The 1983 Fox Body Mustang was an important year for a variety of reasons. It was the first year in almost a decade that a convertible Mustang had been available. It was also the year that the T-5 transmission was introduced. These changes alone would have been noteworthy.
There were many developments that made the 1983 Mustang particularly desirable. While 1983’s Mustang was still a four-eyed Fox, it had more performance features than its predecessors.
1983 Ford Mustang Specs
||88 hp @ 4,800 RPM
||118 lb-ft @ 2,800 RPM
|2.3L Turbo 4-Cyl
||145 hp @ 4,600 RPM
||180 lb-ft @ 3,600 RPM
||112 hp @ 4,000 RPM
||175 lb-ft @ 2,600 RPM
||175 hp @ 4,000 RPM
||245 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM
||Adj. for Inflation
|Turbo GT Coupe
|Turbo GT Hatchback
Exterior Color Codes
|Medium Charcoal Metallic
|Light Academy Blue
|Dark Academy Blue
|Desert Tan Glow
|Light Desert Tan
Interior Trim Colors
1983 Mustang Appearance
The exterior of the 1983 Mustang saw mostly minor modifications. As the Mustang approached the generation’s mid-point, its nose became longer and smoother. It still had the four-eyed appearance in the front that many associate with this era. This was also the first year that the Fox Body came with the blue Ford oval badging.
For 1983, There were three body styles. The coupe and notchback returned, but this year’s body styles included a convertible for the first time in nine years. Though it had seemed that the T-top was merely a substitute for a proper convertible, both were available for a few short years.
The L, GL, GLX, and GT trim levels that debuted in 1982 returned for this year. Already, it was becoming obvious that the L and GL trims were redundant. The differences between the L and GL trims were blackout window frame trim, and the option of a three-door body style. Even with the added accent stripes, it wasn’t enough of a difference to warrant much extra money. While the L was the budget option, the GLX was the luxury option, and the GT was the performance option, there was no real spot for the GL. By 1984, the GL and GLX trims were dropped.
The L had high-back vinyl seats, while GL and GLX featured low-back seats. Sport Performance seats could be added to the GL, GLX and GT options. These were new for 1983, and they were only available in cloth.
1983 Mustang Performance
1983 was one of the biggest years for mechanical changes and improvements. Though 1982 had proudly declared that the Boss was back, it wasn’t until 1983 that there was a true return to power.
1983 Mustang Engines
The 5.0L V8 of the previous year gained a four-barrel carburetor to replace the two-barrel carb. The 1983 Mustang GT specs had finally increased to “GT” level. The upgraded carburetor boosted the engine nearly fifty horsepower.
The engine’s 175 horsepower may not seem noteworthy by today’s standards. But coupled with the 1983 Fox’s 2,683-3,218 pound curb weight and low-end torque, it was still a powerful combination. The 1983 Ford Mustang drove well and handled nimbly. The year it came out, Car and Driver’s road test showed the Mustang outpace almost everything but a Porsche.
A V6 engine replaced the inline-six that had been the standard engine choice for 1980-1982. The new engine had a half-liter of additional displacement. With increased displacement came improved horsepower.
Finally, the turbocharged four-cylinder returned, but with one important improvement. This four-cylinder was fuel-injected instead of carbureted. This change improved its performance substantially. The fuel-injected four-cylinder made more power than the eight-cylinder engine of the year before. It even came close to producing as much as 1983’s four-barreled V8. The 1983 turbo GT also wasn’t plagued with the reliability issues of previous turbochargers.
1983 Mustang Transmissions
Engine improvements mean little without transmission improvements as well. 1983 capitalized on its new engine lineup with massive transmission changes.
In 1983, the Borg-Warner T-5 replaced the Single Rail overdrive (SROD) manual transmission. The 4-speed SROD was beginning to show its age, and though it had been popular, it was time for a change. The T-5 transmission became one of the longest-reigning Mustang transmissions in history.
The T-5 transmissions were used through the early-‘90s. Though T-5s of the era were only graded for 265 lb-ft of torque, that was more than was being produced at the time. It gave the Mustang room to keep growing.
The T-5 transmission has continued to be popular, primarily because of how easy it is to work on and modify a T-5 transmission. It’s easy to find a T-5 in good shape, because they were used in so many vehicles. They’ve become a popular transmission selection for restoration specialists and hot-rodders alike.
The T-5 would be available for a long period of time, and it was early adopters who worked out the bugs. The T-5 transmission produced for the 1983 Mustangs was not one of the “world-class” T-5 transmissions. In later T-5s, there would be multiple parts that were improved.
Even between the 1983 and 1984 T-5 transmissions there are some key differences. The fifth gear ratio for 1983 was .73 in comparison to a .63 fifth gear ratio for the 1984 T-5. This means that the 1983 variant is more of a pulling gear.
The blocker rings were another part upgraded through the years. The original blocker rings in the 1983 T-5 transmission were made out of brass. By 1992 the third and fourth gears had carbon fiber linings for increased durability.
For automatic fans, there’s actually a bit of an anomaly in the 1983 Mustang. The C-series automatic transmissions were being phased out and replaced by an automatic transmission with an overdrive gear, or AOD. These less than creatively named automatic transmissions became the standard option in 1984.
Though the AOD transmission used a planetary gearset like its C-series predecessors, it had a fourth overdrive gear. The overdrive gear existed as a cruising gear, optimized to save fuel. The AODE and 4R70W both were derived from the AOD transmission, though they had electronic controls added.
If you have a 1983 Mustang with an automatic transmission, then you may be unsure about whether you have an AOD or C4. You can find out by checking the transmission pan. The C4 has eleven bolts, while the AOD has fourteen. Additionally, though the AOD is square-shaped, it has a more trapezoidal design than the totally rectangular FMX Pan.
The AOD transmission is easy to find in scrapyards and has a mechanically activated throttle valve function. This makes it a popular transmission swap candidate. The AOD’s overdrive gear allows for a lot of fuel-savings, and it’s a very solid transmission. If you’re looking at AOD transmissions in a scrapyard with the intent of swapping one into your Mustang, be sure to look for a “T” designation. This indicates the AOD transmission that will function with a rear-wheel drive vehicle.
1983 Transmission Ratios
|Transmission||First Gear||Second Gear||Third Gear||Fourth Gear||Fifth Gear||Reverse|
Best Modifications for 1983 Mustangs
The 1983 Mustang worked out many of the performance issues that held back earlier Fox Body Mustangs. There’s still substantial room for improvement though. Fox Body Mustangs have been turned into drag racers and drift machines. With a modern engine, like the ever-popular Coyote swap, a 1983 Mustang can hold its own, even against modern Mustangs.
Cylinder Head Swap
If you’re not interested in doing a full engine swap, there are still ways to improve the power and speed of your 1983 Mustang. One of these modifications is swapping to GT40 or GT40p cylinder heads. These cylinder heads are a huge improvement over the E7 cylinder heads that came stock on most Fox Body Mustangs.
GT40 cylinder heads have a reputation as scrapyard gold. They can still be found in many scrapyards, but modern cylinder heads are available. The modern variants are better than the original GT40s.
Improving Air Flow
One of the Fox Body Mustang’s biggest weaknesses was improper air circulation. Cylinder heads, cold air intakes, and performance air filters all work to improve the engine’s airflow. Other options include equipping the exhaust with better headers. A functional hood scoop can also improve air flow, and they look good while they work.
Fox Body Mustang Specs
The 1983 Mustang compares favorably with its predecessors in the Fox Body Mustang’s lineup. Though the 1979 Fox debuted to general acclaim and popularity, a lack of performance options in subsequent years caused favor to cool.
Starting in 1983, the Mustang reclaimed its popularity and reputation as a performance car at a low price. The popularity of the Fox Body grew over the next several years. Finally, the Fox Body became the performance-focused light vehicle that we continue to love today.
If you’re lucky enough to own a 1983 Mustang, then with just a few modifications you can own a car that can still compete with the best of them. The 1983’s lightweight frame and easy to work on mechanics make it an ideal project car. Countless enthusiasts have already modeled how capable the 1983 Mustang can be.
Image Credit: Ford, Creative Commons