This is one question I get a lot, I also see the term used out of context ALL the time. To be clear, this is MY definition. Everyone has their own opinions on how you can classify a car as a "survivor". Webster's definition is pretty simple: "To remain alive". When I consider the term as it relates to a fox body Mustang, I think of a near stock car, with original paint, and original interior. A car that has survived the years without a resto, without being hacked up by multiple owners of questionable intelligence, and most of the original bits are still in place. The car does not have to be 100% stock to qualify either, which makes this term even harder to define. If I go look at a fox body Mustang that has original paint, original interior, good miles, and has a Trick Flow top end on the engine; I call it a survivor.
Believe me when I say you can split hairs on this discussion all day long. Sure a car can be repainted and be a survivor. It can have a restored interior and be a survivor, but not both. Without getting too deep here, I've settled on the overall picture as being the rule. My old Reef Blue '93 LX hatch was a true survivor. I got the car from the original owner, and while it had 155k miles on the clock, it was in amazing shape. This car was completely stock, down to the mufflers. The paint was faded on the front bumper cover, it had a few dings in the doors, and the carpet was soiled, but it was a survivor in every sense of the word.
How about I throw you a curveball? You can take a survivor, restore it, and lose survivor status. Now the car is restored, not a survivor! My brain is beginning to melt here. As I said before, its the overall condition of the car, not necessarily just one thing, or even two. How about a few more examples?
I wanted to tackle this subject as the term gets brought up often. Putting it into a clear context is very difficult, as every car is different. However, I can walk up on a car and tell you in about ten seconds if it meets survivor status. Every fox body Mustang has it's own persona and history. I've even called some: "Rough survivors". The main point here is that I will take an honest survivor over a half assed restored car any day of the week. I see so many cars being called: "Restored" by their owners, and I just shake my head. Give me a faded OEM paint and interior any day of the week.