10 Bolt-On Mods For The Third Generation Mustang

1980 Generation 3 Ford Mustang

The Mustang, in its third-generation form, is every bit as popular today as it was during its initial production run. From performance enthusiasts to drag strip junkies, it seems that almost every gearhead owns, or has owned, a Fox-body Mustang at one point. In fact, there is likely no more popular model of Mustang than that of the third-gen vintage.

Of course, the reason for this innate popularity is no secret. The third-generation Mustang practically begs to be modified. Aftermarket parts are plentiful, and often reasonably priced. All things considered, one can build a potent third-gen performer, even on the most modest of budgets.

Check out the following list of bolt-on mods for the third-generation Mustang and see for yourself just how limitless these possibilities truly are.

#10: Aftermarket Intake Manifolds

Via lmr.com

One of the most consistently popular third-gen Mustang modifications is that of installing an aftermarket intake manifold. In fact, doing so often leads to significant performance gains over the use of the 5.0L V8’s stock manifold, which was quite restrictive in design. There are numerous aftermarket intakes available for purchase, all of which are engineered to maximize the engine’s intake of oxygen-rich air.

#9: Cold Air Intake

79-93 Mustang Cold Air Intake for third generation Ford Mustang
Via steeda.com

Aside from increasing intake airflow volume, you can also seek to increase the oxygen saturation of air flowing through your engine’s intake tract. The simplest and most cost-effective means of accomplishing this feat is through the installation of a cold air intake system.

A cold air intake reduces the overall temperature of the air within an engine’s intake, thereby increasing oxygen saturation. This, in turn, serves as a catalyst for more efficient combustion.

#8: High-Flow Throttle Body

Fox Body Mustang High Flow Throttle Body
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An engine’s throttle body serves as the “gatekeeper”, so to speak, for incoming airflow bound for eventual combustion. This means an engine’s intake will only receive the maximum amount of airflow that can pass through the attached throttle body at any given time.

The 5.0L V8’s 60mm throttle body tends to be somewhat restrictive in this regard. Therefore, the addition of a larger 63-75mm throttle body can provide a few extra horsepower.

#7: Aftermarket Exhaust Headers

1980 Mustang Headers for third generation Ford Mustang
Via cjponyparts.com

For an engine to operate at peak efficiency, it must be able to rid itself of spent combustion gasses in an expedited fashion. An inability to do so creates excess backpressure, thereby stifling performance.

Unfortunately, the third-gen Mustang’s factory exhaust headers were known to be extremely restrictive. However, this situation can be easily remedied with the installation of aftermarket shorties or long-tube headers.

#6: Replacement Gear Sets

Replacement gear set for third generation Ford Mustang

Another popular method for maximizing the 5.0 Fox-body’s performance involves replacing the car’s stock differential gear set with that of a more suitable ratio. Many third-gen enthusiasts find 3.55:1 to 3.73:1 gears ideal for use in Mustangs featuring a manual gearbox.

Meanwhile, automatic Fox-body Mustangs are likely best served with 3.73:1 or 4.10:1 gears. Regardless, the results of such a modification are immediately noticeable in nearly every case.

#5: Rear Disc Brake Conversion

Rear Brake Conversion Kit for third generation Ford Mustang
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To say the third-generation Mustang suffers from inadequate braking would likely be quite the understatement. In large part, the Fox-body Mustang’s use of rear drum brakes is to blame for such difficulties.

The Mustang’s stock drum brake simply does not possess enough stopping power to adequately manage high-demand braking. However, one can mitigate this issue in its entirety with the installation of a rear disc brake conversion kit. A number of high-quality disc brake conversion kits are available for the third-gen Mustang at a variety of price points.

#4: 5-Lug Conversion

Mustang 5-lug conversion kit for third generation Ford Mustang
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Much to the dismay of many performance enthusiasts, the third-generation Mustang came fitted with 4-lug wheels as standard equipment. This presented quite the void within the Fox-body Mustang’s wheel-wells.

Luckily, this issue is easily overcome with the installation of a standard 5-lug conversion kit. Kits of this nature are widely available for the third-generation Mustang and present consumers with a wealth of additional wheel choices.

#3: Upgraded Suspension

Eibach Mustang Suspension Kit for third generation Ford Mustang
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Another top complaint among third-generation Mustang owners centers around less-than-adequate handling. For the most part, this critique is well-deserved. Nonetheless, technically-savvy third-gen owners can right this wrong with the installation of upgraded suspension components. A number of upgraded suspension kits are available for the Fox-body Mustang, which often include components like upgraded coilovers, shocks, and sway bars.

#2: Stiffened Chassis

Mustang Bolt On Subframe Connectors Credit: Lmr.com
Via lmr.com

The third-generation Mustang’s unibody frame was inherently susceptible to twisting and distortion under spirited driving conditions. This scenario is often blamed for a significant portion of the Fox-body Mustang’s handling woes.

Fortunately, one can modify their Mustang to enhance its rigidity. This is most easily accomplished with the installation of subframe connectors, which link segments of the Mustang’s uni-body together in a more desirable fashion.

#1: Short-Throw Shifter

Mustang Short Throw Shifter for third generation Ford Mustang
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The installation of a short-throw shifter is sure to thrill any performance enthusiast who currently owns a T5 manual-equipped, third-generation Mustang. The Mustang’s standard shifter leaves one stretching to grab the next gear, ultimately limiting a motorist’s ability to shift on the fly with a reasonable degree of speed. A short-throw shifter minimizes the distance between gears when shifting, thereby allowing you to expedite each shift.