I may get hate mail for this, but I always try and keep it real, so here goes: I don't care much for classic Mustangs! Ok there I said it. Now before you start sticking pins in little Caleb dolls, let me explain. Would I love to own a '70 Boss 302, or a Boss 429. Without a doubt. However, they just don't get me fired up like a clean foxbody Mustang (or even a rough one for that matter). Why? Because they were the muscle car when I was growing up, and at that time they came out as the underdog against all the Chevy junk that was at car shows and local tracks. If I saw another 69' Camaro or a 70' Nova I would have probably puked. They were all the same as far as I was concerned, and I couldn't get excited about any of them. That being said, The whole fox body Mustang thing was very appealing to me as a budding car enthusiast. I quickly caught on to the fact that Mustangs with little 302 engines were stomping the living daylights out of Camaros with a 48 cube deficit. I was an official Ford guy at the age of twelve. So why am I such a hardcore fox body guy? When I was early teens I rode my bike everywhere. As soon as school let out, my buddies and I would ride all over the place. About seven miles from where I lived was a Ford dealer, and I would ride there on my bike to check out the last of the '93 Mustangs sitting on the lot. I would dream sometimes that I could strut up into the showroom and plunk down the cash for one, and be eternally happy. Sadly, reality was not so kind. So why then, whats the what? What makes a fox body Mustang so different from all of the rest of the generation Mustangs?
No retro styling: The 64.5 to '78 all had very similar styling cues that made them recognizable as a Mustang. Skip on to '94 to present, and you have the same thing. The 79-93 Mustang was a complete departure from the appearance that Mustang always had, and yet retained the soul, and heritage much better with its budget price and solid performance for the money.
No Running Horse on the Exterior: Before the fox body Mustang, and after, every single Mustang sported the running horse on the exterior of the car. There were a few exceptions like the 93' Cobra, and 79-82, but other than that it was simply Ford badging. The tiny emblems on the interior were about it. The defining emblem of the brand was noticeably missing on this generation. Why?
The fox body Mustang took the Mustang brand into uncharted waters with EFI: Beginning in '84 with the auto trans cars, CFI (fuel injection) was introduced to Mustang owners. Later, in '86 Ford had made strides in mixing performance and fuel injection. This was a turning point for the market, and hotrodders were justifiably apprehensive of leaving their beloved carbs. As the 80's came to a close, and the 90's began, the fox body Mustang proved to the world that performance without carbs was possible. At that time, this was groundbreaking.
The longest running generation: True, there were many changes from 79-93, but the basics remained the same. As far as actual structural changes, there were very few. The cars kept selling, and Ford kept pumping them out. Not that they didn't evolve, quite the contrary, but nothing like the change from a 93' to a 94'. Of course one could argue that the fox chassis lived on until '04, and you would be correct. However, major structural enhancements and changes were made that would not compare to the difference of a '86 to '87 model. This could get VERY long, but you get the point.
Ford was trying to kill the Mustang: Without any insider info, I can't say for certain, but it was pretty clear the bean counters had no interest in continuing the brand. Not totally kill, but strip the life from it. remember the '89 Probe? One could argue this is why the fox received so little in the way of upgrades or even an actual 25th anniversary model. Roush performance tried by submitting a turbocharged Windsor for the event, but Ford was having none of that. At that time, the rumors were spreading that the Mustang would emerge as a front drive, four cylinder car. One could argue conclusively that Ford had planned for a long time to put our pony out to pasture.
In closing, there is also the long standing legacy that can be traced back to the fox body Mustang. Brands like Saleen, Steeda, ASC McLaren, and more were born out of the fox era. The massive aftermarket following that all later generations enjoy, sprung from the fox. I could continue to offer up examples, but I believe the point has been made. Agree or disagree, there simply is not any logical denial that the fox body Mustang has had the largest impact, and richest legacy of all generation Mustangs. Long live those fox body Mustangs!