When hopping out of National Parts Depot's '79 Mustang Ghia and immediately jumping into their '93 GT convertible, it's easy to comprehend how much the Mustang changed and improved during the Fox-body era. I had forgotten about that annoying "key in ignition" warning buzzer in the early Fox-bodies; the '93 warns me with a gentle chime. I have to blindly search for the '79's interior door handle down at the bottom of the door, while the '93's handle is readily visible and available. The '79 has an eight-track tape player; the '93 has cassette. And although this particular '79 has a few more years and miles on its chassis than the convertible, there's no doubt that the '93 was a much better car.
The original Fox-body era, '79-'93, played an important role in the continuing success of the Mustang. When introduced, the '79 Mustang replaced the ho-hum Mustang II with a more European-looking body style. Although its four-cylinder and otherwise small displacement powerplants (a 140hp 302 was the top option) failed to impress, the lightweight, inexpensive Fox-body would prove the perfect platform for future models, including GT and LX versions with the 5.0-liter HO engine that transformed the Mustang into the most popular American performance car of the late 1980s, early 1990s.
NPD founder Jim Schmidt and his son, Rick, now company president, were in the right places at the right times when they had the good fortune of acquiring what they call the "bookends" of the Fox-body Mustang era for their car collection at National Parts Depot. The '79 Ghia is VIN 9F04W100001, the first serialized Fox-body Mustang. The GT convertible was the last '93 off the line, as documented during a Dearborn Assembly Line ceremony to celebrate the final build of a '93 Mustang. The cars are now part of NPD's 182-car collection housed primarily at the company's Ocala, Florida, headquarters.
The '79 was originally purchased by Floyd Moore, a car collector from Chicago. When one of his Edsels was used for Edsel Ford II's wedding, he became friends with Edsel and other Ford executives. The contacts provided him with opportunities to acquire special Ford vehicles, like the first '77 Thunderbird, the 100 millionth Ford car (a '78 Fairmont Futura), and the 150 millionth Ford vehicle (a '79 Mustang). When he learned about the new '79 Mustang, he was able to place an order for serial number 100001.
However, the car was not the first '79 Mustang produced. Perhaps due to the lengthy option list, which included leather upholstery and the optional turbocharged four-cylinder, it was not built until October 1979, several weeks after production began. A clipping from Automotive News, which Moore kept with the car's paperwork, may provide another clue for the car's late build. The article reports that Ford suspended production of the turbocharged four until unspecified problems could be rectified.
In 1996, Jim Schmidt spotted a tiny listing in Hemmings Motor News that advertised the first '77 Thunderbird for sale. When Jim called to inquire, he learned that the seller was Floyd Moore, an acquaintance from their mutual involvement with Thunderbird clubs. At the same time, Jim also learned that Moore was selling the 100 millionth Ford, the 150 millionth Ford vehicle, and the first serialized '79 Mustang. Jim made a deal for all four cars.
Moore was known for driving his new purchases for at least a year, which explains the '79 Ghia's current 14,928-mile odometer reading. In addition to the leather interior and turbo engine, the car is also equipped with the "flip-up" sunroof, Michelin TRX tires with their special aluminum wheels, tilt steering, and AM/FM stereo with eight-track tape player. The window sticker, which Moore saved and passed along to the Schmidts with other paperwork, indicates a $4,642 retail cost for the base Ghia model, plus another $2,568 in options.