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Mustang again listed several roof options for 1982, including a flip-up sunroof

The 1982 Ford Mustang launched on the strength of momentum that had been building since 1979. Now the pace was accelerating, and the 1982-1986 design generation would show America that Mustang could once again furnish real power to the people.

Looking back, the Fox family of Mustang that made its debut for 1979 was a happy turn of events for fans of Ford's sportiest car. Its predecessor, the Mustang II, was timely and popular, but it was not a genuine pony car, even if it served the noble purpose of keeping the Mustang spirit alive through the dark and difficult Seventies.

A New Era of Ford ManagementFord Motor Company needed to be on its toes, because its financial situation by 1980 was almost as dire as Chrysler Corporation's. Echoing the late Forties, Ford faced another change of leadership at a time its future looked anything but rosy. Chairman Henry Ford II resigned, leaving many to wonder if his successors could turn things around. Inspiration in the executive ranks was sorely needed. Though Ford had enjoyed good sales in recent years, its bottom line was hurt by the high costs of a product overhaul, begun with the '78 Fairmont/Zephyr and the '79 Mustang. When the economy and the car market tanked with "Energy Crisis II" in mid-1979, Ford suddenly found itself facing a major cash crisis.Stockholders needn't have worried, because 1980 ushered in two experienced go-getters: Philip A. Caldwell as chairman and, to replace him as president, Donald E. Petersen. A bit later, Eugene Bordinat retired after some 20 years as design vice-president, replaced by Donald Kopka, whose tastes closely mirrored those of North American design chief Jack Telnack. It was also in this period that a younger generation of Fords began to take a hand. Among them was Edsel B. Ford II, son of the departed chairman and a Mustang fan, who managed Ford Division market planning.Other rising talents included Harold A. "Red" Poling, executive v-p of North American Operations. Edsel called Poling "a quality freak," so few were surprised when corporate advertising adopted a new slogan during 1980: "Quality is Job 1."

A late-August 1980 comparison of the rare and racy '81 McLaren Mustang (left) and two workouts for the production '82 GT with rejected hood-scoop and lower-valence ideas.

All of this would prove good for Ford, but the press took particular note of Petersen's promotion. He was an avid, knowledgeable "car guy" (having served in product planning for years). And he had definite ideas about Ford's future, particularly in design and performance. Petersen's enthusiasm would soon be evident in a dramatic new fleet of Ford vehicles.

Meantime, he put his stylists and engineers to work on imbuing existing models with some of the old "Total Performance" flair that had worked sales magic in the Sixties. As a direct descendant of those times, the Mustang was one of the first Fords to benefit. Go to the next page to learn all about the '82 Ford Mustang GT.

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.
  • Mustang began a second revolution with the handsome, sophisticated "New Breed." In 1979-1981 Ford Mustang, learn how it scored big in the showroom and in fans' hearts.
  • The Fox generation of Mustangs got a new lease on life with a 1987 restyle and further refinements into the early Nineties. Learn all about it in 1987-1993 Ford Mustang.
  • The 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 351 was Ford's final high-performance Mustang of the classic muscle car era. Here's a profile, photos, and specifications.