Ford Mustang Fox Body: A Retrospective

The Fox Body Mustang

The upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang is giving Mustang enthusiasts an opportunity to glance into the depths of Ford’s Mustang archives. A few weeks ago, we showed you some Ford Mustang designs that never made it to the street, and now Ford is showing more images of some Fox-body Mustang concepts that offer similarly diverse design influences, even including a wood-paneled Mustang wagon design study.

The Fox-body Mustang was the third generation of the iconic muscle car introduced in 1979. Based on Ford’s “Fox” platform which underpinned numerous other Ford products like the Fairmont, this generation of Mustang lasted until 1993 and was offered in multiple bodystyles, including notchback, hatchback, and convertible.

Early Design Illustrations

Early Ford designs for the new Mustang adopted futuristic design cues, like the aggressive side intakes seen in these sketches. These drawings did provide the basis for the basic body shape that ended up on the 1979 Ford Mustang, with the famous “slantback” front end that became an iconic part of the Fox-body Mustang.

Interestingly, the slantback nose wasn’t always in the running. Gene Bordinat, Ford’s vice president of design, allegedly once instructed his staff that CEO Henry Ford II wanted only a vertical front end for the new Mustang. “He’ll show us the door if we ever try anything like it.” The results were clunky, to say the least. Thankfully, progressive minds – spearheaded by Jack Telnack, who helped lend the car a more European feel – won in the end.

Full-Scale Tape Drawings

Further along in the design process, these life-size illustrations gave the car a more conservative profile. These shapes are coming closer to what ends up being the final design, but were more focused on economy and practicality as can be seen in the longer, wagon-like roof and hatchback design.

Design Prototypes

As designers continued to explore different possibilities for the Mustang, these design models diverged even more, even becoming this wagon-back concept with wood-paneling that was intended to make the Mustang even more practical for families. Obviously, this did not make it past the design center, but it’s an interesting take on the Mustang regardless.

Other design studies introduced a more formal design for the Mustang, with squared-off edges and a notchback profile.

Winning Designs

The design that eventually won out over the others were thoroughly modern-looking notchback and fastback designs with the slantback front end. This design was optimized aerodynamically with air inlets below the bumper and a mostly blocked-off front grille. The full-width, grid-style taillights on this design also didn’t change much for the production car. These winning designs were completed by July 1986, and then the team got to refining the details. The all-new Ford Mustang then debuted as a 1979 model and sold more than 2.6-million units over its 14-year production run.

Quince Dunham
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