The Fox Body Mustang was the right car at the right time for America’s changing taste in muscle cars. While a departure from the styling of both previous and subsequent Ford Mustang generations, the Fox Body proved popular in its time, and in the following decades has only gained more of a following for its fresh take on the evolution of Ford muscle cars. So what is a Fox Body Mustang and why is this “forgotten” generation getting so much attention?
The Ford Fox Body Platform in 1978
Produced for the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr, the Fox Body platform was a unibody chassis that was larger and had a wider wheelbase while also being simpler and lighter. For customers who demanded fuel efficiency to go along with their power, this was a welcome change.
This moved the Fox Body Mustang’s dimensions back closer to the original generation’s but at a significantly lower weight. The new design carried over the live-axle suspension on the rear of the vehicle while adding the innovative MacPhearson strut as the front suspension. The strut front suspension left more space in the engine compartment, an important development not only for stock models but for restorations and drivers who liked to customize their vehicles.
What Sets Fox Body Mustangs Apart?
Using the Ford Fox Body platform offered the automaker a quicker redesign from the popular Mustang II model while staying true to the shared platform philosophy that had been a hallmark of previous Mustangs. The platform proved its utility and longevity by providing the chassis for eleven different nameplates over the course of fifteen years. When finally phased out, its successor, the SN-95 platform was so closely related to it that it was dubbed by some as the Fox-4 platform.
The platform’s longevity and versatility paid off. Ford was able to produce their cars faster and cheaper with fewer retooling while keeping mid-generation redesigns simpler to manage. For owners, that also meant a wider range of options. During its run, the Fox Body Mustang was available with seven different engines. In addition, tuners found that some powerful engines from other manufacturers, like Chevy’s LS 500+ horsepower motor would fit well and let their Fox Body fly.
For those who wanted to keep their parts “in the family” there was broad compatibility across the Fox Body platform and some elements, such as better rear suspension, on the subsequent SN-95 platform. Aside from giving Ford more flexibility in offering different option packages on Fox Body Mustangs, it gave owners more options for restoration or modification, driving up the popularity and demand for Fox Mustangs.
Fox Body Mustang Evolutions (1978-1993)
The initial 1979 models with the Ford Fox Body platform were around six-inches longer, four-inches wider, but a hundred pounds lighter when compared to the Mustang II. While that doesn’t sound like much, in a sports car powered by a small-block engine, that weight can help the car accelerate faster off the light.
The reception surrounding the new Mustang design was so positive that the 1979 model was named the Indianapolis 500 pace car for the first time since 1964, an accomplishment Ford needed as it struggled to regain its standing as a leader in muscle cars following the fuel shortages in the mid 1970s.
The Four-Eyed Fox Mustangs (1979)
Fox Body Mustangs are divided into two general groups, the first of which is the “four-eyed Mustangs” for the 1979-1986 model years. Named for the two squared headlights on each side of the slanted grill, many collectors love them for the unique “retro” look not found in later two-eyed models. Originally offered with a base, mid, and higher-end Cobra model, these early Fox Mustangs featured either a notchback or hatchback rear, color-keyed interior, and deep bucket seats.
Initial motors available included a 2.3l 4-cylinder that delivered 86 horsepower or a 4.2l V8 that offered up to 122 hp. Special editions could also be equipped with a 2.3l 4cylinder turbo engine which upped the base cylinder’s horsepower to 131 for a zippy but fuel-efficient ride.
Starting in 1982, Fox Body Mustangs dropped the Cobra package in favor of the GT badging popular in the 1960s. Promoted with the tagline, “The Boss Is Back”, the Fox Body came equipped with a 302 cu. in. motor billed as a 5.0 liter V8 which offered 140hp. The 5.0 and GT designations were as much to deliver a more powerful engine as it was to remind drivers of the Mustang’s storied past. With the fuel crises in the rearview mirror, Americans were ready to get back to higher-performance automobiles.
1983-1986 models saw small aerodynamic changes to the front of the car with a thinner, more angled grill and larger taillights that wrapped around the vehicle. Further improvements focused on handling and suspension upgrades. It also saw the introduction of the SVO model, with race-designed spoilers and a turbocharged 4-cylinder that brought 200 hp to the sportiest Fox Body Mustang yet created.
Later Model Ford Fox Bodies (1987-1993)
The last two years of the Fox Body Mustangs saw the return of special edition trim packages and the return of the Cobra badge with the Mustang SVT Cobra featuring a 235 horsepower engine that produced a monstroly, the third-generation Mustang was intended to give way to a front-wheel-drive variant of the Mazda MX-6 for the 1987 model year.
Ford Mustang enthusiasts bombarded the corporate offices with mail, and eventually, the idea was scrapped in favor of a more traditional redesign of the Fox Body Mustang. Amid flagging sales, several design improvements were made that would carry into the final year of the Fox platform, 1993. The line was pared down to the LX and GT models only, and many of the aero improvements from the previous SVO package made their way into both current versions. Engine improvements and the switch to fuel injection from carburetors slowly added more power and efficiency.
The last two years of the Fox Body Mustangs saw the return of special edition trim packages and the return of the Cobra badge with the Mustang SVT Cobra featuring a 235 horsepower engine that produced a monstrous 285 ft-lbs of torque for fast 0-60 times straight from the dealership. This return helped end the Ford Fox Body platform’s run with a bang and position the brand for success with the coming SN-95.
Protect Your Fox Body Mustang
If you’re the proud owner of a Fox Body Mustang, make sure it’s covered by a classic car insurance policy tailored to your needs. Agreed value coverage with American Collectors Insurance goes beyond standard car insurance, so that, in the event of an accident or theft, you have the money you need to rebuild or replace your vehicle.
Our collector specialists share your passion for the classics and are ready to help you get the coverage you need with a free quote from American Collectors Insurance. Every classic has a tale to tell. Share your Fox Body Mustang with our community and tell us why it was the car for you.