Anyone out there remember when there were luxury versions of pony cars? Yes, pony cars. Please don’t call them muscle cars. The term, ‘muscle car’ has been overused to the point of irrelevancy. No, a 460-powered ’72 Thunderbird is NOT a muscle car, and neither is a 1975 Country Squire. Neither is a Maverick or V8-powered Chevy Monza. Yes, I have heard a Maverick-A MAVERICK, for Pete’s sake!-been referred to as a muscle car. Nope. No. Wrong wrong wrong! Now where was I?
Ah yes, luxury pony cars. A rare breed even when new, there are far fewer found in the wild these days, due to metallic avocado green Barracuda Gran Coupes, root beer brown Camaro LTs and other such motor vehicles being repainted red, with made-in-China ‘SS’ or ‘Hemi’ emblems liberally tacked on of course, and don’t forget the 1992-vintage American Racing five-spoke wheels. And yet, some non-frigged-with examples have survived into the age of lattes, iPhones and crossovers. Take this ’79 Ghia, spotted back in 2013 in front of the local pizza place.
1979 was a big year for the Mustang. While about 93.5% of Mustang fans would love to forget the ’79’s immediate predecessor, the Mustang II, the fact is, despite much Mustang II hate in the blogosphere, the II saved the Mustang’s bacon. It was a sales smash, and its success led to the Fox-body 1979 model, making much of the 1978 compact Fairmont’s underpinnings in the bargain. While other pony cars like the Javelin and Barracuda died, and the Cougar turned into a luxo-midsized along the likes of the Monte Carlo and Grand Prix, the Mustang survived the Seventies-and sold.
The 1979 model was about as all-new as a 1970s U.S. car got. Of course, no convertible-yet-but two-door notchback and three-door hatchback models were available in a variety of flavors, including base-model secretary special, Cobra fastback, and luxury Ghia. A four was standard, with Turbo-4, V6 and V8 power available if you wanted it.
In addition, there was still a heaping helping of options, colors and appearance packages to make sure your Mustang wasn’t the same as everyone else’s. That was still possible in 1979, before gray gray silvermist and beige beigemist and fleet white became the popular color choices. But I digress.
For the few, the proud, who chose a luxo-sport Mustang Ghia, you had your choice of standard vinyl or optional velour or (and no doubt rare) leather seats. Other refinements included special door panels, thicker carpeting, color-keyed seat belts, more sound insulation, Ghia emblems and other assorted gingerbread. As this was the luxury model, there were no performance upgrades over the plain-Jane Mustang coupe, but you could order them a la carte.
Turbine wheel covers were standard, but this one has the optional and 1970s Detroit de rigueur wire wheel covers. Also note the quarter window louvers, which appeared on notchback Mustangs into the mid-1980s and pretty clearly aped the Mercedes-Benz 450SLC.
Finding early Fox Mustangs here in the Midwest isn’t easy these days, especially in non-rodded or otherwise customized condition, but this one has beaten not only the odds of mere survival, but also in not being painted resale red or having a V8 dropped in. It even still has its original “2.8” engine callouts on the front fenders, denoting the optional V6.
I especially liked the metallic blue paint and top, and matching interior with white seats and blue trim. Looks like this one has the standard vinyl trim. Color was still easily attained in 1979. This one also has the SelectShift automatic transmission, which was required when ordering the V6.
Anyway, as is widely known, the Fox Mustang went on to a long and healthy career, adding a topless variant in 1982, and through several facelifts, remained in this basic form way, way wayyyy to 1993. And while even your standard 2017 Mustang has tons more features than this luxury version from the late ’70s, back then, this was the way for Mustangers to get their Brougham on!
Taking my FIRST POST! privilege to say:
My God, what a beautiful automobile.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I learned to drive stick in a supercharged SN95 convertible with Griggs racing suspension and K-member, no less, so I’m awkwardly partial to that design even though I’ve never driven a stock version. I hear they’re garbage stock.
I sold them new.
They were okay, taken in context with everything else that was out there at the time.
Thank you so much for posting this. My first car was a 79 yellow Ghia with the 2.8.
Thanks for reading!
I remember liking the late-’80s LX 5.0 in Calypso Green. and the couple of Grosse Pointe posers who had LXs, but their parents only sprung for the 4-cylinder so they put “5.0” badges and fake tailpipes on them.
I really dug the color combination! I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was on my way somewhere and only had time to park crookedly, leap out of the car, snap a few, and run back to my car. I haven’t seen it since.
Let me know what pictures you want I have the same car same color but 5.0 with factory moon roof and vinyl top.
It’d be nice if there were a Ghia version of today’s Mustang, but I’m afraid a 4-door GranCoupé would be more likely.
That would be fine, honestly.
That rear quarter photo makes it look indistinguishable as a mustang. I get a really strong Cutlass Ciera vibe.
This car predated the Ciera by four years!
“K-Car” was my thought in that picture as well.
Thanks Tom and Jack, I’m really enjoying this new content.
I’m impressed with how well the owner has kept the car up, or restored it. Judging from the wear on the rear near the trunk opening I would lean toward just keeping the car clean and maintained.
I also learned today that 3 door liftbacks/hatchbacks were offered on Mustangs.
The Mustang II was also available as a liftback.
Well, I had a ’69 Cougar and I currently drive a Mustang GT premium with red interior, so I’d say I love me some luxury pony cars, having owned this car’s spiritual predecessor and successor.
I don’t car what anyone else says, I like this car. It was better than most for its time.
That’s a nice little vest pocket luxo cruiser. I like these even more now than I did then. The white upholstery with the metallic blue paint is a lovely combination.
“Anyone out there remember when there were luxury versions of pony cars?”
I think the general trend of better and better-equipped mainstream brands has pretty much ended the need for a “luxury” trim level. Load up a Mustang GT or Ecoboost Premium and you’ve got more than pretty much any Ghia could have had. It’s not just pony cars; sit in a 2006 Fusion, then a 2017. the 2017 is a Lincoln in comparison.
(which- incidentally- is why I think the new Fusion “Platinum” trim level is completely wrong-headed. All the Fusion Platinum seems to do is take away a reason to buy an MKZ instead.
The Ecoboost Pony package’s pretty nice too, with its chrome side DLO surround and tacky chrome upper and lower front grille.
Since you had a little meltdown on the whole “muscle car” constitutional verbiage (I have only heard the term used on testosterone-appropriate models??), can the world please quit using the phrase “FOX-BODY MUSTANG!!!”? Or was there a second Mustang model produced at the same time that this needs to be included every time someone posts a for-sale ad for one of these on Craigslist? I’m not being snarky or anything, and these were made long before my birth, so I’m kind of asking for real–why does this have to be stated every time? Isn’t it redundant?! No offense intended or otherwise implied 🙂
same reason any time BMW is the topic, it’s filled with “E” this and “N” that.
I liken it to 911s where the internal code name is used amongst those in the know and to everyone else it’s been the same car for 50 years. Admittedly the Mustang looks much different from platform to platform so it would be less applicable there.
When I was a freshman in high school, these were the cars that dominated the student parking lot in sheer numbers. They were affordable used, while also being popular hand-me-downs from parents. Ghia packages were common on cars driven by girls, but the guys I knew who had Fox Mustangs either had the base models or the later GTs. Engines ranged from slow, thrashy 4 cylinders with unmarked tachometers through pedestrian inline-6s with no power at all to V8s that had been de-mufflered or glass-packed to make noise while still being easy prey for pinging Duster 340s. By the time I was a senior, Mustangs only seemed to come two ways: There was a 4 cylinder model with about 88 hp, and there was the GT/LX 5.0 with more than twice that. The 5.0 5-speeds were about the fastest cars in the parking lot, and the 2.3 automatics were about the slowest. What changed more than the cars was who drove them. In 1985, Mustangs were driven by the kinds of kids I knew; college bound, raised in stable homes, and capable of pronouncing the last g of each word they spoke. By 1988, daddy’s girls still drove new Mustangs, but the rest of the Mustang orbit was populated by people I did not know; people involved in stabbings at trailer parks who had never traveled outside of their zip-code.
You want a personal luxury mustang? I got your personal luxury mustang!
of all the people who could make the 2015 Mustang look worse, I wouldn’t have expected it to be Henrik Fisker.
It was love at first sight for me. I had to look up what Clarkson was driving in the opening of The Grand Tour. Being made aware of that car has been the highlight of the show for me so far.
I’ve seen it in person. it’s awful. the nose has been stretched out to an absurd extent.
The Jimmy Durante Edition!
It’s in much better shape than my Ghia, that’s for sure! Mine is just slightly newer though, being a 2003 Focus wagon. Bought it new and still driving it, Magnum Grey, velour interior, 2.0 auto.
Here’s how it looked 10 years ago, with a bonus 1961 Ford Ranch Wagon two-door in background! Also a Mondeo wagon, if you squint a bit. http://i.imgur.com/H4O0TLj.jpg
The Ultraleggeras sold years ago, it’s now back on it’s original 15″ wheels and stock suspension. Which reminded me that one thing the Ghia did have over lesser models was the self levelling Nivomat rear suspension.
? Sure that pumpkinless wagon is a ’61 ? ..
Didn’t actually remember what it was when I noticed it in the background looking through my photos for the Ghia badge, but from the little info I could find 61 was the last year of the two-door wagon, the earlier ones have a clearly different design, and the few pictures I found that match that car are -61 Ranch Wagons.
Been a decade since I moved so I don’t know what happened to that car, the owner was going to restore it for his daughters eighteenth birthday which was about fifteen years away, ten years ago.
Or were you referring to the fwd Focus? That’s my -03 Ghia, the wagon in the background i believe is a -61, though I could be wrong.
I wasn’t aware that this series of Mustangs was available with the i6 engine .
Coupled to a manual box (5 speed please !) I imagine it’s be easy to peak and tweak one into a nice road burner if no stoplight dragster .
I kind of like the basic Fox body Mustang Coupes although I’ve never had one .
? Bleed on my cloth seats ?! I’d boot your ass out the door =8-) .
not really. The Falcon Six had an intake manifold which was cast integrally with the cylinder head, and didn’t flow worth a shit. it’s not the same as the revered 300 six from the trucks.
“It was a sales smash, and its success led to the Fox-body 1979 model, making much of the 1978 compact Fairmont’s underpinnings in the bargain.”
Oooooh, boy. My second car ever was a 1979 Ford Fairmont. Some truly unusual design choices in that car. For example, the horn and the turn signal used the same control – up for right, down for left, and push into the column to annoy fellow drivers. One day, someone actually stole this control out of my car. For real, they just yanked the stick right out of the column and went on their way. I don’t know why. I suspect neither did they.
“Some truly unusual design choices in that car. For example, the horn and the turn signal used the same control”
several automakers did this around the same time. AFAIK it was a cost-saving measure to remove the need for a clockspring.
With lack of personal luxury coupes in market place nowadays, at least those with V8 engines, some of us treat pony cars as personal luxury coupes.
You just have to get the luxury version 🙂 I have a 2014 Mustang GT premium deep impact blue with the black and blue striping, it has leather seats and door inserts with little chrome ponys on the side. I love the pony reflection on the ground. The LED side headlights and taillights. Dashboard is soft touch material. I wish the doors were not so cheap and cheesy hard plastic, but other than that, it works well enough as a personal luxury coupe for me. I think Challenger can even do that job, but I draw the line at Camaro. I just don’t see how I can live in a Camaro as someone who puts some value on sight lines and a proper refined interior. Lincoln is missing on a great opportunity by not making a more refined version of Mustang and selling it as a Lincoln.
what’s up at TTAC? no articles or comments posted since yesterday.
n/m, must have been a caching issue somewhere.
Good to read you, even with this as the subject!
Great article, I look forward to more of these please!
Beautiful color blue! My college roommate got one of these brand-new right after we graduated. I remember distinctly how well it handled compared to anything else in the price range except perhaps the Sirocco.
I’m one of the Mustang II defenders. The II replaced the severely huge (and ugly) “Bloatstang” and was a revelation at the time – OPEC had just played hardball, and Ford looked like Nostradamus at exactly the right time. Selling nearly a million of them over the 5 year run, that cash helped get us to the Foxstang.
It’s association with Charlie’s Angels or the severe Cobra decal jobs instead of power didn’t help, but those were par for the times.