Story and photos by Brian Earnest
If there is such a thing as a list of underrated “sleeper” cars in Mustang circles, Jim Dombrowski figures his dandy 1984 convertible certainly belongs.
Fox body Mustangs from 1979-1993 were wildly popular in their day and are still omnipresent in the collector car hobby. They remain among the most obtainable, most affordable and best “bang-for-your-buck” feel-good cars around for Gen Xers who loved them during their youth.
Certainly one of the sharpest and most collectible offerings of the Fox body era was the 1984 20th Anniversary G.T. 350, which was built in small numbers during a six-week window back in the spring of 1984. Ford apparently didn’t have any big plans to make a big splash for the Mustang’s 20th birthday, but company brass changed their minds in time to crank out 5,260 special editions that carried a host of cool goodies and options to make them unique — including the G.T 350 moniker made famous by Carroll Shelby in the late 1960s. The trouble with the plan was that Shelby was working for Lee Iacocca at Chrysler in 1984 and owned the rights to the G.T. 350 name. A lawsuit ensued and things got ugly between the sides for a time, but the limited run of cars was still warmly received by those who received them.
Dombrowski didn’t know anything about 20th anniversary Mustangs when they were new, but he was thrilled to pick one up unexpectedly 12 years ago at the Iola Old Cars Show in Wisconsin.
“I had a ’69 Mustang at the time, and I just wanted a convertible,” said Dombrowski, a resident of Amherst, Wis. “I didn’t have anything in mind, but I wanted a convertible before I go away from this world and preferably a Mustang, and there it was. It was very rare Mustang. I did not know anything about a 20th anniversary car, but I think it’s one of the most interesting and rare Mustangs around.”
The convertible had just 37,000 miles on when Dombrowski brought it home as the second owner in 2004 and it’s up to about 47,000 these days. Aside from some different rims and tires, it’s almost exactly as it was when it left the factory. “The rarity of it was a plus. But what a decent car! All stock, all original, low miles, original owner … it had all the documents that a new car would have,” he said.
“The owner bought it brand new in Illinois … He was a police officer at the time and he kept all the papers from it and of course didn’t drive it in the winter. He knew what he had. He originally paid a little over $16,000 for it. He was getting divorced and decided to sell it. I guess he just had too many bad memories. If he wasn’t getting divorced he probably wasn’t going to sell it.”
That first owner of Dombrowski’s 1984 Mustang was one of those buyers who agreed to pony up an additional $427 it took to get their Mustang GT or Turbo GT jazzed up with the special edition 20th Anniversary G.T. 350 package. The cars were available only on GT and Turbo GT hatchbacks and convertibles, and came only with an Oxford White exterior and red G.T. 350 stripes on the lower part of the doors and fenders. They also carried a color-matched grille, Burgundy rub strip and “running horse” logo on the fender.
Interiors came only in Canyon Red cloth with Lear-Siegler articulated sport seats. Two commemorative panels were located on the passenger side of the dash. One was a custom plaque sent to the customer with his name, although not everybody got the plaques or put them on.
Dombrowski’s car was one of 1,213 convertibles; there were 3,333 GT hatchbacks, 104 Turbo GT convertibles, 245 Canadian exports and 15 apparently built for company executives. Some of the cars carried a T-roof option.
Buyers could opt for the 175-hp 5.0-liter V-8 or the 145-hp 2.3-liter turbo-charged four-cylinder. Cars with an automatic transmission were also fuel-injected — at a loss of about 10 hp vs. the carbureted versions. Options included a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed transmission; power steering, air conditioning; AM/FM cassette stereo and Premium Sound package; power locks and windows; cruise control; various axle ratios; and sunroofs and rear spoilers on hatchback models.
Dombrowski’s car also carried the TRX handling package, which included metric wheels and four-link axle with coil springs and gas shocks. “I have the original wheels in the basement,” Dombrowski said. “What it comes down to is, like, a 14 ½-inch tire, so you can’t use a 14 and you can’t use a 15… Michelin is the only one that made those and they are [very expensive]. The ones on the car are off a yellow car — I’m gonna guess like an ‘81 or ‘82 Mustang. They had a little road rash where he had hit the curb, but they were aluminum and I was able to sand them down and clean them up…. These are 14s on it now. And with this car also, for whatever reason, there was a four-bolt system on the wheels. I don’t know why, and trying to find four-bolt wheels is pretty tough.”
His car has a white top, but Dombrowski rarely has it on display. He bought a convertible so he could enjoy the sun and the breeze. The top goes up only when it’s absolutely necessary. “I try to put it down once a year and just leave it down,” he laughs. “I’ll put it up in the winter. The cars get stored in storage bags, and we take the batteries out and put Sta-Bil in the gas and they get put away. That’s about the only time the top is up.”
Jim and his wife Sharon also own 1969 and 2009 Mustangs, and the alternate which cars they take to weekend shows nearly every week of the summer. The 1984 convertible often turns out to be just as much of a conversation piece as the other two pony cars.
“Now it’s getting into the point the the people who drove the ‘80s cars are recognizing them a lot more now than the first or second year I had it,” Jim notes. “’Oh, that’ s a Fox body — and it’s the anniversary car, it’s the rare one’.”
“I like that it’s rare. Supposedly they made only 670 of these convertibles that had the electronic fuel injection… The second thing I like is that it’s 5.0-liter, and in that era it was considered a rocket! [laughs]. I know in this day and age it’s considered kind of a cream puff, but in the middle of ’84 this was a real rocket car!”
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