All right stop. Collaborate and listen, I’m back with my brand new invention. Something that’s grabbing a hold of the market tightly: the Fox-body Mustang 5.0. Ridiculous? Nope. It’s true: Long after Vanilla Ice “borrowed” a bass line and bragged about rollin’ in his Five Point Oh, and even after Queen and Bowie were awarded royalties as a result of this simple oversight, the cars Mr. Van Winkle so enthusiastically rapped about back in 1990 are seeing a huge resurgence in popularity. And now’s the time to get yourself one.
Those of us of a certain age grew up in a bleak time for performance cars. It began with the death of the muscle car era in 1972. Gone were the days of 400-plus horsepower available from the showroom floor, and in their place were wheezing, castrated machines festooned with velour interiors, 8-track players, suspensions made of goo, and 180 hp to drag it all around, at best. Wide-open throttle in a 1981 Corvette, ostensibly America’s premier performance car of the time, hurled the car ahead with the ferocity of an asthmatic at a track meet and a sound only matched by a Hoover upright. Or the asthmatic.
It wasn’t any better in the pony-car segment, either. The last glimmer of hope had been a Pontiac Trans-Am with a real Pontiac 400 CID V8 and a 4 speed, but that ended in 1980 when the best engine available was the turbocharged 301 CID version of Pontiac’s V8. It had a light on the hood to let you know it was making boost because you sure couldn’t tell otherwise, and neither could the cars passing you.
And then, in 1982, after 13 years, Ford hit us with the return of the Mustang GT, as well as the return of the 302, err, now “5.0L” engine. The headline on the ad announcing the GT changed my life: “The Boss is Back.” Sure, its new 5.0-liter “High Output” engine only made 157 hp, but combined with its 240 lb-ft of torque, that was enough to, per the ad, “consistently blow the new Z/28 Camaro into the shadows.” The gloves were officially off in Detroit—the horsepower wars were back, and Ford had thrown the first punch. The 1964 Pontiac GTO ignited the original muscle car movement, and the Mustang GT had just created a second coming, which thankfully is still going strong today.
More important than the 5.0L’s swagger or chiseled good looks, however, was its sound and athletic nature. By todays standards it is a slug, but in 1982 it was a torquey, throaty, lightweight car that out-handled almost everything and introduced a whole new generation of people to performance pony cars. In the years that followed, the 5.0L Mustangs continually improved, getting faster every year and pushing the competition to do the same. And while many might argue the fact, I say the Mustang had more pluck than the others. More focus.
I wasn’t alone in lusting after a 5.0L. Like many, I studied every change in every model year. Read every road test. Collected every showroom brochure I could from the local Ford dealership. Even volunteered to wash new Mustangs for free when a truckload would come in. Most memorable of the bunch was the 1984 G.T. 350 edition, which offered no more performance, but, G.T. 350! As time went on and the 5.0L Mustangs only got better and faster, the aspirational aspect of it all only grew stronger every year. These weren’t exotic cars; they were fast, affordable cars that any kid with a job felt was an attainable goal. And for many it was.
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