From the ’80s through the early ’90s, Ford’s Fox platform served as the foundation for a movement. Not only did it support commuter cars like the Fairmont and LTD, but it was the basis for the 1979-93 Mustangs. Many were propelled by the vaunted 5.0-liter engine, which turned hot-rodding Fords from rebellious to mainstream.
As the Grunge era took hold, Ford bolstered the long-running platform with more stiffness and dressed it out with better suspension gear and more to create the Fox-4 platform. This carried the lineage through Mustangs built from 1994 through 2004. This run yielded even better drivability and performance, but never captured the zeitgeist like the 1979-93 Mustangs had.
Today that is truer than ever. Fox Mustangs are hot again, and one might argue even hotter than they were in their heyday. That’s because people don’t just love modifying them, there is a growing tribe of fans that simply love their every nuance.
In recent years, shows big and small have popped up to serve as gatherings for Fox-platform machines, particularly the Mustangs. This movement grew to the point that a group of upstart organizers put together a hometown show dubbed Motor City Foxfest. Backed by National Parts Depot, it took place at Ford’s storied World Headquarters. The promoters also added a wrinkle by allowing the 1994-04 Fox-4 machines to join the party.
First-time shows don’t usually garner the approval needed to take place at Ford’s home base, but that is a testament to the groundswell around the Fox Mustang. We couldn’t miss out on this one, so we made a quick trip to take in the action. Despite a dismal forecast that delivered on the promise of rain, the show assembled more than 500 Fox-platform machines, and we checked them all out on a mission to pick 10 favorites.
10. Project 0
With so many years of events under my belt, I have grown to appreciate more than just the pristine show machines. Car shows that bring out rides in all conditions are cool, and Project 0 was displayed in an unusual state. According to its owner, Notorious Autosports, this car never ran down the assembly line. Its basic Fox platform — equipped with nothing more than two fenders, a parking brake handle, and a prop rod — was sent to the Stratford automotive carpet plant as a buck for test-fitting carpet. It was damaged and cut up over the years, but its current owner promises to bring it to life with a full air suspension, a DECH aero kit, a built engine, and custom wheels. Look it up online and follow along.
9. Mach 1 T-Bird
Admittedly, this writer’s Fox love is primarily for the Mustangs of that era, but Motor City Foxfest brought out all manner of Fox-platform machines, including this beautiful 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. One of 500 such examples created, it is sprayed in striking Cardinal Red and adorned with unique bodywork, like hood vents, and a pronounced rear wing. Loaded up with all the options from a moonroof to a tilt steering wheel, it is powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter engine backed by a five-speed manual transmission
8. Final Exam SSP
In the old days, Fox Mustangs were available with a Special Service Package when sold to law enforcement and other government entities. The cars feature durable silicone cooling hoses, flow restrictors before the heater core, high-output alternators, and more. Most were sold at auction and many of those became heavily modified street and race cars. Today, there are some that still exist with all the extra law enforcement add-ons in place. This one, as its vanity plate assures, is a rare SSP. Built by Ford as a test vehicle, the Calypso-painted ’93 Mustang LX coupe is one of just 18 automatic cars built with a black interior that year and the only one fitted with the SSP option.
7. Clean Capri
While Mustangs were the dominant car at the show, the other Fox-platform rides had strong showings as well. Seeing so many Fox Capris on hand was cool. This one stood out because of its clean sensibilities and a nice mix of mods. From the nicely detailed engine and the Porno Red Recaros to the five-spoke Fikse wheels and Baer brakes, it checked all the boxes.
6. Boss 351 Concept
Show organizers decided to let the SN-95 and New Edge crowd join the party in Dearborn. Though the Fox-4s were outnumbered by their Fox predecessors, there were still plenty of cool rides on display. This one didn’t stand out until someone from Ford Performance popped the hood. Being near the Blue Oval HQ meant that its performance branch brought out some cool stuff, like #1 Cobra Rs from 1993, 1995, and 2000. Those are rare rides, but this is a one-off concept powered by a V10 engine run by two matching Engine Control Modules. A test mule for a potential 2000 Cobra R powerplant, this car’s unusual 5.8-liter engine is backed by a six-speed manual trans and a 9-inch rearend.
5. The Stang
In stock form, the 5.0-liter Mustang is robust. Take care of one with regular maintenance and it will take care of you. That said, few have held up like J & Gable’s 1991 Mustang GT. It exceeded 625,000 miles on the odometer across two instrument clusters. Over the years it has seen more than 82 oil changes, 35 air filters, 11 sets of tires, four water pumps, three radiators, three transmissions, four batteries, two windshields, and one paint job. They plan to restore the car when the engine finally gives out, but this Fox is a testament to the company’s old Built Ford Tough slogan.
4. SAAC Cobra
In the early ’90s, the Shelby American Automobile Club licensed its name to a post-title Mustang upgrade program that produces SAAC Mustangs. These cars turned out to be a virtual template for the 1993 Mustang Cobra, as they featured similar engine upgrades, with the SAAC cars using the available Ford Motorsport GT-40 engine. While the SAAC builds ceased in 1993, there was a teased upgrade for the car’s Cobra successor called the Cobra Enhancement Option. Never produced, replicating the SAAC CEO package was the goal of this ’93 Cobra’s original owner. The result is an intriguing fusion of model options that could have been.
3. Forced-Induction Four-Eye
There were plenty of modded cars on the property and Coyote swaps were certainly en vogue. But this clean ’85 Mustang GT stood out. Not only was its black paint pristine and its stance just right, but it sported a unique pushrod combo underhood. With a single turbo feeding a carb-style EFI induction with a blow-through setup, Tommy Mederios’ powerplant was both familiar and different for a Fox build
2. First Fox
Not only is it rare and unrestored, but this unassuming 1979 Mustang Ghia Turbo holds some sentimental value for your author. Many moons ago I photographed, drove, and booked its companion, the last Fox Mustang built, for a magazine story. I only drove the car between two of National Parts Depot’s parking lots but I have never been more nervous behind the wheel of a car. Once I got over the historical importance of driving the first serial-number Fox Mustang, it was a true trip back to a simple time. Though it wasn’t the first built, this 15,000-mile machine is special. Plus it is signed by the father of the Fox, Jack Telnak who once served as Global Vice President of Design of the Ford Motor Company. How cool is that?
1. The Coyote Is Back
My whole life of appreciating, writing about, and photographing Mustangs traces back to the car that Ford touted with the slogan “The Boss Is Back” — the 1982 Mustang GT. It returned with the 5.0-liter HO engine and aggressive styling that borrowed from the ’79 Indy Pace Car. These cars spoke to me, so it’s no surprise that Thomas Rice’s clean, modified example did the same. Sitting just right over those contrasting five-spoke wheels, this GT is powered by a naturally aspirated Coyote 5.0-liter sitting in a clean engine bay. High output, it even features an elusive, period correction Mustang GT filler panel between the taillights.
With so many great cars on hand at the Motor City Foxfest, narrowing them down to just 10 was a huge challenge. As with any list, it is subjective to the author’s whims, so check out the gallery below for more cars.