A favorable power to weight ratio is a basic tenet of hot rodding. A car that weighs less and/or has more horsepower than a similar car will go faster. That’s why early hot rodders were so quick to discard fenders, hoods and any other unnecessary parts from their Model T’s and Model A’s.
It’s incredibly rare to see a Mustang without fenders, but additional horsepower in lightened bodies is common. The light makes might philosophy is one of the factors behind the popularity of Fox body 2-door sedans. A 2-door sedan is Ford’s official body designation, but these cars are commonly called notchback coupes due to the style of their rear window and trunk lid.
The two-door sedan (or coupe) has been the lowest priced Mustang since day one. As a price leader car they were often sparsely equipped and often had the base engines. That was certainly the case for many ’79-’93 Fox body notchback coupes.
In 1979, the 2-door Mustang sedan accounted for more than half of the total Mustang production. The same held true for 1980. In 1981 and 1982 the total slipped to slightly less than half. Sales continued to drop (the reintroduction of the Mustang convertible in 1983 affected the ratio) to about one third in 1985. The decline continued to 1990 when notchback coupe sales leveled off to about 20% of the total volume.
Even with declining sales numbers there were still several hundred thousand Fox body coupes produced. The relative rarity of coupes today seems a little odd, but their role as basic transportation could account for much of the diminished supply. Many of these little four-cylinder Mustang coupes were simply driven into the ground by a succession of less and less conscientious owners.
The Mustang hatchback and convertible models got more positive attention than the lowly coupes, but plenty of smart performance enthusiasts realized the great potential in coupes.
That potential really picked up in 1986 when the new 5.0-liter EFI engine was introduced. That engine was available through the last year of the 2-door notchback coupe, 1993.
Lots of people convert four-cylinder coupes into V-8 cars, but the most desirable notchback coupes are the factory V-8 cars. Automatic cars are fine, but it’s the manual transmission cars that command the most money. These cars are very popular when modified, but untouched ones can be almost as desirable/valuable. The reason is most people prefer to do their own modifications.
A lot of V-8 powered Fox body notchback coupes were originally ordered as police pursuit vehicles. The police packages were known as Special Service Packages. The California Highway Patrol started using the special Mustangs in 1982. The CHP tested both Mustangs and Camaros. They found the Mustangs to be more reliable and less expensive.
Over 15,000 SSP Mustangs were ordered by various law enforcement agencies, but they racked up lots of hard miles. Their attrition rate was pretty high. At the end of an agency’s standard service lifespan the cars were surplused, usually through auctions. The typical selling mileage was between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. Some cars were passed on to smaller police departments and some were kept for undercover work.
Since the general public couldn’t easily get a new SSP car, the used ones quickly obtained a minor cult following. There are still lots of avid SSP Mustang collectors.
Some of the special SSP features included HD engine and transmission coolers, HD alternators, HD hoses/clamps and related heater/A/C components, a relocated remote decklid release button (to the right of the steering wheel), single key locking system, reinforced seats and floorpans, calibrated and certified speedometers, black painted aluminum wheels, and deleted door moldings (to facilitate insignia installation, but the trim was left in the trunk so it is on many SSP cars). The police agencies added all their special electronic and communications gear.
Any number of options could be added to the SSP cars. They were available in either manual or automatic transmissions. Some states installed rollbars, but most didn’t.
The supply of really nice 5.0-liter V-8 Mustang LX notchback coupes is dwindling. If you’d like to own one, now is the time to buy.
The 1979-1993 Mustang LX 2-door sedans are popularly known as the notchback coupe. They have a traditional flattop trunk lid and a pretty upright rear window.
LX notchback coupes are rather conservative, which is part of their appeal. They make great sleepers. The 5.0 fender badge is a subtle clue as to the performance potential.
Notchback coupes have become very popular with customizers and racers. The two-tone black over orange pearl paint on this ’88 coupe is a bold combination. The black top makes the car look lower visually.
Many states put the 5.0-liter notchback coupes into service as Highway Patrol cars. Their excellent power-to-wait ratio made them a favorite for highway pursuits.
The police package cars (known as SSP for Special Service Package) have quite a loyal following. Most of the cars were unmarked to start with (or repainted before being sold) so cars with lights, insignias and push bars are somewhat rare.
This white police package car is typical of the “plain wrapper” Mustangs that most departments used. It has the black wheels although some had the argent 10-hole wheels.
The rarest and most desirable 5.0-notchback coupes are the Saleen versions. The first batch came about in 1988 due to a cancelled Oregon State Highway Patrol order of SSP coupes.
Notchback coupes are very with drag racers. This ’91 has an aluminum panel interior, roll cage, wheel tubs and turbocharged engine.
The plumbing for the giant turbocharger in the red ’91 looks like it came from a municipal water works department.
This very clean notchback coupe was on display at the Brad’s Custom Auto booth at the Mustang Roundup.
Underneath the hood of the plain white wrapped of the Brad’s car is a whole lot of horsepower.
The candy lime pearl paint on this super sharp notchback from British Columbia is enough to get it noticed anywhere, but there is more excitement under the hood.
The highly popular Vortech supercharger fits nicely inside the lime green engine compartment.
It doesn’t take a lot to transform a 5.0 notchback coupe. This dark green example has subtle Saleen style graphics, lowered suspension and high performance rubber on Centerline wheels. Of course, its supercharged engine doesn’t hurt, either.
Like all Fox body Mustangs, adding alloy wheels from newer Mustangs is an easy way to update a car’s appearance.