Ford folks must have been stung by road-test carping, because the 1983 Ford Mustang GT received a number of changes that made it more competitive with the 1983 Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird in the renewed pony car performance wars.
They began with wider-section tires, including newly optional 220/55R390 Michelin TRX covers, plus a slightly larger rear antiroll bar, softer rear spring rates, stiffer bushings for the front control arms, and revised shock valving. Higher-effort power steering was also included for better high-speed control.
Speaking of speed, the 302-cubic-inch H.O. V-8 went to 175 horsepower via a deeper-breathing four-barrel carb, plus minor valvetrain and exhaust system tweaks. Just as welcome, the engine now mated exclusively with a new Borg-Warner T-5 close-ratio five-speed gearbox, the same one available in Camaro and Firebird. This answered complaints about poor gear spacing on the wide-ratio four-speed it replaced. All this plus a shorter final drive (3.27 versus 3.01:1) made for stronger takeoffs.
Elsewhere for '83, the never-impressive 4.2 V-8 was dropped, and the 200-ciubic-inch straight-six was replaced as the step-up power option by the new lightweight "Essex" V-6 introduced the previous year in several other Ford model lines. A 3.8-liter (232-cid) overhead-valve design with two-barrel carburetor, the Essex arrived with a claimed 105 horsepower (versus 88 for the old straight six) and 181 pound-feet of torque (against 158).
The 2.3-liter four, still standard for all models except the GT, exchanged a two-barrel carb for a more efficient one-barrel unit and adopted long-reach spark plugs for quicker combustion, a move aimed at reducing emissions while improving warmup and part-throttle engine response. Curiously, these changes boosted reported output by five horsepower, to 93, but the rating would fall back to 88 the following year.
Newly standard for all manual-shift '83 Mustangs was a Volkswagen-style upshift indicator light. Reflecting the fuel jitters of 1979-80, this economy aid signaled drivers when to shift to the next higher gear, based on the fact that an engine is usually most economical when running at relatively low revs on wide throttle openings. It was useful, if hardly in the free-spirited Mustang tradition.
The Mustang lineup received a facelift for '83, with styling changes to improve both looks and aerodynamics. Go to the next page to learn more.
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.