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1988 Ford Mustang GT: 80s American Muscle Summed-up in a Single Car

1988 GT - 1

The setting was Connecticut’s gold coast, the year was 1987. My friend Dave drove a white ’83 V8 Thunderbird (on which we painted the grille and headlights surrounds black because the 80s) and his mom had a brown 1984ish Cadillac Coupe DeVille. I can pretty clearly recall when he called me to let me know that she was going to take the T-bird away and trade it in – along with the Caddy – on a brand new Mustang GT Convertible with a 5-speed manual transmission. Mid-life crisis? Maybe. But with the benefit of age I can look back at that through the lens of “parental prerogative”.  Besides, he DID get a manual transmission VW-powered Plymouth Horizon out of the deal…  For us Car Geeks, that car gave her some great cool mom points.

1988 GT - 3

Another friend bought one of these facelifted Mustang GT convertibles new in 1988. His was the same Cabernet red over grey leather as the car you see here, but if I recall correctly his had the grey lower cladding. I prefer our subject car’s monochrome scheme to that, although the bright red bumper/molding stripe looks a little special against the dark red bodywork. But again, 1988. With just 32K miles, I’d argue this apparently bone stock original on CraigsList in Mountain Home, Arkansas for $19,200 is a bargain. Eighties kids, as we have discussed before, have disposable income and want to relive their youths. Although we often lament that nostalgia is a funny thing and is often rose-tinted, with an extra garage space I’d be seriously looking at this one.

1988 GT - 5

Ford freshened the aging fox-body Mustang for the 1987 model year, largely with a revised flush headlight front end and a more European-inspired dash layout with a proper gauge pod in place of the earlier car’s wall of dashboard. To be honest, I am a fan of the earlier fox-body Mustang GT’s quad sealed-beam front, very period Recaro-style seats, and relative lack of plastic body cladding. The 87+ cars were adorned with all manner of plastic pieces, most not terribly functional. Probably most offensive of the lot are the often-replaced “louvered” taillights. Sure, you could get an 87+ LX 5.0 with less STUFF on it, but that’s not a GT, is it?? What I *do* prefer on the later cars are the dash layout, the Ford RS200-inspired round foglights, the finned alloy wheels, and most notably the additional 25hp and 15 lb-ft of torque from the 302CI/4.9 liter high output V8 for a total 0f 225hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Shame this seller didn’t review our post about writing an ad before taking his pictures so that we could actually see that good looking lump – among other parts of the car that a buyer might actually be interested in.

1988 GT - 6

Facelifted GTs did continue with a well-bolstered sport seat complete with adjustable lumbar support. This car’s leather was a $415 option and although I’d want to add seat heaters, it holds up pretty well.  There were no great pictures of the dash on this one, but it is very user-friendly and function-oriented and comes with a full complement of gauges. This car also is also equipped with the optional “Custom Equipment Group” package including air conditioning and power windows, as well as the “Special Value Group” that added power locks, stereo cassette, and cruise control. And of course we cannot overlook the optional premium sound system. Kudos to the seller for having and including a picture of the original window sticker.

1988 GT - 4

By the seat of the pants Mustang GTs of this vintage feel quick. That could be partly due to the fact that it’s an old-school convertible, meaning it can twist, writhe, and shimmy in a way that newer convertibles just don’t – which adds to the *excitement* factor. Still, 0-60 in 6.6 (the 1986 took a full 7 seconds) and a top speed of 138mph means this car can hold its own just fine in modern traffic – without the complexity of twin turbos, traction control, auto start/stop, and all that stuff that new cars have to protect us from ourselves. This is a proper, old school V8 – and if you were so motivated you could get significantly more power out of it. Even 33 years on the aftermarket for these cars is alive and well. But on a stock original like this I feel like pimping it up would be a shame. I don’t know about you, but if I want to go super fast this isn’t the car I want to do it in. However, if I want to row the gears, bask in the burble of the V8, and enjoy top-down motoring at its 1980s best then I don’t know that I could do much better.

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