What Makes Them so Good?It's tough to pinpoint exactly what makes a particular car successful, at least in terms of cult status, but there are numerous attributes of the Fox Mustang that have endeared it to the speed-crazed masses. Initially, it was the simple fact that it was a quick little car. This spark was first seen in 1982 with the return of the GT model powered by a 302-based 5.0L V-8, albeit with a two-barrel carb, single exhaust, and an overdrive four-speed stick. But by 1985, the Mustang was on the cusp of greatness. The Holley four-barrel and Borg-Warner five-speed trans introduced earlier were major contributors, though the factory-installed steel-tube headers, forged TRW pistons, and hydraulic-roller cam really got the attention of the motoring press, and therefore, the public. The new 15x7 aluminum wheels and slicker body cladding had a positive effect on appearance, and by the '87 facelift, EFI had come in, power had gone up, and the interior finally seemed contemporary. Despite this, the aftermarket parts revolution was still on the horizon. Let's look at the specific elements that motivated the public to tweak these Mustangs.
Small and LightThis is one of the most basic qualities of a successful performance car. The Fox Mustang seemed smaller than even the original, and it had been designed to be relatively lightweight as a result of concerns over fuel economy in the late '70s. The foundation of the Fox car was a true unit-body shell with a separate bolt-on engine/front suspension crossmember and a triangulated four-link solid-axle suspension in the rear. When examining the bare shell of a Fox Mustang and its major components, it seems obvious that the engineers strove to keep complexity to a minimum, and that they did so to minimize weight. Their efforts paid off, as even a well-optioned, iron-headed '93 5.0 Mustang GT with A/C only tips the scales at around 3,300 pounds. Notchback coupes are more like 3,150 pounds, and earlier models with fewer options can actually dip under the 3,000-pound mark.
SimpleSimplicity was an intrinsic quality of most older cars, but as the '70s wore on and the '80s unfolded, most engine bays were clogged with smog equipment.
Though the Fox Mustang had to endure some degree of these nightmares, it managed to remain a relatively simple car throughout. At the core, the Fox platform is a conventional front-engine/rear-drive configuration with a typical engine bay and passenger compartment. Thanks to the MacPherson strut front suspension, there is probably more room along the flanks of the small-block Ford than in the original Mustang, and there are definitely fewer parts in the Fox suspension. The rack-and-pinion steering is also more compact, and tucked in close to the engine crossmember.
Anyone who's worked on a Fox Mustang can attest to the fact that engine, trans, and rear axle repairs or replacement are pretty easy, and dismantling the entire car isn't even that difficult. Specialty tools seemed to become a standard part of auto repair in the '80s, but a basic tool set can handle most Fox-associated tasks.
DurableBy the time Fox Mustang owners had earned the name "Stang Bangers", it was obvious that the mechanicals of the 5.0L cars were stronger than they needed to be. Just as car enthusiasts had grown to expect overly complicated cars as the '80s trudged on, so too had they expected under-built components and systems. Most assumed that the days of over-engineered, brutally built passenger cars were gone for good as a result of the influence of the now-infamous bean counters behind the scenes at all the American auto companies.