How to Buy a Fox Body Mustang

How to Buy a Fox Body Mustang

Last Updated April 18, 2024 | Bill Tumas

Are you in the market for a Fox Body Mustang? They're a popular choice among car enthusiasts who're looking for something that's fun to drive and doesn't require a lot of maintenance. But before you run out and buy one, there are a few things you need to know. In this guide, we'll give you some tips to make buying a Fox Body Mustang easy.

Find a Fox Body Mustang You Want

The Fox Body Mustang was produced from 1979 to 1993. These cars were more muscular and European-inspired than the previous Mustang generations. There were also a lot of body styles and engine options to choose from.

4-Eyes or Aero

The Fox Body design remained fairly consistent throughout the generation, though there are two distinct looks: the Four-Eyed Foxes (79-86) and the Aero cars (87-93). Both have their prose and cons, but it really comes down to personal preference. If you're in the market for a Fox Body Mustang, keep these distinctions in mind!

Aero Fox Body compared to a Four-Eye Fox Body design

Pick a Fox Body Style

The Fox Body came in three different body styles. From 1979-1993, the whole length of the Fox Body generation, you could get the Mustang coupe (also known as the Notchback) or a hatchback. The convertible Mustang made a comeback in 1983.

If you're set on a convertible, then there's not much to consider. But if you're torn between a hatchback and a notchback, check out our hatchback vs notchback Mustang guide to decide which is right for you.

Notchback Fox Body Mustang compared to a Hatchback Fox Body Mustang

Choose Your Engine

There are a ton of engine options available, including 2.3-liter turbos, 3.3-liter, the 4.2-liter V8, and the 5.0-liter V8 - which is the most desirable option in the group.

Most enthusiasts are looking for a 5.0 Fox. But don't rule out a four-cylinder. The four-cylinder Mustangs often have less wear and tear and a chassis that's in better shape than the V8s.

If you don't like any of these options, Coyote-swapping a Fox Body remains a very popular project among enthusiasts.

Decide On Your Build Goals

Once you determine what year range and body style you like, you can narrow down to the type of build you're going for.

If you're looking for a car to heavily modify and build into your dream car, a standard four-cylinder or V8 Mustang is the way to go.

If you're looking for collectability, there are plenty of collectible Fox Bodies to seek out. Here's a list of some of the most collectible Mustangs you can buy right now:

If you're lucky enough to find one of these rare Mustangs, you'll want to keep it as close to stock as possible. But if you're goal is to build and modify your Fox Body to suit your particular tastes, just make sure you get the nicest car you can afford.

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Keep In Mind Most Fox Bodies Have Been Modified

The one thing you'll see with a Fox Body, probably more so than any other Mustang generation, is it at some point most of them have been modified.

There are a lot of personalized Fox Body Mustangs out there, so make sure you find one that has the modifications you're looking for. And remember to buy the straightest, cleanest car you can find.

What Not to Sweat When Buying a Fox Body

There are some parts you just don't want to get hung up on when you do a walk-around or inspection of a possible Fox Body purchase. They'll be cheap and easy to fix. Bumper covers are a commonly damaged, easily-replaceable part that shouldn't stop you from buying a great car otherwise. Check out this Fox Body bumper cover installation we did to get a feel for what to expect.

These types of parts are inexpensive and readily available, so don't worry if there's a little damage.

  • Exterior: Bumper covers, headlights, fog lights, headlight supports, taillights, body moldings, roof rail moldings, door moldings, door pins (sagging door), badges, etc.
  • Interior: Ashtray, door panels, carpets, seats, weatherstripping, heater core, hatchback struts, etc.

Fox Body Mustang interior with a few banged up parts

Pretty much anything in a Fox Body's interior can be replaced, so don't worry too much about that.

What To Look For When Buying a Fox Body Mustang

There are a lot of small things that you think wouldn't be a big deal to fix we can actually be very expensive in the long run and we start with the front of the car and work our way back give me some ideas of what you want to look for if you're buying a Fox Body Mustang.

Airbag Steering Wheel

As far as interior items, the only thing you really can't replace is an airbag steering wheel. There are covers available, but there is no new wheel for the airbag car. If the wheel is worn out, a repair is going to be pretty expensive.

Damaged Radiator Support

The radiator support is an important structural element in a Fox Body Mustang. You can tell if it's been damaged if the part is dented and pushed upward. You can buy a replacement radiator support, but it can be a very expensive repair if you're not doing the labor yourself. It's definitely something to keep in mind when you're looking to buy a Mustang.

Fox Body Mustang radiator support that's in good shape

Rust at the Bottom of the Strut Tower

Under the hood, if you follow the strut tower down, it will eventually hit your frame rail. This is a common rust area on Fox Body Mustangs. These parts are not available anymore, and if they do have to be repaired it's very expensive because normally the engine has to be removed too. Before you buy a Fox Body Mustang, this is one area you should really inspect first.

Fox Body Engine Issues

The standard engine inspection list applies to Fox Bodies. Check for things like valve cover gasket leaks. A rear main seal leak is very very common in a 5.0-liter Mustang, and while it's not hard to fix it is time-consuming and expensive if you're paying someone to do it.

Fox Body Mustang 5.0 engine in good working order

Rust on the Doors, Rockers, and Rear Quarter Panel

If there's serious rust or rot in any of these places, but especially in the door jamb, expect very pricey repairs. It's best in these cases to move on to a different car altogether. However, if the rust is light it's possible to remove surface rust relatively easily.

  • Look at the overall condition of the metal on the edge of the door next to the rocker. This is where doors commonly rust out.
  • Open the door and check the inside, door jamb, and the actual rocker for rust. Also, look for signs of damage from previous owners improperly lifting their Fox Body with a jack.
  • On the quarter panel area, you want to look for rust around the wheel well and behind the rear wheel.

Damaged Rear Quarter Panel Window

Quarter windows for the convertible obviously aren't an issue, but when you have a hatchback or coupe there are a couple of options.

The trim around the rear quarter panel windows tends to look worn out, especially if the car has sat out in the sun for a long time. If it isn't too bad, you can use some filler to restore them to good condition.

Fox Body Hatchback with damaged quarter window trim

For Fox Body hatchbacks, there are also brand new direct replacement windows, they just don't say "Mustang" on them.

If you have a coupe it's a little bit trickier. Coupe rear quarter panel windows are a lot rarer, and there are no reproductions available. So if you're considering a Fox Body coupe and the quarter windows are in bad shape, they can be an expensive fix.

Hatchback and Trunk Lid Condition

There are no reproduction hatches available, except for a fiberglass one. If you're looking for an original metal hatch, run your finger along the edge of the hatchback to make sure it doesn't have bubbling paint or rust. They also tend to rust along the top, so check there as well.

If you have a coupe or convertible, reproduction trunk lids are available in the original metal so they're easier to fix or replace.

Issues Under the Car

Get underneath the rear of the Fox Body and check the bumper and the back of the spare tire wall for rust. You'll also want to check the structure of the bumper to make sure the car hasn't been hit from behind.

Check the radiator support from below to make sure it's not caved in, pushed up, or damaged. This can be repaired or replaced, but it's very time-consuming.

Look around for signs of oil leaks. Again, rear main seal leaks are a typical problem with these cars. You may see some oil spray by the clutch. It's not something that should stop you from buying the car, but it is something you'll have to address in the future.

Floor pan rust is very common on the Fox Body Mustangs. New floor pans are available, but they require welding and can be expensive to install if you can't do it yourself. Also, check for cracks in the floor pans where someone may have improperly placed a jack.

Damaged Torque Boxes

The last areas you really want to check when buying a Fox Body are the torque boxes. On these cars, especially with the lift-style control arm in the back, the torque boxes take a lot of abuse. Over time, they can crack and rip.

There are repair kits for torque boxes, but they can be expensive and time-consuming to install. If they're damaged too badly, they may be beyond repair.

Get the Best Fox Body Mustang You Can

If you've previously owned a Fox Body or have one now, a lot of what we've gone over is probably stuff you're familiar with. But if it's your first time buying a Fox Body, we hope you use this information to get a great project Fox.

There are a ton of Fox Body Mustangs out there, and whether they're stock or modified, they're a lot of fun to drive. Just buy the nicest one you can find and get everything else you need for your Fox Body here at CJ Pony Parts.


Image Credit: 1980 Mustang Cobra & 1988 Mustang LX Fastback, Ford Motor Company

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.