 returned for the 1983 model year with 145 horsepower and over the next few years, the power levels of the 302 would continue to climb and that climb led to the legendary reputation of the engine and the Fox Body genre.

1991 Fox Body Ford Mustang

Nearly Front-wheel-drive

During the Fox Body era, the Motor Company designed a new, front-wheel-drive Mustang that was based on the same chassis architecture as the Mazda MX-6. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed within the Ford headquarters and the front-drive car was marketed as the Probe. Meanwhile, the SN95 platform would replace the Fox Body for the 1994 model year, once again introducing an entirely new exterior design.

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A lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years, Patrick Rall is highly experienced in the automotive world. He has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now auto journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

“Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500,” says Rall. “He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car: a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16. Meanwhile, I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

“Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group,” adds Rall. “While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

“Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never ‘work’ a day in your life. I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

“My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

“Being based on Detroit, I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.”

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