The 1981 Mustang
The 1981 Mustang was upgraded slightly for this model year. Engine power increased slightly for the new V6 and Ford's only real high performance motor from 1980 was discontinued due to reliability problems.
The 4.2 liter V8 became the most powerful option, yet its output was a measly 119 horsepower.
The one change of note for the 1981 Mustang was the availability of a limited slip differential, called the "traction lock".
Although it's hard to believe it was necessary, given the small horsepower available, it was a boon to engine swappers and hot rodders later.
The 1981 Mustang Cobras differed little from the previous year, retaining their Blacked out grills and stylized Cobra logo in the hood.
The T-top was still an option, yet no convertible was available.
Engine and Powertrain
The engine choices for 1981 were carry-overs from the 1980 model.
The standard 2.3 liter inline 4 cylinder was standard equipment and power remained at 88 horsepower.
The new for 1980 2.8 liter V6 was carried over, with power rated at an anemic 88 hp.
Until later in the year, the only motor worthy of being called a performance motor was the 2.3 liter turbocharged inline 4 cylinder making 143 horsepower.
Finally, the only V8 available was the 4.2 liter engine, making 119 horsepower, which even by 1980's standards, was not very good. It seemed that Ford had given up on the venerable V8 Mustang...
Both, the 3 speed automatic and the 4 speed standard were available, along with the availability of the new limited slip differential.
Exterior Styling Changes
Ford seemed again, to think that nothing needed to be changed on the one year old body style and proceeded to do just that... nothing.
Hello! Don't ya remember the Mustang II ? Must have been a bunch of politicians running around Ford, shouting Four More Years !
The one good thing for those of you restoring an 81 Mustang, is that body parts are plentiful and cheap.
Even changes in color choices were minimal.
Ahem....need I say more? Ford actually reduced the interior color choices from 11 to six.
Some Cool Facts
Just so you don't think that I'm down on these pony cars, I have to point out that many other Mustang lovers and manufacturers found ways to make these babies fly.
And I'm not just talking V8's either.
I've seen one of these little 81 Mustangs with the so-called hand grenade 2.3 motor, run just over 10.80 in the quarter mile on pump gas!
Did you know that these original 4 cylinder 2.3 turbo cars, can be built to over 400 horsepower with bolt on mods? Yep.
Now there's a good reason to find one with the traction lock option!
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