Mustang's basic '79 styling was the work of a team lead by Jack Telnack. Note the applied vertical slats aft of the rear side windows on this Sport Option hatchback, one of the few changes made before production.

The 1979 Ford Mustang Chassis

The 1979 Ford Mustang offered three suspension setups for broadest possible market appeal: standard, "handling," and "special," each designed for and issued with its own set of tires.

As planned, basic hardware came from the Fairmont/Zephyr, which meant switching the front end from upper A-arms to modified MacPherson-strut geometry. Unlike similar layouts in many contemporary European and Japanese cars, the coil spring here did not wrap around the strut, but mounted between a lower control arm and the body structure. This eliminated the need for an expensive spring compressor when replacing shocks.

A front antiroll bar was standard across the board, with diameter varied to suit engine weight and power. At the rear was a new "four-bar link" system, also with coil springs, lighter and more compact than Mustang II's leaf-spring Hotchkiss arrangement. V-8 cars included a rear antiroll bar that was more for lateral location than controlling sway, but it effectively lowered the car's roll center, allowing commensurately softer rear springs for ride comfort.

The basic chassis was tuned for standard 13-inch bias-ply tires. The mid-level "handling" package (just $33) came with 14-inch radials, higher-rate springs, different shock valving, stiffer bushings, and, on V-6 cars, a rear stabilizer.

The "special" suspension was engineered around Michelin's TRX metric-size radial tires, which Ford had been offering in Europe for several years on its large Granada sedans. These tires had an unusual 390mm (15.35-inch) diameter and so required matching wheels, which ended up as forged-aluminum rims with a handsome three-spoke design done in Dearborn. Priced at $117-$241 depending on model, the TRX suspension came with its own shock-absorber valving, high-rate rear springs, a thicker (1.12-inch) front stabilizer bar, and a rear bar. It was the best choice for handling, engineered "to extract maximum performance" from the 190/65R390 rubber according to puffy press releases.

Precise rack-and-pinion steering continued, but housings for both the manual and power systems were changed to weight-saving die-cast aluminum. As before, a variable-ratio rack was included with optional power assist. Brakes were again front discs and rear drums, but of slightly larger size.

The '79 Mustang had an exotic new engine option -- a turbocharged "Lima" four-cylinder engine. Keep reading to learn all about 1979 Mustang engine options.

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.