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Car Corner
The Mustang

April 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

I read this article on the history of the Mustang on NY Times' web site with great joy. I have always liked Mustangs. It's just that I like Camaros a little better. But that must change for one significant reason. They don't make Camaros anymore.

A couple of months ago I wrote that I would be selling my 67 Camaro convertible with the possibility of buying a late model convertible and exchanging my 93 Z-28 for a classic muscle car in coupe format. The gist of that article was that I wanted a daily driver convertible. My 67 Camaro is not a daily driver. When I drive it I am too worried that a car might hit me, or that I might not be able to stop in time during a sudden situation (drum brakes, you know). Also, I have to check the weather before I go out in the car. It is far to noisy to truly enjoy with the top up, so I only drive it on days when I can put the top down. I will even skip driving it to work when its too cold in the morning, even though the weather report says it will be a perfect afternoon for a convertible. This hardly appeals to me as a daily driver.

So what does this have to do with the Mustang article. Well, a lot. This article rekindled my fondness for the Mustang, and I am more seriously thinking about getting the new Mustang (due out as a 2005 model, I think) for my next car. This could be the modern convertible daily driver I want to get.

For this article I would like to "add" a little to the Times/Edmund article. I thought of the following tidbits while reading the article. I realize that the article tried to sum up 39 years of history into a one page article. There is enough history of the Mustang to fill books. I hardly can do that myself, but the tidbits I am going to present are here for some extra amusement. I couldn't resist.

Please, read the Times article and come back. Then look over my tidbits. I hope you will enjoy them both. At the end I will give a some information on the new Mustang, and some of what Ford "should" do with it. There are a couple of treats waiting at the bottom of this article, so don't miss them.

History

I love to read about the introduction of the Mustang at the New York World's Fair in 1964. I was just a little tiny baby (born in Dec. 63). My parents saw the Mustang at that World's Fair, and like many others that saw it they bought one. Of course, I don't remember the car. I was the 2nd of three children, and the Mustang eventually gave way to a Grand Prix. I don't remember the exact year of that Grand Prix, but I do remember it vaguely. It was the first car I remember my parents owning.

One tidbit about the design of the Mustang I rarely see mentioned is how Ford came up with the size of the interior. After all the Falcon, the car the Mustang was based off, was a 5 passenger car. The Mustang was a four passenger car. Why? Ford asked college kids what size car they needed. The 2+2 size was determined because these college kids wanted a car with a back seat just big enough for two people to "make out" in.

Notice the article mentions over 550,000 Mustangs were sold for the 65 model year. Many people still believe that the 64 1/2 Mustang was the first year for the Mustang. Not True! The Mustang was NEVER sold as a 64 model year car. It was too late in the 64 model year when it came out and all Mustangs made in 64 are 65 Mustangs. Camaro, on the other hand, did released its late for regular production 70 Camaro in time to have a true half year car. All 70 Camaros are just 70 1/2 (registered as 70).

They acknowledged that they didn't have room for much information on the Shelby Mustangs. However, my favorite tidbit about Shelby Mustangs is that ALL 1970 Shelby Mustangs are really 1969 Shelby Mustangs re-badged as 1970 models. Shelby was tired of dealing with the Ford bureaucrats, so he left Ford in 69. Ford basically "got rid of" the last of the 69 Shelbys as 70s.

Ford had to have the Boss 429 Mustangs "finished" by an outside company, Car Craft (not the magazine). Ford shipped the fastback Mustangs with the engines not yet installed. The shock towers had to be modified drastically to make room for the extremely wide engine. Ford supposedly lost over $1000 per Boss 429 sold. Hey, they wanted to race that engine. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday!

The Boss 351 Mustang of 71 was probably the most balanced Mustang of all the Boss variations. Unfortunately the bigger 71 was not as sporty a car. The engine in the Boss 351 came too late. It came on the scene one year before the massive drop in compression ratios and switch to net horsepower ratings that were all part of the death of the Muscle Car era. It is a shame the Boss 351 didn't get more development time. The Boss 351 Mustang SHOULD have been a better overall performance car than the then new 70 Z-28.

The article mentioned the possible demise of the Mustang as it closed in on the 1990 model year. What it does not mention was that Ford had decided to drop the platform at that time for a new front drive platform it had developed with Mazda. A flood of "fan" mail to Ford saved the Mustang from extinction. The front drive platform was built and given the name Probe. The Probe is no longer in production showing us the true staying power of the Mustang which is still around.

I was not aware that the 2003 Mach 1 Mustang had a DOHC engine. I thought it had a SOHC engine rated at 305 hp. Nice touch!

The New Mustang

The Times' article briefly mentioned that the new Mustang will make use of the DEW98 platform from the current Lincoln LS and Thunderbird. What they left out was that this is also the platform for the Jaguar S-Type (Ford owns Jaguar), and for the first time in its 40 year history the Mustang will not be based off of an economy car chassis. Falcon, Pinto & Fox were all economy car platforms. This is exciting news for the Mustang and could be the key to turning it into a world class performance car. I am especially glad to see the Mustang finally receive an Independent Rear Suspension (IRS, more in a moment).

I have seen the pictures of the show car Mustangs that are supposed to be very close to the look we can expect to come out in mid 94. I believe the new Mustang will be a 95 model (94 1/2?).

My Advice

If I worked at Ford, I would try to capitalize on everyone's poor memory and release the new Mustang on April 17, 2004 as a 40th Anniversary car. Have it be a 95 model, but allow people to call it a 94 1/2.

Now, let's get down to some details on the new car, in case Ford is listening and has some time to consider them.

IRS - do not put a live axle (non-independent) rear suspension in any of the new Mustangs. I have read that only the SVT/Cobra version will get the IRS. This is a huge mistake. Why? Because all of the Mustang's competition has IRS. Wait a second. The Camaro and Firebird are dead. What competition? Don't be fooled into thinking the Mustang will happily go on without being compared to other two door coupes and convertibles. A few that spring to mind are the Nissan 350Z, Infinity G35 Coupe, Mazda RX-8, Honda Accord Coupe, Acura CL, and even the BMW 330Ci. These coupes fall into the basic size area as the Mustang. They all have 240 hp or more, most have rear wheel drive, and most importantly they have all have IRS. The Mustang cannot afford to miss this opportunity again (it should have gotten an independent rear suspension with the 94 redesign).

Special Editions - I like the current trend to make a limited number of special edition Mustangs. Bullit in 92, Mach 1 in 93, rumored Boss 302 in 94, etc. Plus you have the SVT Cobra edition. These are low production numbered cars that are great for maintaining excitement about the Mustang. Keep it up. Rotate them around over the years. The SVT could be "enhanced" by getting ole Carroll Shelby into the picture and building a limited run of Shelby Mustangs. White with blue stripes, please!

Base & GT Models - Since the special edition Mustangs will be the high horsepower models, you do not need to concentrate on lots of power for the "standard" models. Make a good 6 cylinder engine as the base engine. It needs to be a smooth power plant with at least 200 hp, but probably not much more than that. The key is smooth performance. This is the 21st Century and modern cars have smooth power plants. A V-8 should be available in both the base and GT Mustangs, just like they did in the 60's all the way through to 1993. 

Power for the V-8 in the base and GT Mustangs should be in the 250-300 hp range. More than 300 hp should be left to the special editions. The current V-8 is good enough. I would really like to see a version of the smaller V-8 from the Thunderbird. However, that engine is a little too timid. Bump the power of the 3.9L from the Thunderbird to 280-300 horsepower and give it a throaty exhaust growl. Just keep the smooth delivery like the Thunderbird... just more of it. A target of 0-60 in about 6 seconds with this engine would sell very well.

Current Mustangs are selling more with V-6s than V-8s. That's another good reason a good, smooth 6 is so important. Mileage should be at least 30 mpg with a 6. Honda gets 30 mpg with a 240 hp V-6 in the Accord. The Accord may be a basic transportation car, but it is available as a coupe with a reasonably powerful V-6 (0-60 in 7 seconds). Why can't Ford match that with a 6 cylinder Mustang?

Taillights - I realize this is a weird topic to point out, but I stay with me. I have seen two version of the Mustang to date. I have put the pictures of these here:

 

Notice the wide and narrow versions. I believe that the narrow lights are probably much more likely to go to production for three main reasons. 1) They are more reminiscent of the 64-68 Mustang taillights. 2) The picture also shows backup likes and the word Mustang on the rear deck lid. and 3) The exhaust exists below the rear fascia, not through it as it does with the concept car. The backup lights and exhaust exist are much more in keeping with what is necessary on a production car.

As you have already noticed I have animated the wide taillights to mimic the sequential taillights Ford used to make back in the 60s and early 70s. This leads to my next topic...

Cougar - This is the perfect time for Ford to give Mercury the car is needs to get people back into its dealerships. The original Cougar was based on a longer wheelbase Mustang. Do the exact same thing now. Nissan builds the G35 Coupe on a stretched wheel base chassis from the 350Z. Ford could stretch the wheelbase of the new Mustang by about 5 to 7 inches and put that all into rear seat legroom. Add a formal roof line and those sequential taillights I made above and... Poof a Cougar is born. To follow the retro theme with the Cougar they should also give it hid-a-way headlights. Much of everything else from the Mustang could carry over to the Cougar. Make leather standard equipment with a few extra luxury features. After all the Cougar is supposed to be an upper class car. A Cougar like this would go head-to-head with the G35 Coupe in the $30-35K price range.

While you are building those sequential taillights for the Cougar you can put them in the "Shelby" Mustangs.

Fastback - If you look at the rear of the concept Fastback Mustang you will see that its fastback roofline does not extend to the edge of the trunk. This is the way it was in the 65-66 Mustangs. I think they could do the 67-78 treatment in a few years down the road to keep the Mustang fresh.

Price - I am worried that the Mustang will go too high in price. If Ford needs to see what price range it should be looking at they need look no further than these cars (all of which I believe are possible competition to the Mustang (and Cougar?) depending on the level of trim for the Mustang (base, convertible, GT, Cobra, etc).

Honda Accord Coupe, 240 hp V-6, 0-60 in 7.0, 30 mph, $16-28K
Acura CL 3.2 Type-S, 260 hp V-6, 0-60 in 6.1, 29 mpg, $29-32K
Infinity G35 Coupe, 280 hp V-6, 0-60 in 5.5, 26 mpg, $30-35K
Mazda RX-8, 250 hp Wankle, 0-60 in < 5.9, 30-31 mpg, $27-33K

Base Mustangs should be available under $20K, and should not go over $25K, even for convertibles. Stripped GTs should start in the low $20s and go up to about the upper $20s, but not go over $30 for fastbacks or convertibles. The Cougar could be priced the same as the G35 at $30-35K, and the special edition Mustangs should be in the $30-40K range. Remember the Mustang was (is?) supposed to be an affordable car. That means that most Mustangs should be below the average price of a new vehicle (around $27K, I think).

Conclusion

The Times/Edmund article, in combination with GM killing the Camaro, has inspired me. I am seriously going to consider getting the new Mustang. I would love to say I will be first in line to buy a big, bad Cobra version, but that would be a lie. I will definitely be looking at all new cars over the next year or two in the light of how they would compare to the new Mustang.

If the Mustang makes good use of its new luxury car platform I will be in love. If they drop the IRS they will loose me as a potential customer. I expect to try and get a GT version, but I will not be picky.

How long before the 05 Mustangs are collector's cars?

As is stands at this second (as I write this sentence) I am considering the Mustang against the Nissan 350Z. The Z is a two seater, and is going to be coming out in convertible form soon. My wife already likes the idea of the 350Z, and keeping my current Z (Z28) for its back seat to haul around the kiddies. We'll see. We have at least a year before the mustang is out and I have to decide.

Are you listening Ford???

Bonus

If you made it this far, and you have high speed access, you owe it to yourself to look at this.

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