Notchback Mustang: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

You may have heard the term “notchback” thrown around car shows by Ford Mustang fans and critics. It’s an important term to Mustang enthusiasts who like the third generation of the pony car. Still, what the heck is a Fox Body Notchback Mustang, and why should you care about it? 

What makes a Mustang a notchback?

The notchback moniker refers to the coupe version of a Fox Body Mustang. Besides notchbacks, the Fox Body Ford Mustangs, or third-generation cars, were available as conventional two-door coupes and hatchbacks. However, while every third-generation Mustang is a Fox Body, not every Fox Body is a notchback. 

A Fox Body Notchback Mustang is a classic prospect for car builders.
1981 Ford Mustang | Denver Post via Getty Images

The third-gen notchback has a characteristic shape; the defined trunk differs from the hatchback rear of the other hardtop option. With the hatchback, a liftback trunk occupied the rear end of the vehicle instead of dedicated trunk space. However, part of what made the Fox Body coupe so special was the lack of a Cobra badge or hatchback. Its greatest redeeming quality was a low-cost package with a small block V8, something that Mustang fans hold near and dear.   

What years were the Notchback Mustang?

The Notchback Mustang is the coupe variation of the third-generation pony car, which Ford produced from 1979 to 1993. Frankly, the Fox Body was the longest-running generation, with 14 years of tenure. The 1979 model year introduced a 302 cubic-inch small block V8, but global events forced the Mustang to ditch the larger displacement V8 for a smaller, more anemic 255 cubic-inch mill. MotorTrend says the 255 cubic-inch motors produced as little as 111 horsepower in 1982; that’s less than a base model Kia Rio LX with a 1.6L inline four-cylinder engine. 

However, in 1982, the Mustang got its 302 V8 back, and power began to rise again. By 1985, the pony car produced 210 horsepower, nearly 100 more than the 255 V8. Better yet, fans of the Notchback Mustang could opt for the 5.0L LX and get their coupe with that happy eight-cylinder engine. 

Why is it called a notchback?

The term notchback refers to the shape of the coupe. Unlike the slope of the hatchback, the Fox Body Notchback Mustang creates a dramatic angle, or notch, where the roofline drops down to the trunk lid. While the hatchback and coupe are mechanically similar, the coupe was a cheaper option with a proper Mustang heart for those potential owners who opted for the 5.0L LX. Moreover, the third-generation Mustang is a popular choice among car builders for everything from drag racing to drifting. 

Related

4 Special Edition Mustangs We’d Love to See Come Back

How much is a Fox Body Mustang worth?

Depending on the model year and body style, a Fox Body Notchback Mustang is an excellent choice for a project car or a classic pony car. As for the first year of Fox Body, Hagerty says the 1979 base model hatchback in good condition with a 302 V8 is worth around $7,700. However, the coupe is worth just a bit more at $8,200. Further, a 1985 Ford Mustang 5.0 coupe is worth about $9,600, and the hatchback demands around $9,000. 

Of course, special editions are exponentially more expensive. For instance, the 1985 Ford Mustang Saleen in good condition has an average value of around $39,300. 

What’s your favorite Fox Body? Let us know by dropping a comment below!