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Fox Body Mustang Restoration 1979-1993

Fox Body Mustang Restoration 1979-1993

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Fox Body Mustang Restoration 1979-1993

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Lançado em:
Nov 27, 2019


Forty years after its introduction, the Fox Body Mustang has come of age, and this new book chronicles all the best procedures for restoring these affordable yet appreciating classics!

In this new Restoration series title from CarTech, all the procedures and best practices for restoring your Fox Body will be covered. Chapter subjects include a history of the cars, tools, and equipment required; body repair; interior refurbishment; the climate control system; wheels; engine and driveline rebuilding; electrical troubleshooting and repair; and finally a large index of Fox Mustang facts, including paint codes, production numbers, option codes, data plate decoding, and more.

Never before has Fox Body Mustang restoration been covered in a full-color instructional format. If you are considering a full-blown restoration, or would just like some good advice on how to repair certain sections of your car, this restoration guide is a valuable tool in your toolbox.

Lançado em:
Nov 27, 2019

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When Ford introduced the all-new Mustang for 1979, it was radically different from any Mustang before. For the first time in Mustang history, the name wasn’t built on an existing platform. It created a new platform called Fox. The Fox platform with its front MacPherson struts and four-link rear suspension was inspired by the Audi Fox, which was what Ford engineers, designers, and product planners were thinking when they copped the idea and the name.

The Fox platform entered production for 1978 as the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr, although the Mustang actually came first in the design cycle. The Ford Mustang and Mercury Capri came online for 1979 as stunningly new approaches to familiar names that had long been in production. The Mercury Capri had long been a Ford of Europe export produced in West Germany. Beginning in 1979, the Mercury Capri became the Mustang’s corporate cousin produced on the same assembly line from 1979 to 1986.

The Fox Body Mustang was in continuous production from late 1978 through the end of production in mid-1993. By the time production wrapped up at the Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant, the Mustang evolved from decidedly vanilla yet sporty to something of a knockout. Those first 1979 Fox Mustangs could not possibly be thought of as performance cars, though they were sporty. Gone were the powerful engines of the early 1970s, replaced by anemic powerplants such as the 5.0L (302-ci) 2-barrel V-8 and the 2.3L OHC Turbo four.

At the cusp of the 1980s, Mustang sales were the lowest they had ever been. By the end of the 1983 model year, sales bottomed out at 120,873, though the news would get worse by 1992. It is ironic that Mustang sales went from a blockbusting 369,936 in 1979 to a then all-time low in 1983 of less than half that number at a time when performance had improved. Falling Mustang sales could not always be blamed on the car itself but on a faltering economy and high fuel prices. High interest rates alone hurt car sales.

Despite the low points, the Mustang began to gain momentum in the 1980s as the economy improved, fuel prices went down, and buyers gained more disposable income. By 1984, Mustang sales were on the way back up thanks to improved performance via a 5.0L High Output V-8 with 4-barrel Holley induction, a 4-speed transmission, and an improved appearance.

That same year, Ford conceived and launched Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) to design and produce the most exotic production Mustang ever created. Some fans say this limited-production ride was the most exotic factory Mustang ever: the Mustang SVO. The Mustang SVO was an intercooled 2.3L Turbo 4-cylinder Mustang launched in 1984 sporting 16-inch wheels, tuned performance suspension, special fascia, a rear deck spoiler, special body appointments, bolstered seats, a rich leather-wrapped shifter, and more.

The Mustang SVO, for all its glory and prestige, didn’t sell very well thanks to falling fuel prices and the buying public’s desire for a V-8. The trend toward turbo power was in a slide. Production of the Mustang SVO ended in 1986, when the car was the best it was ever going to be at 210 hp. The Mustang SVO drove into the history books with a proud legacy and the benefit of rarity. Those in the know bought the SVO and put it away for weekend pleasure. More than three decades later, the SVO remains fun to drive.

In 1985, the Mustang had what could easily be considered a banner year thanks to a fresh 5.0L High Output V-8, 210 hp, roller tappets, a more aggressive camshaft, and tubular shorty headers instead of cast exhaust manifolds. That year, the Mustang added Quadra-Shock suspension borrowed from the Thunder-bird Turbo Coupe parts shelf. Those dreadful TRX wheels and Michelin metric radials were sidelined for new 10-hole, 15-inch, telephone dial cast wheels and Goodyear Gatorback radials. Sales began to take off, and the Mustang was back in the game.

Although it is virtually impossible to see the changes in Mustang for 1986, the changes were significant, signaling a new era with Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection (SEFI) atop the 5.0L High Output V-8. The year delivered less horsepower and more torque. Although enthusiasts saw the new Mustang as an effort to keep them out from under the hood, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Those first fuel-injected Mustang GTs and LXs for 1986 had Speed Density factory-tuned induction/ignition systems, which was not a user-friendly system. It wasn’t long before Ford made it possible to get back under the hood and tune a Mustang again with something known as mass-air metering. By 1988, California emissions Mustangs had mass-air metering induction. And by 1989, all 50 states got mass-air metering and a tunable Mustang.

When the Mustang became tunable in the late 1980s, enthusiasts and tuners started jumping on board. An incredible drag racing movement known as Pro 5.0 took off and popularity gained traction. It wasn’t long before the aftermarket responded with a wealth of performance goodies for these Mustangs, and sales became robust again.

It can be safely said that the Mustang became rather mundane through the end of Fox production in 1993. It wasn’t that the car lacked good looks, but rather it became stale and long in the tooth. Ford management took notice, concluding the car needed to change significantly. Aside from a brief and frightening detour toward doing a front-wheel-drive Mazda platform in the late 1980s, Mustang stayed the course through 1993.

Despite the many improvements in Mustang performance throughout the 1980s, sales fell to an all-time low of 79,280 in 1992. The buying public became bored with the car, and sales floundered. Ford, with all the best marketing intentions, launched Summer Special Edition Mustang convertibles in designer colors with nice features. Despite these showroom stimulators, sales tanked.

What saved the Mustang was a gutsy Ford executive and performance enthusiast from Detroit’s East Side: John Coletti. Coletti put his career on the line, hell-bent to save the Mustang. Although Coletti is well known for the SN-95 Mustang redesign for 1994, he looked at what needed to be done to get Ford’s performance image back into the spotlight.

What had been Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) in the 1980s became Special Vehicle Team (SVT) in the early 1990s. SVT conceived the 1993 Mustang Cobra, which wrapped up 14 years of Fox Mustangs with a bang. The SVT Mustang Cobra was undoubtedly the most exciting Fox Body Mustang ever produced with 230 hp, exceptional handling, and good looks.

The 1979–1993 Fox Mustang story is one of exceptional conception and redesign time after time, year after year. In the course of the Fox Mustang’s decade and a half production cycle, the car only got better, ultimately becoming the modern classic it is today. This book is all about how to restore the 1979–1993 Mustang to its former glory along with cool performance upgrades that make these cars fun to drive again.



In the mid-1970s, Ford was all too aware of the need for a game-changing Mustang amid floundering sales. Ford’s flagship name-plate had gotten too far away from what it originally was. The Mustang was the car that created the pony car market to begin with in 1964, starting out as a compact, short-deck, long-nosed sporty car built on the Falcon platform, which is what made the Mustang affordable and sporty to begin with. People loved it, buying a million of them by 1966, 2 million by 1968, and 3 million by 1973. Mustang set the standard for what a pony car should be.

As Ford entered the 1970s, it tried to make the Mustang all things to all people; hence the car’s ever-increasing size. By 1971, the Mustang was the largest it was ever going to be with a hybrid Mustang/Torino platform at a much greater overall length and with a much wider track. Dwindling sales numbers offered a clue to what buyers didn’t want. The Mustang had grown too large and had driven away from its core market.

Although the 1974 Mustang II was closer to the Mustang’s original size, and it sold very well (more than a million units in four years), Ford product planners began taking a long look at the Mustang’s future. The car still wasn’t what it needed to be. By the time Mustang II production ended in 1978, sales were dwindling. It was time for a fresh approach to the Mustang. Enter Ford styling boss Jack Telnack, who had returned from Ford in Europe to give the Mustang and the entire Ford Division car line a fresh look and demeanor. Ford knew the Mustang needed a more European look and feel to be a terrific seller. It looked at the popular German Audi Fox for its inspiration. As a result, the all-new Mustang was code-named Fox.

What made the Audi Fox great inspiration for Ford product planners, stylists, and engineers was the very nature of the Audi Fox. It was a simple, no-nonsense platform that made good economic sense that could be applied to a broad number of Ford car lines. It was an easy-to-build platform with MacPherson struts in front and coil springs followed up by a four-link suspension with coil springs and shocks in back.

The all-new 1979 Mustang rolled out as one of the more exotic cars produced at that time. In fact, the 1979 Mustang was so well received that it was honored as the Official Pace Car for the 1979 Indianapolis 500. Ford produced 10,478 replicas with 2.3L Turbo power as well as the time-proven small-block V-8 displacing 302 ci (5.0L). The body code for these cars was 61R. Ford produced these pace cars at the San Jose (Milpitas), California, and Dearborn (Detroit), Michigan, plants. Consecutive unit numbers for these pace cars began at 480001, which contributes to authenticity. If the VIN doesn’t begin 480xxx it is not a pace car. (Photo Courtesy Nelson Cardadeiro)

The original 1965 Mustang was built on what was basically the Falcon/Comet platform with a 108-inch wheelbase, though it shared very little with these car lines. What made the all-new 1979 Mustang different was development on its very own platform (the Fox platform) with plenty of spinoffs, such as the Lincoln Mark VII; Ford LTD; Mercury Marquis, Granada, and Monarch; and the Thunderbird and the Cougar, which followed in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the Ford Fairmont and the Mercury Zephyr were introduced before the new Mustang in 1978, the Mustang came first in the Fox platform development cycle.

With a 100.6-inch wheelbase and the same basic overall length as the original Mustang, the Fox Mustang platform was long on potential. The all-new Fox Body Mustang was launched as The New Breed for 1979 and indeed it was. The Fox was a radically different kind of Mustang, void of shock towers and leaf springs. It was the first turbo-charged Mustang in history. What was learned from those first problematic turbo Mustangs was applied to the development of the Mustang GT Turbo and the more exotic Mustang SVO in the 1980s. The turbo Mustang had its share of teething problems, and the consumer was the guinea pig for its woes. It very quickly developed a horrid reputation with Mustang buyers.

The 1979 Mustang was unlike any before. Offered in two body styles (coupe and hatchback), the new Mustang was versatile. It was designed for a variety of lifestyles. The Mustang was available in three basic flavors: vanilla with no frills, the upscale Ghia model, or the sporty Cobra model. Although the new Mustang was a natural for a convertible option at the time, a drop-top would not be available for another four years. Nonetheless, buyers loved the new Mustang, as witnessed by production numbers that Ford would give anything to have today.

The Engines

Standard power came from the venerable 2.3L OHC 4-cylinder engine sporting 88 hp and 118 ft-lbs of torque with 2-barrel carburetion. Optional was the 2.3L OHC four with turbo power and 2V carburetion, which was more common in the Cobra package than anything else.

The 1979 Mustang was available with the time-proven small-block Ford V-8 displacing 302 ci (5.0L). The 302 was admittedly a shadow of its former self with a Motor-craft 2150 2-barrel carburetor, 140 hp, and 250 ft-lbs of torque. All engines were fitted with a stamped aluminum air cleaner.

The Mustang’s first turbo-charged powerplant is shown: the 2.3L OHC Turbo four yielding approximately 131 hp at 5,800 rpm. Although 4-cylinder turbo power was a great idea, the challenge facing Ford was durability with turbochargers that failed like clockwork. Insult to injury was a Holley/Weber 5200 series 2-barrel carburetor offering lackluster performance. The turbocharger in question was the Garrett AiResearch TO3 offering 6 ft-lbs of boost.

The 2.8L German Ford V-6, which was previously available in the Mustang II and Mercury Capri, was a proven performer. During the 1979 model year, Ford ran into supply problems with the 2.8L V-6 engine and had to quickly respond with the time-proven 200-ci (3.3L) Falcon inline-6 as a replacement. Because the Falcon six was already available in the Fairmont and Zephyr Fox bodies, putting it in the Mustang was a slam dunk. The premium engine for 1979 was the 5.0L (302-ci) V-8 with Motorcraft 2150 2-barrel carburetion.

The all-new 1979 Mustang was radically different from its predecessors in that it incorporated European styling. It lost the typical Mustang nuances, such as the simulated quarter panel side scoops, three-element taillights, and mouthy Ferrari grille. Traditional Mustang enthusiasts didn’t like it because it was a dramatic departure from the classics; yet it sold very well and caught on quickly. (Photo Courtesy Barry Kluczyk)

Pace Car

In 1979, the Mustang was chosen for the second time in its history to pace the Greatest Spectacle in Racing: the Indianapolis 500. Three specially built 1979 Mustang pace cars were used on this occasion. Some 10,478 pace car replicas were produced in two assembly plants at Dearborn, Michigan (7,634 units), and San Jose, California (2,844 units), with either 2.3L Turbo fours or 5.0L V-8s. It is impossible to call the pace car replicas rare because Ford built so many.

The Indy 500 replica pace car was fitted with cool ground effects, fog lamps, a rear deck spoiler, TRX wheels with metric Michelin radials, Recaro bucket seats, heavy-duty suspension, and special vehicle identification numbers (VINs) unique to these pace cars. What hurt the 1979 Mustang Indy Pace Car was likely the largest ever production number for a limited-edition Mustang. Because so many were produced, their resale value wasn’t what it might have been with fewer numbers. Ford built too many of them to even be considered rare and unique. Despite this, survivors in good condition today are rare.

Three actual Roush-prepared Indy Pace Cars were hand-built for the 1979 Indianapolis 500. These were Mustangs most of us wish Ford had offered for the street in those days. Their 5.0L (302-ci) small-blocks used a box-stock block treated to good old-fashioned hot-rodding tricks. Blocks were deburred and destressed. Roush employed vintage Boss 302 forged steel cranks and rods in these engines. Forged pistons were milled for a proper fit with these rods. Fully grooved main bearings were fitted to the block for improved lubrication.

In those days, aftermarket high-performance cylinder heads were unavailable for the small-block Ford. As a result, 351W heads were copped for the pace car engines. These heads received a three-angle valve job and were milled to achieve 10.9:1 compression. Chamber size was 51 cc. Each of these Roush-built engines had the flat-tappet Boss 302 camshaft and appropriate valve springs. Valve sizing was 1.840/1.540-inch intake/exhaust.

With the long-block out of the way, Roush crowned these engines with Buddy Bar Cobra high-rise manifolds and 600-cfm Holley 4-barrel carburetors specially modified for pace car operations. It is laughable when you consider it now, but these 2-barrel-carbed 5.0L engines were topped with Police Interceptor air cleaners.

Although you would think Ford would have fitted these pace cars with 4-speed transmissions, exactly the opposite is true. They received specially modified C4 Select-Shift 3-speed automatic transmissions. Believe it or not, the 7.5-inch rear ends were fitted with 3.08:1 cogs. At the time, Ford’s TRX suspension with metric wheels and Michelin metric radials was state of the art and called for no modifications. It was box-stock right off the assembly line with no modifications.

The 1979 Mustang Indy Pace Car interior offered increased sportiness with Recaro bucket seats, full instrumentation, information panel, molded door panels, and more. All were in black.

This 1979 Mustang Ghia is part of the National Parts Depot museum collection and is serialized as 9F04W100001, the first Fox Mustang order for the Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant. This low-mileage original museum piece sports the 2.3L 2V Turbo four and is part of a 182-car collection housed primarily at the company’s Ocala, Florida, headquarters. If ever you’re in the heart of Florida, you need to see it. (Photo Courtesy Barry Kluczyk)

When Ford introduced the 1982 Mustang GT with 157 hp and a 5.0L 2V High Output V-8, it was a bold first step toward bringing back a factory muscle car after a long dry spell. By today’s standards it is comical because horsepower numbers have gone skyward since. The 1982 Mustang GT was available only with the 5.0L 2V V-8 and 4-speed manual transmission. Ground effects and the rear deck spoiler were carried over from 1979–1981 as were TRX wheels and Michelin metric radials. This 1982 GT does not have the TRX package. (Photo Courtesy Bill Hamilton)

The 1982 5.0L 2V High Output V-8 had only one thing going for it: a flat-tappet Ford 351W marine camshaft that was long on low- to mid-range torque for plenty of street power. Still, it just wasn’t enough power for performance enthusiasts who wanted more. Ford would come back in 1983 with a 5.0L 4V High Output and 175 hp along with a dual-snorkel air cleaner and nostalgic Holley carburetion.

In 1982, the energy crisis of the 1970s was over, interest rates were falling, and people had more available cash to buy new cars. Ford and General Motors threw their respective hats into the ring, introducing the first real high-performance pony cars of the 1980s. The Mustang GT was Ford’s answer, donning cool ground effects and fog lamps first witnessed in 1979. This 1982 Mustang GT sits in the National Parts Depot collection in Ocala, Florida. (Photo Courtesy Colin Date, National Parts Depot)

1979 Official Pace Car Specifications (Actual Pace Cars)

Three 1979 Mustang Pace Car Hatchbacks were produced for this event by Jack Roush. They had a 5.0L V-8 with Boss 302 cam, crank, rods, and forged pistons; modified 351W cylinder heads; Shelby dual-plane #C9OZ-9424-D aluminum high-rise; Holley 600-cfm specially modified; hardened Roush pushrods; adjustable 289 High Performance rocker arms with screw-in studs; heavy-duty oil pump; 270 hp; and 260 ft-lbs of torque.

Other features included:

•  C4 Select Shift 3-speed automatic transmission

•  3.08:1 axle ratio in a 7.5-inch rear axle

•  Front air dam and ground effects

•  TRX wheels and Goodyear metric radials

•  Recaro bucket seats

•  Taller rear deck spoiler than the production car

•  Special front air dam with cooling slots for front brakes ■


The Mustang didn’t change much for 1980, which was okay considering Car and Driver described the all-new Mustang as the Mustang/Capri is about the best thing that’s happened to American performance since overhead valves. Journalists of the era loved the new Mustang, and so did buyers.

However, the news for 1980 had its low points. Car and Driver had this to say, One thing is sure: Ford planners and product engineers didn’t rock back on their executive chairs and leave well enough alone. The Mustang and Capri have been tweaked and twiddled with from top to bottom. You won’t have any trouble recognizing 1980 versions, but there are plenty of minor adjustments to fret over and cheer or complain about as you see fit.

Car and Driver went on to say, First the bad news: the big motor’s gone. We say ‘big’ with tongue firmly planted in cheek, because 1979’s 302-ci V-8 sucking life through a 2-barrel straw was hardly what you’d call muscle-bound. Nevertheless, this year’s plan is a smaller cylinder bore and less displacement to wring one more mile out of every precious gallon of gas. The new, 255-ci (4,180 cc) V-8 also trims 25 pounds off front-end weight. What this costs you is roughly 10 hp compared with the 302 V-8’s 140 net hp output. Ford claims the change brings a fuel-economy improvement of 1.2 mpg.

It can be safely said the 255-ci (4.2L) small-block was a huge letdown because not only was it smaller in terms of displacement but also it didn’t really share much of anything with its larger 302 and 351-ci small-block siblings. The cylinder heads were a throwaway because there wasn’t a darned thing you could do with them performance-wise. They had small round ports instead of the small-block Ford’s more traditional rectangular ports. Smaller bores made the 255 incompatible with everything. The 255 was a gutless wonder, and as a result, few survive today. If you’re restoring a Fox Mustang originally fitted with the 255-ci engine, you can go with the more robust 5.0L engine and no one will know the difference.

Car and Driver went on to express its disappointment with the middle engine, which started out as the 2.8L V-6 early in the 1979 model year. When the 2.8L V-6 was dropped for the Falconesque 200-ci (3.3L) inline-6, the Mustang lost something with buyers who liked the European demeanor of a Ford of Germany V-6. The 6-cylinder Fox Mustang felt like a classic 6-cylinder Mustang or Maverick. It didn’t sport the feel and attitude of its German counterpart. Also gone for 1980 was the 4-speed transmission you could get in 1979, which added to the lackluster demeanor of Mustang for 1980. You could not get a stick with the Turbo in 1980. The 2.3L Turbo four returned for 1980, and with the same troublesome issues it had in 1979.

Whether you like life with turbochargers or not, you might as well get used to it. These little pinwheels will soon be pumping up all the blood pressure there is left in cars. It’s already happened here: the 2.3 turbo is the only way to buy a Mustang in 1980 with heart, Car and Driver added. "The hardest future shock to face is that this car isn’t fast. Our test car huffed and puffed but couldn’t break the 10-second barrier in zero-to-60 times. It did manage to crank up 80 mph in the quarter-mile,

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  • (5/5)
    Fox Body Mustang Restoration 1979-1993 by Jim Smart is another great addition to the Restoration How to Series from Cartech Books. Filled with hundreds of full color photos and step by step instructions this is a must have guide for any enthusiast. Covering every aspect of the Mustang from upholstery to brakes. Highly Recommend.
  • (5/5)
    Jim Smart has struck again; this book is gold! This is an authoritative and a very specific guide for the complete restoration of FOX BODY mustangs. Jim set aside the first chapter to thoroughly cover the history of the Fox Body before divining into the meticulous details of restoring the Fox to its former glory. Step by step he walks through the restoration process, and there is no shortage of vivid photographs to accompany. This book is a must for anyone who owns a Fox Body Mustang!
  • (5/5)
    Fox Body and Mustang Restoration (73-93) is an excellent source for a mechanic, diy job or collector. The history is briefly explained and then they get right to the point. Every detail is covered from disassembly to reassembly. They explain how to replace and restore every single part. For easy reference they have even done the background research on codes, paints and parts by year. The pages are glossy and have high quality detailed step by step photos to help get the job done right and with the right tools. This book is expertly written and explained.
  • (5/5)
    Very detailed work. All clear steps to take from start to finish.
  • (5/5)
    This how-to manual comes to market at the same time the Fox body Mustangs are starting to see a greater appreciation among collectors. Although always a popular style it has only been recently that a broader market interest has expressed itself in an upward tic in Fox model values. The 5.0 powered models continue to be most coveted and a good deal of literature has been written in support of tuning that engine for increased performance. The book in question also addresses engine restoration, both the 5.0 and the OHC four, but also covers chassis, drive line, interior, and suspension and much more. The layout of the chapters is sensible, the illustrations nicely done and helpful, and numerous improvements offered. The single caveat to offer is one I've offered before; the tools and space needed to perform the many tasks necessary in a restoration are seldom available to the typical DIY. Some of the equipment might be offered for rent but the outlay for tools will be considerable. The manual is well worth its price and will readily pay back in time saved, and a reduction in inadvertent mistakes.