The oil crisis pushed muscled cars out of favor in 1970s. But Mustang was the only one to still offer V8 engine. The third generation was fitted into all new “Fox” body that was still rear wheel drive, lightweight and quite simple. Actually, this body survived for 15 years and first started as Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr body. Even though third generation Mustangs are not popular among car collectors, Mustang was the most popular nameplate for this platform [well, the ’79 Pace fastbacks are quite desirable]. All in all, this platform was abut 4 inched longer than Mustang II, but still a bit shorter comparing to ancestor Mustang I. The engine bay and trunk were larger, so as the interior that now could fit 4 people quite comfortably – that’s because of the more upright oriented cockpit and flatter doors.
The body style range consisted of coupe, notchback, hatchback and convertible that was offered in 1983. The trim range was seriously wide: L, GL, GLX, LX, GT, Turbo GT, SVO, SVT Cobra and Cobra R. The Mustang III design was more angular making it quite distant from previous Mustangs. Mercury had the same car and called it Capri. All engines from the 2nd generation carried over to 1979 Mustang – 2.3 liter SOCH [88 HP], 2.8 liter V6 [109 HP] and 4.9 liter [aka, 5.0 liter] V8 which produced 140 HP. Late in the generation timing the good old 200 cubic [3.3. liter] OHV straight-6 reappeared with 94 HP. The 4-speed manual transmission was standard and 3-sped automatic – optional.
After selling about 369.000 1979 Mustang units it is hard to discuss about its beauty. The 1980 one had very little visual change, but was worse badly . The 2,8 liter V6 and 4.9 liter V8 were gone, the only six available was the straight one and V8 was replaced with small block 4.2 liter V8 that had only 119 HP. Sales started to decline – around 270.000 were sold. 1981 came with T-top, 5-speed manual optional gearbox and a sale drop down to 180k units. The revived GT in hatchback Mustang of 1982 had a new High Output 5.0 liter 2-carburetor V8 engine developing 157 HP. The rest lineup was set in 3 progressively more luxurious trims – L, GL and GLX. The most unusual Mustang trim was sold public – it was California Highway Patrol’s pursuit vehicle [400 units].
1983 came with some grille changed and instantly popular convertible body which actually was coupe conversion by ASC company. Straight-6 and 4.2 liter V8 were gone now and a revised version of turbocharged 2.3 liter SOCH was back with electronic fuel injection this time. The “Essex” 3.8 liter engine was the new V6 [112 HP]. The SOCH’s 142 HP didn’t look impressive comparing it to 4-barrel 5.0 liter V8 that had 175 HP and was available with T5 5-speed transmission. Sales were poorer – 120.000 units this time…
There were some changes in 1984 including the 20th anniversary GT-350 and absence of planned to arrive 205 HP 5.0 liter engine. The big news was SVO Mustang which had unique appearance and turbocharged 2.3 liter engine with 175 HP. Well, it wasn’t that powerful as V8, but still interesting one. The 1985 model came with new grille design [again] and 5.0 liter 4-barrel HO engine that developed 210 HP and a bit less- 200 HP – the nest year. The recalibrated SVO also had 200 HP in 1986.
1987 – V6 was killed, SVO eliminated, all trims pared in LX and GT options, carburetors were replaced with fuel injectors. Headlamps, taillights were redesigned, the GT face went grilleless. In fact, no changed were made since then until 1990.
There was a chance for Mustang to switch from rear wheel drive to Mazda’s front wheel one, but Mustang fans quickly responded to this suggestion aggressively and made Ford to proceed this idea in the new nameplate – Probe.
By 1990 Ford started to focus on the new generation, so Mustang kept almost unchanged until 1993. Most changes were visual [emerald green/ canary yellow body paint, white leather and special edition 5.0 liter LXs]. There was a new SVT division established in 1993, so the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra was offered [4.9 liter 235 HP V8]. The SVT Cobra used Ford’s new GT-40 high performance engine equipment and got SVT a quarter mile in 14.5 seconds. There was an other Mustang model with the same engine produced – Cobra R. It was built for race purposes, so it had larger brakes, Koni shocks and struts, engine and power steering cooler and the absence of rear seats.
Even after 15 years of the same generation production Ford managed to sale over 114.000 1993 Mustangs. The Fox body was almost totally exhausted.