20 April 2017

The Fox-body Mustang finally arrives as a genuine collector car

The rise of the 1979-93 Fox Body Mustang as a collectible has had an air of inevitability about it. The Hagerty valuation team has been predicting it for years. So when a 1990 7Up Edition Mustang 5.0 LX (albeit one with 15 miles on it) sold for $82,500 at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale this past January, it was pretty clear that the car had arrived as a genuine collectible.

Unlike the GM F-body twins, the Camaro and Firebird, the mid 1970s were a complete Mustang desert. Malaise Era Z/28s and Trans Ams have undeniable appeal, while Pinto-based Mustang II Cobras are questionable. So after the first generation 1965-73 cars, there’s really nothing but the Fox Body for Mustang fans—thus, its inevitability as a collectible.

Not that the car wasn’t worthy of admiration on its merits. Built on a modern and competent platform designed for the mid-sized Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr, styling was courtesy of the talented and rather underrated Jack Telnack, who produced a clean, trim and attractive design, even if it lacked many traditional Mustang styling cues.

The Fox Mustang was introduced in hatchback and notchback coupe body styles. A convertible joined in 1983 to much rejoicing, but it wasn’t until 1985 that real excitement returned to the Mustang lineup. That year, a re-designed cylinder head and exhaust saw horsepower exceed 200 for the first time since the early ’70s.

Presaging today’s EcoBoost four-cylinder Mustang, the SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) 2.3-liter turbo Mustang was around from 1984-86. It was about as powerful as the 5.0 V-8 car, but then as now, the pony car crowd wasn’t very interested in a four-cylinder. Those cars are remembered today for the sophisticated aero front end (which predicted the 1987 refresh), a cool biplane rear spoiler (an early effort of McLaren design boss Frank Stephenson) and NACA duct hood.

Ford decided to send the long-running Fox Mustang out with something special: The launch car for Ford’s SVT (Special Vehicles Team) was 1993’s Cobra/Cobra R. Suspension, wheel, and tire and brake upgrades were part of the package, as was a bit more horsepower. The ultra-rare Cobra R (107 built) deleted A/C, rear seat and all power options, saving over 400 pounds.

There’s a split in opinions as to whether the original quad headlight or the post-1986 aero front cars are more attractive. But certainly, it’s the post-1984, higher horsepower V-8 cars that are more desirable. Some people prefer the 1985 model, the last V-8 Mustang with a carburetor. Similarly, there’s disagreement as to trim levels, with some preferring the cleaner LX to the boy racer GT. Hatch and convertible bodies bring more money than the notchback coupe, although an ex-California Highway Patrol black-and-white version would be fun to own.

Clean Fox Mustangs are indeed tough to find. As the standard-bearer for cheap American V-8 performance for so long, most were used up, badly modified, trashed, or wrecked. Interior plastics were cheap and not very durable, and the common white leather or vinyl seats wore badly too. The starting price for a clean, rust-free GT or LX V-8 seems to run in the low teens at this point, and that number rises quickly into the high teens and low twenties for low-mileage original-paint cars with lots of options. Fox-bodies with manual transmissions bring more than those with automatics.

The SVT Cobra and Cobra R are the holy grails. But surprisingly, they’re not bringing stratospheric money yet. As of this writing, one Florida dealer was advertising a Cobra R with only 1,400 miles for a very reasonable $69,000. Compared to the more common 7Up LX convertible from Barrett-Jackson, it seems like a steal.

The last of these cars are nearly 25 years old, so the Fox Mustang phenomenon is just getting started. You’d be wise to start looking before summer is in full swing.

25 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Darren Tn April 20, 2017 at 14:21
    I would agree with the article's premise that these cars are collector status. I have been a fan for 25 years. I have met and continue to meet many MANY people who love and want these cars. As they get modified and trashed the value will continue to rise because stock ones are few and far between. Low or high mileage does not matter as long as it has been cared for and is original. What research have you done to prove your analysis? Your opinion is all that it is. Whole companies have sprouted up with OEM parts for these cars. Why you ask? because enthusiasts love them!!
  • 2
    Jonny Foothill Ranch, CA April 20, 2017 at 11:34
    I have to disagree with the article's premise that Fox Body Mustangs have arrived as a collector car. Yes, several of the Mustangs of the Dennis Collins Collection sold for big money at Barrett Jackson Scottsdale, but I would consider these as aberrations to the normal market. All of the Collins cars were extremely low mileage examples, and these values do not come even close to representing what the world is now for most Fox Mustangs. Don't get me wrong, I'm a lifelong Mustang enthusiast and collector, and have owned Fox Bodys along the way, and they indeed did re-energize the Mustang brand after the disaster known as the Mustang II. However, I never see them achieving the value of the Gen I cars, or, the numerous special editions of the 2005 and up generation. They were nice cars, but far from compelling as a long term collectible.
  • 3
    Joseph Kobus Florida April 28, 2017 at 16:45
    Currently my 1986 GT Conv. has right side damage and scheduled for body shop 5/1/17. At 64.5K mi. original paint but new interior, shop can't guarantee a paint match for the repairs! Should I Repaint the whole car or gamble on a good paint match for the rt door and rear quarter panel? Any advice would be welcome please email me direct. Note, FL car absolutely no rust etc...
  • 4
    Joseph Kobus Florida April 28, 2017 at 17:29
    I submitted a comment that did not include my email address so I could receive some advice on repainting my 1986 GT Conv. after rt. side collision repairs to door and quarter panel. Jmike7springs@aol.com
  • 5
    wayne New York April 28, 2017 at 21:30
    I may just change my mind about selling my 91 convertible now. Not to mention, it is the only New York edition known to exist. Yeah. It may be a four cylinder, but I'm not an Andretti. Now that we're warming up, that top is going down.
  • 6
    Scott Atl April 28, 2017 at 22:59
    A clean V8 coupe always brings more money than any other model.
  • 7
    Brian North Bay, Ontario April 29, 2017 at 13:59
    I personally find that anything after 85 is ugly as sin when it comes to Mustangs. I feel they went way to euro with their design and styling. The original mustangs were about hard body lines that caught the eye, with a powerful engine and a carb. If you want a computerized car, yah go buy an 84 and up mustang. I own an 83, Ford 302 High Output , 5 Speed, NO COMPUTER at all. I drive my car, not a computer. My car is also an 83 GT Convertible, of which they only made 996. So yes there is value in Foxbody's, just not all of them.
  • 8
    larry robinson Mo. April 29, 2017 at 22:00
    [I have a Ggt conv, Whats the biggest motor thay put in these\?
  • 9
    FRANK MUEGGE ST. LOUIS, MO April 30, 2017 at 13:43
    I currently own 4 Mustangs, 2016 Shelby GT350 TRACK PACK, 2013 BOSS 302 LS SBY, and two 1980 Cobra Turbo's. One Cobra, which I purchased new, has a 4-speed and has 40K on the ODO. The other Cobra is an automatic with 18K miles, COMPLETELY Showroom Original, a true time capsule. I also own some obscure cars, 1 of 5 Bondurant CSVT School cars, the ONLY Saleen Contour SVT Concept car, very unique, and other "stuff"............
  • 10
    Pablo Gonzalez San Clemente, CA April 30, 2017 at 14:36
    My wife bought a 68LX automatic brand new. It has always iddled rough, to the point of stalling at long stop lights and when trying to back up. The last technician who could make it run right was in Villa Park Ford but we have not found anyone since he retired. We are told this is a common problem and to "live with it". Any better ideas?
  • 11
    Darren Toronto May 2, 2017 at 01:23
    I have a 1990 LX 5.0L 5 speed with 35,000kms. I have the original tires in storage. Just didn't want to throw them out. Just old and needed to be changed. My brother bought it new and I got it after his passing. Has A/C and a cassette player. All original car in outstanding condition.
  • 12
    Fschnering Ohio May 2, 2017 at 16:18
    After our garage fire that destroyed our 89 LX, we started to look for a replacement. In Ohio that's not easy. But , as luck would have it. A business owner and mustang collector, lived right around the corner. He's passed away now, but owned 17 cars , all garaged, none had ever seen a winter. The one I could afford, thank goodness , was the one my wife fell in love with. A 91 GT 5L R ON W CONVERTIBLE, LOVE IT.
  • 13
    carl simmonds canada May 12, 2017 at 09:26
    I have 1985 Convertible Automatic The car was modified by Salomon all sold at ford dealers it's 122 of 350 it resides in Canada never seen a winter I purchased the car in 1993 in Dallas i am the second owner glad to hear prices are going up.
  • 14
    John Wilmington NC May 17, 2017 at 16:06
    Seems around here the coupe/ trunk v-8, 1988-1993 cars bring the big bucks. Like the highway patrol vehicle mentioned. It'll be a collector car if it's not considered it already, guys like me who went to high school in this era wanted these cars, just like we wanted an Iroc-Z...
  • 15
    Michael Kansas City, KS May 17, 2017 at 16:21
    I would like to know where to find this magical land in which notchbacks are cheaper than than hatches and verts. Affordable notchbacks are impossible to find around here and you cant give a convertible away.
  • 16
    John C Cargill Hanover Park May 17, 2017 at 17:21
    Question, unless you are a serious collector, what use is a 15 mile 27 year old car?
  • 17
    Pat Motor City May 17, 2017 at 17:36
    I have to agree with Jonny's comments for the most part. Yes, they were fairly nice looking cars. They were a HUGE improvement from the Mistake II (Mustang II's). I personally think the styling of the 83-84 GT's makes for a very sexy & aggressive looking car when done right (add-on flairs, whale tail, etc...), but then again, that isn't "stock" either... One problem with the Fox cars; quality, or lack thereof. After a while, everything rattles and switches/knobs/buttons fail left and right. Another problem, MAN THEY WERE SLOW; and they STILL ARE even when modified!!! It's funny, even though some of them "sound" like somebody did a very righteous build to the Windsor plant under the hood, when it comes down to it, they are lead-sleds compared to my personal "fun" car (Superformance Mk3). Another funny story, I had a HUGE 4 door '69 Crown Vic when I was in high school ('81-'85) with a stock 390-4bbl FE block under the hood; w/C6 auto tranny. Even THAT car would BEAT the stock Mustang GT's/5.0's of those days. LoL... My 30,000 mile granny cruiser/land yacht beating a "performance" Mustang! Shameful... I will say one thing, I am sure the Fox bodies ARE getting very rare nowadays; probably because they are falling apart or rusting away; lets call it natural selection.... YMMV of course...
  • 18
    Ron Tuning Idaho May 17, 2017 at 18:44
    I loved my 68 California Special - with a big block - nice car.
  • 19
    Fred Hunt Canada May 17, 2017 at 18:46
    I own a 2001 True Blue BULLITT Mustang, and my 2nd favorite modern Mustang is the Fox LX 5.0/ 5 Speed, Notch Back (Not the Hatch Back). Up here you can still get a good one for around 10K.
  • 20
    Tom Lancaster Florida May 17, 2017 at 19:28
    I have had several Mustangs. My favorite is a 90 triple white LX convertible. Super clean, 88k adult owners. Replaced many cosmetic parts and used bolt on Ford Tacing parts. Never raced or redlined. Won many awards and trophies. It runs fantastically, no carbs for me the 90 had aFI with an improved ignition. Those early Foxes are archaic to me!
  • 21
    Steve Meridian ID May 17, 2017 at 19:42
    There seems to be lots of talk about the FoxBody Mustang, but ( in my opinion) the better looking brother is the Mercury Capri. Made from 79-86 it has a same running gear, upgrades over the years but better looking body lines. Maybe in future articles the Capri could be included in the discussion.
  • 22
    Robert DeLay Cumming, GA May 17, 2017 at 20:24
    Have 91 GT Convertable, green & taupe exterior with grey Interior. Automatic with 80K miles. I am original owner. Very clean but am getting ready to install new top. Has original but creases exist. Looking to sell this year. Also have new 2017 GT Convertible. This is an amazing car.
  • 23
    Fred New York May 18, 2017 at 10:07
    My wife has a 1990 7-up mustang with 18,000 miles and original owner Sits in garage over winter n covered
  • 24
    Ross Schwyhart Colorardo May 18, 2017 at 11:34
    A correction to Brain's comment, Ford made 1001 '83 GT convertibles. I'm lucky enough to own one of them also along with 2 '85's and a '93.
  • 25
    Mike Fritts Hockessin, Delaware May 19, 2017 at 07:50
    I am selling my 82 notchback mustang for $6200 OBO it has a 302 punched .040 over... good condition and runs very strong. low 12 sec street car 5 speed manual drive... very fun to drive!!!

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