By on August 23, 2021

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause the 1979-1993 Fox Mustang remains so popular with enthusiasts, I don’t find so many noncrashed examples in the big self-service car graveyards I frequent. In fact, these days I see more 19741978 Mustang IIs than I do Fox Mustangs (unless you consider the 1994-2004 SN95 Mustang to be a true Fox). Last week, I found this very solid ’86 Mustang LX hatchback in a Denver yard, and my camera was ready for it.

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe LX was the entry-level Mustang for 1986, and you could buy it in notchback, hatchback, or convertible form. The notchback was the cheapest, with MSRP starting at $7,189 ($17,910 today), while the more popular hatchback cost $7,744 ($19,290 in 2021 bucks).

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, Engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFor that price, you got the base engine: the 2.3-liter “Pinto” four-banger, rated at 88 horsepower. That’s what’s in this car. The 3.8-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 were available (120 and 200 horsepower, respectively) in the LX at extra cost.

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, gearshift lever - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsA three-speed automatic transmission in the 1986 LX ran the buyer an extra $510, a painful $1,270 when figured in 2021 dollars; the four-speed overdrive slushbox went for a staggering $746 ($1,858 today). If you wanted the five-speed manual instead of the base four-on-the-floor, that added $124 ($309 now). This car has the five-speed.

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAir conditioning was optional on every 1986 Mustang except for the high-zoot SVO, and it tacked on $762 to the bottom line (nearly $1,900 today). What the heck, once you’ve paid the extra for the additional transmission gear, might as well have refrigerated air.

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, build sheets - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe original build sheets, exposed when some junkyard shopper bought the carpets, remain stuck to the floor. I doubt anyone would ever restore a Pinto-powered Fox Mustang to its original condition (had this car stayed on the outside, a V8 swap would have been a near-certainty), so this isn’t as cool as finding the sheet for a Cyclone Spoiler.

1986 Ford Mustang in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt wouldn’t have been at all quick, but it was a good deal on a sporty-looking commuter that sipped gas… and now it faces the cold steel jaws of The Crusher.


The sheer thrill of driving a four-cylinder LX wouldn’t have been particularly vivid, though it was better than what you got with an Escort Pony.


So much future!

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52 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford Mustang LX Hatchback...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Judging by the way it’s equipped this Mustang is right where it belongs, although I’m sure “Hg” loved it

  • avatar
    ajla

    “the four-speed overdrive slushbox went for a staggering $746 ($1,858 today).”

    That’s pretty close to what an optional automatic goes for now. Granted the auto is *fancier* these days compared to a 4A but the standard manual is fancier too.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    V-8 Windsor swap, Yawn. Ecoboost 4cyl Swap! Fun and different being an ultimate sleeper.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      People on the internet love to advocate for expensive, esoteric engine swaps.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        This is an area where peer pressure is positive and encouraged.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Engine swaps are a PITA in the best circumstances.

          It bothers me when people go “yawn” on someone putting in a decent amount of work just because it lacks sufficient whimsy. If you have a big budget or an impressive tool collection (plus the skills to use then) then have at it but not everyone with a 4-cylinder 80s Mustang will be at that level.

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            The 2.3 from the Thunderbird turbo coupe is a fairly easy swap since it’s just the high performance version of the base Lima Pinto motor in the LX.
            An Ecoboost swap is far more complicated. There’s an episode of Junkyard on MT where they do one and it frustrates them to no end but with some shoeing they managed it.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            The hassle with a swap on these is that you’re also going to want to swap the 7.5″ rear axle for an 8.8″ (would be a bolt-in from a GT), and going from 4-lugs to 5-lugs, and the bigger brakes.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            It would be a lot less hassle (and expense) to buy a GT at the outset, instead of replacing the engine, axle, brakes, etc.
            You could just put an LX emblem on the GT, put bland-looking wheels on it, and you’re good to go. Use the time and money saved for a road trip vacation.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            It’s the Hot Rod version of the Pinto 2.3 with all forged internals and high nickel-content block. It’s overbuilt enough to double the factory power or more.

      • 0 avatar
        CaddyDaddy

        I do not have to advocate for expensive esoteric engine swaps. Just attend a Good Guys style car show. Just gander at the insane amounts of never to be recovered $ spent on highly customized street rods, muscle cars etc.. I would say a $1,500 junk yard pull from a low milage wrecked 4 cyl ecoboost driveline and associated electronics is anything but expensive.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “anything but expensive.”

          Ok. I look forward to updates on your build then.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            As long as you’re going to do it, the Coyote V8 fits for not much more cash or work.

            I’d just get a Fox Mustang GT. They’re cheap, under appreciated and wake up dramatically with mods/bolt-ons, starting with a gear swap.

            I like the LX 5.0 better, but prices are nuts, especially the notch 5.0 w/5-speed. I’d spend the money to convert the ’87+ GT to the LX. Although the four-eyed 5.0s are really cool.

            I’m not that impressed by the stock Coyote V8.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            “As long as you’re going to do it, the Coyote V8 fits for not much more cash or work.”

            The Coyote and Twin Cam Mod motors fit in the sense that a 385 series big block fits.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      “The hassle with a swap on these is that you’re also going to want to swap the 7.5″ rear axle for an 8.8″ (would be a bolt-in from a GT), and going from 4-lugs to 5-lugs, and the bigger brakes.”

      GTs from this era (85-86) have four lugs. At least my 85 GT did.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I didn’t hear “Windsor V8” swap. That would make no sense. I’m sure what is meant is Coyote or LSx swap, not that I agree that it’s the most bang for your buck, shortest path, etc, with the relative cheapness and availability of Fox GTs, and huge aftermarket, Windsor/Fox speed parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The control pack alone to run the 2.3 is 2 grand. I haven’t seen a cross member available but it’s.been a while since I looked (I was kicking around a 3.5 twin turbo in a fox Thunderbird…that crossmember does exist)

      After shopping all the modern Ford power train swaps for the Fox Body I began to realize why there are so many LS powered foxes out there.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yeah the Turbo Coupe, but I can’t believe how fast the Windsor 5.0 gets written off (or the 2.3T). It’s so much easier to make real power with them.

        Just like suggesting swapping gears. All I get is blanks stares.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          The Windsor can make plenty of power for anything you want to drive on the street and it’s an easy build in terms of engines to build. I am a Lima 2.3 fan, especially in the SVO and Turbo Coupe but dollar for dollar I think the Windsor is the easiest.

          People get on YouTube and see 800 horsepower LS powered fox bodies that get driven 1/4 mile at a time and all the sudden think 3-400 in a Windsor is a slow car. On the street that is more than plenty.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I always chuckled when aftermarket radios and other consumer electronics put terms on the device that 99% of the users have no idea about what they mean. I’m sure SchmittTrigger knows what “PLL” means but most people have no idea.

    Too bad this car didn’t get a V8 swap. If the carpet was good enough for a junkyard shopper to buy, the interior must have been pretty cherry.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Phased lock loop. Grabs the analog radio signal and keeps it optimally tuned; counteracts frequency drift. It’s great for AM, especially at night. Everybody knows that!

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        I am assuming that applies only to a certain age group. There are a great many ‘young people’ who never listen to the radio or have never listened to AM radio.

        When driving friends/teammates of my children and listening to baseball games on the AM band, they were always ‘freaked out’ by the static, drift, etc that you experience listening to AM in a large city when streetcars pass by, etc.

        That is because they had never listened to AM radio before.

  • avatar
    bg

    I bought a new, 1989 LX Hatchback 5-speed. I loved it, and it was a great car-buying experience.

    I was 27, living in Cedar Rapids, IA, working in radio. My 4 year old Escort wagon was falling apart…both rear struts had popped their nuts a year apart. The timing belt broke after less than a year after purchase (no major damage though…so they say).

    For 6 months I had seen a putty-grey Mustang on the lot at Bob Zimmerman Ford. The sticker said $15,500. It was a 2.4 liter with a 5 speed and A/C. The best I could figure is that people wanting a 5 speed wanted the 5 liter V8, and those who didn’t mind the 4-cylinder wanted an automatic as well.

    I had just sunk a bunch of money into the Escort on routine maintenance (a lot of money for a guy in radio). On a tuesday afternoon, while checking the oil, the right hood hinge broke free from the cowl, knowing me in the shoulder and gouging the painton the right fender.

    I drove to the dealership and told them I wanted to buy the grey Mustang 5-speed. For the first time in my life I played hardball. I told them I new the car had been sitting for at leat 6 months. No I wasn’t going to trade in my car, I was selling it to my younger brother (a fib). I got them down to a reasonable price. Then while they were “discussing it with their manager” I asked to use a phone.

    I pretended to call my brother. And when they came back I said my brother had just bought a car (another lie) and I’d like to trade this one in.

    They low balled it, and I said I was just in here last month and had $X amoount of work done. THey said they couldn’t look up the records right away, but I saw one of the service guys in the showroom. I called him over and asked him if he remembered servicing my car, and he proceeded to tell them all that had been done before they could stop him.

    Three hours after the hood collapsed on my 4.5 yea old Escort (bought elsewhere), I drove home in a brand new 1989 Ford Mustang with a 5-speed, air, power everything and AM/FM cassette plus floormats for $8500.

    I drove the car for 11 years and it was sturdy and robust. The only weak point were the dash vent vanes which started braking after 9 years. The only reason I sold it was that it could be a handful in the snow without sand bags in the rear, and I now had a wife and stepdaughter, so I bought a Subaru.

    I loved my 2.4-Liter 5-speed Mustang and got an amazing deal on it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Killer deal, great story.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The tire and wheel picture says “aluminum wheel”, but these are Polycast urethane-faced steelies.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      Agreed. Out of the Big 3, Ford seemed to embrace the Polycast wheels way more than the other 2, or at least uninterruptedly from the early 70s through the early 90s. By the 80s pretty much all non-truck vehicles in the Ford lineup had some Polycast wheel option available, same with Mercury.

      I don’t remember widespread use of polycast by Chrysler, but I recall their 80s was about K-car based and wire-wheel-cover-everything.

      GM used polycast heavily through the 70s, just to phase it out in the 80s and revive some interest for it in the 90s. I believe GM was the last one using polycast wheels with the last gen Buick Skylarks (all the way to 1998). Talk about past due.

      My favorite design, though has to be the Honeycomb polycasts found on 2nd gen Firebirds

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    These were immensely boring to drive with the 3.8L V6, I cannot imagine how bad they must have been with the 4 cylinder engine.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Dreadful. That sums up my brother’s. He lived in Central British Columbia, and climbing any grade just about killed the engine. A drive to Vancouver reduced it to 20 mph at some summits over the mountains. Pinging away like bolts in a swirled pan, and zero power. On the level, the engine showed complete indifference, was a lousy revver, noisy and unsophisticated. My parents had the same chassis Ford Fairmont with a straight six 89 hp chuffer, but it was at least acceptable. My nearest Ford experience to that Mustang tin can was driving a Ford Transit van in the UK a decade earlier, but at least that engine was lively in its demeanour.

      I later drove an ’89 V8 GT, and you could always feel the jarring front end heaviness of that thing. Nimble wasn’t a word I’d call it; much preferred my Talon AWD turbo. On the other hand, a friend’s earlier ’83 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, another Fox chassis car, I found wonderful, fast, powerful, good handling and quiet. All in all, personally I never “got” that generation Mustang, it did not seem well-developed compared to its platform-mates, and the 2.3 four and manual four-speed was my definition of a complete dog.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        People get a hole in a piston and don’t know why. It was pinging like crazy and he kept driving it? How stupid

        They blame the brand, model, democrats. etc. No doubt it needed spark plugs, wires, etc, with high miles.
        Was it the automatic? I’ll bet it was, but my own ’86 2.3 Mustang (5-speed) had plenty of power, fairly quick, hills, whatever, even with the wrong (replaced) rear-end gears in it. I bought it with lots of abuse in ’95. It would do 55 MPH in 1st gear and got 40+ MPG.

        The turbo didn’t work (SVO) so it’s a fair comparison. More than. The turbo waste-gate actuator was just missing the clip and 4.10:1 gears did the rest.

    • 0 avatar
      jnoble

      A buddy of mine had an ’88 Mustang LX base model notchback with the 4 banger engine. It was slow noisy and pinged when going up hills. As gutless as you can imagine.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Holy crap – that’s a ’73 or ’74 Hurst/Olds parked on its left.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    The floors–what I could see of them–looked solid. Most of the ones here in the Rust Belt have the floors rusted out to the point of the driver’s seat–and frequently the passenger’s as well–sitting less than straight, and able to be rocked sideways.

  • avatar

    Nice find. Not my favorite American car though.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Radio Shack “Optimus” head unit. Doesn’t even look like the cassette deck auto reverses but I find it interesting it has a 1/8″ input jack.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      It’s probably an improvement over the stock “premium sound” unit I ordered in my ’85 GT which came from the factory with the tape head misaligned and a permanent ground loop buzz.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      It must be from the early/mid 90s with the “CD IN” jack once in-car CD players with reasonable anti-skip became a thing. Even my Kenwood stereos lacked that sort of convenience. I had to plug in a cassette adapter to hear my Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots CDs.

  • avatar
    rusty_jeep

    Had a 79 Mustang 4cy/4 speed stick, no frills.
    Horn – had to hit the end of the turn signal lever.
    Interior door handle – located at the bottom of the door, almost to the sill.
    Drove it 200k, I felt like 75hp, but the interstate speed was 55mph.
    Occasionally suffered from “carb-icing” when the stars aligned.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The videos are ads for the 1987 Mustang which had a number of improvements such as the composite Euro Merkur style headlamps as well as a modernized dash, cluster, switches and door panels.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    In 1986, this wasn’t really a joke yet; there were weak carbureted fours all over the place and plenty of badly built cars.

    But by seven years later, after the Japanese yen bubble cars had appeared, the interior quality revolution had begun, and sequentially injected DOHC fours were table stakes, this had solidified its place as the worst Mustang, relative to the standards of its time, in Mustang history.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I sweat every Hertz mustang convertible was a 4-banger. I’m gonna be rude about this. Fox body Mustang GTs are old enough and cheap enough just about anyone should be able to afford one. Just the drop the dime and budget for Crest white strips. You’ll be smiling all the time. Former red Mustang GT convertible mustang owner here. Rag-top down, 5.0!

  • avatar
    6250Claimer

    That shift boot is a molded piece of rubber and is ALWAYS in that exact same state of appearance – every crease, fold etc is 100% static and stays in the same form permanently. SO cheesy.

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