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1979 1980 1981 Ford Mustang

The 1980 Ford Mustang

Optional vinyl roof, wire-wheel covers, and whitewall tires spiff up this 1980 notchback.

Fuel economy it was still very much a factor when the 1980 Ford Mustang was introduced. Indeed, Ford replaced the Mustang's hallowed 302 V-8 option with a debored 4.2-liter/255-cubic-inch version.

Though this seemed an amazingly quick and prescient response to "Energy Crisis II," it had been planned well before. Ford claimed an average 1.2-mpg improvement over the "five-point-oh," but speed freaks groaned at losing 10 horsepower and being forced to take automatic transmission. As the rest of the powertrain chart was basically a photocopy of late 1979, Don Sherman reluctantly recommended the turbo-four to Car and Driver readers as "the only choice…that even comes close to delivering on last year's performance promise…."


As usual, there were other sophomore-year tweaks. Base models adopted high-back bucket seats and full color-keyed interior trim, and all 1980 Mustangs came with brighter halogen headlights (replacing less-efficient tungsten sealed-beams).

The options list added a roof-mounted luggage carrier ($86), a "window shade" cargo-area cover for hatchbacks ($44), and -- shades of Boss 302 -- hatchback liftgate louvers ($141). A pricey new notchback extra was a $625 Carriage Roof, a diamond-grain full vinyl covering set off by black window frames and moldings so as to simulate the top-up appearance of a true convertible.

"New Breed" Mustang styling was little changed for sophomore 1980, but this "carriage roof" was newly available to give notchbacks the top-up look of a true convertible -- right down to a simulated rear-window zip.

Still available for notchbacks and newly standard on hatchbacks was the Sport Option, again comprised of styled-steel wheels with trim rings, black rocker-panel and window moldings, wide body side moldings, striped rubstrip extensions, and a sporty steering wheel. The luxury Ghias returned with color-keyed seatbelts, mirrors, body side moldings, and hatchback roof slats, plus new low-back bucket seats with adjustable headrests, door map pockets, visor vanity mirror, thicker pile carpeting, deluxe steering wheel, roof-mounted assist handles, and a full complement of interior lights. Leather or cloth-and-vinyl upholstery was available in six different colors.

Cheering enthusiasts, the Pace Car Replica's Recaro bucket seats were optional for any 1980 Mustang. Though not cheap at $531 per set, they were genuine Euro-car furniture with reclining backrests and adjustable thigh and lumbar supports -- all much preferable to the fixed-back stock chairs that road-testers still often lamented.

Last but not least, Cobra styling was updated with a Pace Car-style slat grille, rear-facing hood scoop, and front and rear spoilers. Standard foglamps and TRX suspension continued, but the package was no longer available with optional V-8 (sensible with the weaker 255 engine), and its price was up by $309, to $1482. As before, a big hood snake decal was available separately (at $88, up $10).

"Buff book" testers still paid scant attention to the base four-cylinder engine because it just didn't have the muscle to be very interesting in a car like Mustang. The 200-cid six was also widely ignored, doubtless because it was so familiar (old, in other words) and far from exotic: seven-main-bearing crankshaft, overhead valves with hydraulic lifters, cast-iron block, a simple one-barrel carburetor.

Even so, the straight six still had a place in 1980, being efficient and easy to live with. It had less horsepower than the V-6 it replaced but compensated with greater displacement and torque, so "real-world" performance wasn't that different. And by Ford's "Cost-of-Ownership" formula, where required maintenance for the first 50,000 miles was averaged according to dealer parts and labor prices, the inline six cost less to operate than the V-6, an appreciated plus for inflation-weary buyers.

In 1980, the original pony car turned 15. Go to the next page to learn about how the '80 Mustang compared to the '65 model that started it all.

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.