Following the relatively short-lived Mustang II, Ford needed a winner to erase the reputation of its Pinto-based predecessor. What resulted has come to be known as the “Fox body” Mustangs, and would evolve well into the 1990s.
The ’79 Mustang featured “Euro” styling, including the egg-crate grille, and squared off headlights, but distinctly American too, with its “notch” rear window design. The hatchback or “fastback” design was also available, and would go on to become the more desirable variant. The Mustang was sold in base and Ghia trims for ’79.
At the outset, the Mustang was available with four-, six-, or eight-cylinder engine options. The base 2.3-liter I4 was out of the Pinto and only made 88 hp. The available Cologne V-6 made 109 horsepower, but due to supply issues it had to be replaced with a 3.3-liter straight-six, which made a paltry 85 hp. Some of these more anemic engine options have likely long been swapped out for one of the plentiful crate engine options available on the aftermarket.
The top-tier engine was the 302 cid Windsor V-8. It technically displaced 4.95 liters, but was marketed as “5.0,” a term that resonates with the Mustang community as much as “Fox body.” For 1979, this engine made 140 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of toque.
A Mustang Cobra model was also offered, featuring either the 5.0 or the 2.3-liter turbocharged four, which made 132 horsepower and 142 pound feet of torque. The Cobra also featured a bold paint scheme and optional “Cobra” lettering on the doors and snake decal on the hood.
This year was available with a TRX handling package, which included 15.3-inch aluminum wheels, and revised suspension components and sway bars. The whole package was capped off by a set of eponymous Michelin TRX elliptical radials. If looking for originality, these tires are still sold in limited quantities by Coker Tire and others.
In 1979, the Mustang paced the Indy 500. Naturally, an Official Pace Car Edition was offered, featuring a silver-and-black paint scheme, added pin-striping and decals, a cowl induction hood, and spoiler. 10,478 examples were sold out of nearly 370,000, making it the rarest Pony from 1979.