- Unusable back seat
- Finding one that hasn't been
Few other cars in automotive
history have caused the sensation that the original Mustang did back
in April 1964. Introduced at the World's Fair, people were instantly
taken by the clean, attractive styling, the aura of fun-loving
youthfulness the marketing campaign assured, and the value price. No
one seemed to care--or even knew--that the car was based on the
stodgy, economical Ford Falcon.
The nation went crazy.
Initially, people were bidding on the cars in dealers showrooms and
paying way over sticker. There were reports of tempers flaring and
even fist-fights broke out -- all in the pursuit of being one of the
first to own the new dream car.
Ford had created an entirely
new market segment, and it paid off handsomely. The Mustang could be
ordered from plain-jane economy right on up to an outright
performance car. It took Ford only 12 months to sell almost 420,000
Mustangs. The one millionth Mustang was sold in April 1966, only two
years after its introduction. The best selling sporty coupe today
(surprise - the Mustang) found about 170,000 new buyers last year.
Over the years the Mustang got bigger, heavier and more
luxurious -- and lost touch with the original concept. An attempt to
recapture the original spirit of the Mustang resulted in the
drastically downsized, and very successful (in terms of sales),
Mustang II of 1974. But it was a slug.
For 1979 an all-new Mustang
was again created, this time sharing the platform and many
mechanical components of the new Falcon, the Ford Fairmont. Again,
it could be outfitted mild to wild (for the day) and was the basis
for the Mustang for the next 15 years.
By this time, despite constant
improvement and upgrades, the Mustang was clearly outdated in the
marketplace compared to all of it's Japanese competition. Even the
arch-rival Carmaro/Firebird twins had been updated. But it remained
popular, mainly because it's lack of sophistication enabled owners
to easily take advantage of a smorgasbord of aftermarket performance
parts. Plus, it's power-induced, tail-out handling (oversteer)
was great fun.
When the new '94 model
debuted, many Mustang fans thought the body looked way too much like
it was styled in Japan. And it still was less-than-sophisticated,
but that was a conscious decision by Ford -- they wanted to retain
the appeal to the traditional Mustang following, and avoid
Like the first Mustang, the model can be tailored towards sporty,
relatively economical transportation, or a pretty serious
Available as a 2dr coupe or convertible, regular
production model choices were initially limited to base and GT. The
Base model employed a 3.8 liter V6, while the GT got the venerable
5.0 liter V8. Both could be had with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed
automatic transmission. A more powerful and performance-oriented
Cobra model bowed well into the model year, equipped only with a
- 1994 Completely
restyled and updated; Cobra model added mid-year
- 1995 GTS model makes
- 1996 Busy year for
Ford. The famous "5.0" is replaced by a modern SOHC
4.6 liter V8 in the GT; The Cobra gets a DOHC
version with 305hp; 3.8 liter V6 adds 5hp; all
models get 100,000 mile platinum-tipped spark plugs;
taillamps go vertical and a new black mesh screen
sits behind the grille opening; new coded key
anti-theft system; all models recieve new, stiffer
front crossmember and slightly revised suspension
- 1997 Ford takes a
breather. A couple new colors; new wheels
- 1998 4.6 Liter SOHC
V8 gets horsepower boost to 225.
- 1999 Major restyle
with "New Edge" styling and more power
A slightly decontented and
less expensive GT, the GTS, was a one year only offering. It had all
the GT performance pieces, but dumped the power accessories, and
some trim. For 1996, the old pushrod 5.0 liter V8 in the GT gave way
to a thoroughly modern (and silky-smooth) 4.6 liter overhead cam V8.
Also for the '96 model year, the Cobra got an extremely potent
double-overhead cam version of this powerplant. The last year
of this body-style brought an extra 10 horsepower to the GT.
To us, the Mustang possesses one of those designs that is first
forgettable and then begins to grow on you. There are some
traditional Mustang design cues, such as the scalloped sides with
the fake brake vents and the three-light taillamps. Of course, the
galloping pony badge is present, too.
This Mustang presented a much
softer, more sophisticated look than Mustang's past. Sure, the GT
had many of the "muscle car" cues -- the big wheels and tires, the
spoilers, bulging hood, driving lights, dual exhausts and the GT
emblems -- but it was more restrained and far less "boy-racer"
looking. It may be a stretch, but even "tasteful" comes to mind.
We really like the 17-inch
wheel option -- it seems to give the car a better balanced and more
sure-footed look, although they don't offer a noticeable handling
benefit over the standard 16-inchers. The early 3-spoke alloys on
both the base and GT looked lame, in our opinion.
One thing that seems strange
is the amount of body seams that adorn the car. There just seem to
be too many of them. It may be part of the reason the Mustang looks
better in a dark color - the seams blend in to the color better!
Significantly upgraded in this Mustang, the interior lost most of
it's "taxicab" look. Materials were better, colors were richer and
better coordinated, and the overall quality jumped a couple notches.
The overall theme inside can
best be described as modern retro. Two large arches confront both
front seat occupants, reminiscent of a '69-'70 model or a
Instrumentation is both plentiful and
well-done. In fact the entire dash is smartly executed, with all
controls, including the radio, easily reached and logically
Room & Comfort
Another area of great improvement over the previous model, two
adults and all their weekend luggage can get quite comfortable in
the 'Stang. If they're 6 feet and shorter, that is. Legroom gets a
bit tight for taller drivers, but at least their heads won't be
hitting the headliner as on many sporty coupes. That's owed as much
to the low seating position as the intelligently designed roofline.
Good visibility, however, is a
victim of the low seating position. Unlike most import sport coupes
with their bright, airy cabins, the Mustang feels cozy and insulated
with high sills and thick pillars. The view out the back is lousy --
you'll be using the side mirrors a lot!
The front seats are
acceptable on the base model, and despite an obvious upgrade, not
much better on the GT. Wider passengers feel a bit too much of the
side bolsters in their backs. Cloth is standard, leather optional.
The rear? Forget about it. You
can throw young children back there without feeling guilty, but
don't put clients, or your mother-in-law, back there. It's cramped.
And that's the coupe -- the convertible is worse. But at least there
is plenty of headroom in the latter!
Trunk space is pretty generous
for this class, although you'll lose some space in the convertible
to the top mechanism. The split rear seat folds down for long cargo.
Power windows and locks were
standard on GTs and all convertibles, and came with all Mustangs
beginning with the '98 model. A power driver's seat was also
available. Perhaps because of it's strong youth following, a
wonderful stereo system (Mach 460) was available. Strangely, a
sunroof was never available on any of these Mustangs.
Ride, Handling and
Whereas the previous generation Mustang required
you to put up with a terrible ride as the price paid for its
"fling-it-about" handling, this model actually delivers a fairly
comfortable ride while maintaining the fun-to-drive factor. The
suspension is compliant, and stays firmly planted to the pavement on
all but the roughest surfaces, where the live rear axle will finally
betray its presence by skittering over bumps in the corners.
As you would expect, the GT is
clearly superior in the handling department, but gives up little in
ride comfort compared to the base model. When pushed, you can still
extract the pedal-to-the-metal, tail-out disposition that is so
enamoring to street racers but unlike the previous model, you really
have to try!
Acceleration is very brisk
with the V8, and sufficient with the V6. You'll feel the torque of
the eight push you right back into your seat when you dip into the
throttle, and you'll gather speed effortlessly. All the enthusiast
rags complained about a lack of response past the 5000 rpm range for
the 5.0-liter pushrod V8, but in the real world it's the 1500-4000
rpm range that matters, and the 5.0 responds with vigor here.
The new overhead cam
engine introduced in 1996 had the same horsepower and torque ratings
and admittedly performed better in the upper rpm range, but didn't
really add anything to the performance figures. You'd be
hard-pressed to tell the difference driving them side-by-side, but
the 4.6 is certainly a more modern engine. The 5.0 currently enjoys
a huge advantage when it comes to the aftermarket though, and you
can bolt on all kinds of additional horsepower.
As a point of interest, in
1999 the six got a whopping 45 horsepower increase, while the V8
received an additional 15 horses.
Shifting chores fall to a
smooth automatic or a somewhat notchy, but pleasant, 5-speed manual
with well-spaced ratios. The clutch required moderate effort.
Neither the base nor the
GT are particularly quiet cars, with both road and wind noise
noticeable at highway speeds. You'll hear the engine, too, and both
the V8's sing sweetly. And the deep, rumbling -- but muted --
exhaust is music to our ears. The six makes sounds far less pleasant
when called upon to do anything more strenuous than normal
Despite 4-wheel disc
brakes, braking felt mushy on the base coupe, with pronounced nose
dive. The example we drove also exhibited a tendency to premature
rear wheel lock-up. The GT performed much better -- short, straight
and true stops with far better balance. We didn't test either's
ability to resist fade, but the GT had earned top marks in most new
car test reports.
have dual airbags and met all the usual federally-madated safety
requirements at time of manufacture. Adjustable shoulder belts
were not available. ABS brakes were optional on both the base and GT
models, standard on the Cobra.
NHTSA frontal crash
ratings for a 1998 model came in at an excellent rating for the
driver and very good for the front seat passenger. Side impact tests
resulted in three stars, or a "good" rating for both occupants. A
'95 model also went through the frontal crash testing and received a
very good rating for both front seat occupants. Those are good
scores for a sports coupe.
is a relatively simple car, and despite all the performance it is
capable of delivering, service schedules and costs are quite low --
about on par with a family sedan such as a Taurus.
Other than a
normal schedule for belts and fluids, there's nothing to do other
than routing inspection of your typical check points. All the
engines use timing chains instead of belts, saving you a good
$300-$500 dollars over competitive import coupes at your 60, 75, or
90,000 mile service interval.
are not the most trouble-free cars around. Part of the problem is
simply that so many of them get driven quite hard. For many, it's
hard to resist extracting all the performance at hand. Young drivers
just love these things, and we all know what that means!
Clutches and axles are common
casualties, as are brakes and front suspension pieces. Remember,
much of this is the result of abnormally hard driving - even abuse -
so it's not all of Ford's fault.
The 3.8 liter six has recently
come in for criticism for its high failure rate of head gaskets on
engines built in '94 and '95. Although Ford is offering generous
relief to some, at the time of this article it wasn't clear if
Mustangs were included in the incentive and/or buy-back program.
Check with Ford or your Ford dealer. Regardless, this is something
that simply should not be happening.
An example that had been
well-taken care of and driven normally will provide years of
thing about this Mustang is that it performs so well without
shouting "look at me"! Older drivers can feel perfectly comfortable
in it -- and do. Ever notice how many are driven by 50ish and 60ish
men and women?
Due to the previously
mentioned gasket problem, it's probably best to avoid 1994 and 1995
models with the V6. Because of the nature of this car,
consider your purchase carefully and look for previous damage,
amateur performance modifications, and other tell-tale signs of a
hard life. Our favorite model would be the '98 GT with the slightly
stronger 225hp motor. If you want to hot rod it, and many people do,
you might be best off with a '94-'95 model with the 5.0-liter V8,
but by now the aftermarket is full of upgrades for the 4.6.. Have
What They Said When New
"New look, new feel--it's better
in almost every way." Road&Track 11/93
interior is an unqualified success. A retro twin-cowl
(and twin airbag) cockpit works well and looks
terrific." Car & Driver 11/93
"It will still
twist the rear tires loose at your whim and loft you to
130mph and higher with impressive haste. Only next to
the Z28 does it feel less than ferocious."
"Like the best European GTs, the
Cobra is docile at low speeds, thrilling to drive fast,
and remarkably mature." Automobile 10/95
base 3.8-liter V6 feels sluggish on takeoff, and it
nosedives severely during braking." Consumer Reports
Emeline King, Mustang interior designer, said
"....We wanted to give drivers and passengers a taste of
earlier models in a modern way." Motor Trend 11/93
Current Mustang values
(this article originally appeared in the
Summer 2000 issue of Used Cars