Accompanying the reborn 1983 Ford Mustang convertible to showrooms as a midyear addition was the 1983 Ford Mustang Turbo GT.
The Turbo GT came in hatchback and convertible form and with a reengineered version of the turbocharged "Lima" 2.3-liter four-cylinder developed for the slick new 1983 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.
The principal changes here involved junking the carburetor for Bosch port electronic fuel injection and positioning the turbocharger upstream of the induction system so as to "blow through" it rather than "draw down" from it. Also new was Ford's latest EEC-IV electronic engine control system, which governed injector timing, idle speed, wastegate operation, supplementary fuel enrichment, engine idle, and emissions control.
Other upgrades included forged-aluminum pistons, valves made of a special temperature-resistant alloy, lighter flywheel, die-cast aluminum rocker cover, and an engine-mounted oil cooler. Per usual turbo practice, compression was lowered from 9.0:1 to 8.0:1, and premium unleaded fuel was recommended for best performance. The result: 145 horsepower at 4600 rpm -- only 5 horsepower more than the previous version, but better than the magic "1 horsepower per cubic inch" ideal for this 140-cube mill. Torque was 180 lb-ft peaking at a relatively low 3600 rpm.
Aside from different nameplates, Turbo GTs were visual twins to the V-8 versions. All came with black exterior moldings, beefy Eagle GT performance radials, aluminum wheels, sport bucket seats, and five-speed manual gearbox. Suspension was tuned to match engine weight and power characteristics.
Despite its small size, the turbo-four packed the same horsepower advertised for the base 1983 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 V-8. With that, the revived Turbo Mustang could run 0-60 mph in well under 10 seconds and the standing quarter-mile in about 16 seconds, and return 25 mpg overall. But the T-Bird Turbo Coupe could match all those numbers, and the fortified 5.0-liter Mustang now flew to 60 in near six seconds flat.
Tough to Drive, and to Sell
Although it seemed to offer the best of both worlds, the improved Mustang Turbo GT laid a sales egg. The lack of available automatic transmission and air conditioning probably cost more than a few sales, but the real problem was price. The Turbos started some $250 above comparably equipped V-8 GTs, yet they were slower. Also, their peaky engine was relatively weak on low-rpm torque, so it had to be caned most all the time.
The V-8, by contrast, was a traditional, relatively lazy American engine with muscular low-end thrust, and it just loafed along easily at highway speeds. Ford said a late introduction and slow production ramp-up limited Turbo GT sales, and only 483 of the '83s were built. But the real damper is best expressed by that time-worn Detroit adage: There's no substitute for cubic inches. Not even high technology.
Ford's Special Vehicle Operations unit unveiled the Mustang SVO in 1984, which was basically a Turbo GT hatchback with racing-inspired modifications. To learn all the details about the Mustang SVO, keep reading.
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.