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Home/Technical Info/Ford/ 11. Car Models Described/
Muscle for the Street Returns - The Fox Body Mustang
Part 03: 1985 - 1986

The new nose and wheels gave the GT looks to go with its stellar performance.
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Part Three: The Fox Body Mustang: 1985 - 1986
by Tony Ray, Wild About Cars Ford Brand Manager

The year 1985 will probably be remembered as the year the Mustang really got serious. The interior was basically carried over, except for a few minor trim revisions, and the same goes for the outside. The biggest exterior change was to the front end, where the previous egg crate grille was replaced with a single, narrow mail slot, and the headlight buckets were blacked out. It was a minor alteration, but it resulted in what many consider the best looking of all the Fox Mustangs. 

Suspension was essentially carried over, with one big exception. Gone was the troublesome TRX suspension, leaving the 5.0's heavy duty suspension as the top option. New, wider, 10-hole wheels fitted with Goodyear Gatorback tires were mandatory on all V8 Mustangs. 

The biggest news was, again, under the hood. The '85 engine received new forged aluminum slugs in place of the previous cast units. A new, more aggressive full-roller cam with .444" lift and 266 degrees duration was fitted, and improved cylinder heads topped the short block. On the exhaust side, the old cast iron log manifolds were replaced with steel tube shorty headers. 

Behind the new engine was a revised T5 five speed. All of this added up to 210 horsepower, a Mustang that was capable of running deep in the 14 second bracket stock, and was nothing but a couple of 5-minute tweaks away from the 13's. The automatic/CFI combination was still offered, unchanged until mid-year when it was tweaked to deliver 180 horsepower.

Like 1984, 1986 was a carryover year, at least in terms of exterior, interior, and suspension. Only a few very minor tweaks differentiated the '86 from the '85 on the outside. However, big changes were found (you guessed it) under the hood. The previous year's cylinder heads were replaced with a new, high-swirl design. And, finally, all 5.0 HO's were fitted with EEC IV controlled-port fuel injection.

Gone was the big Holley and the TBI system; now all 5.0 Mustangs would be fitted with the same engine, regardless of transmission. Fortunately, Ford finally replaced the old 7.5 axle with the relatively bulletproof 8.8". Unfortunately, the new masked-valve E6 heads were inferior power producers compared to the previous year's units. Torque was up slightly, but power was down to 200.

The result was that, although the cars felt essentially identical on the street, the '86 was a tick slower at the track than an equivalent '85. This gave the enthusiast press grounds for their fears of EFI, and the new car's decreased performance was blamed on the computer and not the cylinder heads. This was the general tone for most of 1986 in the car magazines of the time. But 1987 was coming, and big things were coming with it.

By this point, the Motorsport parts program was picking up speed, and even the aftermarket was starting to step up to the plate. While the selection of hard parts for the 5.0 was still slim, Ford had released a series of raised port, canted valve heads for the Cleveland and Windsor small blocks, and ARI had released the world's first aftermarket, inline-valve head for the 5.0. This piece would soon make an appearance in the catalog, complete with a Ford Oval and part number, as the J302 head.

Intake manifolds were available, as were smaller parts such as hot ignition boxes sourced from MSD. The process was beginning to pick up steam. New York and Texas had long been hot beds of street racing, and growing numbers of professional racers in both states were trading in their increasingly worn (and increasingly valuable) Hemi Mopars and big-block Chevrolets for 5.0 Mustangs and Turbo Buicks.

At the same time, interest in drag racing the 5.0 at the grassroots level was blossoming in every state in the union. It hadn't quite reached critical mass yet, but the explosion was coming.

Click HERE to Read Part Four - Aftermarket tuners and their early effect on Mustang performance.

Coming - Click HERE to read Part Five - the 1987-1993 5.0 Mustangs.

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The SVO could almost match the GT's straight line go and it was quicker on the track.

The convertible was becoming very popular - 6,989 5.0 V8 equipped Mustang convertibles were sold in 1985.

The 1986 LX 5.0 may have been one of the best performance cars for the buck.

The SVO was still one heck of a performance car - but it's price hurt sales.

The hot Mustangs for 1986: LX 5.0, GT, and SVO.

















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