3 Generations of Mustang

Fox Body Mustangs

This blog is meant to share common experiences with people who enjoy driving, who are not necessarily mechanics by trade.  There are always going to be those who claim bigger, faster, better.  My ideal is to enjoy this as a hobby and hopefully to keep improving my skill set along the way.  California, once you get out of the cities into wide open spaces, has always been known for the potential of great automotive  experiences.  Up Pacific Coast Highway, through the canyons, and many other places, where you don't have to suffer through the stop and go of rush hour.

There are so many variations of so many fine cars, historians looking back at this time, will appreciate a golden age of individuality, expressed by many through their driving experiences.

Of course the so called Pony cars, the Mustang and then latter the Camaro figured very prominently in bringing European handling with American acceleration to the enthusiast driver.  The Mustang has come a long way since its inception, with improvements perhaps undreamed of to the original designers.

The Fox bodied Mustang, produced from 1979 through 1993 is one of my favorite series. The fastback has a 3250 lbs. chasis.  Now the new Mustang, a fabulous car, depending on options, is still over 4000 lbs.  It shares the same chasis as the Lincoln.  500+ hp  in the new Mustang  is not the same as 500+ hp
in the Fox body Mustang series.  Power to weight ratio is after all, where performance starts.

For example, the power to weight ratio  advantage is especially emphasized in the Corvete Z06, the lightest of the Corvette's.  It utilizes balsa wood in the floors, thinner glass, aluminum engine and suspension parts, and many other tricks of the trade to get that all important weight down. The upcoming ZR1 will push the limits though, with additional carbon fiber 

How best to use that weight advantage.  Any experienced driver can melt their tires drifting or burning donuts. The challenge is to keep traction in the canyons and in the turns.

If you love driving, instead of just commuting, the performance suspension  of a Saleen, Roush or Cobra for example, or a retro modified Mustang, tuned for serious handling, accommodates side to side lateral g forces, not just 0 to 60, or quarter mile ETs.

All those great performance collector cars from the 60s and 70s, selling at the auctions for the price of a down payment on a house, don't do so well on the turns of Laurel, Coldwater, Topanga or Malibu Canyons, with the exception perhaps of the original Shelby Cobras and Duntov performance Corvettes.  Over the years, I have  owned or driven many of the best examples of Detroit excellence.  Just like trying to select a bottle of fine wine, you have to know the good models and years from the turkeys.

People ask me why not go with "power adders" like a supercharger, turbo or nitros.  Been there, done that.  The maintenance on full race engines, even detuned for street driving, is measured in hours of operation, like an airplane or boat, not  mileage on the frame.  Nothing beats stroker engines for torque, reliability and durability.  In fact if you look at the current patterns, we are coming full circle back to the 60s with cubic inches being the determining factor.  The new Roush 427 tribute Mustang attempts to highlight this, and the gas mileage is way better than on a SUV. Unfortunately, Roush has presented this offering which in no way approaches the performance capabilities and dimensions of the original 427SE. In all fairness, the new GT500, as reported in the performance mags that have tested it so far on the dyno, have documented that this limited edition supercharged model does not even approach the rated 500 hp to the flywheel.

A large block engine does not have to rev as high, or work as hard to achieve an optimum torque range, compared to smaller cubic inch engines of four, six as well as eight cylinders.  Even on the medium sized 5.0 liter 302 ci engines, I and many people that I know easily got over 200,000 miles on daily drivers, before an engine refresh.  Endurance is not exclusive to diesel engines. Many Mustang collectors make note that the 85 GT introduced a roller cam and other serious upgrades, increasing not only performance, but also longevity. Being the last of the carbureator intakes before fuel injection, also appealed to many due to the simplicity of tuning.

A stroked engine is a combination of either a longer stroke of each cylinder, via a custom grind of the crank for the rods.  A bore of the cylinders up to 30 thousands of an inch each, or both, giving you the increase in the cubic inches.  The desired effect of a performance engine is at least 1 horse power per cubic inch.  The 2 most popular sizes for stroking on the 302 block are 331 or 347, depending on where you want your torque curve to be active, and what your applications are.

The 93 GT on the earlier pages as set up, will blow the doors off of most cars on the road, except for full race cars, which again are high maintenance.  Why not have fun and be practical at the same time.

The best years of the Fox body Mustangs are from 85 through 93.  1993 being the first year of the SVT Cobra, and the last and best year of  that series of GT.  These have now started to appreciate in value, rather than depreciate.  Articles in some automotive magazines are already refering to them as collectors.

You have to ask the question why so many of the line racers illustrated in the magazines choose the Fox body Mustang, produce from 1979 through 1993, rather than other series.  One of the reasons is the after market parts manufacturers support.  Their engineering and design work always improves on the original.  For example, to reduce weight, you can choose hoods and side panels from aluminum, fiberglass and even carbon fiber.  I have seen cars as light as 2500 lbs.  And it won't break the bank.  With a new performance Mustang, with options, you are looking at 60K plus out the door.  Unscrupulous car dealers are getting 10 thousand over sticker price for the new Cobra GT500s.

Its a great feeling of accomplishment to  have a ride that performs as well or better than cars costing three or four times more, not to forget their higher insurance premiums and depreciation.

If you can get over the impulse of driving a car as a fashion statement, rather than as a visceral experience of handling excellence, then maybe you have joined the ranks of the many thoughtfull drivers who have gone it alone against the system, ordering ala carte, and building a ride that is literally like none other.  Not just a commute, not a fashion statement, but a winning and unique experience.