As I stepped out of the Detroit Auto Show this week I was immediately greeted by Ford’s Mustang Stampede. Hundreds of Mustangs participated in the rally that stretched from Washington state to Detroit, culminating in the debut of the seventh-generation Mustang. Many of the Stangs were parked along Jefferson Avenue outside the show, awaiting the reveal a few blocks down.
With the launch of the new Stang, I’ve noticed a resurgence in love for Fox Body Mustangs. There were a few on Jefferson and in the Stampede, and there’s actually a fair amount of them still on the road. As far as generations go, it’s a tweener. It’s not mythical like the first gen, nor as criticized as the Mustang II.
While second generation (1974-78) had to follow an icon and launched amid the ‘70s oil crisis, the Foxes that followed slipped into an easier time. Like much of Gen X, it’s overshadowed by the Boomer First Gen before it and the showy Gen Y and Millennial cars afterwards. The ‘80s were a bit weird. I was there, but with time and perhaps some sepia-toned vision, things from that era are getting their due.
We’re seeing that with the new Mustang’s digital cockpit, which can be configured to resemble the 1980s Fox body gauges (shown above). It’s also one of the first instances of an automaker recalling ‘80s design aesthetics (The new Nissan Z also captures that effectively), which makes sense given Gen X and the Geriatric Millennials now have the buying power to afford new and vintage Mustangs. Hagerty notes that Fox Bodies can still be found for well under $10,000 and says some examples fetch as much $90,000 (uncommonly).
The Fox Bodies had a long life, from 1979 to 1993, and they made a design statement. Jack Telnack, who later styled the 1980s Taurus that jump-started Ford’s sedan sales, produced the only Mustang design that’s a bit boxy and squared off. Depending on the year and model (some had angled nose clips), there’s some variance, but there’s no debate the third gen stands alone in the Mustang style book.
The Foxes had their moments. The high output 5.0-liter V8 and the 2.3-liter turbo four were memorable variants, and the Mustang was generally well received before sales tapered as the ‘80s rolled on. They also had some quality issues, and being among the best sports cars of a duller era doesn’t do them any favors.
But as I strolled to the Gen 7 unveiling in the fading light, I found the Fox Bodies’ resurgence heartening. People wore Fox T-shirts and the examples there were in good shape. Enough time has passed that an ‘80s Mustang is no longer a beater high school car or Uncle Fred’s daily driver. They’re legitimately vintage, and the Fox Bodies have earned their place in history.