CraigsList: 1981 Ford Mustang with T-Tops and a…V6 swap?

1981 mustang for sale t tops

Behold, the early years of the Fox-platform Ford Mustang. I’ve always been a sucker for the rake of the rear window and how it flows cohesively into the pony’s plastic spoiler, but I suppose the true selling point of the Fox body to a modern buyer is the variety of power options. This particular car came to the dealer floor with a wheezing Pinto motor under its bonnet, but at some point in its life, the seller opted to increase this pony’s gallop.

[Source: Chicago CraigsList]

As you might expect, the seller consulted the CraigsList Style Manual before pounding on the keyboard, although I find the lack of ALL CAPS disturbing.

From the ad:

1981 fox mustang t-top*project car* – $1000 (lowell indiana)

1981 mustang t-top was originally 4cyl 4speed was converted to a fuel injected 3.8 engine out of a 1990 thunderbird with auto trans has complete wire harness and computer did run and drive but been sitting in barn since 1993 will need work to run again still has clutch pedal assembly if u want to convert to stick shift again the engine and trans only has around 35000 miles the interior is missing seats and carpet everything else is there brand new dash pad still in box torque boxes floors and body all good shape very straight body and very minimal rust from 20years of sitting in barn 110000 miles on car clean title great candidate for v8 conversion to cruise with T-tops off asking $1000.00contact chris@219 808-XXXX possible trade for a pre 1973 ford truck to make a rat rod (tags)…fox mustang 4 eyes rat strip street cruise roller project mustang body panels 5.0 clean title


Enter the swapped engine, a slightly odd choice, really. With a relative glut of 5.0-liter Mustang engines floating around, one of this car’s previous owners (perhaps the seller?) opted instead for the fuel-injected 3.8-liter V6 from a Ford Thunderbird. The 1990 version of the V6 put out 140 horsepower, which would be quite a bump over its predecessor, but one must wonder why eschew the V8 here.


I’d hardly call myself a Mustang guy, preferring its more punitive contemporaries, but I find its boxy 1981 styling with four eyes and a box-fan grille oddly appealing.


The T-tops’ status of not being lost or broken is remarkable, given the car’s age.


However, the interior looks a tad disconcerting, although the crapcan team looking for a different approach to the Fox Mustang won’t mind discarding all of it. So would you buy it to race? If so, would you keep the V6 and make it run again? Would you upgrade to the turbocharged SVO powerplant? The 5.0-liter V8? The ever-rare BMW M21 diesel from a Lincoln Mark VII?

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21 responses to “CraigsList: 1981 Ford Mustang with T-Tops and a…V6 swap?”

  1. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar
    Scandinavian Flick ★

    My neighbor used to have one that looked almost exactly like this. (So much so, I was expecting it when I clicked the link) I'm still not sure if I'm disappointed they would never sell it to me…
    I had some twisted ideas for it…

  2. P161911 Avatar

    Now if would have been the SUPERCHARGED 3.8L V-6 from a Thunderbird S/C, then it would have been interesting. This looks like "Engine done blowed up in the Mustang." "Hey, there's the wrecked T-bird over yonder."

  3. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Sounds like a lot for a fright pig.

  4. Piston Slap Yo Mama Avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    Project Ugly Horse by talented writer & wrencher Zach Bowman is a fox Mustang he got for a song and put a SVO engine into, then got a sweetheart deal from Ford to install their new EcoBoost. I'm just dropping hints on what oughtta happen to this Mustang. Here's the very beginning of the saga:

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Now that he's left AutoBlog for Road & Track, where is the Ugly Horse series going?

      1. Piston Slap Yo Mama Avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        As soon as you find out, could you drop a link here? I'd HATE to move across the country in the middle of a epic wrenching project. He's probably wondering where all the miscellaneous bits and bobs vanished to as he unpacks in his new garage…

    2. Manic_King Avatar

      One, first(?) home of the Ugly Horse saga was right here in the Hooniverse forums:

  5. JayP2112 Avatar

    There isn't anything right with this. If it were a regular top coupe, it would have been picked up racing American Iron for years.

  6. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    "I find its boxy 1981 styling with four eyes and a box-fan grille oddly appealing."
    Nothing wrong with an older four-eyed fox.
    <img src="; width="320">

    1. monkey_tennis Avatar

      …and, speaking as a box-fan, that is oddly appealing.

  7. dukeisduke Avatar

    So he replaced a slow but reliable motor with a faster but less reliable one? Doesn't sound like win to me.

  8. Kris_01 Avatar

    This is the Fox-body Stang that the drag racers want – rustfree early body that can be updated or left as is. Guaranteed the motor choice was one of convenience – someone wrapped a three year old T-bird around a tree back in '93 or so, so the owner of this car got the doubtlessly low mileage running gear for the Mustang because that 4 banger had no balls.
    Fox bodies had a slew of engine options, with the 3.8 being one of the more pedestrian choices. You had 200 and 250 cube inline sixes, the 3.8 V6 in carbed, EFI and supercharged flavors, the SBC Ford in carb or EFI, with a 4.2L variant in the early years (memory says it's a 262 cube malaise low-emission wonder-block, but I may be wrong on the size), and 2.3 Pinto 4-bangers in carb, EFI and turbo. I may be leaving one or two out.

    1. scoudude Avatar

      For the first few months of Mustang/Capri production they did offer the 2.8 V6 of the MII.

    2. Rover1 Avatar

      sooooo…has anyone dropped a Triton V10 into one? Nevermind, Google search beckons.

      1. Rover1 Avatar

        yes here we go…

  9. mac350 Avatar

    There are too many running Fox bodied v8 Mustangs going for cheap to mess with this example. Let the masochists have this one. In 6 months to a year it'll be back on Craigslist. For a car like this I figure it might be worth $200 at the most because it has a clean title.Otherwise, its a pass.

    1. SteveL Avatar

      I have to agree… this is a parts car.

  10. nanoop Avatar

    what does the cl style manual say about punctuation

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