Fox Body Mustang Buying Guide

Are you in the market to purchase a Fox Body Mustang? Here’s everything you should keep an eye out for, and possibly use to your bargaining advantage.
Before we get into the things to look out for we will quickly cover what changes happened in what years:

  • 1979 – Fox Body mustangs hit the dealership floors.
  • 1980 – 5.0L V8 was replaced with a 4.2L V8.
  • 1981 – Hatchback outsold the coupe, which continued throughout the Fox Body’s lifetime
  • 1982 – 5.0L V8 returns due to popular demand.
  • 1983 – Convertible Fox Body was added to the line-up, and front suspension was improved.
  • 1984 – The SVO (2.3L turbocharged Inline-4) was introduced.
  • 1985 – Slightly revised front facia. Last year for the carburetor.
  • 1986 – Third brake light added, last year for the SVO Fox Body, electronic fuel injection was added.
  • 1987 – Major front end redesign
  • 1988 – GT was named in “Ten Best Cars in the World”
  • 1989 – Speed density induction replaced with mass air induction
  • 1990 – Airbag added to the steering wheel
  • 1991 – Foxbody price rises, sales decline
  • 1992 – Color coated side moldings on the body
  • 1993 – Limited edition, SVT Cobra, and SVT Cobra R were released, last year for the Fox Body mustang

Frame

Making sure the frame is good applies to nearly every vehicle purchase you’ll ever make.

  • Look at the windshield pillars for denting, as well as the rear windows for bulges or cracking. This is a sign of a twisted frame.
  • Look at the unibody frame rails for dents, creasing, and rust.
  • Take a look at the shock towers, they are notorious for rusting and cracking.
  • Look at the suspension mounting points from and rear. Occasionally the mounts crack.
  • If it was previously a drag car it may drive a little crooked/sideways down the road.

It’s very common for a Fox Body mustang frame to be twisted, due to the torque monster 5.0L V8 and a weak unibody design. This is especially common for drag cars, so make sure it drives straight down the road before you purchase it.

Fox Body

Engine

The 5.0L is an excellent engine, but like all engines, it has its common problems.

RELATED: The Story of my 1991 Fox Body Mustang

  • Leaky rear main seal, look at the back of the engine/front of the transmission for oil. This is a sign of a leaky rear main.
  • Water pump failure, see if the water pump pulley has any play in it, that’s a sign of a failing water pump.
  • Oil pan leak, look at the bottom of the engine for oil.
  • Low oil pressure at high RPMs. Wind the engine out to redline and see if the oil pressure gauge drops, sometimes the factory oil pump is inadequate at high RPMs.
  • If the engine has aftermarket parts on it ask if it has been tuned by a professional.
  • Ask for receipts for aftermarket parts.

Fox body Mustang

Transmission

If the Fox Body mustang you’re looking to purchase has a manual transmission, there’s a few thing to look for.

RELATED: Top 5 Must Have Fox Body Modifications

  • Make sure it doesn’t pop out of any gears.
  • The clutch should engage about halfway through the pedal travel, if not the cable may be stretched.
  • Broken clutch cable, which is common especially on a Fox Body with aftermarket long tube headers.
  • Broken clutch quadrant, which is also common and a pain in the rear to fix.

If it has an automatic transmission, there are less thing to look for.

  • Abrupt/Harsh shifting. Either the transmission is going bad or it has an aftermarket shift kit
  • Check the fluid, it should be red, it might be a little dark if the fluid hasn’t been changed in a while

Foxbody Mustang

Drivetrain

Drivetrain parts are generally a pain in the butt to fix so make sure that everything is in order.

  • Make sure the rear end doesn’t make any strange noises such as howling.
  • Ask the owner if it has stock gearing in the rear end.
  • Is the driveshaft stock or aftermarket?
  • Make sure the u-joints good, having those explode on the road is not fun.
  • If you have the opportunity, make sure it spins both tires. If not the LSD is old and worn out.
  • Knocking when you get on and off the throttle may be a bad transmission/motor mounts.

Interior

This is arguably the least important part because the interior has no real affect on how it drives. But, if you can score a Fox Body with a clean interior that is always a major plus

RELATED: 7 Reasons the Fox Body Mustang is the best Muscle Car

  • Cracks in the dash are normal. If you find a non-cracked dash you’re in luck.
  • Make sure all the buttons work.
  • Make sure the A/C unit works.
  • Are all the interior panels there?
  • Tears in the seat can always be fixed so don’t be worried about those.
  • If it’s a convertible make sure the top goes up and down properly.

Modifications

Unfortunately, in the automotive industry, the money you put into your car is almost always lost. This sucks when you go to sell your Fox Body that you dumped $10k into, but it can be awesome if you’re the one purchasing it. A Fox Body with $2k worth of go fast parts will probably only sell for $500 more than a Fox Body without those parts.

This does not mean to go after any Fox Body with aftermarket stuff on it. Many times owners will cheap out and put crappy parts on their Fox Body. This can result in major headaches down the road if you decide to purchase said Fox Body. If there are any modifications done to the Fox Body you’re looking at, make sure they’re quality parts. A cobbled together Fox Body is worse off than a completely stock Fox Body.

If it has engine work done to it find out what heads, camshaft, and intake manifold it has. This will give you a rough estimate of what kind of power you can expect it to make. If it has any suspension modifcations ask what brand/model the comonents are. If it has a tubular k-member find out how it changed the suspension geometry.

Conclusion

In all, Fox Body Mustangs are generally problem free, but sometimes things happen. Look for strange body panel gaps, rust, oil leaks, and make sure the transmission shifts properly. None of these problems are deal-breakers, but you should try and use these problems to your bargaining advantage.

Author: Bryce Cleveland

Bryce is a die hard car fanatic. When he's not working on his Jeep Cherokee, he's beating it up in the desert. He started Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 and continues to write content for it as much as possible.

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