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Home/Technical Info/Ford/ 11. Car Models Described/
Muscle for the Street Returns - The Fox Body Mustang
Part 02: 1982 - 1984


The 1982 Mustang "GT". The look is getting more and more aggressive.
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Part Two: The Fox Body Mustang: 1982 - 1984
by Tony Ray, Wild About Cars Ford Brand Manager

1982
If there was a watershed year for both the Fox Mustang and the movement it would later give birth to, it was 1982. First, Ford announced the return of the GT trim level for the Mustang and then announced the release of the 5.0 HO engine option (Contrary to popular belief, the GT and HO engine were not tied together; they were announced separately, and while the HO was available in any trim level or body style, the GT was available with the 255 V8 as a credit option). At the time, the car seemed counterintuitive. Ford was adamant that the future of performance lay with small turbocharged four- and six-cylinder power plants, and although the trouble-plagued turbo4 was dropped for '82, its absence was temporary; it would return in much more powerful, and reliable, EFI form for 1983.

But plans were already afoot to replace the Fox with a small, front-drive Mustang no later than 1984 (these plans should not be confused with the "Probestang" debacle of the late eighties). Given Ford's devotion to the turbo 4 and front wheel drive, it seems odd that they would turn around release what was an obvious throwback to the much-loved but thoroughly dead musclecar era. Except that it wasn't odd at all, since, technically speaking, it wasn't Ford who developed or released it. More on that in a minute.

Around this time, Ford had announced its intention to return to racing in the form of the Motorsport program. Initially conceived by the bean-counters, this was to be simply a re-hash of the old Total Performance program. Ford would dump millions into NASCAR, NHRA ProStock, and road racing, using one-off parts that the public would never see, much less be given the opportunity to purchase. It was assumed that this would somehow translate into people descending on their local Ford dealer en masse to purchase new Escorts and F150 pick-ups.

However, it happened there were a small group of engineers and product men at FoMoCo who had their own very specific ideas of what a racing program should look like and understood, as Jim Wangers has pointed out on many occasions, that there is a difference between racing and performance. In fact, the similarities to Pontiac's early 60's transformation from old man's car to the hot car on the street were probably not accidental. Most of the Ford men involved were young Baby Boomers who were also car enthusiasts, some even Detroit natives, who were undoubtedly familiar with the Super Duty program, Jim Wangers, and Royal Pontiac.

These engineers had, in fact, already been developing (at least on paper) hot rod parts not only for the Windsor, but also the Cleveland and 429-460 big block engines, as well. Everyone involved knew that none of these parts would ever be seriously considered for production, so the question was, "how do we get these parts out on the street and into the hands of the racers?"Â The answer was the Motorsport catalog. Piggybacked onto the existing Motorsport program, the catalog came dangerously close to not happening. It, along with the 5.0 HO engine itself, may have been stillborn if not for the intervention of Bill Ford, Jr. and Edsel Ford II.

Although both men were relatively low-level, middle-manager types at the time, it was their name on the building. Bill Ford already had a reputation as a product man, and both he and Edsel were known around the Glass House as car guys. With some friendly encouragement from both of the Fords, the catalog made it out the door. As time went on the program expanded, Ford engineers even took the somewhat unprecedented step of sharing R&D results and resources with outside companies such as ARI and Trick Flow Specialties.

In another move that would recall the glory days of the 60's, many parts from these and other manufacturers would eventually find their way into the Motorsport catalog complete with Ford part numbers. In the short term, however, the victory would meaningless without a dealer network willing to jump on the bandwagon. Fortunately, there was a small, high-performance oriented dealer in Kansas City that wouldn't have to be asked twice. Or at all.

On the production side, after much internal wrangling, the 5.0 HO was released for production, shepherded to life by largely the same group who ensured the existence of the parts program. The new 5.0 wasn't exotic. It used a new, lightweight, thin-wall block casting with cast aluminum pistons, forged rods, and a nodular iron crank. A new double-roller timing chain replaced the old silent-link type, the old 302's cylinder heads, albeit with larger valves, were reused, and the camshaft was an early-70's 351 Torino piece, straight from the parts bin. The exhaust manifolds were still of the old-fashioned, cast iron "log" type.

On top of the engine sat a two-barrel carb, but it was a high-flow unit rated at 368 cfm and perched atop an aluminum intake manifold. On top of all this sat a large, dual-snorkel air cleaner. And connected to this aircleaner, in very Olds W30-esque fashion, was a pair of air ducts that passed through the inner fenders and behind the front fascia, providing the Mustang with its first cold air induction system in a decade.

Additionally, the engine was only available with the 4 speed OD manual trans; no automatic option was offered. It all added up to 157 horsepower, which sounds less than impressive. What was impressive was the car's performance. A 1982 GT with a good driver could dip into the high 15 second bracket in the quarter mile and get within a couple miles per hour of the magic 90 mph trap speed barrier. The 5.0 HO engine in a lighter GL coupe could knock off a solid tenth and add a solid 1 MPH in trap speed over the heavier GT.

This marked the first time in almost 10 years that a factory stock Mustang could dip into the 15's, but, even more significantly, it was the first time since 1975 that a new Mustang was faster and quicker than the previous model year's car.

1983
1983 brought some refinements to the Mustang. Outside, the front received a mild restyle with a smaller grille, and the back of the car got full width taillights with amber turn indicators. The big news for '83, though, was under the hood. On the 5.0, the big news was the installation of an honest-to-God 600 cfm Holley four barrel. The engine was otherwise unchanged, but that simple addition, along with the mid-year appearance of the Borg-Warner T5 5-speed transmission, allowed an '83 Capri RS (the Mustang's Mercury sistership) to score a 14.85 second run in a Mustangs and Fords test. The performance ground that had been lost since 1971 was being quickly regained.

The other big engine news for '83 was the reappearance of the Turbo4, now in EFI form utilizing Ford's soon-to-be-famous EEC IV engine controller. Horsepower checked in at 145, a slight improvement over the old carb's turbo engine, but still well behind the new four barrel-equipped 5.0's 175. Generally, though, the turbo GT represented the best all-around road car in Ford's arsenal. What it lacked in straight line grunt, it more than made up for in balance and handling. And with the addition of fuel injection, many of the old drivability issues that had previously plagued the engine were all but eliminated. But, as with all things, the market ultimately decides what it wants, and in this case, the market clearly decided that what it wanted was V8 power. Only around 500 turbo GT's were sold in 1983.

Almost as rare was the GT convertible. Ford had announced the return of the convertible for '83 and the public responded, snapping up almost 25,000 of them that first year. However, of that number, only around 1,000 were GTs, all powered by the 5.0 HO.

1984
The year 1984 dawned as largely a carryover year, with the one exception the engine lineup. For the previous two years, the 5.0 had been available only with a manual transmission. Consumers had been demanding an automatic option, and Ford obliged. However, Ford was not confident in the ability of the AOD automatic to stand up to the abuse dished out by the 175 horsepower carbureted engine, and so a detuned version of the HO, with throttle body fuel injection in place of the carb, was introduced. There was no option; auto buyers got the TBI engine, and stick buyers got the carb'd version.

Mid-year '84 saw the release of the special 20th anniversary Mustang as well as numerous chassis and body refinements. Previous hot rod Mustangs had relied on slapper bars to keep the tires planted under hard acceleration, but, beginning with the Anniversary cars, the slapper bars were replaced by small, horizontally-mounted shock absorbers. This set up was known in Ford parlance as "Quad Shock". In addition, all high-performance Mustangs received a larger rear sway bar, updated shocks, and variable rate springs, as well as slightly revised rear control arm geometry.

Externally, the GT received a new front air dam with integrated fog lights, and a new one-piece rear spoiler replaced the old three-piece unit that had been in use since 1979. At the same time that Ford had announced the upcoming suspension changes, they had also announced their intent to release a new, more powerful 5.0 at mid-year. The new engine was to have seen an increase in power, from 175 to 205, but due to issues with piston durability and valvetrain noise, the project was delayed until 1985. The turbo 4 was again offered in the GT, but with only around 3800 takers, this would be its last year.

The SVO Mustang Arrives
The biggest news out of Ford that year was the release of the Mustang SVO. The SVO group was part of an experiment, based on the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, to determine just how many people it really took to bring a car from conception to production. The answer, as it turned out, was "not many", and the result of the effort, the Mustang SVO, remains one of the best all-around Mustangs ever made; although the SVO's Fox DNA was unmistakable, the SVO group took all of the Fox's mass production-induced weaknesses and eliminated them.

The car was fitted with five lug hubs and disc brakes at all four corners. The suspension was extensively revised, an SVO-specific fast-ratio power steering rack was used, and quadruple-adjustable Koni shocks were fitted at all four corners. Another Mustang first were the 16-inch wheels fitted with Goodyear NCT tires. The engine was the same turbo 4 used in the standard GT, but fitted with an intercooler and pumped up to 175 horsepower. The transmission was a Borg-Warner T5, but this was a special box modified to give a premium European feel. A Hurst Competition/Plus shifter completed the transmission's transformation.

Inside, special seats, flocked dash trim and premium leather everywhere further differentiated the SVO from its bare-bones, straight-line sisters. Even the pedal assembly was revised to facilitate heel-and-toe shifting. Unique bodywork rounded out the package.Â

As good as the SVO was, it was not a sales success. Production of the SVO was originally forecast at around 10,000 units annually, but through all three years of production, only around 9,800 were built. The problem wasn't speed; the first year's 175 horsepower model could turn the quarter in 15 flat at 90MPH. And the next year's adjustments increased power to 205 and lowered quarter mile times into the mid-14 second bracket. So the SVO was never more than a tick behind its V8 counterparts in a straight line.

No, the problem was a combination of price and timing. The SVO was not only considerably more expensive than the 5.0, but it came along during a time of rebirth in grassroots drag racing. Although Ford's marketing arm always pushed the Fox's road course victories, handling, and prowess as a road car, the fact was that the vast majority of enthusiast-purchased Mustangs ended up on the dragstrip and not the road circuit, and the strip just wasn't the SVO's natural habitat. In recent years, Ford has returned to its dream of small, turbocharged powerplants as the performance standard with great success. Unfortunately for the SVO, it was born 30 years too soon.

Click HERE to see Part Three

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Now Ford has the look down. This scheme would carry over through 1986

The Turbo 4 SVO Mustang would set may precedents that would appear in later GTs; aero look, better suspension, seats, etc.

The 1983 Look remains, just some tweaks here and there. T-Tops were very popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   


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