The 1979 Ford Mustang marked a total makeover from second generation model

By: Bruce Kunz

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Old Car Column

March 5th, 2017 

Nineteen seventy-nine marked the first year of the third generation Ford Mustang.

It was a total makeover from the second generation “Mustang II” (1974-1978), which had caused much disappointment in the ranks of Mustang fans. Gone were the convertibles and the scaled-down Mustang II saw the first 4-cylinder engine under the hood (V-6 and V-8 engines were also available).

Ford called Mustang II “the right car at the right time.” The only thing right about it was probably the fact the smaller, lighter, 4-cylinder models came on the scene just when gas prices were at an all-time high and lines formed at filling stations because of a petroleum shortage. By 1979, these issues were becoming just a bad memory (despite a “second shock oil crisis”) and the new generation models delivered a return to a more appealing and traditional Mustang both in looks and performance. Body styles were limited to 2-door notchbacks and 3-door hatchbacks. It would be another four years before rag tops returned to the lineup.

Standard power for 1979 was still in the form of a 2.3 liter, in-line four, which produced just 88 horsepower. A turbocharged version of the same displacement upped the ponies to 140. An optional 2.8 liter V-6 came in at 109 horsepower. Toward the end of the model year, a 3.3 liter, in-line six was offered. If a V-8 was your choosing, a 5.0 liter power plant was offered, producing 140 horsepower at 3,600 rpm.

Factory, base prices ranged from $4,071 to $5,338. A generous list of convenience, appearance and performance options could boost the sticker price significantly.

Model year production was 369,936, boosting Mustang sales from 22nd place the previous year up to 7th for 1979 models.

Upcoming event

The next Breakfast with The FIN MAN will take place on Friday, March 17, at the McDonald’s in Overland Plaza, 8960 Page Ave. (near Interstate 170). Wear your St. Patrick’s Day green and, if you bring a green car, your breakfast will be on me (must be a full-sized car … diecasts do not count).

Meanwhile, Keep on Cruisin’.


Bruce Kunz, a.k.a. “THE FIN MAN,” is a member of the Society of Automobile Historians. If you love old cars and care about kids, visit thefinman.com.