Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 12, 2014
Photos By: Ford Photomedia, Source Interlink Archives

The nine-years of S197 production may have been the greatest era in Mustang history. From ’05 to ’14, Ford produced some of the best, most powerful Mustangs ever. Technology took over, starting with 300 horsepower from a three-valve 4.6-liter modular in ’05 and ending up with 420 horsepower from a new, high-tech DOHC “Coyote” 5.0-liter. More amazingly, SVT closed out the era with a 662-horsepower Shelby GT 500 that avoided the gas-guzzler tax by sipping 25 miles-per-gallon on the highway!

The S197 era started like most others with a fresh makeover. However, the ’05 Mustang was constructed on a much stronger, stiffer platform, eliminating much of the cowl-shake of the previous generation, especially in convertibles, and providing a more stable chassis for improved handling. It provided a foundation for the Mustangs to come over the next nine years.

Redoing the DEW

For the new-generation ’05 Mustang, Ford’s modern DEW98 platform, as used for the Lincoln LS, was changed so much that it received its own code name—S197. The modified chassis doubled the torsional stiffness over the previous Fox-4 Mustangs to improve handling and eliminate flexing.

New Assembly Plant Required

Production of the ’05 Mustang moved to the state-of-the-art AutoAlliance International assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, south of Dearborn. Using AAI’s flexible system, Mustang bodies were built on separate assembly lines with the Mazda6, with final assembly taking place on the same lines.

Cool Concept

As with every other new generation of Mustang, Ford teased the public about the upcoming change with a concept preview. For the S197, Ford introduced a pair of Mustang GT concepts, a coupe and a convertible, at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. Both showed strong hints of the ’05 Mustang’s styling.

History Repeats

As part of the ’05 Mustang’s introduction, Ford returned to the site of the New York World’s Fair, where the ’65 Mustang made its debut in 1964. Recently named Mustang chief engineer Hau Thai-Tang, left, joined members of the Mustang and Shelby Club of Long Island, including club president Perry Los Kamp and his special-order ’64½ convertible, to show off the latest Mustang.

Three Valves Better Than Two

Technology took a bow with the ’05 Mustang GT’s 4.6-liter V-8. With three-valves per cylinder and variable cam timing, the new modular engine developed 300 horsepower, 40 more than the outgoing ’04 GT’s two-valve engine.

Ragtop S197

Team Mustang introduced the ’05 coupe first, delaying the debut of the convertible until the spring of 2005. It was worth the wait with a smoother top-down look and much stronger underpinnings that eliminated the previous model’s cowl shake.

Saleen Steps It Up

Leave it up to Steve Saleen to take an already awesome Mustang and make it better. For the ’05 S281, Saleen replaced the front and rear fascias for a more unique look. For the SC model, Saleen created its own supercharger for the three-valve 4.6-liter, incorporating the intake manifold, blower housing, and intercooler into one compact unit.

GT for Racing

The huge rear wing was a deal give-away to the GT-R concept’s intentions. With the Mustang entering a new era of road racing, the GT-R provided a glimpse of what road racers could expect in the future, including the new “Cammer” 5.0-liter engine. The GT-R set the stage for Mustangs to come, including Ford Racing’s FR500 and the production ’12-’13 Boss 302.

Gone Drifting

By the mid-2000s, it was time for the Mustang to join the newest form of automotive competition. By recruiting Ken Gushi, Ford put the Mustang into good hands with a well-known and experienced driver. Gushi’s Ford Racing-backed ’05 Mustang finished third in the Formula Drift 2005 championship.

Think Boss!

Former Ford designer Larry Shinoda, who created the Boss name for the ’69-’70 Mustang and penned the bold stripes, resurfaced in the Mustang world in ’05 with his Boss Shinoda Mustang. Once again, the stripes grabbed the attention.

Shelby’s Back

Rent-a-Racer II

It was a beautiful sight as black and gold Shelby GT-H Mustangs were loaded onto trailers for delivery to Hertz Rental Car facilities across the country. Yes, Shelby was back in the Mustang business for ’06, taking new Mustang GTs and upfitting them with engine, suspension, and body modifications—just like the 1960s—for transformation into genuine Shelbys at the Shelby Automobiles factory in Las Vegas. With the GT-H program, Shelby revived the Hertz program from ’66.