6 June 2016

Is the Fox-body Mustang the new Deuce Coupe?

It’s certainly a bold proposition. And it’s only been 35 years since Ford proclaimed “The Boss Is Back” in ads announcing the Mustang GT’s 1982 revival. Yet, those Fox-body models, built through 1993, remain affordable performance machines for a fresh generation of enthusiasts.

Furthermore if you’re looking for a precedent to this Mustang’s enduring appeal, you’ll only find it on a short list of icons including the ’32 Ford and ’55 Chevrolet. Like those cars, the Fox Mustang, named for the Ford platform it shared with the Fairmont, remained a popular starting point for easy-to-build performance even many years after production ceased. Unlike those cars, however, all 1982-93, 5.0-liter V-8-powered Mustangs were high-performance machines straight from the factory.

Revving up the 1982 Mustang’s performance was Ford’s strategy to counter the all-new Camaro and Firebird introduced for 1982, said Jim Campisano, editorial director for RTM Productions, which produces “Detroit Muscle,” “Engine Power” and other enthusiast TV and web shows. From the late 1980s, Campisano chronicled the 5.0-liter Mustang phenomenon while he was a staffer and then editor of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine. The core of the 5.0 Mustang’s success, he said, has always been cheap speed.

“In 1987 it had 225 horsepower, which was a lot in a 3,100-lb. car,” Campisano said. In stock form, a 5.0-liter, five-speed Mustang could run the quarter-mile in the mid-to-high 14s at around 96 mph.

Although the third-generation Camaro outsold the Mustang for its first three years, the Mustang turned the tables, in some years doubling Camaro sales. Roughly half of Mustang sales, after the 5.0 was added as an LX option in 1987, were of hot V-8 cars.

“The Mustang cost much less than the Camaro and Firebird because it was already an old platform by the mid-1980s. You could get a Mustang LX 5.0 for $12,000-$13,000,” Campisano said.

The LX was the basic Mustang trim line, a stealthier and somewhat lighter steed than the flashier GT. With the 5.0 V-8, the performance hardware, including a beefed-up suspension and a Traction-Lok axle with 2.73 or 3.08 ratio, was identical for both models.

While traditional automotive publications conducted the expected Camaro vs. Mustang road tests, niche magazines spotted and stoked the trend of modifying and racing 5.0 Mustangs.

“The 5.0 created a new generation of enthusiasts,” Campisano said. “They learned that they could easily modify fuel-injected ‘computer cars’ for more performance without hurting drivability.”

New aftermarket suppliers sprouted, providing Mustang hop-up parts, and, as it did for the 1955 Chevy, drag racing fueled the Mustang hobby.

Super Ford magazine was doing its 5.0 Mustang shootouts, and the fire grew quickly,” Campisano said. “Sanctioning bodies later formed for this one car, with huge national meets.”

Founded in 1999, the National Mustang Racers Association today holds six national events. Stephen Wolcott, president and chief executive of ProMedia, the NMRA parent company, said Fox Mustangs still account for about a quarter of the approximately 400 racecars and 250 show cars that attend each event.

Ford readily acknowledges and supports the 5.0 Fox Mustang’s persistent popularity.

“Calls to our Ford Performance Info Center on mods for the Fox-body Mustang quickly surpassed SN-95s and have stayed high for several years now,” said John Clor, Ford Performance Enthusiast Communications Manager, referring to the 1994-98 body style that replaced the Fox. “Major suppliers such as Mustangs Plus, CJ Pony Parts and others can vouch for the spike in demand for Fox parts and requests for typical restoration items.”

Clor added that interest in Fox Mustangs is also increasing among Mustang clubs, a community that has typically preferred the earlier models. Young enthusiasts, though, see 5.0-liter Fox Mustangs the same way their 1940s and ‘50s counterparts viewed the 1932 Ford: a cheap gateway to V-8 muscle and speed.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Drew West-By-God-Virginia June 24, 2016 at 15:14
    My bone stock 1990 LX convert turns heads everywhere I go. Young and old I constantly get thumbs up and "awesome car" comments. Fun to drive, cheap to work on and pretty much respected across the board.
  • 2
    Sal New Jersey June 24, 2016 at 15:47
    I've been a fan of the fox GT since the mid-late 80's when I learned to drive. Had a few back then and loved them. Now I'm in my mid 40s and picked up a clean 84 GT to cruise around and romp on now and then. Brings back great memories. And even though its not as fast or sharp as modern muscle cars, its still very satisfying to drive. Grab that 5 speed, nail it, listen to the flowmasters howl, and leave in a cloud of tire smoke!
  • 3
    John Sioux City, Iowa June 24, 2016 at 11:44
    Great article. I have a 93, LX with the original 5.0 block, punched out to a 331 stroker. Its a very fun car and definitely has the old school vibe. I bought it for fun over investment, but its good to know that it may appreciate a bit over time.
  • 4
    Scott Atl June 24, 2016 at 11:58
    Don't forget all the special models of the foxbody cars saleens, twisters,SSP's,predators.
  • 5
    Ken Sousa Lincoln, CA June 24, 2016 at 12:37
    As the owner of a '69 Mustang 302 and a '00 Camaro Z28, I've had the opportunity of racing several Fox body Mustangs at the local drag strip. These cars are completely impossible to anticipate. I've clobbered 5.0L Foxes with my '69 when they ran in the high 15s against me and I've been eaten alive by a pair of supercharged Foxes when they ran in the 11s against my LS1 Camaro. You never know what you're going to taste when you bite into a Fox body sandwich.
  • 6
    Tommy Vaclavik Hobart, Indiana June 25, 2016 at 05:02
    I have a like new 1988 mustang lx 4 cylinder with factory air, Dark shadow blue with white interior. I can't find production numbers. how ever we love our fox body Mustang
  • 7
    Bill NC June 25, 2016 at 11:03
    My '93 5.0 LX converible is my bucket list car. I just needed another 'shifter' in my life. And it's been the perfect antidote!
  • 8
    Jim Gibson Toronto, Canada July 5, 2016 at 06:24
    I'm on my 3rd Fox, 85 (stolen), 88 and currently a 90 HB, done up just short of a Vortec.......so much fun for so little money and so easy to work on and still finding many bolt on mods for it
  • 9
    pam mayo-yacko CT July 13, 2016 at 14:35
    i have a 92 LX 5.0 HB in Calypso Green Metallic & my husband has a 99 red Anniversary GT. Although his is strongly modified, mine is only slightly modified. Car shows are great but it's even better to actually cruise around & have people admire the beauty for what they really are.

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