First-Year Fox: 1979 Ford Mustang Cobra

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This 1979 Ford Mustang Cobra is a tidy survivor that offers a lot of promise as an accomplished open-road cruiser. The 5-speed manual transmission upgrade should allow it to effortlessly eat up the miles, and its spotless appearance means that it should turn heads while doing that. The time has come for the Cobra to head to a new home, so the owner has listed it for sale here on Craigslist. It is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the owner has set the sale price at an affordable $9,500. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Pat L for spotting this cool Cobra for us.

When the Fox-Body Mustang swept onto the scene in 1979, it represented a radical departure from its predecessors. The 1st Generation Mustang remains instantly recognizable today, and the Mustang II carried many of its design queues from those early cars. If you were to line up an example of each generation of the Mustang side-by-side and ask the uninitiated, more often than not they would say that the Fox wasn’t a Mustang. That didn’t make it a bad car. In fact, the opposite was true. The new styling, especially in hatchback form, was fresh and crisp and offered incredible versatility. This Silver example is a tidy classic that features none of the traditional Cobra decals. This is possibly due to the car receiving a recent repaint, and the owner choosing not to reapply these items. The paint looks as nice as you might expect, while the panels are as straight as an arrow. The floors are spotlessly clean, with no rust to be found anywhere. The aftermarket wheels add a sense of purpose to the car’s overall appearance, while all of the glass appears to be in excellent order.

When we open the doors and take a peek inside, we find that the Cobra offers its buyer Black interior trim that is in excellent condition. There is no evidence of rips and tears in the vinyl, and no appreciable wear on the carpet. The owner has mounted a couple of additional gauges under the dash, and I would be inclined to tidy the wiring for these if they are to stay. It is hanging down and detracts from an otherwise positive experience. The wheel and shifter are aftermarket items, but the rest of the interior appears factory fresh. The dash looks good, the pad had no cracks, and the pushbutton AM radio remains intact. The buyer doesn’t get an interior loaded with luxury equipment, with a comprehensive gauge cluster and a tilt wheel being about it. There’s no power assistance for the windows or locks, and no air conditioning to provide relief on warmer days.

Lifting the Cobra’s hood reveals the venerable 302ci V8 that would produce 140hp in its prime. The owner has performed a transmission upgrade, and this little V8 now has a 5-speed manual bolted to the back of it. This was hardly a muscle car combination, with the journey down the ¼ mile taking 16.5 seconds. However, the first signs were beginning to emerge that Ford might be starting to make headway in the performance stakes. The most potent offering in the previous year’s model range was the ’78 Mustang II King Cobra. It offered 139hp and a ¼ mile ET of 17.1 seconds. The secret of the improved performance didn’t rest in the single horsepower but in the fields of aerodynamics and weight. The Fox-Body was an inherently more slippery shape, meaning that it cut through the air more efficiently than the Mustang II. However, it was when you parked the cars on a set of scales that the Fox’s true strength was revealed. A ’78 King Cobra tipped the scales at 2,996lbs, while the ’79 Cobra weighed 2,855lbs. That’s an enormous difference, and this was a trend that continued throughout the production run of the Fox-Body Mustang. The owner states that this Cobra features its numbers-matching V8 and that it has recently been rebuilt. He fitted a new clutch and pressure plate at the same time, which means that this is a classic that is ready to be driven and enjoyed.

Apart from the Pace Car Edition, the first-year Fox-Body Mustangs have remained largely forgotten in the classic world. The later models with the fuel-injected V8s have been the cars that have traditionally hogged the limelight. These early cars remain some of the most affordable Mustangs in today’s market, but the signs are that this could be set to change. Values have begun to head north, and have climbed by around 25% across the board in the last five years. This one is not 100% original, but returning it to that state would not be a difficult undertaking for the buyer to tackle. The owner’s sale price looks extremely competitive when you look at its overall condition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds a buyer pretty quickly.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    Good analysis Adam. Early Fox Cobras are rarely seen, despite respectable production figures. I prefer to see them stock. But this one isn’t bad, the modifications aren’t crazy. Overall the car looks to be in good shape, and the price isn’t out of line. I think Adam is right, as newer Foxes steadily rise in value, the four-eyes will likely follow, at least to some degree.

    Like 5
    • Jcs

      I questioned the statement as to the difference in drag coefficients, so I looked it up.

      It appears that the Mustang II and the 79 are pretty much identical, surprisingly, at .46 to .48 – depending on source.

      I thought that the Mustang II might be better, given it’s seemingly smaller frontal area.

      Like 1
  2. Raymond

    The wheels, while nicer than the best trx ones, I could do without, exhaust ends need to go, the only thing I could never get over with these was the Fairmont dash, that was a cheap move…

    Like 3
  3. Mikefromthehammer

    Feb 8, 1979.

    What does this mean (hopefully) you ask?

    That was the date I (finally) took delivery of my special ordered Mustang Cobra. It, too, was silver over black. This one must have been repainted, as it is missing the snake hood graphics decal and the 5.0 badge on the sides. The (fake) hood scoop also should be silver (1G). My interior was a nice shade of blue. I ordered it with the 4-spd (o/d) manual, but it came in with a 3-spd (C4) auto. A friend at work, whose father worked for Ford, told me they had a strike at their Mexican manual transmission plant.

    The dealer wanted me to pay “their cost” for the auto. I flatly refused. Finally, after a lot of back and forth, Rick Jacobs (the salesman) asked me to make them an offer. Because I still loved the car (even with the auto) I said “50 bucks”. They took it. The list price was $8,128.00 (with the auto), and I got it for $7,050.00 (plus PST). Did Ford actually charge them anything for the auto? Looking back, I would probably say no and that the sales manager and Rick had a nice dinner that night.

    Overall, I was happy with the Mustang. It was by no means a perfect car, however. Due to the variable venturi carburettor, it was very hard starting when the engine was cold (when it was warmed up, there was no issue). It also ran hot. I replaced the radiator, but there was no improvement. Finally, instead of hitting the centre of the steering wheel to blow the horn, you had to press the end of the turn signal stalk in the direction of the steering column to blow the horn. That was only an issue once.

    Unexpectedly (on my last day of ownership) a pickup truck started to reverse right at my front end. I immediately went to hit the horn, to warn the pickup driver, but nothing happened when I hit the centre of the steering wheel!!! I almost immediately remembered how to sound the horn and hit the turn signal. That slight delay made the difference between the truck not hitting me and hitting me with a little tap. Not much damage was done, but I found out that the plastic grille louvres were an awful shade of yellowish brown under the black. Luckily, the dealership I was trading it in really wanted the car, and it didn’t mess up my new car deal.


    Like 6
  4. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

    For the money asked, this Mustang Cobra seems like a decent buy. It looks to be in good shape in and out, and apparently well-cared for. I’d probably add some performance parts to the 302 to get more fun out of it, there’s plenty of go-faster bits for these Ford small blocks available. Otherwise, I’d leave it as-is and enjoy it.

    Like 2
  5. Chuck Miller

    I’d warm up that 302 a bit, maybe swap out the wheels. Other than that it’s a nice car.

    Like 1
  6. John H.

    A true 79 with the door handles conveniently located at the very bottom of the door. Both my 79 Capri’s sported that as well. In 80 they moved to the upper part of the door. Be sure to check the floor pan by the (left rear) front seat mounting bracket. It cracked there on both my Capri’s, and I was a 150 pound kid at the time.

    Like 1
  7. Ten50boy

    Great cars. Keep it simple. Add a correct Cobra era spoiler, find the correct steering wheel or at least as a Ford or a Mustang horn button, find the correct wheels or even consider 17” torque thrusts. Then, bolt on the normal go fast parts and enjoy. So many ways to go….. just don’t ruin that awesome front end or lose the great taillights.

    Like 0

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