The Mustang saw a lot of changes during the ’70s. In 1971, the car became much more visually massive, though it still sat upon the earlier chassis, albeit with longer overhangs and a hood you could play pool on. That style lasted to 1973. Then it returned to its sporty compact roots with the Mustang II. That’s the one most Mustang owners pretend never existed, but they sold tons of them, and it carried on the Mustang nameplate while other pony cars like the Javelin, Barracuda and Challenger vaporized.
With the debut of the Fox-body ’79 Mustang, things finally started getting back on track, though the car had next to no traditional Mustang cues. It was an attractive, modern sporty car for the late ’70s, however. Then in 1982, Mustang desirability and performance levels got a healthy bump with the return of the V8-powered GT.
Actually, it wasn’t the first time the 5.0-liter, 302 cu in V8 had been available in the Fox-based Mustang. In 1979, its inaugural year, a 140-hp version had been available as an option; then Gas Crisis II struck, after which it was withdrawn. Its absence left performance-minded Mustang buyers to choose between a turbocharged four-cylinder mill or a smaller 120-horse, 255 CID (or 4.2-liter, if you prefer) V8.
That situation changed with the ’82 GT. The 302, now in “High Output” form, returned. Compared with the ’79 version, the 5.0 had been upgraded with new valves, a more aggressive camshaft, aluminum intake manifold and sand-cast pistons. In addition, GTs got cast-iron exhaust manifolds and a Y-shaped (2 into 1) dual exhaust pipe. The result of it all was a bump of 17-horsepower, to 157. Interestingly, the 4.2-liter V8 (with 37 fewer horses than the 5.0) was also available on the GT, but only with the automatic.
Of course, there were a number of visual cues to separate the GT from its more common siblings. The biggest changes were up front, where an exclusive air dam, unique grille, Marchal fog lights and a non-functional hood scoop made for a more aggressive face. Aluminum wheels, “5.0” badges on the front fenders, and a rear spoiler rounded out the changes. Additional and more-detailed information on the ’82 GT can be found here on www.mustanggt.org.
During the early ’80s, the Mustang just kept getting better and better. It could be argued that the 1982 model year marked the beginning of the Fox Mustang’s renaissance. Out of the 130,418 Mustangs made that year, 24,799 were GTs–a percentage that would increase as the ’80s advanced.
The 1983 GT received several cosmetic changes. While it looks nice–I especially like the blackout stripe on the nose with the die-cut “GT” showing the paint color in the corner-the ’82’s nose looked better in my opinion, more mean-looking with its front spoiler.
One year after the GT returned, a Mustang convertible reappeared after a ten-year absence. Finally, Ford was rebounding after having flirted with disaster during 1979-81. The Mustang II days were fading away quickly, and the future of the Mustang was looking pretty good.
To its credit, Ford did not rest on its laurels and continued to make improvements. In just a year or two, the Euro-inspired SVO Mustang would join the GT and convertible, making for a very diverse lineup-though the GT totally clobbered the rather pricey SVO in sales.
Here we have the special seats and upholstery of the GT. This kind of reminds me somewhat of the “mod art” seats of the then-contemporary Porsche 928. I like it.
Despite its Fairmont origins, the Mustang’s instrument panel included much more comprehensive gauges. By the way, that “Powered by Ford” plaque was added by the owner. Also note that it has a radio delete plate.
I spotted this choice ’82 back in September 2012, at a show hosted by my old employer, Dahl Ford. The featured club was the Quad City Mustang Club, but in addition to the fine selections of Mustangs–from ’65 to a then-new Gotta Have It Green ’13 GT–there were some cool cars of the non-Mustang variety, including a couple of ’85-’86 Cougars, a ’59 Edsel Corsair and even a ’78 Mustang II King Cobra. One of these days I need to break into those old car show photo files and write up some more for RG!
My first car was a 1986 Mustang GT, 5-spd, red with the mentioned killer black hood decal and T-Tops. First year of fuel injection. Rated at 205 hp from what I remember, but gobs of torque. I worked for a year as a bagger/cashier at Kroger making $4.25/hr to get it… (it was 10 years old by the time I got my hands on it)
Cars have come so far since then… but to a 17-year old who loved cars, that Mustang was a rocket and started a lifelong relationship with the brand. I now have three… a race car, a 2015 GT, and the best Mustang I’ve ever driven: a 2012 Boss 302.
I still remember looking to buy my first new car back in 1982. I stopped by the local Lincoln-Mercury dealer to check out the new and hot(for the time)Capri 5.0 HO V8. The sixtyish salesmen informed me that due to the Capri’s poor gas mileage not many people would want one- so they weren’t ordering any. Moron…
I didn’t know the 82 GT could still have the 4.2 V8. I wonder if they had 4.2 callouts on the fender. You might get a few strange looks, but at least you be secure in the knowledge that Vanila Ice doesn’t rap about you.
I can understand the idea of a lower output 4.2 in other Foxes, the engine manners would have been way better that those early 90 degree similar power 3.8 V6s. Like the h body Monza though, shoehorning it in a small sport coupe is a head scratcher.
4.2 V8 cars did have “4.2” call outs on the fender from what I recall.
I was brought home from the hospital in my dad’s 82 GT. Silver, T-Tops, AC/Radio delete. He traded it in not long after on a Mk. VII. Even with getting rid of the GT, we still had a Jade Green 79 2.3T Cobra and my mom’s 89 Probe GT turbo at home. Unfortunately, my sister came along in 94 and my parents decided fun cars were no longer a priority.
Interestingly enough, for a family that was so Ford heavy for 20+ years, we all drive Chevrolets now…
To me, the 82 GT in Black/Silver is the best looking “pedestrian” Fox offering. The 85 GT and 79-93 Notch are tied for a close second. The M81 is as close to a unicorn as we’re going to get. I’m surprised that they bring only a fraction of that a 93 Cobra R goes for.
I’m a fan: ’87 5.0 sedan $10,600 new with roll up windows. ’92 5.0 convertible new $22,000 out the door. ’99 Cobra convertible $33,000 new out the door still running strong 21 years later with 145,000 miles stock with original exhaust will never sell.
This Fox body Mustang represents a real conundrum in Detroit’s managerial decision making. When introduced it was certainly competitive with just about anything in its size/price class, and Ford just kept on updating it and meaningfully improving it year after year to keep it that way, especially in the way of offering special options and packages that made it highly customizable and attractive to different segments (i.e. secretaries, rodders, nostalgia buffs, etc.). Ford pretty much has done the same thing with the F-150, and Chevy does it with their Corvette and Silverado, and these models continue to earn nice profits and enjoy good reputations. The question is why over the past 40-50 years did they so rarely show the same passion, customer orientation, and willingness to invest in improvements with the rest of their line-ups?
I think part of the longevity was modifying the vehicle from the early on European pretensions with the turbo 2.3, that weird foreign style 5 speed with first under reverse, and the TRX tires to the 5.0 and Eagle GT. Remember for a few years into the 5.0 period they even tried the SVO with bigger wheels big output turbo and much needed better brakes. They sold less than 10,000 as European car fans don’t buy American and American car fans are price sensitive. A lesson the big three should have taken more to heart.
Maybe they should have built the SVO with the 4.9 liter V8. Instead, they left the job of building a GT with a chassis as capable as the engine to Steve Saleen. For a while now, the best way into Fox ownership has been to buy an SVO that someone stored long ago in the hopes of appreciation and then swap in a built Windsor and a stronger differential. They’re available in high #3/#2- condition for less than it gets to prepare a typical GT for paint. Everything except the engine is better, and replacing the engine is easier than undoing thirty-five years of abuse. It makes one wonder why anyone would ever settle for a turbocharged car voluntarily.
Do people actually pull the 2.3T out of the car 30 years later to make just another fast GT? Surely by now there are people that could do that ricer thing to the 2.3T to get the required output which is at least in keeping with what the SVO group was about. Bet it makes still with us Jackie Stewert’s head spin with the idea of so much weight in the nose. It is my understanding that the Lima block has proved able to stand some abuse in old age at Lemons.
I bet Jackie Stewart remembers how light the Windsor was compared to all the four and six cylinder engines it replaced in British sports cars. The GT actually weighed less than the SVO, so the turbo four and its massive cooling ancillaries probably weren’t too much lighter than the old 302. These days, you could choose between aluminum heads for the Windsor or an aluminum LS to replace the offending lump that came in the SVO.
Improving it was all they could do, I imagine that when it was launched in 1978 it was probably projected to be the last RWD Mustang, at least from a 1978 product planning view, there were FWD Mustang mock ups as early as 1982 and we all know the story of the Probe. They tried as much as as possible, but to me, the Fox Mustang was pretty much outdated by 1988, no mater how much hp the Five-O had…..
It is pretty silly to compare Probes to Mustang GTs but if we look at the base models it is more interesting. The Probe cost more, lacked an air bag, had narrower tires and did not even offer any weight advantage. The Lima had a nice bump in horsepower up to 105 a 20 percent increase from most recent tests. There was not an economy advantage with both getting 26 combined EPA MPG. What was being gained by going FWD Japanese? We will never know because the car mags couldn’t be bothered to perform a new test on a Mustang with a 20 percent power bump. After all there were Asians that year who required a pep rally and the gonzo journolists lined up on their knees to give it to them..
Silly or not , the Probe WAS the next Mustang until Ford changed their mind at the 11th hour, all of the big 3 had FWD Ponycars on the drawing board, the Chrysler Lazer/Daytona the only ones fully came to be, there were of course the neverwas aborted GM80 FWD F-bodies and there were a few X-car based proposals from the early 80’s that never went beyond the prototype stage.
The Probe had more interior room and a better interior layout than the Mustang of the same vintage. Neither the Mustang nor the Probe had an airbag when the Probe launch, the Mustang didn’t get an airbag until 1990 and I’ll assume that they went airbag because there was no way to mount mouse belts in the Fox body. Having driven both 4 cylinder Fox Mustangs and 4 cylinder Probes, the Probe was a much more pleasant 4 cylinder.
The Probe oddly offered a V6 engine option too, something the Mustang had dropped for several years only leaving the 90hp 4 or the 225hp V8 as engine choices.
The Probe was well received, enough to spawn a 2nd generation and even a sort-of 3rd generation, the last Cougar was original the 3rd gen Probe. In hindsight, I wonder if it would have been better to give the Probe to Mercury, which lost its Fox body Mustang counterpart, the Capri when the Probe came out.
I can’t speak to the 1st gen Probe as I was young when we had one, but I recall my parents enjoying it, despite coming from a line of Mustangs (dad) and Firebirds (mom).
But the 2nd gen with the KL-DE V6 was a pretty quick car, all things considered. Definitely underrated, IMO. Same goes for the Cougar when equipped with the Duratec and a manual.
Growing up in Detroit in the early 00s, most of my friends had Probes, ZX2s, Neons, and Cavaliers. These cars were a dime a dozen before the “Car Allowance Rebate System” killed cheap personal transportation for an entire generation.
If only the RWD Mustang could have been updated to offer more interior room like a three door 626. Then America could still have the benefit of replacing all those compact CUVs built in Korea with Mustangs like the old days. What kind of crazy would result in the Probe and the CUVs they lead to?
I loved these cars when they came out. I had several family friends who owned older Mustangs (mostly Mustang IIs, actually). They said that the new cars “were not real Mustangs”. How that worm has turned.
I am actually a little surprised with how anemic the 5.0 was.
What is the black car in the fifth picture down (with the red GT?). I feel like I should know, but it looks too similar to be anything but another Mustang / (Capri?).
“What is the black car in the fifth picture down?”
A McLaren M81…
It is wicked.
Ten-year-old me wants one in retrospect.
My first car was a Fox-body Mustang, but with the 3.3L inline-six, single-barrel carb, and an automatic transmission. That car was a dealer demo, well over 40k miles when I got it (which was middle-aged for an American car in those days), and it never ran right. I wasn’t much of a mechanic in those days, but neither were the hammer-swingers at the dealership service department. I timed that car at 23 seconds 0-60. It caught fire twice, once with me driving and once in my dad’s hands. I sold it after the second fire incident, to a mill worker who promptly looped it into a ditch.
Anyway, the ’82 GT looked awesome, but the Mustang’s Renaissance didn’t really start until the ’85 model, when they went to fuel injection and roller rockers. That was 225 horses, IIRC, and finally made the car faster than its pre-smog-equipment ancestors. It was 225 horses shortly thereafter, and the rest was a steady climb to today’s GT500 monster.
The ’85 was carbureted (4 barrel Holley), 210 horsepower. Manual transmission only. Automatics came with CFI (throttle body) fuel injection and 165 (early) or 180 (later) horsepower.
The ’86 was the first with the multiport fuel injected 5.0 and were rated at 200 horsepower. The 225 horsepower 5.0 did not arrive until the 1987 models.
Your memory is better than mine. But yeah, things started to look up considerably with that ’85 model.
My first car was a 80 with the inline 3.3. Just like a M3! Except it had a very not M3 90 smog choked horses and a 3 speed auto. I remember being 15 and revving it up in the driveway. It felt so powerful just sitting there but was an absolute dog to drive. Oh well, it was still freedom!
I still dream of owning a 5.0 but these days its a 11-14 so I can still get the classic log axle experience. Solid axles never have bothered me. In fact I prefer my vehicles to have two.
As badly as I wanted a 5.0 as a kid, I never bought another Mustang. There’s a part of me that wants an S197. I’m not getting any younger, so perhaps I should start figuring out where that slots in the priority list of “cars I’d like to own before I either die or am too infirm to drive them properly.”
An S197 Mustang is a fine car to own and operate. They are generally robust and cheap to maintain, and if you have the itch to own something like an old style muscle car but want to add some modern comfort and reliability into the mix it’s hard to beat an S197 Mustang. I’ve put about 100K on mine and I’m not tired of it yet.
I feel your pain baconator. That 0-60 is no lie. The only time I ever got the speedo to swing past its 85 limit was downhill with a tailwind. And a lot of road.
I’m coming into this discussion a bit late, but I wanted to get in before the comments closed: I had not one but two of these cars: an 84 GT with the V8 and, later on, an 88 GT. They were pretty fun for their time and the styling was classic; the hatchback design was fairly practical, too. A few odd points:
— My 1984 Mustang GT had the TRX wheel / tire package which meant you were stuck with only one tire option: the Michelin 390 mm diameter tires, and at the time they weren’t cheap to obtain. One day while at our local cruising hangout someone piloting an 85 or 86 GT with aftermarket rims called out to me and asked if I was interested in his factory wheels, which were the 10-hole 15″ x 7″ rims. I was more than happy to buy those for about $100, which allowed me to purchase a regular set of Goodyear Eagle GT+4 tires.
— I had a friend with an early 80s brown Ford Fairmont whose dad was a parts / service manager at the local Ford dealership, and that meant he could get those Michelin tires using his dad’s employee discount. For him, the TRX rims amounted to an upgrade over the Fairmont’s factory steelies and the swap was in keeping with the Fox-body theme.
— To this day, I can tell the external differences between stock 1982-1986 Mustang GTs: from year to year there were slight cosmetic differences. The 1982 / 1983 changes are discussed in the article above; the chief difference between the 1983 and 1984 GTs was that the latter omitted the hood bulge and once again featured the Marchal fog lights (now set wider apart than in 1982).
In 1985 the TRX package was replaced by the aforesaid 10-hole rims, the front clip featured a revised grille (similar to the SVO), and the plastic surrounding the headlights were no longer body color but black. Also the rub strip design was changed: prior to 1985 there were two fatter black bands with an inner double pinstripe that matched the body color (e.g., red for red cars) or contrasted it (e.g. silver/gray or red for black cars), but in 1985 this strip was a single band with two molded ridges toward the bottom and “GT” markings embedded just behind each door.
Now how to tell the difference between the 1985 and 1986 cars? Simple: look for the CHMSL (center high-mounted stoplight) on the rear spoiler, which became mandatory for all 1986 model year cars in the United States. I bet someone could write a whole article on CHMSLs in the mid-1980s.
I wasn’t sure if I made it clear in my prior post, but I sold my old TRX rims to my Fairmont friend for a nominal sum. I also wanted to make some other points:
— The SVO received the bulk of press coverage in 1984, but during that same year Ford released so-called 20th anniversary edition GTs. They were designated by Ford as 1984-1/2 model year vehicles and a special livery was devised for them: all white with the bordello red interior, along with red tape stripes on the lower part of the doors / rockers that said “GT-350”, meant to evoke memories of the Shelby Mustangs of yore. But, alas, that stripe application resulted in a lawsuit filed by Carroll Shelby, who still held the rights to that nomenclature / design. I’m given to understand that Ford later settled out of court.
The 20th anniversary edition cars could be had in either hatchback or convertible form and with the turbo 4 or the V8. Oddly, my own red 1984 Mustang GT had “GT-350” stripes in black, but it wasn’t an official anniversary edition car (wrong exterior color, no dashboard plaque, etc.). I had wondered if that was some sort of dealer-installed option, but none of my research at the time turned up anything definitive. The funny thing was when I owned the 84 GT, people who observed the tape stripes would ask, “Do you have a 350?”, as in a 350 cid V8 which of course does not fit a Ford context.
Anyway, after my 88 GT I’ve never had another vehicle with a V8 engine. In a “how the mighty have fallen” sort of storyline, the next two cars we had as a young family had inline fours: one was a blue/rust (literally) 1989 Hyundai Excel with a four-speed manual; the other was a brown 1983 Nissan Sentra wagon, with a five-speed manual and some Datsun badges in addition to the Nissan badges, as that was the year of the Datsun-Nissan branding migration. Neither car was in great shape and the northern winters were taking their toll, but they were cheap ($1000 in one case, free in the other) and cheerful while they lasted. The largest displacement engine I’ve had since the 88 GT was a 4.3 L V6 in a 1997 Chevy Astro.