Hatchback vs Notchback Mustangs

Hatchback vs Notchback Mustangs

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Meghan Drummond

When the Fox Body generation began in 1979, two body styles were available: hatchback and notchback. These styles were carryovers from the Mustang II generation, but they’re most often associated with the Fox Body.

Fox body hatchbacks and notchbacks enjoyed equal popularity for most of the generation, which ran from 1979-1993. When the Mustang convertible returned in 1983, it wasn’t able to match either body style’s sales numbers.

Here are the similarities and differences between hatchback and notchback Mustangs, and which you should look for today.

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What Is a Hatchback Mustang?

Sometimes labeled as a “3-door” Mustang, a hatchback is a car with a rear door that swings up to allow access to its cargo area. This practical feature makes it easier to reach items in the trunk. Hatchbacks are common now, but Ford had only been making them for a few years when the Fox Body debuted.

The body lines of the Fox Body hatchback resemble the first-generation fastback. Some Fox Body hatches even feature rear window louvers, a major style throwback. These touches really make the Mustang hatchback stand out from the practical hatchbacks you see today. But the Mustang hatchback was practical, too: The design tripled its storage capacity. With the rear seats down, it offered 32.7 cubic feet of storage space compared to the notchback’s 10 cubic feet.

Two Fox Body Hatchbacks, the first a four-eyed the second an aero model

What Is a Notchback Mustang?

Notchback Mustangs look much more like a traditional coupe. They have a standard trunk that opens into a closed cargo area. Notchbacks are often called coupes, and according to the official Ford literature of the time, they were also called sedans.

Obviously, a notchback Fox Body Mustang doesn’t look like a Camry or Taurus though.

Specifically, notchback refers to a car with a long hood and a short deck (or trunk). This creates a kind of “stepped” rear-end appearance. The V-cut indentation is where the notchback name comes from.

Two Fox Body Notchbacks, the first a four-eyed and the second an aero model

Hatchback Mustangs vs Notchback Mustangs

Fox Body Mustangs look good no matter which body style they come in. But there are some definite advantages to the hatchback and notchback styles. There are also huge differences in production numbers and trim and engine availability between each style.

One of the interesting things about the Fox Body generation was the competition between these two styles. The notchback began as the most popular, but that changed in 1981 when the hatchback slowly inched ahead. Later in the generation, performance editions were only available in hatchback styles. That really boosted the hatchback’s popularity.

Ford Mustang Fox Body Hatchback vs Notchback Availability
Year and TrimHatchbackNotchback
1979 Mustang 92,478 156,666
1979 Cobra II 17,579 N/A
1979 Pace Car N/A 10,478
1979 Ghia Mustang 36,384 56,351
1980 Mustang 98,497 128,893
1980 Cobra Mustang 5,500 N/A
1980 Ghia Mustang 20,285 23,647
1981 Mustang 77,399 77,458
1981 Ghia Mustang 14,273 13,422
1982 L/GL Mustang 45,901 45,316
1982 Mustang GLX 9,926 5,828
1982 Mustang GT 24,799 N/A
1983 L/GL/GLX 64,234 34,371
1983 Turbo GT 556 604
1983 Mustang GT 27,995 N/A
1984 Mustang L/LX 52,329 37,660
1984 Turbo GT 3,241 N/A
1984 Mustang GT 30,630 N/A
1984 SVO Mustang 4,507 N/A
1985 Mustang LX 45,820 56,781
1985 Mustang GT 36,849 N/A
1985 SVO Mustang 1,954 N/A
1986 Mustang LX 73,633 83,774
1986 Mustang GT 40,678 N/A
1986 SVO Mustang 3,379 N/A
1987 Mustang LX 57,353 43,257
1987 Mustang GT 37,088 N/A
1988 Mustang LX 75,636 53,221
1988 Mustang GT 50,294 N/A
1989 Mustang LX 76,734 50,568
1989 Mustang GT 40,231 N/A
1990 Mustang LX 45,089 22,503
1990 Mustang GT 33,639 N/A
1991 Mustang LX 33,110 19,477
1991 Mustang GT 24,667 N/A
1992 Mustang LX 26,355 15,717
1992 Mustang GT 13,738 N/A
1993 Mustang LX 47,618 24,851
1993 Mustang GT 14,459 N/A
1993 SVT Cobra 4,993 N/A
1993 SVT Cobra R 107 N/A

As Fox Body Mustangs have become classic cars in their own right, their popularity has soared. If you’re scouring local ad listings, you might be trying to decide whether a hatchback or notchback is a better fit for you.

Hatchbacks and notchbacks both come in aero and four-eyed styles, and they both have available 5.0L engines. That makes choosing between them tough. And even though notchbacks were cheaper initially, time and scarcity have made the two about dead-even in cost today.

Fortunately, there are a few other considerations that typically make one style a better fit over the other.

Get a Notchback Fox Body If…

If you’re mainly getting a Fox Body for a performance build, then a notchback may be a better fit.

Fox Body notchbacks are prized for their ability to become dynamite drag racing Mustangs. Being nearly 100 pounds lighter in some cases and having a stiffer body makes them better for most performance applications.

Notchbacks, especially later aero models, didn’t come with the best engine options, but if you’re already planning a swap that’s not really an issue. If you want a notchback with a factory V8, the Mustang LX 5.0s offer a great engine without a lot of bells and whistles.

A Fox Body notch Mustang at the drag strip

Get a Hatchback Fox Body If…

Hatchback Fox Bodies, especially from the later years, are easier to find than notchbacks. The extra storage also makes them great for driving around town and on the track.

Most of the performance editions were hatchbacks as well. So if you have your heart set on one of those, then you’re getting a hatch.

A black Fox Body Hatchback cruising down the highway

The hatchback Fox Bodies also have a distinct look that many people find appealing.

Hatchbacks vs Notchbacks: Pros and Cons
Body StyleProsCons
Notchback Weighs less
Stiffer body
No special editions
Slightly harder to find
Hatchback Special editions available
Convenient storage
More flex

Find and Build Your Dream Fox Body

There’s no doubt that all three Fox Body styles are great finds. You can build them into anything, from a daily driver with some style to a fully restored classic. Take a look at some of our Fox Body resources for ideas and help with your project.

And if you need some tips on finding your perfect Fox Body, check out our guide on what to look for when buying a Fox Body Mustang.

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.