Unlike the Mustang II, the '79 was designed as a notchback. The rear window was modestly curved to reduce wind resistance, one of several decisions approved by management despite higher cost.

The 1979 Ford Mustang: Materials and Features

For performance as well as fuel economy, engineers working in the 1979 Mustang used lightweight materials wherever feasible, including plastics, aluminum, and high-strength/low-alloy (HSLA) steel. A significant new plastics technology appeared in color-keyed bumper covers of soft urethane made by the reaction-injection molding (RIM) process. HSLA steel was used for rear suspension arms and the number-three frame crossmember, while aluminum featured in drivetrain components and the bumpers of some models.

Slimmer-section doors saved more pounds. So did thinner but stronger glass (even though there was more of it), a lower beltline, and taller "greenhouse" allowing much larger windows. With all this, the '79 Mustang was some 200 pounds lighter on average than Mustang II despite being slightly larger in every dimension -- quite an accomplishment for the age of downsizing.

Interior design received equally careful attention. Total volume rose by 14 cubic feet on the notchback and by 16 cubic feet on the hatchback. The thinner doors opened up 3.6 inches of front shoulder room and two inches of hip room.

Back-seat gains were even more impressive, with five inches of added shoulder width, six more inches of hip room, and more than five extra inches of leg room. Cargo volume expanded too, adding two cubic feet in the notchback and four in the hatch.

New Features, New Function

Telnack's European experience also showed up in standard full instrumentation including trip odometer, tachometer, ammeter, and oil-pressure gauge. Another "foreign" touch was the use of steering-column stalks to control wipers/washers and turn signals/headlight dimmer/horn; these came from the Fairmont/Zephyr, as did the basic dashboard and cowl structure. A third lever (on the right) adjusted a tilt steering wheel, one of several new extras.

Among other new options were an "ultra fidelity" sound system with power amplifier and, for hatchbacks, a rear-window wiper/washer. Still another first-time convenience option was a console-mounted "vehicle systems monitor." This used a Honda-style graphic display with warning lights placed on an overhead outline of the car to signal low fuel, low windshield-washer fluid, and failed headlights, taillights, or brake lamps. A pushbutton allowed checking that the display itself was working. The console also housed a quartz-crystal digital chronometer showing time, date, or elapsed time at the touch of a button.

The "New Breed" interior showed as much European influence as the exterior, with standard full instrumentation and handy steering-column stalk controls for wipers and lights.

Planners decided on three trim levels for the two body styles: standard, Sport option, and Ghia. The Mach 1 was history, but lived on in spirit with a new $1173 Cobra package for the hatchback that was virtually a separate model. Recalling the late King Cobra, this "boy racer" kit featured black-finish greenhouse trim and lower body sides, color-keyed body moldings, and an optional snake decal for the hood, plus sportier seats and cabin appointments -- and a new engine that we'll get to shortly.

Deigners were hard at work updating the Mustang chassis for '79. Go to the next page to learn about the three suspension setups available on the 1979 Ford Mustang.

Want to find out even more about the Mustang legacy? Follow these links to learn all about the original pony car:
  • Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
  • With Lee Iacocca back in the saddle, Ford's pony car revisited its roots in the mid '70s. Learn about the dramatically smaller, lighter design of the Mustang II in 1974-1978 Ford Mustang.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough go racing -- or so said the new hard chargers who took command at Ford in the early '80s. Learn more in 1982-1986 Ford Mustang.
  • The Ford Mustang is central to America's muscle car mania. Learn about some of the quickest Mustangs ever, along with profiles, photos, and specifications of more than 100 muscle cars.