Classifieds Hero: Ford Mustang III
Drop-top Mustang V8 for $12,000? Welcome to the 1990s bargain of the family, currently for sale on AutoClassics
Although those blinded by history and ingenuity may view the third-generation Ford Mustang as nothing more than a fraudulent pony – a plastic mess boiled for maximum profit – it’s easy to forget that it first introduced the Fox Platform to the muscle market. More akin to a sporty European number than its leviathan predecessors, the Mustang III offered a modern touch during a time where other American submissions were cut-rate and largely stuck with a bygone persona. It may appear square and boxy to those who don’t understand it, but the Jack Telnack-penned third incarnation delivers stance and presence like no other Yank tank.
Offering improved fuel economy driven by slicker aerodynamics amid the influx of sophisticated import rivals, the Mustang of 1987-1993 provided a huge step towards conventional ride comfort, quality control and even took a stab at improving the unruly handling. No longer did wet intersections or sudden changes of directions result in fiery oblivion and a trip home via a screaming ambulance. The Mustang II may have sold by the bucket load, but it was a crippled dinosaur in comparison to the leaner third incarnation.
Taking Ford’s rear-wheel drive Fox platform, first utilised with the 1978 Ford Fairmont, the MK3 carried over the four-,six-cylinder and V8 engines until a new 132bhp 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit arrived. Launched straight into the oil crisis of 1979, the 5.0-litre V8 was simmered down to a 4.2 for the 1980 model year to prevent sales freefalling. While this may have helped with the frugality cause, it resulted in a damp 120bhp – the lowest ever grunt from any V8 Mustang. Purists foamed with disappointment and potential new customers chose the bus.
Not all was lost, however – Ford reinstated the 5.0-litre V8, even if that resulted in a barely acceptable 157bhp at the rear wheels. Trounced by the European opposition, the SVO landed in showrooms for 1984 with a turbo-four pot – churning out 175bhp.
By the time 1987 rolled around, the Mustang was given an exterior facelift and a new cabin, yet it was not all happy on the frontline. A significant factor in further developing the Mustang came from Ford’s customers migrating to front-wheel drive imports and purchasing a Toyota Celica or Honda Prelude, leaving the Mustang to dwindle on the open market.
Time for a Probing
In response to this, Ford announced the 1989 model would share a platform with the Mazda MX-6, making for the first mass-production Mustang to ignore the blueprint of the market. While Ford tried to kill the Fox set-up for good, the backlash from the faithful was so severe that plans were drastically changed at the 11th hour. Hence, an entirely different car arrived – the Ford Probe. However, the Probe was a different car entirely. If you wanted a true taste of the American dream only the Mustang would do.
If you are looking to grab a slice of Mustang action, the Mustang III still represents your cheapest entry ticket. A solid introduction to the American car scene for those on a shoestring budget, to avoid disappointment when planting the accelerator, it’s a V8 that calls your name. They easily lend themselves to further tuning should you have the fuel budget (prepare for single digit return figures), and the higher the trim the better. If you find an example seeking a new owner with leather upholstery and electric everything, it’s the best Yank motor for your money, without the garage busting girth.
From our Classifieds
Our pick from the classifieds represents the ‘final year of the Fox’, seeing out the model range with the same tenacity offered to all of Ford’s popular market leaders.
This rather tasty specimen is fitted with:
• Automatic Transmission
• Power Steering
• Power Brakes
• Power Windows
• Power Door Locks
• Air Conditioning
• Dual Power Mirrors
• Power Boot Release
• Power Lumbar support
• Factory fitted AM/FM Cassette
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