Build-Friendly Notchback: 1986 Ford Mustang

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Notchback Fox body Mustangs are among the fastest appreciating ‘Stangs on the market today, helped by the fact you don’t see them nearly as often as the hatch-style models. This 1986 example here on craigslist is a four-cylinder car claimed to be in excellent condition for the year, and the seller is asking $1,500 somewhere in Kentucky. This looks like a fun project, but go here if the ad disappears.

Whether it’s the sharp upright profile or simply the obscurity, notches are among my personal favorite Mustangs. I wouldn’t even mind the four-cylinder, but the automatic would need to be swapped for a manual – at which point, you might as well drop the proverbial 5.0 in the engine bay. Aside from that, I would leave this car alone, living with whatever a good buffing could do to improve the cosmetics and keeping its stock appearance intact.

The seller doesn’t provide photos of the interior but says it’s in excellent condition. From the windows, it looks like a red (likely cloth) upholstery is visible, which is typical for this era of Mustang. I’m not sure if these have clearcoat from the factory, but it’s been burned off if it does (or simply the paint on all surface panels if this is single-stage). The LX-style 10-wheels look good, and retain their centercaps.

I lied a little bit in that I’d also lower this Mustang slightly, but that’s it: V8 / manual swap, some suspension tuning and a buff. For under $5K, I bet you could build a very fun Fox body, and the seller has priced this one fairly in that regard. While the four-cylinder currently doesn’t run, I doubt it’s sticking in that engine bay very long after cash and title have traded hands. How would you build it?

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  1. Jay

    Clear coat wasn’t on the Fox’s until 1990. They were single staged paint up till then. For $1500, you can’t go wrong picking this up. They will only go up in price in the next 10 years.

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  2. CanuckCarGuy

    My mother bought a twin to this one new, but hers was an ’85…it was a giant leap up from her ’79 Bobcat, and served many years of reliable service until road salt finally won the battle…it was the last car she ever bought.

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  3. Steve R

    The Mustang 5.0’s will one day become very collectible. They were the muscle car of choice for new car shoppers in the late-80’s and early-90’s, especially the LX’s. Not many factory V8 cars haven’t survived unscathed, in the not to distant future will likely rival the Smokey and the Bandit era Trans Am’s in terms of popularity and price.

    Thanks for posting this car.

    Steve R

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  4. Frank


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  5. NotchNut

    Based on the left quarter, it appears the car had clear on it. The older clears oxidized and started to release from the basecoat, leaving the white/cloudy look before coming off. Every manufacture had this problem from mid 80’s on. Some vehicles that have been repainted without a good clear will do this as well. We see some newer Nissans still doing it. The cars nowadays do not have enough clear from the factory. Some cars (not many) are still single stage from the factory (solid colors mainly).

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    • james boyd

      my 2004 Mustang looks the same, frustrating they didn’t find a fix after 20 years.

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  6. HoA Rube GoldbergMember

    I had an ’88 version of this car with a 5.0. I can say, without reservation, it did one thing well, go in a straight line at great speed. Other than that, it really wasn’t a very good car. Handled poorly, so-so brakes, uncomfortable, and heaven help you if you have to change a heater core ( Mr. Sawzall helped me with that) Choice of drag racers. When I was selling it, a guy called, asked one question, is it an LX? I said yes, and he was there in 15 minutes and bought it. Yeah, he was going to race it. Didn’t like that car, and neither did many of the State Troopers who drove the SSP’s. Now, after this car, I bought a ’95 Mustang with a V6, and it was 10 times the car this was. I liked the ’95 a lot.

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    • Rich

      Actually it handled beautifully if you knew how to drive. Very predictable and agile. The brakes absolutely sucked. My 88 5.0 LX was a fantastic car.

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      • Jay

        I agree, I’ve owned 2, an 87 & 88. Still have my 87. While the brakes are terrible (certainly can be upgraded), I think it handles very well. Especially if you put a little time in, on the suspension. The aftermarket for theses 1979-1993 Foxes is HUGE! Fast for it’s time, but you definitely need to also do some upgrading to hang with the HP today. They are very strong and reliable vehicles, even at stock.

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  7. EJB

    I’ve always liked the 4 eyed Foxes. Parts/mods are plentiful and are inexpensive for the most part.

    I like the idea of doing a Coyote swap (swap kits are available). It isn’t cheap but it’s still less expensive than a new Mustang.

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  8. Steve

    I would swap in a twin turbo sbc like Chuck from “Street Outlaws” did to the “Death Trap”… or an LS ;)

    My bet will be that it is gone by this weekend. If it were closer to me, I would snatch it up!

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  9. Billy Bob

    Bought my ’89 LX Hatch new with 5 speed. I loved that car. Had paint problems.

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  10. 68custom

    piss all your Ford buddies off and slap an LS in there. every time I see one at the drag strip I smile!

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  11. Skip

    I’ve mentioned on here before that I had a ’74 Mustang Ghia. Nice little car that I loved driving, but the engine was weak. It had been driven by a high school girl who obviously kept her foot in it when she drove. Ended up returning it to the seller who swiftly sold it again. Had it not been for the weak engine I would’ve kept it.

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  12. Charlie

    Very popular and tons of goodies available, Ford nats at Carlisle has a lot of fox bodied stuff. Good luck to the new owner!!!

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  13. David Miraglia


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  14. Maestro1

    Jeff, well done, they are neat cars and switching drive trains is entirely up to one’s taste.

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  15. Rob S.

    These are great cars! Driving one is fun and if you know how drive the twisties they handle good too. Troopers usually had to bid to get to drive one and once they were behind the wheel, they didn’t let go of it. I have had mine for 10 years it still thrills every trip!

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