What Is a Mustang Notchback?

What Is a Mustang Notchback?

Last Updated February 5, 2020 | Drew Goodman

Though it certainly has its place in Ford Motor Company history, many muscle car lovers were not sorry to see the Mustang II era fold in the late 1970s.

Due to an oil crisis and a slew of emission regulations, the Second Generation Mustangs never really stood a chance, and the 1974-1978 units were a far cry from what made the First Generation pony cars so special in the first place.

In 1979, however, Ford again changed course and offered an entirely new take on the Mustang.

Red Fox Body Coupe

Taking its namesake from the redesigned Fox platform, the all-new Fox Body Mustangs were smaller and much lighter than the Mustang IIs. Spanning from 1979-1993, the Fox Body era stretched across three decades and was by far the longest of any of the six Mustang generations.

The Convertible was absent for a brief period of time until 1983, so at the genesis of the Fox Body Generation, prospective Ford owners could choose either Coupe or Hatchback options. Mustang Coupes have taken on various identities throughout the pony car’s history, and for the Fox Body Generation, they were commonly referred to as "Notchbacks."

Notchback models depict a three-box design, where there is less volume in the rear than that of the engine and passenger compartments. Though not quite a technical term, Mustang Notchbacks are universally recognized as Coupes that were constructed from 1979-1993.

They have been out of production for decades, but Notchback Mustangs are still extremely popular in the present day and are always eye-catchers at car shows and other related events.

So, what makes a Fox Body a Notchback? It's not hard to differentiate the Coupe models from other Third Generation units, as long as you know what to look for.

Fox Body Hatchback vs Notchback

What are the major differences between Hatchback and Notchback Mustangs?

The short answer is, not a whole lot.

On the surface, Mustang Notchbacks and Hatchbacks look relatively similar, and each option contained identical engine options throughout the Fox Body Generation.

Once you observe both units up close, however, there is enough to distinguish the two closed-roof models.

It is common to focus primarily on the front end when comparing and contrasting two vehicles, but we will begin with the rear of the build this time around. Obviously, the rear of a Hatchback contains a rear hatch across the full width of the back that opens upward for easy access. As the rear hatch moves, so too does the glass on the rear window, and Ford owners are able to seamlessly load and unload their large cargo items.

Rear Shot of Fox Body Hatchback

In contrast, on Mustang Notchbacks, the glass is fixed, and there is a trunk in place of the removable hatch. The rear window and the trunk are independent from one another, meaning that you do not have to deal with the glass when entering the cargo area. Those that wish to have their items hidden from prying eyes certainly prefer the trunk set up on a standard Coupe.

Speaking of the glass components, Notchback models feature shorter quarter windows in addition to the fixed rear window behind the vehicle.

Another major benefit that Mustang Notchbacks offer is that you will not have to worry about anything coming undone in a drag race. In some cases, Mustang Hatchback owners have complained about their rear hatches unceremoniously flying open during a launch, which is the last thing that you would want to occur at the dragstrip.

The large hatch on the rear makes the Fox Body Mustang Hatchbacks is the more utilitarian option of the two. If you ever need to haul heavy items or stock up on home supplies at wholesale retailers, you will certainly be thankful for that large and accessible cargo area in the rear.

Everyone loves extra cargo room, but since we are talking about muscle cars, it is likely that you have “speed” and “lightweight” on your mind, and the Notchback Mustangs can certainly facilitate both concerns. Nobody will ever complain about the weight of a Fox Body, especially compared to Mustang IIs, but Notchbacks are roughly 100 pounds lighter than their Hatchback brethren.

The Hatchbacks contain a much more aggressive front bumper and distinct side scoops, while the Notchbacks feature a much cleaner look all around. The lack of additional exterior features sheds unwanted weight from the vehicle, which is music to the ears of drag racers. By design, Mustang Notchbacks are lighter and tougher, which makes them the ideal option for any type of performance driving.

Fox Body Mustang GT vs LX

When discussing Fox Body Mustangs, Ford owners often struggle with the GT vs. LX debate.

So, how does this pertain to Mustang Notchbacks and Hatchbacks?

The answer is quite simple: All Notchbacks are LXs, but Mustang Hatchbacks can be either LXs or GTs. If you are looking at a Fox Body GT that is not a convertible, then you are staring at a Hatchback. If you come across an LX, however, you will want to refer to the previous section in order to determine if it is a Notchback or a Hatchback.

1988 Mustang LX

Obviously, GTs are noticeably heavier, and once again, we will explain why this is the case, beginning with the rear of the vehicle. As is the case with the front, the rear bumper cover on Fox Body GT is larger and more defined than what comes on the LX builds. Because the bumper is so robust, the exhaust tips are not visible when observing the vehicle from the side.

Elsewhere on the rear, Fox Body GT Hatchbacks come with a bigger spoiler, and some models contain the cheese grater taillights, which was a hallmark of the Mustang’s Third Generation.

Taking its cue from the front of the vehicle, the rear bumper of an LX Notchback is much more subtle, and casual onlookers can actually see the exhaust tips when looking at the vehicle from the side. The visible exhaust tips are perhaps the biggest defining feature between GT and LX models: If you can see them, then you are looking at an LX.

Mustang Notchback Legacy

The term “Coupe” is used interchangeably through countless automotive brands, but when somebody says “Notchback” they are solely referring to a two-door Fox Body Mustang.

The reign of the Notchback Mustang spanned the entire Third Generation, without very many changes sprinkled in between.

Unlike most popular muscle cars, the Ford Motor Company never built a special edition Notchback. The units produced under the SVO moniker in the mid-1980s were either Convertibles or Hatchbacks, and the same was true for the 1993 Fox Body Cobras.

T-Tops were also popular in the Third Generation, but in most cases, they were Hatchbacks. Ford manufactured only a handful of T-Top Mustang Notchbacks, making them some of the rarest vehicles produced in the Fox Body era.

Blue Fox Body Mustang Notchback

Additionally, Ford owners that prefer a sunroof will want to select a Fox Body Hatchback, as no such option existed for the Notchback.

Despite never offering its fans anything new in almost a decade-and-a-half, the love and adoration for Notchbacks never wavered.

Ford quickly moved onto the SN95 body style once the curtain fell on the Fox Body’s time, but Notchbacks rapidly became popular with those that were looking to build the perfect drag car. Fox Body Coupes were already lightweight from the onset and with the addition of one or two aftermarket mods that were not available in the 1980s and early '90s, there was no slowing those Foxes down!

Similarly, as the years go by and we drift further and further away from the Fox Body Generation, the Notchbacks will soon be viewed as classics and will become prominent collector items for pony car aficionados around the world.

If you happen to see a Notchback Mustang for sale, you will want to jump on it quickly, strap in, and let the good times roll!

Image and Text Credit: www.svtperformance.com, www.mustangandfords.com

What Is a Mustang Notchback?

Mustang Notchbacks were an important part of the Fox Body Generation and are still popular in the present day with the drag racing crowd. This article differentiates the Notchback Mustangs from Hatchback units and depicts what makes these particular Coupes so special.