1980 Ford Mustang Cobra hatchback coupe

“A sports car for the 80’s.”

1980 was the second year for the Fox-body Mustang and brought few changes from the debut year—and some of those weren’t great, such as a downgraded V8. The Cobra inherited some features from 1979 Pace Car, including a front spoiler, dual fog lamps, and a rear deck spoiler.

The standard powertrain on the base Mustang was Ford’s Lima 88 bhp 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four with a Motorcraft 5200 two-barrel carburetor matched with a four-speed manual. A Windsor 119 bhp 4.2 liter/255 ci V8 with a Motorcraft 2150 two-barrel carburetor was available with a three-speed automatic, but the top-of-the-line powertrain was a turbocharged version of the Lima inline four with a Holley 6500 two-barrel carburetor making 132 bhp paired with the four-speed manual. Thus, for 1980 the fastest available Mustang had a 0-60 time of a little under 11 seconds. With a 12.5-gallon fuel tank and 18 city/30 highway fuel mileage (about 15/25 by today’s standards), a Cobra‘s proud new owner could expect a range of about 225 to 270 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard mechanical equipment on the $7,098 Cobra (about $23,700 in today’s dollars) included the turbocharged inline four, the four-speed manual, a “special suspension system” with heavy duty front and rear stabilizer bars and special shock valving, a sport-tuned exhaust with bright tailpipe extension, and Michelin TRX 190/65R390 tires (they’re still available!) on 15.3-inch forged aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment included dual remote styled mirrors and black lower bodyside paint. A Cobra‘s interior didn’t have many upgrades, but you did get an 8,000-rpm tachometer and a black engine-turned instrument panel applique.

Standard equipment on all Mustang hatchback coupes included dual rectangular halogen headlamps, wraparound taillamps, a modified MacPherson strut front suspension, front disc/rear drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering. Inside, full instrumentation (tachometer, trip odometer, fuel/temperature/oil/alternator gauges), a sports steering wheel, color-keyed cut pile carpeting, all vinyl high-back bucket seats, a lockable glove box, and a cigarette lighter were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included Cobra hood graphics ($88), a flip-up open air roof ($219), black liftgate louvers ($141), and a rear window/wiper washer ($79). Inside, you could choose SelectAir conditioning ($538), Recaro high-back bucket seats ($531), an electric rear window defroster ($96), interval windshield wipers ($39), tilt steering wheel ($78), and the power lock group ($113). A series of stereos were available, with the most capable being an AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette tape player ($271). Higher end stereos could be paired with the Premium Sound System ($94), which added a higher-power amplifier and more capable rear speakers.

Cobra pages from the 1980 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

1980 Ford Mustangs sold decently, accounting for about 23% of Ford’s overall sales in a down year. Reviews of the day were unhappy, but understanding about the loss off the 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 in the middle of the second oil crisis—Car and Driver stated that “Whether you like life with turbochargers or not, you might as well get used to it.”

Folks are definitely collecting these early Fox-body Mustangs. Cobras come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, though there aren’t any available right now.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Cobra in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $23,100, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $9,800. Make mine Black, I think, perhaps with those extra-cost Cobra hood graphics.

Later Fox-body Mustangs I have covered include the 1982 GT hatchback coupe, the 1983 GT convertible, and the 1984 SVO hatchback coupe. I guess I’ll have to get to the second half of the Mustang’s decade at some point.

1981 Ford Escort hatchback coupe

“Built to take on the world.”

Ford’s biggest news for 1981 was the all-new Escort. Marketed as a “World Car,” the Escort replaced the unloved Pinto and represented a three billion dollar commitment from Ford. The new Escort was shorter, thinner, taller, and about 400 pounds lighter than the Pinto it supplanted.

The Escort’s standard powertrain was the Compound Valve Hemispherical (CVH) 65 bhp 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with Holley-Weber 5740 2-barrel carburetor paired to a four-speed manual transmission (a three-speed automatic was a $344 option). Mileage with the standard powertrain was impressive: 28 city/43 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/31 highway by 2018 standards). Acceleration was less so: 0-60 came in about 14 seconds in the approximately 2,000-pound car. With a 10-gallon fuel tank, Escort drivers could expect a range of from 240 to 320 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $5,158 base Escort (about $15,300 in today’s dollars and close to what a 2018 Fiesta SE hatchback costs) included front wheel drive, rack-and-pinion steering, fully independent four-wheel suspension, halogen headlamps, and P155/80R13 tires (a size still available thanks to Kumho) on 13-inch steel wheels. Inside, high-back body-contoured front bucket seats, fold-down rear bench seat, and an AM radio were included.

As was often true with 1980s Fords, there were many trim levels. L added bright headlamp surrounds and a bright grill along with other brightwork. Moving up to the GL gave the purchaser reclining bucket seats and a four-spoke steering wheel. GLX added dual color-keyed remote sport mirrors, digital clock, locking glovebox, and P165/80R13 tires on styled steel wheels—but started at $6,476 (about $19,200 in 2018 dollars).

Fitting between the GL and the GLX in price, the somewhat sporty SS included black grill and headlamp housing, tape striping, and handling suspension ($37 for other Escorts).

Exterior and mechanical options included power brakes ($79) and power steering ($163). Inside, air conditioning ($530), fingertip speed control ($132), a floor console ($98), cloth/vinyl seat trim ($28), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($187) were all available.

Escort page from the 1981 Ford brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The first-year Escort and its platform-mate Mercury Lynx sold well: 193,000 Escort hatchback coupes, 128,000 Escort liftback sedans, 73,000 Lynx hatchback coupes, and 39,000 Lynx liftback sedans, making for a total of over 430,000. First-generation Escorts and Lynx’s were once so prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see Escorts for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none out there as I write this in June 2018.

1980 Ford Thunderbird coupe

“New Thunderbird elegance in a new size …”

To me, the 1980 Ford Thunderbird was one of those “why?” cars, though the competitive drivers were obvious. The third Ford based on the “Fox” platform (the Fairmont and the Mustang had come first), the eighth generation ‘bird was of one of the most radically downsized automobiles in the North American auto industry. In comparison to its 1979 predecessor, the base 1980 Thunderbird was 17 inches shorter and 900 pounds lighter.

Standard power for 1980 was a Windsor 118 bhp 4.2 liter/255 ci V8 with a Motorcraft two-barrel carburetor paired with a SelectShift three-speed automatic transmission. Powertrain upgrades were available: buyers could specify a $150 131 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with a two-barrel carburetor and could then add a $133 automatic overdrive transmission (with that engine only).

With the standard powertrain, 0-60 took about 15 seconds in the 3,100-pound car—the best powertrain combination dropped that time to a far more respectable 12 seconds. Mileage was 18 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—with a 17.5-gallon gas tank, a Thunderbird owner could expect a range of about 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $6,816 base Thunderbird (about $22,400 in today’s dollars) included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, Thunderbird hood ornament with color-coordinated insert, full wheel covers, and P185/75R x 14 black sidewall tires. Inside, a tweed cloth-and-vinyl Flight Bench seat, a day/night inside mirror, an electric clock, and an AM radio were all standard.

Moving up to the $10,424 Town Landau (approximately $34,200 now) added a lot of equipment, including cast aluminum wheels, dual remote control mirrors, interval windshield wipers, velour cloth split front bench seat, six-way power driver’s seat, SelectAire air conditioning, power windows, power lock group, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

The top of the line Silver Anniversary edition ($12,172 then, $39,900 now) added the 4.9 liter engine, the automatic overdrive transmission, Keyless Entry System, a patterned luxury cloth split front bench seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fingertip speed control, a power antenna, and turbine-spoke cast aluminum wheels.

Options included a power-operated moonroof ($219), electronic information cluster ($275-$313), and leather upholstery ($349).

Two pages from the 1980 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

To say the market was not ready for the 1980 Thunderbird is a distinct understatement. Despite a much better level of standard equipment, the Thunderbird was only five inches longer than the plebian Fairmont. Sales of Ford’s halo model collapsed: dropping from 284,141 in 1979 to 156,803 in 1980, and losing almost a full percentage point of sales during a year when none of the main General Motors competitors in the personal luxury coupe market had more than a facelift.

It would get worse in the following two years: 86,693 in 1981 and 45,142 in 1982. By 1982, the Thunderbird was being handily outsold by all four of the mid-size GM coupes: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix. It would take the next Thunderbird design in 1983 to redress this balance.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Thunderbird Silver Anniversary in #1/Concours condition is $13,400, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $5,000. This generation of Thunderbirds maintains some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in November 2017, there’s a black/silver two-tone 1980 with 85,000 miles for sale in Germany. The price: $12,800.

1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

A recent query about whether I had done a write-up on a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe compelled me to update this post written a few years ago, changing it enough to consider it a new entry.

“Ford presents a dramatic new balance of form and function.”

The aerodynamic styling of Ford’s 1983 Thunderbird was a breath of fresh air and a substantial change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components remained the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The Turbo Coupe featured Ford’s Lima 142 bhp 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett turbocharger and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Road & Track recorded a 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds in a Turbo Coupe that weighed 3,420 pounds as tested. Ford’s new coupe didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35. Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 21 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards). With an 18.0-gallon fuel tank, a Turbo Coupe owner could expect a range of between 330 and 435 miles with a 10% reserve—decent for a mid-size performance coupe in the early to mid-1980s.

The Turbo Coupe started at $11,790—approximately $30,300 in today’s dollars and nearly what a 2019 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback (also with a turbocharged 2.3 liter inline four) costs. Standard exterior and mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, power mirrors, a Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Marchal foglamps, and Goodyear Eagle HR 205/70R-14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch x 5.5-inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, all Turbo Coupe buyers got a leather-wrapped steering wheel, articulated front seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio. Options included front cornering lamps ($68), tilt steering ($105), power door locks ($172), and a premium sound system ($179).

Two pages from the 1983 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Reviews were quite good—Road & Track‘s tagline was “An enthusiast’s Bird comes soaring back”—and the newly aerodynamic Thunderbird sold well. After dropping down below 50,000 sales for the 1982 model year with the last of the eighth-generation ‘birds, the ninth generation would not see sales of less than 120,000 per year.

For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982 (they do monitor the related Lincoln Continental Mark VII). Thunderbird Turbo Coupes only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. You do see them more often on eBay Motors; as I update this blog entry in December 2018, there’s a 1985 Silver Clearcoat Metallic/Medium Charcoal Clearcoat Metallic two-tone Turbo Coupe with Oxford Gray cloth seats and 52,000 miles listed for $8,500. Make mine Silver, please.

Updated December 2018.

1985 Ford LTD LX sedan

“Because Mr. Bondurant shouldn’t have all the fun.”

Late in the 1984 model year, Ford added a performance-oriented model to the Fairmont-based LTD line. The LX was loosely based on a few sedans that Bob Bondurant had cobbled together for use at his high-performance driving school.

The engine was Ford’s 165 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci Windsor V8 with electronic fuel injection. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 came in a respectable 9 seconds—faster than the Dodge 600ES and competitive with the Pontiac 6000 STE. Mileage was 19 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 16-gallon fuel tank, range was between 280 and 300 miles with a 10% reserve.

For 1985, the LX wore the updated nose and tail that came along with all 1985 LTDs. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $11,421 LX (about $26,500 in 2016 dollars) included quad rectangular halogen headlamps, power brakes, a Traction-Lok rear axle, a rear stabilizer bar, and P205/70HR Goodyear Eagle tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch styled road wheels. Inside, dual power mirrors, lumbar-support bucket seats, a center console with a floor shifter for the transmission, brushed aluminum trim on the dash bezels, an upgraded instrument cluster with tachometer, a Tripminder computer, and an AM radio with dual front speakers (ah, the glamor!) were included.

Options included cast aluminum wheels ($224), air conditioning ($743), power windows ($272), power locks ($213), and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($409).

Page from the 1985 LTD brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochure pages.

Like some other interesting Ford performance cars from the 1980s (I’m thinking of you, Mustang SVO), LTD LX‘s did not sell well, with only 3,260 sold over the 1984 and 1985 model years (there would be no 1986 LX). Likely because of the limited production numbers, you rarely see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. There is some enthusiast support.

Make mine Medium Charcoal Metallic, please.

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1983 Ford Mustang GT convertible

I was driving westbound on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia this morning and saw a Fox Mustang convertible (red exterior, black top). A good enough reason to write a blog entry about these attractive cars.

“It’s not just a convertible … it’s a Mustang.”

For 1983, the big news for the Ford Mustang was the return of the convertible for the first time since the 1973 model year. Introduced on November 5th, 1982, the convertible was available only in the luxury GLX trim and the performance GT trim—lower-end L and GL trims remained with the notchback coupe (L and GL) and the hatchback coupe (GL). The GLX was also available only with V6 and V8 engines (no inline four—turbo or not—would sully the drop-top experience).

The V6 engine choice for the GLX was the Essex 112 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci with a two-barrel carburetor. Optional on the GLX ($595 additional) and standard on the GT was (of course) the Windsor 175 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor.

Starting at $9,449 (about $24,200 in today’s dollars) and rising significantly during the middle of the model year to a non-trivial $12,467 (about $31,600 in 2018 funds, which is almost exactly what a 2019 Mustang EcoBoost convertible starts at), the GLX did come reasonably well equipped. Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, tinted glass, and an automatic transmission. Standard interior equipment included light group and AM radio.

The GT version of the convertible listed for $13,479 (about $34,600 in 2018 dollars). Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, power steering, rear spoiler, and a five-speed manual transmission. Standard interior equipment included an AM radio.

All 1983 Mustangs included dual rectangular halogen headlamps, a modified MacPherson strut front suspension, front disc/rear drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering. Inside, full instrumentation (tachometer, trip odometer, fuel/temperature/oil/alternator gauges), full vinyl bucket seats, and a cigarette lighter were included.

The Mustang option list was long. Inside, air conditioning ($724), speed control ($170), power locks ($160), tilt steering wheel ($105), and AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player ($199) were all available.

All 1983 Mustang convertibles came with a power top, and all windows rolled down—an emphasis Ford frequently made in reference to the Chrysler K car convertibles.

Convertible pages from the 1983 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The 1983 Ford Mustang convertible sold reasonably well considering its expense (the GT convertible stickered for 45% more than the GT hatchback). For that year, it probably saved total Mustang sales from dropping below 100,000—helping hold that off until 1991. Between 1983 and 1993, Ford would sell over a quarter of a million of the pony car convertibles.

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There is strong club support for the 1983 Mustang, as there is for all Mustangs except the mid-seventies Mustang IIs. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Mustang GT convertible in #1/Concours condition is $21,000, with a more normal number #3/Good condition car going for $7,900. 1983 Mustangs often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I update this in February 2019, there’s a 1983 Mustang GLX convertible with a white top, a white vinyl interior, a V8, and 25,000 miles available for $11,700.

Make mine Medium Red, please.

Updated February 2019.

1984 Ford Mustang SVO hatchback coupe

Yesterday’s Hemmings Daily blog had an entry on the Mustang SVO, titled “Was this America’s most misunderstood sports car?” I’ve updated one of my early posts to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“Sophisticated performance for the knowledgeable driver.”

With the announcement of the 2015 Mustang and its available EcoBoost turbocharged inline four, my mind turned back to the 1984 to 1986 Mustang SVO.

Created by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations department, the SVO was an admirable attempt to take a different and more advanced approach to the pony car market. This version of the Fox-body Mustang was built around the Lima turbocharged and fuel injected 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four making 175 bhp paired with a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed manual. By the standards of the day, this combination yielded a reasonable 19 city/26 highway (it would be 17/24 by current standards) and a respectable 7.5 second 0-60 time.

Other modifications over the standard Mustang included ventilated four-wheel power disc brakes (replacing the Mustang GT’s front disc/rear drum setup), and a Koni suspension system featuring adjustable struts and shocks. 16 × 7 inch aluminum wheels with 225/50VR16 Goodyear NCT tires (a size still readily available) were standard for the first year—Gatorbacks didn’t become available until 1985.

You could have the interior in any color you wanted as long as that was Charcoal, but you did get to choose from the standard cloth or optional leather seats. Standard features included adjustable sport seats with lumbar support and a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel. Air conditioning ($743), a cassette player ($222), power door locks ($177), and power windows ($198) all remained optional—this was 1984, after all.

The exterior featured an SVO-specific front grille, a hood with a functional scoop, and a “dual wing” spoiler that was also unique to the SVO.

Mustang SVO page from the 1984 Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

With a base price of $15,596 (about $38,800 in 2018 dollars or about what a well-equipped 2019 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback goes for), sales did not come close to meeting Ford’s hopes—less than 10,000 buyers took home a Mustang SVO over its three years of production. The reasons for its relative failure where many, but I think the most significant problems were:

  • The average Mustang buyer was happier with a Mustang GT, which, with a base price of $9,578, cost substantially less.
  • The potential buyer of a vehicle with turbocharged and intercooled four, four-wheel disc brakes, and an adjustable suspension wasn’t looking to Ford for this car.

It is interesting to note that Ford was much more successful in the 1990s and 2000s in selling high-end Mustangs. They’ve also done decently with the 2.3 liter (there’s a coincidence!) 310 bhp EcoBoost turbocharged inline four which first became available in 2015.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Mustang SVO in #1/Concours condition is $21,900, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $10,100. Make my SVO Silver Metallic, please.

Updated February 2019.