In the beginning
The date was April 17, 1964. Intermediate sized muscle cars, with big block engines were gradually replacing the full sized muscle car. Lee Iacocca, Ford’s General Manager, had always envisioned a small sports car to be the next hot item in the street wars. Ford decided that instead of improving their lackluster intermediate, they would do the competition one better and introduce a whole new breed of automobile, the pony car. Originally designed as a two seater in the European tradition, Iacocca realized that true success depended on volume sales. Therefore the Ford Mustang was introduced as a 1965 model that was based on the compact Falcon to lower production costs. It came with an obligatory back seat and a multitude of options that would give the buyer an opportunity to customize their purchase, and generate extra profits for Ford. Plymouth faithful stress that their Baracuda beat the Ford Mustang to market by two weeks. But it was the Mustang, which racked up over 22,000 sales its first day and one million sales in its first two years, that turned the market and people’s attention to the pony car. The pony car class that the Ford Mustang helped create is the only class of muscle car that still exists today.
The Ford Mustang debuted as a simple sports car powered by a 170 cid six cylinder and a pair of V8’s. Originally named for the fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang, preliminary allusions were made to the horse, and the horse motif quickly became the emblem for the Mustang. Buyers loved its low price, long hood, short trunk styling, and its myriad of options. Ford loved its high volume sales and visibility. In mid 1964, Ford introduced a sporty 2+2 fastback body style to go along with the hardtop coupe and convertible. Enthusiasts also cheered the new "K-code" 271bhp 289 cid V8 that finally put some performance to match the Mustang’s good looks. For those that wanted more, the legendary Carroll Shelby and Ford collaborated to produce the Shelby GT-350, a Ford Mustang fastback specially tuned by Shelby. The 289 V8 produced 306bhp in street tune and around 360bhp in special GT-350R race tune. These Shelby’s had no back seat, were only available in white and were fully race ready.
1966 saw further refinement of the Mustang. The gauge cluster was redone to separate the Mustang from its Falcon roots while the 260 cid V8 was replaced with 2 and 4 barrel versions of the 289 cid V8. The Shelby GT-350 was still available, though its race image was being diluted by the addition of an automatic transmission, a choice of four colors, and special examples that were prepared for Hertz Rent A Car (known as Shelby GT-350H) for rental to weekend drag racers. Available on the GT-350 through 1968 was a Paxton supercharger which would boost horsepower by as much as 40%.
Ford Mustang was restyled masively in 1967 Changes included bulkier sheetmetal below the beltline, a more aggressive grille, a concave tail panel, and a full fastback roofline for the fastback body style. The engine compartment was also increased and Ford dropped in its big block 390 to compete against the new Chevrolet Camaro SS396. Although the 390 was slightly detuned for the Mustang, its popularity sealed the end of the high performance 289 cid engine, which was later dropped from the lineup. Of greater interest to enthusiasts was the availability of another Shelby-tuned Mustang. The GT350 was still powered by a modified 289 V8, though output dropped to 290bhp. The new GT500 was powered by a reworked 428 V8 (some were reportedly built with the even more powerful, race ready 427 V8). The 1967 Shelby’s were more civilized and sported numerous luxury options, which seemed to appeal to buyers. These would be the last Shelby Mustangs actually built by Shelby-American. All future models would be built by Ford with little Shelby involvement.
The 1968 Ford Mustang received a simpler grille and side trim and a limited number of 427 engines were slipped into the engine bays. These 427 engines were slightly detuned but still cranked out 390bhp, enough to strike fear on the streets. Then on April 1, 1968, Ford unveiled perhaps its most famous line of engines, the 428 Cobra Jet. It was based on the regular 428 but included larger valve heads, the race 427’s intake manifold, and an oil-pan windage tray. It had ram-air induction and breathed through a functional hood scoop. Output was listed at 335bhp but was rumored to be around 410bhp. The Shelby’s were still available, joined by an available convertible model and renamed the Shelby Cobra . The GT-350 dropped its 289 cid 306 bhp engine and gained a 302 cid 250 bhp engine. Midway through the year, the GT-500 was dropped and was replaced by the GT-500KR ("King of the Road"). The GT-500KR sported the new Ram Air 428 Cobra Jet, still underrated at 335 bhp.
The Mustang was restyled for 1969, gaining 3.8 inches of length, all ahead of the front wheels, and about 140 lbs in curb weight. The Mach 1 body style debuted in 1969 and came standard with a 351 cid V8 but could also be had with the 428 Cobra Jet, which now came in three states of tune. The first was a non-Ram Air version, followed by the Ram -Air version which breathed through a shaker hood scoop. Topping the list was the new Super Cobra Jet which came with the Drag Pack option. The Super Cobra Jet used the shaker hood scoop, a modified crankshaft and stronger connecting rods. The Drag Pack also came with limited-slip 3.91:1 or 4.30:1 rear axles and no air conditioning. All three engines were underrated at 335bhp. All this power overwhelmed the rear tires, which suffered from a 59/41% f/r bias which also hurt handling. But then, these Mustangs weren’t built for curves, just straight 1/4 mile lines.
The circle tracks were reserved for the Boss series of Mustangs. Named after stylist Larry Shinoda’s nickname for Ford president Semon "Bunkie" Knudson, the Boss Mustangs were built to qualify the 429 V8 for NASCAR. The Boss 429 package came with a race ready 429 cid V8 with ram air induction, an aluminum high riser and header type exhaust manifolds. Mandatory options included a four speed manual and a 3.91:1 Traction-Lok axle. Also included were an oil cooler, trunk mounted battery, race suspension, and the best interior Mustang had to offer. Although impressive on paper, the Boss 429s failed on the street where their dependence on high revs hurt their street starts and the initial batch had incorrect valve springs that would stop winding at 4500rpm instead of 6000rpm. Nevertheless, it had good handling and would last through 1970. To combat Chevrolet ’s Camaro Z/28 in Trans Am racing, Ford built the Boss 302 which used a 302 cid V8 treated to the cylinder heads from the racing 351 cid engine and Ford’s largest car. It was underrated at the same 290bhp as the Camaro Z/28’s engine and was available with the shaker hood scoop. Shelby Mustangs were still available, though they were more luxury oriented then ever before.
The 1970 Mustang, now approaching thoroughbred status, was basically a repeat of the `69, with few styling changes to set it apart. Two seven-inch headlights (instead of four) were placed inside an enlarged grille cavity and simulated scoops replaced the outboard head lamps in the front fender extensions. New red, white and blue striped bars with galloping pony emblem occupied the grille center.
The engine lineup was little changed with the exception of the all new 351ci, four-barrel V-8. Canted valves and larger ports resembled the 429ci V-8. The Mach 1 received grooved aluminum rocker moldings along with prominent die-cast "Mach 1" marking. 40,970 were built. On-board air conditioning became the rage, causing convertible sales to shrink by nearly half from 14,746 units to 7,673.
The "Big Mustang" entered the market in 1971. The basic platform was lower, longer, heavier and wider with a one-inch longer wheelbase, approximating the mid-size Torino rather than the original ponycar. Prospective buyers faced a dilemma in their search for raw power. Rising insurance premiums, continuing federal insistence on safety and an impending oil crisis were prominent distractions.
Outwardly, the 1971’s features remained pure Mustang. The pony and corral with horizontal bar returned to the center of the grille cavity that now stretched the entire width of the front end. The grille mesh was hexagonal molded plastic. Large headlights were mounted at the extreme outboard end of the grille opening. All three models offered a sloping front end and "hop up" in the rear. To comply with emissions standards, an air injection system was fitted to all except the Boss 351 and SCJ429s.
Mustang found itself in the midst of a dilemma. It had been in a race to pack more power and performance into each model, but tighter emissions controls contradicted those efforts. Consequently, marketing strategy would play down or ignore horsepower in favor of compliance with clean air standards and more emphasis would be put on styling and luxury.
Inside and out, the `72s were virtually the same as the 1971s. One example of the direct carryover is the fact that, for the first time in its history, the Mustang’s front grille remained unchanged. Woodgrain trim, vinyl finished seats and one-touch convertible roof controls become prime selling points and the standard hardtop was the year’s best selling model. At mid-year, a "Sprint" decor option became available for hardtop and SportsRoof models.
All engine choices’ power ratings dropped again as emission controls tightened. New federal guidelines resulted in mandatory bumpers that could withstand a 5mph collision, all of which didn’t help the bloated styling. The top engine option was a weak 351 V8 producing just 156bhp and the performance oriented Ford Mustang would fade away as the restyled Mustang II would debut in 1974 with no claim to any performance.
Answering the call for a lighter, more nimble Mustang, Ford’s Lee Iacocca, dictated that the new Mustang, officially called the Mustang II, which debuted in 1974 would be light, sporty, and more European. Iacocca wanted it to be "a little jewel" and this direction drove every aspect of the new design. Under this new direction, V8s were declared too heavy, and thus the Mustang II was powered by a new 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine or a 2.5 liter V6.
The 2.3 4-cylinder engine was the first Ford 4 cylinder engine since the last Model B in 1934, and the first metric engine built in the U.S. It was loosely based on the Ford of Europe’s 2.0 liter Cortina engine, although it was so extensively modified that only the nuts and bolts could be shared. The 2.3 liter engine featured an overhead camshaft within its iron heads and was topped by a two-barrel Weber -Holley carburetor which fed fuel through an aluminum intake manifold. The engine was rated at a rather weak 102 bhp. The optional 2.8 liter V6 was a slightly enlarged version of the Capri’s optional 2.5 liter V6 and was rated at a marginally better 119 bhp. This was a far cry from the 275 bhp 351 Cleveland V8 available in the Mustang just two years before. The Mustang was now based on the Pinto chassis, which was not a performance car by any stretch of the imagination. The chassis was heavily modified to give it more of a luxury feel, "mini-limousine" as Iacocca wanted it. The Mustang II was a foot shorter than the original 1965 Mustang and just 300 lbs. heavier, but weight distribution was still horrible with 58% of the weight over the front of the car. It was offered in four-cylinder Mach 1 or "mini-limousine" Ghia form. Ford expected it to be a huge success. It wasn’t. Only 18,000 were sold the first month, compared to 22,000 on the first day back in 1964. Performance was dismal, with the V6 needing almost 14 seconds to hit 60 mph and almost 20 seconds to go through the quarter mile. But the Mustang II was saved by the OPEC oil shortage of 1974. Long lines and high prices for gasoline drove up sales of the more fuel efficient Mustang II’s.
The 1975 Mustang II was hardly changed. The grille got a larger eggcrate-type mesh, which was now practically flush with the grille opening Mustang’s lineup for 1975 reprised the hardtop, hatchback, Ghia and Mach I. A 302ci, V-8, rated at 140hp, was squeezed under the hood to give Mustang II needed impetus and was an option on all models. The 2.3 liter four-cylinder was the standard block and 2.8 liter V-6 with four-speed transmission was the other option. The luxury Ghia sported opera windows in the roof pillars and full or half vinyl roof. Other Ghia options included silver metallic paint; stand-up hood ornament, and full length bodyside tape stripes. Two sunroofs were available, either the standard or silver glass version, both manually operated.
New wheels became available. These were a cast aluminum spoke-type wheel. The styled steel and forged aluminum wheels were also available. A Rallye Package for the 2.8 liter V-6 or 302 V-8 meant better handling. It included Traction-Lok differential; competition suspension; extra cooling package; bright metal exhaust tips, and leather-wrapped steering wheel, among others. California-bound 302s got catalytic converters and all engines benefited from electronic ignition. Steel-belted tires were standard equipment.
Late in the model year, an MPG version of the Mustang II was made available. Using the 2.3L four-cylinder engine and a lower numerical rear axle ratio, 3.18:1 vs 3.40:1, the MPG Mustang was designed to deliver better mileage. The Competition Suspension, available by itself, included heavy-duty springs, Gabriel adjustable shocks, a rear stabilizer bar and 195/70x13 B/WL tires. There was also the regular Luxury Interior Group (standard on the Ghia) which included a choice of vinyl or cloth and vinyl seat trim, deluxe door and rear seat quarter trim, door courtesy lights, color-keyed deluxe belts on hardtops, shag carpeting, rear ashtray, parking brake boot and, as Ford called it, a super sound package.
In terms of sales, however, 1975 was a tough one for the entire industry. In defense of all auto makers, unemployment, inflation, regulations for fuel economy, the 55 mph national speed limit, and emissions and safety considerations were severe sales deterrents. Mustang production for 1975 was reduced by more than half compared with 1974 — 188,575 units.
As the Mustang II entered its third year, change over the last two model years was minimal. Even with slightly modified trim options, the basic car could hardly be distinguished from its 1974 and 1975 counterparts. There were two options departures, however. Ford had acquired the rights to the Cobra name made famous by Carroll Shelby.
In an effort to regenerate the sports car image of the 60s, Mustang introduced the Cobra II trim option in 1976, priced at $325. Available only on the hatchback, it consisted of a sports steering wheel; brushed aluminum appliqués on door panels and dash; front air dam; simulated hood scoop; flip-out rear quarter windows with louvered covers; ducktail rear spoiler; styled steel wheels with trim rings, and radial tires.
The coiled cobra and/or appropriate Cobra II signage was applied to rocker panels, grille, front fenders and rear. For 1976, exterior color schemes were blue-on-white or gold-on-black, reminiscent of the LeMans paint and stripe theme from the Shelby GT-350. Additional color schemes were added for 1977, green on white, white on blue and red on white. The success of the Cobra IIs inspired Ford to move production from an outside vendor to within the Dearborn plant in 1977.
In keeping with its equine image, Mustang also offered the "Stallion" trim package for the youth market, again on the hatchback edition. (it included silver body sides and rear deck, but black everywhere else — hood, roof, moldings, grille (absent the pony), rockers panels, lowers fenders, lower doors, lower front and rear bumpers and lower quarter panels. The package also added styled steel wheels, bright moldings on the lower bodyside and Stallion fender decals.
The basic engines remained the four-cylinder, 2.3 liter and six-cylinder, 2.8 liter engines and the 302ci V-8 helped fulfill the promises inherent in the Cobra II package. The latter became available with a four-speed manual transmission, an improvement over 1975’s automatic only, and the V-6 offered an automatic at extra cost. New for `76 were catalytic converters on all models; windshield wiper controls were now mounted on a steering column, and intermittent wiper option was added.
Change was in the air — 1978 would mark the final year for the Mustang II, the Mach 1 model and the Cobra II option packages. Halfway through Mustang II’s existence, Ford management decided a totally new Mustang was needed, a third generation of the youth-oriented, stylish sports car "for the masses". Tops on Mustang’s 1978 menu were the King Cobra fastback option. Priced at $1,277, it included black rear window louvers; black-finish on the grille, headlight bezels, window molding and wiper arms; a large snake decal on the hood and tape stripes on roof, rear deck and wrapped around the lower portions of the body from front valance, across fender bottoms, wheel wells and rocker panels to the rear wheel wells. King Cobra lettering graced the doors, arm dam and decklid spoiler. Total units produced with the King Cobra option was a mere 4318.
Customers could also acquire the 302ci V-8; Rallye Package; power steering; power brakes; heavy duty springs; adjustable shocks; rear stabilizer bar, spoke wheels and Goodrich 70-Series T/A radial tires. Also new options for `78 were variable ratio, electronic voltage regulator; two rear-seat cushions replacing the full-length seat, and styled steel wheels with white trim rings or forged aluminum wheels in white or natural aluminum. The Cobra II got a new tape stripe treatment, and black rear window louvers, similar to the Sport Slats of 1969-70 Mustangs, were made part of the package. The production total for the Cobra II took a plunge in 1978 to only 8,009 units. The Fashion Accessory option consisted of Fresno cloth seat inserts; driver’s side lighted vanity mirror; four-way manually-adjustable driver’s seat; coin tray; door pockets; illuminated entry system and exterior stripe treatment.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules were introduced in 1978 by the federal government. For the auto industry it meant that every car sold must meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings for fuel economy or face stiff fines for non-compliance. The requirements were arbitrarily set at 18 mpg for 1978; 19 mpg for `79, and on upward until 27 1/2 mpg was reached in 1985. With these challenges about to have an impact on a vehicle’s size, weight, and efficient performance, Ford was ready for a third generation Mustang.
Year end results for Mustang were favorable, however. 1978 production hit 192,410 units; second only to 1974 when the Mustang II was introduced. During their five-year run, 1,107,718 Mustang IIs rolled off Dearborn and San Jose assembly lines and they served to bridge the gap between the last of the traditional Mustangs and an exciting new generation designed for more demanding times.
The new Mustang (the "II" was dropped) based on the new Fox platform debuted in 1979. Compared to the 1978 Mustang II, the new Mustang was 4.1 inches longer, with a 4.2 inch longer wheelbase, yet weighed nearly 200 lbs. less. The Mustang was available in either two door coupe or three door hatchback models, as well as an upgraded trim and appearance Ghia trim.
Three suspension setups were available with the top of the line Special Suspension package including retuned shock absorber valving, front and rear springs, and front and rear stabilizer bars along with metric sized cast-aluminum wheels and, for the first time on a Mustang, non-US tires (Michelin TRX performance radial tires). Lessor Mustangs had to make do with other radial or bias-ply tires. Despite the improved suspension, handling still suffered from the 60/40% weight distribution when equipped with the heavy 302 V8. A total of six engines were available, from the carryover 2.3 liter I4 now producing a mere 88 bhp up, a new 200 cubic inch (3.3 liter) 85 bhp I6 to the now 10 year old carryover 302 V8. A new turbo-charged 2.3 liter I4 was introduced which was rated at 143 bhp and its lighter weight gave the Mustang better weight balance than the heavy 302 V8. But the turbo was a mixed blessing. It generated more horsepower than the old tech V8, but there was substantial turbo lag which hurt driveability and performance. The Turbo engines also suffered from oil lubrication problems that caused some turbos to fail and others to ignite(!) Clearly, the Turbo Charged engine was not quite perfected yet. A Cobra package was available which included the Turbo Charged I4, TRX tires and wheels, and additional trim items. Also available was a new "flip-up, open-air roof" which was the closest thing to a convertible available in 1979. The Mustang was picked to pace the Indy 500 race for 1979, and Ford celebrated by producing about 11,000 Indy Pace Car Replicas which featured outlandish decals and functional Recaro reclining bucket seats.
Minor changes in styling were incorporated in 1980. For the first time halogen headlights, P-metric radial tires and a maintenance free battery were available. Recaro reclining front bucket seats with adjustable thigh and lumbar supports, first used on the `79 Indy Pace Car replicas, were a fairly expensive option at $531. The special Cobra option also benefited from the Indy experience. The 1980 Cobra inherited the front and rear spoilers; simulated hood scoop; standard 2.3 liter turbo engine and sport-tuned exhaust system.
The 2.8 liter V6 was dropped for 1981, with the 3.3 liter V6 receiving a slight boost in power up to 91 bhp. The Turbo Charged I4 continued and was still the standard engine in the Cobra package, although buyers could substitute the 255 V8 as a $144 credit. But by the end of the model year, the Turbo Charged engine was dropped (due to nagging reliability problems) and the V8 became the standard engine in the Cobra. Midyear, Ford introduced a four-speed plus overdrive (effectively five speed) manual transmission. This transmission could be hooked up to a new Traction-Lok rear axle, which was a limited slip differential that was vastly improved from its late 1960’s iterations and finally was able to somewhat control axle hop and wheel spin. The 1979 Replica T-Top option was brought back, which led to some aftermarket convertible conversions. Ford didn’t seem to notice (or care) about this pent up demand for Mustang convertibles.
Ford advertisements heralded...The Boss is Back! And it was, except it was identified as the Mustang GT — making its long-awaited return after 13 years and replacing the Cobra and the Ghia. The GT’s 302ci V-8, called the 5.0 liter "High Output" (HO) engine, was re-introduced bringing with it 157 horses. While available as an option on any Mustang, it was standard issue for the GT. In keeping with its "Euro" look, management decided to likewise revise the nomenclature and classify Mustang models with the initials "L," "GL," "GLX" and, of course the old standby "GT," in upwardly pricey and option-rich order. The GLX was equal to the Ghia and the GT was the equivalent of the Cobra. The engine lineup was a carryover from preceding years, with the exception of the 4.2 liter V-8 with automatic transmission.
The convertible finally returned for 1983. All Mustangs also received a redesigned grille and taillights. In addition, engine choices were shuffled up, mainly for the better. The 3.3 I6 was dropped, and replaced with a new 3.8 liter V6 rated at 112 bhp. The 2.3 liter I4 Turbo Charged engine returned, completely reworked and more reliable due to the use of electronic fuel injection, and was rated at 145 bhp. But the big news was the replacement of the old two-barrel carb on the 5.0 liter V8 with a new four barrel Holley carb which resulted in 175 bhp. To handle this power, GT models used 205/70R14 tires in place of the previous 185/75R14s.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the Mustang, Ford released a special Twentieth Anniversary GT model. This featured a GT350 badge were it had been 19 years before. Unfortunately, although Carrol Shelby had licensed the Cobra name to Ford, the GT350 and GT500 names were not licensed. Ford had to discontinue using the GT350 name, making this a one year only model. The 20th Anniversary GT was offered with either the turbocharged inline 4 or the 5.0 liter H.O. All cars were Oxford White with Canyon Red stripes.
A total of 5,260 20th Anniversary GTs were built, of which 3,333 were V8 coupes, 1,213 were V8 convertibles, 350 were I4 turbo coupes, and a mere 104 were I4 turbo convertibles. Both the 3.8 liter V6 and the 5.0 liter V8 H.O. replaced their carbs with a new throttle-body electronic fuel injection system. Although power for the H.O. engine dropped from 175 bhp to 165 bhp, everything else improved from cold starting, to throttle response, to fuel economy. Eager to rebuild its performance image, Ford introduced its Mustang SVO for midway through the model year as a 1984 1/2 model. Named for its Special Vehicle Operations unit, the SVO Mustang was designed with performance in mind. Available only as a Black three door hatchback, the SVO came with a modified 2.3 liter Turbocharged Inline 4 with a new intercooler for the turbo which raised power from 145 bhp to a stout 174 bhp. The SVO was quite a performer as the improved Turbocharged engine was coupled to Ford’s Traction-Lok differential and a final drive ratio of 3.45:1, which gave it decent acceleration.
Visually, SVOs could be identified by their unique bi-level rear spoilers, their hood scoop, and the "drooped" nose that incorporated no grille. All cooling air was taken from openings below the front bumper. In addition, the SVO Mustang featured a perfected four-bar link rear suspension system. For hard core enthusiasts, a special option, 41C, was available
which not only deleted the radio, but also removed the power door locks, power windows, and air conditioning, saving the buyer $1,253 and nearly 100 lbs. compared to the regular SVOs.
The big news for 1985 was improvements to the 5.0 liter V8 H.O. The engine received true dual exhausts, and 1960s era stainless steel tube headers. Along with a longer duration lift cam and hydraulic roller valve lifters, power output increased to a respectable 210 bhp.
The SVO continued into 1985, now in Dark Charcoal Gray instead of Black and new flush-mounted halogen headlights which improved visual appeal. New P225/60VR16 Goodyear Gatorback tires and a new 3.73:1 rear axle ratio shaved nearly half a second in the quarter mile and raised trap speed by 4 mph. The steering ratio was improved from 20:1 to 15:1, and the price dropped slightly. But the big news was the introduction mid-year, of a newly improved Turbo Charged I4 with an increased boost (from 14 psi to 15 psi), dual exhausts, and a wilder camshaft, which resulted in a power increase to 205 bhp.
The regular turbo charged I4 was dropped for 1986, while the SVO engine was slightly detuned for 1986, its last year, to meet the requirements of lower octane gas. A total of 9,842 SVOs were sold over the three year period, less than the first year target of 10,000. Although it helped the Mustang’s performance image, its marginally better performance didn’t justify the almost $4,000 price premium over a Mustang GT. And it never got the European car shoppers that were its original target.
Ford decided it was time to give the Mustang’s Fox platform a facelift for 1987. After all, improved economic conditions in the country, a drop in gas prices brought about by an oil glut and a whole new generation of prospective buyers (the sons and daughters of baby boomers) were generating demand for "hot" cars.
The GT acquired a "ground effect" skirt up front that wrapped around the rocker panels to the rear end. The rounded front adopted the SVO’s flush-mounted headlights inboard of wraparound parking/turn indicator lights.
The standard engine on LX models remained the 2.3 liter, four-cylinder. With fuel injection replacing the one-barrel carburetor on the four-cylinder for `87, power increased insignificantly to 90hp. The 3.8 liter V-6 was dropped from the engine lineup in 1987. The only option was the 5.0 liter V-8 HO which, thanks to a larger throttle body and better flowing cylinder heads, was capable of 225 horses. Suspension was also improved with the use of SVO technology, notably plastic ball joints, better rear stabilizer bar and modified McPherson struts.
The 1988 Mustang underwent no big changes from the previous year. Some early models were built with T-roofs, although that option had been discontinued in 1987. Both the LX and GT came in both coupe and convertible configuration and, as before, the standard LX engine was the 2.3 liter, four-cylinder with overhead cam. The 5.0 liter, 220hp was optional on the LX and standard on the GT.
Again, the 1989 Mustang offered little change from the preceding two model years. The LX package on all three model types, equipped with the optional 5.0 liter V-8 engine, was designated the LX 5.0 Sport. The GT’s adjustable seats were also part of the option. Power windows and power door locks were made standard for both convertible groups and the 85 mph speedometer was upgraded to 140 mph on all GTs. Standard equipment included a five-speed manual transmission; tinted glass; console with arm rest; power steering and brakes; remote mirrors; AM/FM stereo.
For the fourth year in a row, no major styling or mechanical changes were introduced to the `90 Mustang. A driver’s side air bag was added housed in the steering wheel hub. Both the LX 5.0 liter and GT Mustang received the 140 mph speedometer.
A limited edition LX convertible was offered, 2,000 units in all, that featured a deep emerald green clearcoat metallic exterior with white interior and white top.
Again, changes in the basic Mustang were minor for 1991. New 16-inch star-shaped wheels on the 5.0 liter V-8 set the `91 apart from its 1990 predecessor. The standard four-cylinder 2.3 liter, equipped with electronic fuel injection, got a boost from two spark plugs per cylinder, kicking power from 88 to 105 horses.New to the options list were front floor mats at $33 and a cargo tie-down net for $66. Leather seats were a $499 add-on. A graphic equalizer was available with the premium sound system for $139 or $307 for the non-premium system.
For 1992, not much more could be done to tweak the Fox platform that had been serving Mustang since 1979. Styling and mechanics remained the same as in the past few years. At mid-year to generate consumer interest, a Limited Edition of the 5.0 liter LX convertible was introduced that featured a Vibrant Red exterior and either Titanium White or White/Red interior. The top was White with an Ebony headliner. Dealers sold 2,019 of the 1992 1/2 Specials.New options continued to be introduced, a power adjustable seat could be added for $183.
For 1993, Ford released three limited edition Mustangs: A yellow LX 5.0L convertible with white interior (1,419 produced), and a white on white convertible (1,460 produced) were available from the beginning of the year. A new Cobra model was introduced mid-year with its 5.0 liter V8 tweaked to 235 bhp, while changes to the SAE rating method dropped the regular 5.0 V8 to 200 bhp. The Cobra was produced by Ford’s Special Vehicles Team (SVT) which had taken over the functions of the former SVO group. The Cobra benefited from engine improvements developed by Ford tuner Jack Roush, as well as huge 245/45ZR17 Goodyear Eagle tires on 17" wheels. Performance was good and a remarkable 4,993 cars were sold in just half a year. Although the Cobra injected some excitement in the Mustang lineup, the basic design had been unchanged for 14 years. But big things were in the works for 1994.
The Mustang debuted with an all new body for 1994, but was still based on the old Fox platform. The wheelbase grew 0.8 inches to 101.3 inches, while the front and rear track increased on the GT. Four wheel disc brakes were standard, with anti-lock brakes optional on both the GT and the base model car. The base car was now powered by a new 3.8 liter V6 which replaced the previous 2.3 I4. Using a number of aluminum components, it was almost as light as the much smaller four cylinder engine. The 5.0 V8 was given better breathing and output increased to 215 bhp. A five speed manual transmission was standard, and a four speed automatic was optional for both engines. Traction-Lok was also available. In pursuit of greater structural rigidity, the hatchback model was dropped, leaving only the two door coupe and convertible. The coupe’s roof line was designed to resemble a hardtop option for the convertible that was never produced. At the top was a new Cobra model with a 245 bhp version of the 5.0 V8. Once again, the Mustang was chosen to be the pace car at the Indy 500, and approximately 1,000 replica models were sold. Much more limited were the 250 Cobra R models sold by Ford’s SVT unit. These were delivered without air conditioning, radio, and much of the insulation, and were designed to be sold to race car drivers. Quite a few ended up on the streets, however.
Ford tightened the reins on the Cobra R for 1995, requiring buyers to show a competition license in order to buy one. Available only in Crystal White, Cobra R models came a racing fuel cell and a special engine cooling package, but with no power windows, insulation, radio, or back seat. Buyers were expected to install their own competition racing seats within their own roll cages. Delivery weight was a mere 3,325 lbs. The biggest news was that the engine had been prepped by Jack Roush Technologies. The 351 Windsor V8 was rated at a stout 300 bhp and all Cobra Rs received a Tremec five speed manual transmission, a final drive ratio of 3.27:1, a revised suspension, and P255/45R17 BF Goodrich Comp T/A tires mounted on huge 17"x9.0" wheels.
1996 Mustangs offered a number of refinements on the Fox-4 introduced in 1994. Most notably, a modular 4.6 liter single overhead cam V-8 replaced the old standby 5.0 liter V-8 that had been phased out at the end of the `95 model year. The SVT Mustang Cobra was outfitted with an aluminum alloy derivative of the 4.6 liter V-8, featured a double overhead cam, and its 281ci were capable of generating 305 horsepower. Of course the standard 3.8 liter V-6 with electronic fuel injection, rated at 150hp, remained in Mustang’s engine inventory.
Exterior modifications included a honeycomb grille behind the pony and vertical rather than horizontally opposed taillights. The Cobra’s taller engine required a re-designed "bubble’ hood. The GT acquired new identification designating the advanced technology under the hood. The coiled cobra adorned the SVT Mustang front fenders and COBRA was embossed into the molded rear bumper of the SVT Mustang, replacing MUSTANG.
Mustang’s engine lineup for 1997 reprised the same power plants including the 3.8 liter, 150hp EFI V-6 which powered the basis coupe or convertible; the 4.6 liter, 215 hp single overhead cam V-8 found primarily on the GT models, and the double overhead cam, 4.6 liter V-8, rated at 305 hp, designed primarily for the Cobras.All platforms benefited from refinements that further purged squeaks and rattles and smoothed out bumpy roads.
The diameter of the anti-roll bar increased enhancing steering. In keeping with tradition, the Mustang offered a wide range of options for buyers to personalize their transportation — from the Preferred Equipment Package on GT coupes (air conditioning; AM/FM radio and stereo cassette player; sports seats; four-way powered driver’s seat; ABS; cruise control; fog lights; rear spoiler; etc.) which added $2,940 to the basic car’s total price, to remote keyless entry that cost an additional $145. Externally, the most notable modification was removal of the honeycomb grille reintroduced the year before.
Basically, another carryover year for the Mustang. The 4.6 liter, V-8 single overhead cam engine was kicked up another ten horses to 225hp and air conditioning became standard. All models received a modified center console with armrest, cup holders with an optional drop-in ash tray; dual 12-volt power points, and CD cassette storage. A dash-mounted clock pod, introduced in 1997, was removed for `98.
Safety features included second generation de-powered driver and front passenger air bags; high-strength side door intrusion beams; three-point lap/shoulder safety belts, and a passive anti-theft system. The dash clock from 1994-1997 models was removed. The Cobra got five spoke wheels and was offered in yellow and blue. Available in either coupe or convertible, and in basic, GT or Cobra configuration, starting prices ranged from $16,500 to $29,000.
For its 35th anniversary, the Mustang pony is back in its corral, albeit a trapezoidal rather than rectangular enclosure. And that’s not all. To mark the anniversary many of the car’s traditional design features have been reworked including the tri-color bars on the front fender sides; honeycomb grille; rear spoiler; side sculpting and scoops — all these coupled with the long hood and short deck that have been the Mustang’s heritage.
Add to that the crisp, fresh look of "New Edge" designs such as slim halogen headlights with integrated turn signals; larger, three-inch diameter dual exhausts, and a hood and rear deck comprised of a sheet molded plastic compound that eliminates corrosion while reducing weight. Engines have advanced to provide improved power and torque. The 3.8 liter, split-port fuel induction V-6 has been boosted to 190hp, thanks to Teflon-coated pistons and freer flowing cylinder head, while the GT’s 4.6 liter SOHC V-8 is now rated at 260hp.
Mustang went unchanged in 2000, aside from the removal of the 35th Anniversary fender badges. The V-6 and GT were indiscernible from the outside, except for the dual exhaust cutouts in the bumper of the GT. Ford released 3,091 Spring Feature Mustangs for the 2000 model year. The package was offered in Performance Red, Black, Silver, White, and Zinc Yellow. The package was available only on GTs.
A limited run of 300 "Cobra R" models were produced this year powered by a 5.4-liter, iron-block version of the DOHC, 32-valve engine rated at a massive 385 horsepower. Stripped of such niceties as air conditioning and a backseat, and carrying a $55,845 price, the Cobra R sold out in no time at all.
For the first time since 1989, Ford sold more than 200,000 Mustangs — a total of 215,393 in 2000.
The Cobra returned for 2001, but the big news that year was the special "Bullitt" edition Mustang GT coupe designed to evoke memories of the ’68 Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 film of that name. The Bullitt, based on the regular GT, featured a lowered suspension, new five-spoke wheels evocative of the classic Torq-Thrust design and such neat exterior details as a fuel-filler door designed to look like that of an aircraft’s.
The interior was also redecorated with special graphics on the instrumentation and special upholstery, both reminiscent of the 1968 GT, as well as aluminum-finished pedals and an aluminum ball shift knob. A larger throttle body and other revisions to the engine pushed output to 265 horsepower. Available in blue, black or, like the movie car, dark green, the Bullitt was a hit and all 5,000 sold out quickly.
The 2002 Mustang offered the Visteon Mach 1000 audio system. The system produced over 1,100 watts of peak power and featured a 60-watt parametrically equalized amplifier, six 85-watt subwoofer amplifiers, four 5.5 x 7.5-inch subwoofer speakers, four midrange tweeters and two 10-inch trunk-mounted acoustic suspension enclosures. Standard with the Mach 1000 was an in-dash six-disc CD changer with an MP3 player option. The gorgeous wheels from the Bullitt made it onto the regular Mustang options list for 2002. Sonic Blue was added to the lineup, and the leather on the steering wheel on premium package cars was slightly changed. The optional stripe on the side of the V-6 Mustangs was thicker, and 16" wheels were standard.
No special edition Mustangs were available in 2002, and only a handful of Cobras were made, and they were all shipped to Australia, where they were converted to right-hand drive, and side marker lights and another set of fog lamps were set inside the front bumper.
The big news came for 2003 with a reborn, radically more powerful Cobra and a new limited-edition Mach 1 model. The new Cobra uses a supercharged version of the 4.6-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 making a stupefying 390 horsepower. With that grunt traveling through a six-speed manual transmission, the latest Cobra is the quickest and fastest Mustang ever built by Ford.
Meanwhile, the new Mach 1 is almost mechanically identical to the 1998 Cobra in specification and uses a normally aspirated version of the 4.6-liter, DOHC engine now rated (again) at 305 horsepower, a solid rear axle and five-speed manual transmission. But it’s the eye candy, which includes a flat black painted hood, 17-inch versions of the Magnum 500 wheels from the ’60s and, most prominently, the return of the "Shaker" hood scoop, that make it such a special machine.
Ford celebrated its 100th Anniversary in June of 2003, and made limited edition vehicles to commemorate the event. The 100th Anniversary models only came in black, and included Premium Verona-grain Imola leather seating surfaces in two-tone parchment. The Mustang got the GT premium package which included 17" wheels, anti-lock brakes and traction control; dual exhaust; power driver’s seat with power lumbar support; leather-wrapped steering wheel; and Mach 460 AM/FM Stereo with six-disc CD changer, as well as 100th Anniversary badges on the fender and decklid and embossed on the seats. The Centennial Package was a $995 upgrade.
The 2004 Mustang returns unchanged and is available in five models: Base and GT Coupe and Convertible and the Mach 1 Coupe. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Mustang all but SVT Mustangs will include a 40th Anniversary fender badge. Available upgrade packages include the Deluxe Equipment Group and Premium Equipment Group. All base models feature a 3.8L V-6 engine with electronic engine controls and 16-inch cast aluminum wheels
At the 2004 North American International Auto Show, Ford introduced a completely redesigned Mustang (code named "S-197") on an all-new D2C platform for the 2005 model year. Exterior styling was designed by Sid Ramnarace, drawing inspiration from 1960s Mustangs. The car featured an aesthetic that Senior Vice President of Design J Mays referred to as "retro-futurism."
The base Mustang uses a 210 hp (156 kW) Ford Cologne V6 engine. The GT has a 300 hp (224 kW) 4.6 L 3-valve Modular V8 with variable valve timing. It retains the traditional but controversial live rear axle, and offers improved handling and ride. Modern production facilities and computer aided design have allowed the new Mustang to have 100% more structural rigidity over its predecessor, and have greatly increased build quality as well as fit and finish. One particularly interesting feature is the optional color-changing gauges.
Shortly after its launch at the North American International Auto Show in January, Ford started production of the Mustang convertible, available with either the V6 or V8 engine. The 2005 Mustang convertible was designed from the ground up to deliver a more rigid body structure without additional weight. Ford engineers designed a z-fold top that gives it a finished appearance with the top lowered.
The new Mustang was an immediate sales success for Ford and as a result was exempt from the 2005 Employee Discount Pricing Program. Half of all sports cars now sold in the United States are Mustangs. The redesigned Mustang is now recognized as an "instant classic" by authoritative automotive journalists.
The 2006 model year offered a new "Pony Package" for the popular V6 models, which included upgraded suspension, Bullitt-style wheels, wider tires, unique grille treatment with road lamps, rear deck spoiler, special door striping and special Pony emblems.
Dozens of new aftermarket products are being released for the new Mustangs. The V6 Mustang had scarce aftermarket support in the past, but that all changed with the S-197 Mustang, which now has an array of V6 aftermarket support. Carroll Shelby has built special editions of the V6 with Paxton Superchargers and a 350 hp rating.