This 1981 Ford Mustang Ghia was rebuilt in 2019 into a sleeper with ~400 bhp under the hood. It’s now powered by a 5.0 liter Coyote V8, it has four wheel disc brakes, uprated suspension, and a limited-slip rear end.

When this car was being modified great care was taken to keep the exterior as close to stock as possible. When it left the factory originally this Mustang would have been producing just ~120 bhp, the lowest power ever offered in a Mustang V8 and just 26% of this car’s current output.

Fast Facts – A 1981 Ford Mustang Sleeper

  • This 1981 Ford Mustang Ghia has been transformed into a sleeper, boasting 400+ bhp from a modern 5.0 liter Coyote V8. The modifications, completed in 2019, included upgraded suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and a limited-slip rear end. Care was taken to maintain the car’s original exterior appearance, creating a deceptively quick Fox Body that looks mostly stock at first glance.
  • The Fox Body Mustang, Ford’s third-generation Mustang introduced in 1979, was designed to revitalize the Mustang brand after the unpopular second generation. Built on Ford’s Fox platform, it featured a compact, fuel-efficient design while retaining V8 options and sports car characteristics. Overlooked for many years, the Fox Body has been gaining in popularity among enthusiasts, particularly with the rise of “youngtimer” automotive events like Radwood.
  • This particular Mustang underwent extensive modifications, including the installation of a modern Coyote V8 from a Ford F-150, further upgraded with a slack of performance parts. To handle the increased power, the car received a modern 6-speed automatic transmission, upgraded driveshaft, a limited-slip differential, and stronger axle shafts. The suspension and brakes were also significantly uprated with aftermarket components for better handling and stopping power.
  • The vehicle maintains a largely original interior and exterior, with subtle hints of its improved performance noticeable only in the exhaust rumble and upgraded wheels and tires. It’s currently for sale in Milford Township, Michigan, with 15,000 miles on the odometer, an accident-free history, and various accompanying documents.

The Fox Body Mustang

The third-generation Ford Mustang made its debut in 1979 on Ford’s Fox platform, as a result, it’s now best known as the “Fox Body Mustang.” It would remain in production until 1993, making it one of the longest-running production Mustangs, and it was the generation that saved the model series from suffering the ignominy of becoming a front-wheel drive sports car as had originally been planned.

Fox Body Ford Mustang Ad

Image DescriptionThe styling of the Fox Body Mustang was an upgrade over the earlier Mustang II, but many would argue that it didn’t find its feet until the front end restyle in 1987. Image courtesy of Ford.

For many years the Fox Body Mustang was a pariah, a victim of an era when emissions regulations choked engines and lowered horsepower to embarrassingly low levels. It was never quite as unpopular as the second generation Mustang though, which had the unpleasant job of replacing the legendary first generation models that had risen to become an American institution, and the founders of the entire “pony car” market segment.

The Fox Body Mustang was developed as a new car for the new decade of the 1980s, it was tasked with the job of bringing the reputation of the Mustang model family back from the troubled days of the Mustang II, and making the car relevant again to the American car buying public.

Ford engineers developed the Fox Body as a compact car with better fuel economy and a lower weight, but retained the V8 engine option, sports-oriented suspension, and a strong live axle rear end that was popular with drag racers (both official and stop light).

The car used the aforementioned Ford Fox platform, a steel unibody shell with independent front suspension on coil springs, and a live axle on leaf springs in the back.

As you would expect for this era, the car was fitted with front discs and rear drums, and it came with a number of engine choices including the 2.3 liter Pinto inline-four, the Thriftpower inline-six, a couple of V6s, and either a 4.2 or 5.0 liter V8 depending on the year.

It was offered in three key body styles, the notchback coupe, hatchback, and convertible. Many enthusiasts separate the Fox Body into two generations based on the different front end styles, the first running from 1979 to 1986 with four headlights, and the second from 1987 to 1993 with the more rounded “aero” styling.

Fox Body Ford Mustang Vintage Ad

Image DescriptionFord made a point of emphasizing the sport car performance credentials of the model, even in the early years when horsepower was well down due to emissions regulations. Image courtesy of Ford.

The Fox Body Mustang remained unpopular for many years, decades even, but this tide has begun to turn recently as movements like Radwood become ever more popular, leading to a surge in interest around “youngtimer” classics.

The 1981 Ford Mustang Ghia Sleeper Shown Here

The car you see here is an early Fox Body Mustang that now benefits from a series of major upgrades resulting in vastly more performance than it ever would have had from the factory. The most notable change is the fitment of a modern Ford Coyote V8 engine, capable of 400+ bhp,

The Coyote V8 has double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, it has an alloy block and heads, fuel injection, and an electronic ignition system. The specific engine used in this car was sourced from a Ford F-150 then modified with higher-performance Mustang cams, Kooks headers, a Modular Motorsports oil pump and sprocket, a PBH control pack and speed drive, an Aeromotive fuel pump and regulator, and a Lund Racing ECU tune.

The original transmission and rear end wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with this amount of power, and so the car was fitted with a modern 6-speed 6R80 automatic transmission, a Shaftmaster driveshaft, a 3.73 limited-slip differential, and Moser axle shafts.

The car now rides on 5-lug 17″ LMR wheels with Nitto NT555 G2 tires, and the suspension consists of a Maximum Motorsports K-member, a Maximum Motorsports A-arms, a Maximum Motorsports bumpsteer kit, Maximum Motorsports front coilovers, Maximum Motorsports front caster/camber plates, Maximum Motorsports rear control arms, and Tokico rear shock absorbers.

Fox Body Ford Mustang Sleeper 13

The brakes have been similar upgraded, with four-wheel hydro-boost disc brakes offering a significant upgrade to the available stopping power over the original system. The interior and exterior remain largely original, and apart from the low grumble from the exhaust and the wheels there’s little to indicate just how quick this Fox Body actually is.

It’s now being offered for sale out of Milford Township, Michigan with 15,000 miles on the odometer, an accident-free Carfax report, a build sheet, a Bama Performance handheld tuner, and a clean Michigan title. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer

Published by Ben Branch -